Phil Spencer and the Xbox team have started the week off with some exciting news. New technical details for the Xbox Series X were revealed that has the game industry buzzing. As we continue to progress through 2020, these kinds of announcements are sure to ramp up and happen more frequently. Until then, here is a deep dive into what was announced this morning.
According to the Xbox team, the Xbox Series X has four times the processing power of an Xbox One and 12 TFLOPS of GPU (for reference, that is twice the amount in the Xbox One X and more than eight times of the original Xbox One). The Series X uses AMD’s latest Zen 2 and RDNA 2 to provide “higher framerates, larger, more sophisticated game worlds, and an immersive experience unlike anything seen in console gaming.”
Variable Rate Shading and Ray Tracing
Variable Rate Shading (VRS) is a relatively new technique used to ease power being used by the GPU. With this, developers will be able to focus their resources on either character models or essential objects in the environment without the entire image going down in quality. Primarily, the GPU is concentrating on what is necessary on the screen, as opposed to how right now game consoles are always focusing on the entire screen at once, making it more difficult to have higher framerates and resolutions.
Ray Tracing is a term that has been thrown around a lot in the last couple of years in the gaming community. PC gamers have been getting access to this effect in their games with their more powerful computers, but this holiday season console players will have a chance to see it. Ray Tracing is a rendering technique that gives off very realistic lighting and shadow effects. Movies and television shows using CG mixed with real-life scenes use this to make the scene believable. Any superhero movie you are watching uses this in boatloads.
Ray Tracing simulates and tracks every ray of light produced by a source of lighting. So, if you are in a building with a window of light peering in, the GPU is calculating how the light is bouncing in and around all the objects in that room. It is not lit up for the sake of having light; the game is mimicking how real-life light would be portrayed in that room.
Solid State Drive and Quick Resume
Solid State Drives (SSD) are the new alternative as opposed to Hard Drives. SSDs can transmit data much faster than an HDD, which will allow for much faster loading times. One of the biggest problems with the current generation of consoles is that games take a long time to load into their big worlds (we’re looking at you, Grand Theft Auto V). With SSD, the Series X will be able to load the map in less than half the time the Xbox One X can right now. That applies to both starting up a game and fast travel as well.
Quick Resume is a feature Microsoft is saying will be a nice bonus because of the SSD. This will allow you to continue multiple games that are in a suspended state. Currently, you can only do this with one game at a time on the Xbox One when you either go to your home page or put your console into sleep mode.
Less Latency, More Smoothness
Microsoft is saying they are working on making the Xbox controller even more responsive to cut down on latency. Dynamic Latency Input will take any button command you press on your controller and instantly show that command on your screen. Anyone who bought an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller will be happy to know it will run even better when the Series X releases.
Xbox is also teaming up with television manufacturers so that displays will automatically change their refresh rate to its lowest latency mode and matches the screens refresh rate to that of the game’s frame rate. This means that your television will automatically help play your game with lower latency inputs and less screen tearing without you having to change your display’s settings every time you go to start a game.
Finally, the Xbox Series X will support up to 120 frames per second. Standard fps output on the new console will bottom out at 60 fps, but any developers wanting to show their realistic, high-action scenes more smoothly will have the power to do so.
One of the most prominent features for the Xbox One over the PS4 is backwards compatibility. Hundreds of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games are available to be played on the console, either digitally or with your original disc. They (and Xbox One games) will also be playable on the Series X with better framerates, graphics, and improved loading times. Any Xbox One accessories (controllers, headsets, etc.) will also be able to be used on the console.
Smart delivery is an incredibly consumer-friendly move by Xbox. With this, any version of a game you buy that supports smart delivery will be free to you on whatever platform you are playing on. For example, if you buy Halo Infinite on your Xbox One when you go to get it on your Series X, that version will be free for you. Microsoft is saying all Xbox Game Studios exclusives will support this program, and it is available for all third-party developers and publishers. CD Projekt Red announced today that Cyberpunk 2077 would support Smart Delivery as well.
Rounding up the latest of Microsoft’s announcements today is that Game Pass will continue to have first-party Xbox games available at launch, so if you are a subscriber, you can play without having to drop the extra money.