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Digital Foundry | Can Microsoft deliver next-gen experiences while still supporting Xbox One?

Dark1x

Digital Foundry
Verified
Oct 26, 2017
3,178
Since the PS2/Xbox/GCN era? Yeah, I think it's probably pretty true. Everything is prototyped and run on the previous hardware to some extent; it's just a matter of how far in development those games got before being pushed over to the next console. Even industry shattering, revolutionary launch titles like Wii Sports were originally developed on Gamecubes with wired Wii Remotes attached to them. We are not privy to everything behind closed doors, and only rarely do we get to see actual builds that were made for previous-gen consoles, but it's pretty obvious that everything comes from previous hardware from some stage in development. It's the only realistic way that launch titles could ever get made in the modern era, as game development takes too long and is too complicated to start from scratch each time a new console comes out.

And as time has gone on? That window of how long a new console relies on leftover projects from the previous console has gotten longer and longer. Take the Switch for example; after 3 years in, we are still seeing new releases that began their life on Wii U; like Luigi's Mansion 3, which Kensuke Tanabe has gone on public record to state that it originally began life as a Wii U game - and this is a game that has launched almost 3 years into the Switch's lifecycle! (Now you know why the Virtual Boo menu resembled a Wii U Gamepad screen so much ;) )

This is standard practice and has been for almost 2 decades now. Microsoft are just being transparant about it now, because they have no need to pretend that their new hardware is some groundbreaking amazeballs gift from God, because their corporate focus has shifted away from selling hardware now. The Xbox Series X is just a faster version of the current box on the market and nothing more.

You will not see anything different from Microsoft in terms of what you would typically expect from a new consoles first 2 or so years into its lifecycle, because all consoles go through this initial process where their first party titles are leftovers from the previous console anyway. We're just not used to seeing such transparancy from a console manufacturer before.
Oh you’re limiting it to PS3/360 and above?

Well, as far as I know, based on discussions with developers and other research...

Dead Rising 3, Killzone SF, Knack, Resistance and (in EU and JP) MotorStorm which was white a showcase. There may be others (like Genji 2 - but I’m not certain). I believe these were all designed specifically as next-gen titles from the beginning.
 

BuggeryBugz

Member
Oct 29, 2017
79
No, they can't. Its pretty obvious. If you have to cater to the lowest common denominator then there will be drawbacks.

Catering to the super underpowered and old ass original Xbox One in 2020 is a big fucking yikes.

Sony has the right approach.
I would be fine with crossgen if it was base ps4 but not this, Microsoft can keep all their Halos and Hellblades Gears ,and cancelled games there are other systems out there
What the fuck am I reading?

Just let the games come out and then fight the good fight. I'm sure your stance will be the same even if the games look "next-gen" though.
 
Oct 27, 2017
21
I think this whole discussion is pointless. The consoles will be more or less the same PCs, probably one will have a better gpu and the other a faster SSD.

Take a look at a game in ultra settings on current high end pc and you‘ll see what you can expect from next gen console games. Feel free to imagine a view additional „coded to the metal“ improvements which finally don‘t matter.

And a SSD is of course better than a HDD but it‘s also a lot of marketing to convince people to buy new consoles. And maybe also wishful thinking. I mean shorter or no loading times at all is great, but I‘m sceptical about revolutionary new game experiences or concepts some people seem to expect from the switch to SSD. It‘s a nice improvement, that‘s it.
 

c0de

Member
Oct 28, 2017
4,889
I think this whole discussion is pointless. The consoles will be more or less the same PCs, probably one will have a better gpu and the other a faster SSD.

Take a look at a game in ultra settings on current high end pc and you‘ll see what you can expect from next gen console games. Feel free to imagine a view additional „coded to the metal“ improvements which finally don‘t matter.

And a SSD is of course better than a HDD but it‘s also a lot of marketing to convince people to buy new consoles. And maybe also wishful thinking. I mean shorter or no loading times at all is great, but I‘m sceptical about revolutionary new game experiences or concepts some people seem to expect from the switch to SSD. It‘s a nice improvement, that‘s it.
I do expect impact on games due to SSD but I don't think we'll see it immediately. And of course Microsoft is already building games exclusively for XSX, these games will just not release soon because they are in active development.
 

