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snowmanZOMG

Microsoft and the Xbox One. Thoughts?

268 posts in this topic

One word: fail.

I spent 28 minutes of presentation listening to idiots prattle about live TV and Skype. Do not care. Don't have or want cable TV.

 

Well, keep in mind that everything they showed with cable TV will likely work just the same with Video on Demand, Netflix, Hulu, HBO-Go, or whatever other non-cable subscription services you might have. In fact, a better way to look at it is that they're extending all the goodness they've already started with those services to your cable TV subscription, not the other way around.

 

And maybe that would have been an interesting argument if Sony didn't already have similar services lined up. I use Netflix all the time on my PS or Xbox. That doesn't mean I'm in the market for a brand new Netflix box. 

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The thing that worries me as someone who is making a game is that Microsoft made no effort to reassure me that their platform is one that I want to be on.  Sure, looks like a fine general consumer entertainment device, but it doesn't look particularly inviting to me as a game maker.  Sony, on the other hand, seemed to have invested a lot of time and energy into sending a message during their event to tell game players and specifically game makers that they want to make their platform the best platform for games.

 

Especially since I'm part of a small team, it looked like Sony was more willing (and given their history, I think it's been proven) that they want more interesting and risky games from smaller teams.  If they're willing to make the barriers to entry on their platform way lower and allow smaller teams to put their games on their system, that puts them way ahead of the Xbox since Microsoft hasn't even said anything about development on their system.  If on the other hand, Microsoft decides to open their system up way more than Sony on the PS4 or even just more open than the Xbox 360 currently is, that may be enough for me to switch my current opinion on Xbox One from a "Pass" to a "Sign me up".

 

I'm still not that convinced as a consumer, since I really don't care about live television or "interactive television".

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The thing that worries me as someone who is making a game is that Microsoft made no effort to reassure me that their platform is one that I want to be on.  Sure, looks like a fine general consumer entertainment device, but it doesn't look particularly inviting to me as a game maker.  

They don't need to. The big boys will play ball regardless, particularly with the architecture being so close to the PS4. And if you're not one of the big boys, it doesn't appear that you're invited to the party at all. Don't hold your breath for an XNA followup.

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The thing that worries me as someone who is making a game is that Microsoft made no effort to reassure me that their platform is one that I want to be on.  Sure, looks like a fine general consumer entertainment device, but it doesn't look particularly inviting to me as a game maker.  Sony, on the other hand, seemed to have invested a lot of time and energy into sending a message during their event to tell game players and specifically game makers that they want to make their platform the best platform for games.

That's because Sony has historically been a worse manufacturer to develop for. Microsoft, if nothing else, is historically pretty good to develop for. They didn't need to send that message because it's expected of them.

Especially since I'm part of a small team, it looked like Sony was more willing (and given their history, I think it's been proven) that they want more interesting and risky games from smaller teams.

Though I don't disagree, I am in a 'I'll believe it when I see it' mood about it. Microsoft created the most open platform for game development on home consoles, and it wasn't worth doing anything for. Sometimes being more open isn't better.

You should be aware that XBLA releases a crap load of games from smaller developers too. I'd say it's about even with PSN from a quantity standpoint. PSN has had some good ones in the past couple years though.
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gD0XyOe.gif

Developers developers developers developers, right?

 

Seriously though: yeah, Xbox has always been developer friendly, due to MS already having a lot of practice making development environments for Windows. They already had Visual Studio, teams working on compilers, teams working on Windows, teams working on D3D, etc. That's a pretty good position to be in to jump into the console game. BTW, every 360 devkit comes with a free professional VS license.

 

Both Nintendo and Sony have traditionally had really, really, really crappy development environments in comparison. Rough SDKs, rough tools, rough compilers, rough IDEs, etc... Post-PS3, Sony has been putting a lot of effort into improving things in this area.

 

 If they're willing to make the barriers to entry on their platform way lower and allow smaller teams to put their games on their system

Neither MS or Sony have said anything about XBLIG-type open development environments for the new consoles. Aside from homebrew hacks, XBLIG on the 360 is the only platform of this type still for home consoles.

Sony has made a lot of announcements about supporting independent developers, but you have to be aware that this is entirely different from XBLIG. This is about PSN/XBLA, which are not open platforms; these are only available to licensed developers. These gestures of "indie friendliness" are actually aimed at licensed development studios that are not publisher owned, not "indies" (people in garages).

