With new hardware looming, it is easy to get caught up counting CPU Hz and GPU Teraflops, but what is perhaps more important this generation is how the console manufacturers are putting the pieces together. Increased CPU speeds and GPU clocks are par for the course for a new console generation, but when it comes to consoles, the true magic is all the little things that Microsoft plan to do to take advantage of the powerful components they will be putting in the Xbox Series X.
Xbox Velocity Architecture is purposefully designed to quickly shuttle important game assets through the various console components that make your game run. The faster it can move these assets, the best for gamers as it means that both the CPU and GPU can be working optimally, not waiting for information to load from storage.
When you consider how many different assets there are for a game, all flowing through the consoles information pipeline at any given time, it becomes obvious that the better the console’s components can work together, the better the end results will be.
Let’s take a look at the four components that make up the Xbox Velocity Architecture.
Custom NVME SSD
Xbox Velocity Architecture features a custom, 1TB NVME SSD, delivering 2.4 GB/s of raw I/O (input/output) throughput, more than 40x the throughput of Xbox One. The custom NVME has been designed to maintain consistent performance, and not be impacted by increases in temperature the way a standard SSD can be. This guarantees developers a set level of I/O performance at all times, and they can reliably design and optimize their games, removing the barriers and constraints they have to work around today.
Hardware Accelerated Decompression
The Xbox Velocity Architecture will offer developers hardware-accelerated support for both the industry-standard LZ decompressor as well as a brand new, proprietary algorithm designed explicitly for texture data named BCPack, Xbox Series X provides the best of both worlds for developers to achieve massive savings with no loss in quality or performance. It is also possible to use a parallel purpose-built algorithm for texture data and the standard LX decompressor. This will allow for 100x the I/O performance of current consoles.
New DirectStorage API
A new Direct Storage API has been added to DirectX, which allows developers to not only control their I/O operations but also establish multiple I/O queues. This allows them to take full advantage of the overall I/O performance, effectively aiming the efficiencies exactly where they are needed in a game. The end result is vastly reduced loading times in games.
Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS)
Sampler Feedback Streaming allows the system to load texture mipmaps into the GPU only when they are needed. Mipmaps contain differing levels of detail and resolution, and all textures will have multiple mipmaps that are needed depending on the players’ relative distance to the object that the GPU is drawing in. Because the engine no longer needs to load all mipmaps, and can just quickly load the one that is needed for any redraws that need to occur based on the players’ movements, this frees up the rest of the I/O throughput for other necessary tasks, rather than loading texture mipmaps that may not even be needed.
Why should you care about any of this?
Outside of all the tech speak, this means your consoles will do, in clever ways, important tasks much faster than they would if you just put a more powerful GPU and CPU in your Xbox One. The knock-on effect of all these changes is that it allows games to be loaded faster, in just about every sense. From the game world to individual textures, everything will load faster. This will allow for vastly improved draw distances and details at distances from the player that will be incredibly impressive.
Hopefully, it will allow developers to move on from various clever development tricks that were needed in building games, such as large segments being connected by narrow corridors or paths that were required to allow enough time for all the game data to load.
It also means that, over time, developers will come up with new techniques and learn to really take advantage of the hardware and software advantages of the new Xbox Series X. This means that game will only get better over time on the next-generation console.