Friday, 15 Jan 2021

Xbox Series X: developers praise ray-tracing and frame rate potential

A number of developers have expressed their thoughts on the Xbox Series X and seem to have nothing but good things to say.

We’ve already heard some developers sing the praises of Sony’s PlayStation 5 console, but now a few developers have come forward to hype up its rival, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X.

Windows Central recently approached both first party and third party studios to hear what they had to say about the console and, so far, it all seems extremely positive.

Ray-tracing has been a popular buzzword for the next generation, but Joel Baker, technical director at Hinterland Games, which gave us survival title The Long Dark, elaborated more on it, explaining that it can benefit more than just a game’s graphics.

‘The addition of hardware ray-tracing is also super exciting, but it’s how it can be used outside of graphics that will enable the biggest changes.

‘I can already see potential uses for it in games like The Long Dark, where we would be able to simulate physically accurate weather and wind by sending some rays into the world and then having the audio and physics change dynamically based on where the snow is accumulating or melting.

‘These sorts of things are going to allow some really immersive experiences that weren’t easily achievable before.’

Kevin Floyer-Lea, chief technology innovation officer at Rebellion, which released Zombie Army 4 earlier this year, backed up those claims, adding that ray-tracing could be beneficial for stealth games.

‘Hardware-accelerated ray-tracing is also a very welcome feature. Not only does it allow us to take players to environments that are that more realistic and dynamic, but ray-tracing hardware can do more than just rendering!

‘For example, we can do incredible things with the acoustics to enhance realism. Modelling realistic sound occlusion for AI’s hearing in real-time, for example, is an incredibly useful feature for creating stealth games.’

Gennadiy Korol, director of technology at Moon Studios, appears to be most excited for further improved frame rates on consoles, something that is currently only really achievable on PC. Could we see Ori And The Will Of The Wisps running at 120 frames per second?

‘Playing games at a high refresh rate, at those crazy resolutions, is the next big thing in gaming. Anyone that played Ori And The Will Of The Wisps in high resolution in 120 Hz will know what I mean.

‘Previously this was only something that PC enthusiasts spending thousands of dollars on their machines would be able to experience. Bringing this kind of performance and quality to the general public is very exciting to me, and I think that will be the true next-gen leap we’ve all been waiting for.’

Mike Rayner, studio technical director at The Coalition (the Gears Of War studio), explained how the increase in download times and install sizes has made game development more challenging, and that the Xbox Series X is the solution they needed.

‘With the Xbox Series X, out of the gate, we reduced our load times by more than four times without any code changes. With the new DirectStorage APIs and new hardware decompression, we can further improve I/O performance and reduce CPU overhead, both of which are essential to achieve fast loading.’

Some of these developers, particularly first party ones like The Coalition, were never going to say anything bad whatever happened, but it’s encouraging to see indie developers getting excited about the potential of the next gen.

The Xbox Series X is scheduled to release in time for Christmas this year.

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