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I think "One" is designed to keep the focus on "XBox"

 

MS is leading in console video games due to:

comparitively easy and cheap software dev + xbox live + kinect + pixel shader horsepower + strong revenue protection

those elements are in-place and strengthened for XBox One

 

In the UK Sky TV charge about £50 per month for a PVR and TV service

 

XBox One sold on subscription will cost about the same, but you get an amazing game console,not just a PVR

 

So the XBox One allows MS to leverage the XBox to become a major Cloud TV company

 

Companies like Sky are trying to reinvent themselves (because Cloud has to replace Satellite) but MS has all the cards:

 

- better hardware

- better software

- years of experience

- in both cloud and devices

- MUCH more money

 

XBox Entertainment Studios will probably outbid rivals for the major sports, such as soccer and formula 1, in as many countries as possible

 

so the XBox One is a single device targetting 2 markets

 

and anybody can afford one on subscription, so price is not so important ...

Edited by skytiger
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I feel like that this is something that Dish should be selling (ie, a PVR box), not a game console maker. Don't get me wrong, the tech is really cool, but it is missing new features in terms of gaming. Remember, the Wii offered innovative gaming when it first launched, and therefore managed to take a huge share of the market. The PS3 launched along similar lines, and while I really like the PS3, it did suffer for the first few years. In this case, the PS4 is already offering more to gamers in terms of streaming, cloud services, and social functions. I was really impressed with the ability to let a friend remotely play your game. There are many applications for that sort of functionality, depending on how developers implement it. The Xbox One is not offering many gaming specific features so far. That may just be bad press, but even then, just judging by what they announced, it seems like Microsoft did not add many gaming features. The Wii U and the PS4 are already looking more attractive, by comparison. Moreover, the ridiculous fee for used games is just a dumb idea on top of that.

 

As far as developer support goes, I'm not really an expert, so I defer to others. 

 

EDIT:

Also, the PS4, and the Xbox One, are both providing their own camera system. Granted, we don't know if they are matched, but I really doubt that they aren't at this point...

Edited by kryotech
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Based partly on what I read last night, and partly what I've heard from people who've actually used the hardware, my opinion is basically this: Microsoft realised too late in the game that Sony have beaten them on performance and that, unlike with the previous generation, it's not just about learning to code to the platform. You have 2 systems that are similar in almost every way except one is significantly slower. This means they need to focus in areas that don't involve going head-to-head with PS4, ie. TV, home entertainment, Kinect, Skype, etc, but also on first party games and platform exclusives. The latter is why they don't have many games to show right now - anything that's not exclusive is likely to look better on PS4 any any given stage of its development, and they may just not have many exclusives yet.

 

In theory, this should be great because ultimately it's all about the games, not the hardware. In practice, Microsoft don't have a clue how to support interesting games or the people who make them, so it's a marriage made in hell.

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You have 2 systems that are similar in almost every way except one is significantly slower.

Neither is that significantly different from the other on released specs alone. The largest different is that Sony's seems to have the GPU and CPU on the same chip using the same cache, which could be interesting. Both are still quite a step up from what we have.

This means they need to focus in areas that don't involve going head-to-head with PS4, ie. TV, home entertainment, Kinect, Skype, etc, but also on first party games and platform exclusives.

Microsoft's strategy has been to be your living room's media center for quite some time, not just with this product. They want to build an ecosystem of microsoft devices for the largest aspects of your life. The living room is a key part of Microsoft's connected strategy. They don't want just hardcore gamers; they want everybody. Each product, Windows Phone, Windows Tablets, Windows Desktops, and now Xbox One, is designed to get people (not just gamers) inside the ecosystem because being in the ecosystem makes all the other products more appealing.

 

The strategy is much more about having your life connected by Microsoft devices and services than about trying to recover from finding out the competitor has an advantage in one area. This is more obvious if you watch Microsoft press conferences outside of their game specific stuff. They've been pushing this for a couple years now.

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Neither is that significantly different from the other on released specs alone. The largest different is that Sony's seems to have the GPU and CPU on the same chip using the same cache, which could be interesting. Both are still quite a step up from what we have.

 

Released specs can be deceiving, and memory speed is very important. At least on the PS3 there you had the possibility to code things differently to make the most of it. Now, you just get one code path and approach for both systems, except it will run slower on one machine than the other. It'll be like when PC games have their assets reduced for the consoles, except the PS4 game might get cut down for the Xbox One as well. MS won't mind that, of course; it's when some devs say "we can only achieve what we need to on the PS4" that will concern them.

 

As for 'quite a step up from what we have', sure, a step up from current consoles. Not really a step up from a mid-range PC.