Marble

Member
Nov 27, 2017
3,136
I think this whole discussion is pointless. The consoles will be more or less the same PCs, probably one will have a better gpu and the other a faster SSD.

Take a look at a game in ultra settings on current high end pc and you‘ll see what you can expect from next gen console games. Feel free to imagine a view additional „coded to the metal“ improvements which finally don‘t matter.

And a SSD is of course better than a HDD but it‘s also a lot of marketing to convince people to buy new consoles. And maybe also wishful thinking. I mean shorter or no loading times at all is great, but I‘m sceptical about revolutionary new game experiences or concepts some people seem to expect from the switch to SSD. It‘s a nice improvement, that‘s it.
Except budgets for dedicated console games are usually much higher, so I don't think PC is really representative in this case. Most PC games are held back by the HDD or by consoles anyway. Look at the first Crysis looking better than Far Cry 3. Also why consoles can achieve a lot more when compared to a PC with the same hardware, optimalization.

I'm expecting to see stuff we've never seen before, mainly when focused on the storage speeds. Whether in game mechanics or graphics.
 

FairyEmpire

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,633
I don't remember games sucking on PC because they also work on low-end computers. Next-gen games will be fine, plus they'll only keep Xbox One support around for a year, which already kinda happened this gen with games like Forza Horizon 2, Titanfall, Garden Warfare, Ground Zeroes, Rise of the Tomb Raider and CODs up until Black Ops 3 getting a last-gen version too.
 

Marble

Member
Nov 27, 2017
3,136
I don't remember games sucking on PC because they also work on low-end computers. Next-gen games will be fine, plus they'll only keep Xbox One support around for a year, which already kinda happened this gen with games like Forza Horizon 2, Titanfall, Garden Warfare, Ground Zeroes, Rise of the Tomb Raider and CODs up until Black Ops 3 getting a last-gen version too.
Nobody said they suck, but they would definitely look different without consoles. Crysis being the prime example. I mean it's 5 years older than FC3.

And Microsoft had next gen exclusives this gen: Dead Rising 3, Ryse to name 2.

 

grmlin

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,160
I'm fine with it, I don't have to buy two new consoles on release day then.

Well, I don't even know if I want a PlayStation 5 on release, if it's coming without Bloodborne 2... I'll probably get a Series X in that case
 

Bitch Pudding

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,078
Dark1x

Thanks for all your insights and thoughts. It's not THAT common that authors discuss their articles with us here on Era. And it's not exactly an easy time doing so, since a lot of ... emotions seem to be involved in this specific topic. So, thumbs up and I hope your skin is thick enough to repell the one or other opinion piece here.
 

eso76

Member
Dec 8, 2017
2,457
The existence of Lockhart actually makes a little more sense now:
It does?
I don't know, I can't imagine where it will sit next to One X, running the same games.
Games can't really be designed to benefit from the CPU and storage solution advantages in a meaningful way, so you're left with a console with a "weaker" GPU (in terms of raw TF, but maybe dynamic shaders and different architecture make it efficient enough to match One X 6TF ? I don't know).
How much should it cost compared to One X?

In a way it would make a lot more sense 2 years down the line, when you have exclusives that put that CPU and SSD to good use and parts will be even cheaper so it can be sold for like 199. But then 1080p in 2022 is going to sound ridiculous.

4 (5, if you count One and One S) different Xbox hardware configurations running the same games is madness if you ask me
 

DJtal

Member
Oct 30, 2017
590
Capetown / South Africa
Xbox One is the weakest this gen between PS4, guess what I'm playing more games on Xbox One.
I have no intention to buy day one like the rest of the world to buy an Xbox Series X. So I'm fine having my current console still been supported. People that lick their screens for graphics instead of playing games are in for a ride.
 

