Microsoft to open extra GPU power for Xbox One devs

Microsoft to open extra GPU power for Xbox One devs
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

October 3rd 2013 at 12:26PM

Space reserved for Kinect and apps to be redirected for game development

Microsoft is planning to give game developers access to an additional ten per cent of GPU power in Xbox One by unlocking graphics reservations for Kinect and apps.

Two of the architects behind Xbox One’s silicon mentioned this added performance during an interview with Digital Foundry.

“Xbox One has a conservative ten per cent time-sliced reservation on the GPU for system processing. This is used both for the GPGPU processing for Kinect and for the rendering of concurrent system content such as snap mode,” said Microsoft technical fellow Andrew Goossen.

“The current reservation provides strong isolation between the title and the system and simplifies game development – strong isolation means that the system workloads, which are variable, won’t perturb the performance of the game rendering. In the future, we plan to open up more options to developers to access this GPU reservation time while maintaining full system functionality.”

Unlocking the GPU for developers would bring Xbox One another step further in the direction of the open platform Microsoft has been pitching it as.

Originally, Kinect was said to be a mandatory input for Xbox One, which both developers and consumers took umbrage at.

Following the platform holder’s policy U-turns, opening up this space may yet win Microsoft more favour with developers interested in core games, and not the media hub-side of Xbox One.

Furthermore, in the race again Sony’s PS4, Goossen’s comments about native resolution versus performance suggest that there will be plenty more to be said about how cross-platform games compare in future.

Goossen added: “We've chosen to let title developers make the trade-off of resolution versus per-pixel quality in whatever way is most appropriate to their game content. A lower resolution generally means that there can be more quality per pixel. With a high quality scaler and anti-aliasing and render resolutions such as 720p or '900p', some games look better with more GPU processing going to each pixel than to the number of pixels; others look better at 1080p with less GPU processing per pixel.

“We built Xbox One with a higher quality scaler than on Xbox 360, and added an additional display plane, to provide more freedom to developers in this area. This matter of choice was a lesson we learned from Xbox 360 where at launch we had a Technical Certification Requirement mandate that all titles had to be 720p or better with at least 2x anti-aliasing – and we later ended up eliminating that TCR as we found it was ultimately better to allow developers to make the resolution decision themselves. Game developers are naturally incented to make the highest quality visuals possible and so will choose the most appropriate trade-off between quality of each pixel vs. number of pixels for their games.”

Xbox One arrives on November 22nd in the US, UK and selected countries in mainland Europe.