Marble

Member
Nov 27, 2017
3,136
Wait I thought they were just supporting the X and not the XS. There is no way they are cross developing for the XS
They're going all the way back to the One S. If it can run on X, it can most like run on S. Big difference between the 2 is the GPU, so just downscale the res and other graphical features.
 

Abominuz

Member
Oct 29, 2017
936
Netherlands
Only way around is different version for the different consoles. For first party titles i can see microsoft taking this approach, so you have the games on seperate discs. But for third party i cant see them putting in the time, effort and money to make different versions of a game. If they take the one disc works on every console approach i can see games being hold back on SX. I cant believe anyone who thinks otherways and says it is just porting down. I want my massive open world with no loading times and all bells and whistles and i just cant see the base console do that without looking like a slideshow at 24fps and no graphical effects.
 

cw_sasuke

Member
Oct 27, 2017
12,215
What they do wont have impact on how its gonna be perceived from a certain part of the audience. Regardless of true or not there will be a elite game club that will look down on a game the second they know its also available or can run on weaker hardware.

But for most regular players it will be a non-issue.
 

Melchiah

Member
Oct 26, 2017
3,130
Helsinki, Finland
I think the most interesting side is, that how the current gen baggage will affect how games are built, for both Microsoft and 3rd parties. If next gen only games will use SSD to abandon masked loading sections, and enable faster travel, will the cross-gen games have two different versions of the games, possibly developed by two teams, and how will that affect the development costs? And would it even be possible for such a game to run on current consoles, without it being completely restructured? It just seems like a factor that's limiting the advancement of game development, assuming PC versions will eventually require SSDs as well.
 

Abominuz

Member
Oct 29, 2017
936
Netherlands
Dont we have some devs on ERA who can comment without revealing everything. Would love to know if this will really effect development and the implemetation of new techniques on all consoles going forward with MS choice to cater to the Xbox one.
 

grmlin

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,160
I have a hard time really seeing the problem here.

PCs work like that forever now, and no one complains. Imagine a new game that only runs on the newest $1000 GPU. Like, it does not even start in trash settings on older PCs...
I mean, everything MS develops will release on PC, too. Correct? So they have a game that scales with hardware anyway. And at some point the old hardware gets cut. Just as in PCs.
 

Wollan

Mostly Positive
Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,614
Norway but living in France
That some of the larger games this generation like Witcher 3 can be ported over to a Switch quite intact tells you a lot about the Jaguar cores (but obviously also a good deal about Witcher 3's design and multi-threading model).
 
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Rodelero

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,262
I have a hard time really seeing the problem here.

PCs work like that forever now, and no one complains. Imagine a new game that only runs on the newest $1000 GPU. Like, it does not even start in trash settings on older PCs...
I mean, everything MS develops will release on PC, too. Correct? So they have a game that scales with hardware anyway. And at some point the old hardware gets cut. Just as in PCs.
Developing for a single hardware target allows you to get far, far closer to the maximum that hardware is capable of far more easily. The PC solution to it is brute force and options out the wazoo and even then it's a massive effort for developers to handle the near infinite permutations their game might be run on. Microsoft are in the process of sacrificing one of the main reasons consoles punch above their weight.
 

Sankt Ra

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,917
I never played W3 on Switch, but if prople are okay to get that kind of draw backs /performance reduction in all xbox exclusives going forward on base xbox, no big deal. W3 however was never intended to use ssd's to it's full potential. Question is, would the port be possible then?

grmlin min specs for 2019 PC games are not equivalent to seven year old mobile CPUs. For a reason.
 

grmlin

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,160
I know, but MS isn't developing for a single target, there is no such thing anymore like an Xbox exclusive. Or am I wrong? Everything they do will release on PC, too.

That's a totally different story on the PlayStation, where Sony creates exclusives for the console all the time.
 

spam musubi

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,484
I think this whole discussion is pointless. The consoles will be more or less the same PCs, probably one will have a better gpu and the other a faster SSD.

Take a look at a game in ultra settings on current high end pc and you‘ll see what you can expect from next gen console games. Feel free to imagine a view additional „coded to the metal“ improvements which finally don‘t matter.

And a SSD is of course better than a HDD but it‘s also a lot of marketing to convince people to buy new consoles. And maybe also wishful thinking. I mean shorter or no loading times at all is great, but I‘m sceptical about revolutionary new game experiences or concepts some people seem to expect from the switch to SSD. It‘s a nice improvement, that‘s it.
For a pretty significant example of how this could affect game design, consider the recent Jedi Fallen Order. The world design in that game is full of bottlenecks, with an obscene amount of “slowly squeeze through” sections that are there for the HDD to load in the assets for the next area. With SSDs that would likely not be an issue and you could probably just walk around normally everywhere, so you wouldn’t need those transitions. Which would allow for the devs to build much more open and intricate maps. As such, the game would flow a lot more organically, exploration would be encouraged.
 

Melchiah

Member
Oct 26, 2017
3,130
Helsinki, Finland
And a SSD is of course better than a HDD but it‘s also a lot of marketing to convince people to buy new consoles. And maybe also wishful thinking. I mean shorter or no loading times at all is great, but I‘m sceptical about revolutionary new game experiences or concepts some people seem to expect from the switch to SSD. It‘s a nice improvement, that‘s it.
It's far from just marketing speech. Some developers on this very forum have already said, that it will fundamentally change how games are made, including not having to use those ladder/crawlspace sections repeatedly for masked loading. Unfortunately, I haven't bookmarked any of those posts, so finding them now from the fast-moving next gen speculation thread would be hard.


EDIT: Found few...
Not especially. There's always a portion of memory allocated to 'CPU' workloads, and even say - PS4 had two types of bus-access to help prioritize that, which meant developers partitioned memory anyhow.
If I had to look for caveat(s), based on this hypothesis you would have a fixed-partition instead of user-defined, and SSD may change our memory usage patterns in ways we can't fully predict or imagine yet. But as I mentioned earlier, it's not like unified-memory systems are common, they're more exceptions to the rule.
And from the Digital Foundry - How SSD Could Radically Change Next-Gen Games Beyond Faster Loading thread:
That's usually what we see with textures - IME geometric LOD is a bit more title dependant (though it can certainly have the same behaviour as well). All that said, detail management for everything not-texture is generally really really really hacky and it often gets abused in final stages of development for quick performance wins, so it's not solely a function of I/O either.

But I think important bit is that properly fast I/O gives us a real way to stop thinking about fetching data in 'asset' granularity alltogether, which drastically changes minimal per-frame memory requirements. We've had the first 'game-changer' of this sort in texture-streaming when you start operating on mip-levels instead of looking at entire mip-chains, but we can go to much finer granularity now, and don't need to convert your entire pipeline into 'mega-texture' to achieve it either.
I wouldn't exactly agree with that. Being able to pull data on-demand (and apparently un-compressed on the fly, so we're already saving some performance right there) with latency measured in miliseconds, at minimum gives us multiple-orders of magnitude increase in unique data available during a frame.
What you do with it will vary, but there are certainly options to do 'less' work at runtime because I have so much data readily available.
Found also this via quick googling.

Crytek replied: "If visual quality will most likely continue to increase in the same large steps as is expected with any new generation of consoles, the real game changer will certainly be the new fast storage that has been promised".
...
Crytek continued: "Apart from the obvious advantage of crushing loading times, it will open up quite a lot of possibilities for games to be designed for it with regards to streaming. That's also a front on which game engines will need to evolve quite drastically, but it's definitely exciting".
 
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Florin4k4

Member
Mar 18, 2019
412
Halo Infinite wasn’t impressive at all to me.

Hellblade 2 made my jaw drop.

Says it all for me at least. I’ll be waiting until later in the gen to get a Series X if there’s few to no exclusives for the first couple of years.
This was exactly the same impression i had.
Halo looked like a last year current gen pushed to the max while hellblade looks legit next gen
 

gofreak

Member
Oct 26, 2017
3,275
I think this whole discussion is pointless. The consoles will be more or less the same PCs, probably one will have a better gpu and the other a faster SSD.

Take a look at a game in ultra settings on current high end pc and you‘ll see what you can expect from next gen console games.
What you're arguing is that games have topped out in terms of game state and simulation scope?
 
OP
OP
nib95

nib95

Member
Oct 28, 2017
12,218
Got to say I really enjoyed the conversation and summaries in this video. Good work Digital Foundry.
Yea, the video is much more insightful than the article, and has more interesting and specific points, including an analysis of the kinds of things that older hardware technologies might hamper.

On John's point about Guerilla Games wanting flight in HZD but the hardware limitations holding them back, I hope with HZD2 we are able to ride Stormbirds etc now that they have a much faster SSD drive and much better CPU.
 

Lukas Taves

Member
Oct 28, 2017
4,332
Brazil
It's hard to believe how much importance was given to this completely non issue.

As if for the stated windows games weren't already current gen games re purposed to new hardware.

As if ports to switch from games that targeted a similar performance gap never happened.

As if it is a bad thing for developers to reach a single platform with many devices for the games that they do want to make and would fit in their vision anyway (I don't think anyone would seriously argue a game like Celeste couldn't be done on last gen consoles for example, and what Ms is making is that if the developer the attrition to support both generations is extremely reduced with a single SDK, apis, certification process, store, package etc.)

As if that doesn't already happen with phones and pcs for years. Where, grasp each piece of software can target the hardware it wants.

As if developers would not want to have the biggest installed base possible that makes sense for their games.

As if the only way to support the new features is to completely ignore last gen consoles (I would bet that even with ssd it will take years for games design to drastically change to use that in a way that standard drives can't keep up, specially for it to be common case)

As if they are forcing anyone to support xbone for the whole of the next generation.

As if Xcloud isn't a thing that they could use at a system level to ensure that the current consoles stay active even for games they can't run natively.

Honestly this is utter nonsense and it's clear why it's even being entertained to death.
 

gofreak

Member
Oct 26, 2017
3,275
Of course not, that would be ridiculous. I just expect that games for the new consoles won‘t go that far beyond current AAA on high-end pc in terms of graphics and gameplay. But I‘d be happy to be wrong about this!
It sort of sounds like you do expect we've capped out on sophistication. Current AAA on high-end PC is often constrained by current console affordances. If the best we can expect out of next gen is that with fancier graphics, then what point faster CPUs, more memory and SSDs?

If there's something to be got out of that new tech, for game state/simulation scope, then there's something to be said for letting more devs, sooner, start asking fundamentally what that tech can do for their games vs having to worry about fitting into existing constraints.

It's hard to believe how much importance was given to this completely non issue.

As if for the stated windows games weren't already current gen games re purposed to new hardware.

As if ports to switch from games that targeted a similar performance gap never happened.

As if it is a bad thing for developers to reach a single platform with many devices for the games that they do want to make and would fit in their vision anyway (I don't think anyone would seriously argue a game like Celeste couldn't be done on last gen consoles for example, and what Ms is making is that if the developer the attrition to support both generations is extremely reduced with a single SDK, apis, certification process, store, package etc.)

As if that doesn't already happen with phones and pcs for years. Where, grasp each piece of software can target the hardware it wants.

As if developers would not want to have the biggest installed base possible that makes sense for their games.

As if the only way to support the new features is to completely ignore last gen consoles (I would bet that even with ssd it will take years for games design to drastically change to use that in a way that standard drives can't keep up, specially for it to be common case)

As if they are forcing anyone to support xbone for the whole of the next generation.

As if Xcloud isn't a thing that they could use at a system level to ensure that the current consoles stay active even for games they can't run natively.

Honestly this is utter nonsense and it's clear why it's even being entertained to death.
A lot of strawman arguments here, and questions that miss the point and are addressed directly or indirectly in the article.
 

panda-zebra

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,825
Got to say I really enjoyed the conversation and summaries in this video. Good work Digital Foundry.
It was insightful and nicely worked, even if there were a few further points that could have been discussed (cross-gen multiplayer lobbies, waiting for the slowest player with the slowest drive to load in, and ray tracing drastically cutting dev time for artists and programmers, for example). John said he was playing Devil's Advocate, but tbh, that was Richard's role.
To Halo's credit, Hellblade 2 didn't show any proper uncut gameplay in the least. Just facial capture and shader technologies.
Hellbalde 2 trailer was a real showcase for those technologies. Incredible.

Have you at least watched this? Please, watch the whole thing.

5 minutes in and the main topics of contention are covered nicely. I fail to see how anyone could watch this and the DF video this thread relates to and come away with anything other than a realisation that cross-gen stifles creativity and posibilities.
 
Oct 27, 2017
21
It's far from just marketing speech. Some developers on this very forum have already said, that it will fundamentally change how games are made, including not having to use those ladder/crawlspace sections repeatedly for masked loading. Unfortunately, I haven't bookmarked any of those posts, so finding them now from the fast-moving next gen speculation thread would be hard.


EDIT: Found few...

And from the Digital Foundry - How SSD Could Radically Change Next-Gen Games Beyond Faster Loading thread:



Found also this via quick googling.

Thanks for gathering all this! I mean it would be great if my first impression was wrong and SSD in consoles has a much higher impact on game design.
 

Firefly

Member
Jul 10, 2018
2,024
It's hard to believe how much importance was given to this completely non issue.

As if for the stated windows games weren't already current gen games re purposed to new hardware.

As if ports to switch from games that targeted a similar performance gap never happened.

As if it is a bad thing for developers to reach a single platform with many devices for the games that they do want to make and would fit in their vision anyway (I don't think anyone would seriously argue a game like Celeste couldn't be done on last gen consoles for example, and what Ms is making is that if the developer the attrition to support both generations is extremely reduced with a single SDK, apis, certification process, store, package etc.)

As if that doesn't already happen with phones and pcs for years. Where, grasp each piece of software can target the hardware it wants.

As if developers would not want to have the biggest installed base possible that makes sense for their games.

As if the only way to support the new features is to completely ignore last gen consoles (I would bet that even with ssd it will take years for games design to drastically change to use that in a way that standard drives can't keep up, specially for it to be common case)

As if they are forcing anyone to support xbone for the whole of the next generation.

As if Xcloud isn't a thing that they could use at a system level to ensure that the current consoles stay active even for games they can't run natively.

Honestly this is utter nonsense and it's clear why it's even being entertained to death.
Facts.
Era is acting like this news is for the entire period of next generation when this is nothing but good news for people who invested in a One X recently or even One at launch.
 

ManCityX

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,912
Manchester, England
Imagine Halo was made to take into account an N64 version.

Imagine Breath of the Wild was made with Wii in mind.

Imagine Witcher 3 was made to take into account a console with the power of Switch from the very beginning rather than a highly engineered down port coming to Switch later.

Would these games have been as masterful as they turned out? Would they even be the same game?
 

Melchiah

Member
Oct 26, 2017
3,130
Helsinki, Finland
Thanks for gathering all this! I mean it would be great if my first impression was wrong and SSD in consoles has a much higher impact on game design.
No problem. I recall there's more, but that's the only developer on Era whose name I remember.

It'll definitely be interesting to see how SSD will affect game design.

This could be one such thing.
On John's point about Guerilla Games wanting flight in HZD but the hardware limitations holding them back, I hope with HZD2 we are able to ride Stormbirds etc now that they have a much faster SSD drive and much better CPU.
 

panda-zebra

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,825
Era is acting like this news is for the entire period of next generation
I don't think anyone is saying this would last a generation. But I think your idea of generations and Microsoft's do not align.
... when this is nothing but good news for people who invested in a One X recently or even One at launch.
Good news for them? Sure. Good news for the types of people who invest in next gen day one? They should not expect anything made ground-up to justify "next gen", instead, for a period of time, it's effectively another mid-gen refresh. That's a harder sell and less appetising to early adopter types.
 

Menchin

Member
Apr 1, 2019
351
They really should just abandon the One and all its variations

It'll just hold developers back
 
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