 

If I was being really cynical I might think this was an attempt to drive people back to Windows gaming on the PC, but then MS seem to want to drive desktop users away from Windows too if Win8 was anything to go by. They have an army of developers aiming shotguns at each others' feet right now. They court 'bro-dude' gamer IPs and then ship the hardware least suited to run it, and shut out the indies who won't care about RAM speed or a few extra compute units.

 

Microsoft's strategy has been to be your living room's media center for quite some time, not just with this product.

 

I know, but it's only with this product that they can't drag in hardcore gamers as well. So they absolutely have to bet the farm on everything else.

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Kylotan, on 22 May 2013 - 11:19, said:
Released specs can be deceiving, and memory speed is very important.

The memory speeds aren't outright worse. One uses DDR3 and one uses GDDR5. GDDR5 has worse latency, but higher bandwidth. Sony is making a big bet on using their GPU for computing imo (edit: at least it seems this way if they are focussing so much on bandwidth over latency). It's not a super risky bet, but if we start leaning back towards more CPU intensive tasks it could be hurt by the latency vs the One. GDDR5 is based off of DDR3. GDDR5 is not an upgrade from DDR3, it is an upgrade from GDDR4, which is also based off DDR3 iirc. Their version numbers do not correlate to the same type of thing.

Quote
As for 'quite a step up from what we have', sure, a step up from current consoles. Not really a step up from a mid-range PC.

That's deceptive. PCs have a lot of overhead that consoles, in theory, shouldn't. They have worse specs, but they have more access to the full specs of the hardware than a PC game would. PC games also have to cover a huge swath of hardware, and usually are worse for it. Don't underestimate being able to optimize for standardized hardware.

Edited by way2lazy2care
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That's deceptive. PCs have a lot of overhead that consoles, in theory, shouldn't. They have worse specs, but they have more access to the full specs of the hardware than a PC game would. PC games also have to cover a huge swath of hardware, and usually are worse for it. Don't underestimate being able to optimize for standardized hardware.

Not just standardized, but specially tweaked hardware. Sony at least mentioned that they've done some serious tuning work on how compute tasks are dispatched, for example. Then you'll have stuff like raw GPU command buffers too. The console hardware is probably comparable to a fairly high end PC, all told.

 

It's worth noting that the Xbox will be running three kernels on top of a hypervisor. That's what I'd be worried about for performance, not the raw hardware.

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The memory speeds aren't outright worse. One uses DDR3 and one uses GDDR5. GDDR5 has worse latency, but higher bandwidth.

 
I must admit I am not as knowledgeable about memory hardware as many people here are, but I do know that there are people who have first hand experience of both consoles and some are saying that memory accesses on the Xbox One are a bottleneck in practice. And I will suggest that in a game context you're more likely to be bandwidth limited than latency limited these days - much of the time is spent pushing large textures or meshes around.


 

PCs have a lot of overhead that consoles, in theory, shouldn't. They have worse specs, but they have more access to the full specs of the hardware than a PC game would. PC games also have to cover a huge swath of hardware, and usually are worse for it. Don't underestimate being able to optimize for standardized hardware.

 

I'm not convinced. You're going to have broadly the same sort of APIs and access to the hardware as PC developers have and will have in future, because AMD don't want to make overly specialised hardware and MS/Sony don't want to make it difficult for developers. And the fact that the hardware is specialised means less and less these days, because most of the games that are going to really push the hardware are using off-the-shelf engines that are already heavily optimised for quite individual specs.

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While I certainly use my 360 a lot more to watch TV Episodes (Hulu Plus Mostly, don't have a subscription to a cable company) and movies than I use it to play any game, I do think they could have spent a bit more time on the technology in games.  In my honest opinion the Xbox One Game Trailers didn't look much different that the same game trailers we saw when the 360 was announced.

The technology in games is exactly the same as a mid-level PC. What else is there to say?

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They named it 'Xbox One'? What?

 

Yeah we joked about that a lot in the studio today.  Don't confuse the XBox One with the XBox 1.  

 

720 was such a better number than One.  They can still change it back.

 

Just like they did with the Nintendo Revolution!

 

But seriously, god knows how many marketing gurus they tapped to come up with that name and the subsequent campaign around it... they aren't going to change it now.

 

As for the release, the cable thing was bizarre to me since I don't have cable either, but I do use my 360 for watching videos at least as much as I game on it. Switching between a game and netflix, that would be more interesting. As a note, it was nice to see an emphasis on speed in the UI, since the 360's Dashboard/Homescreen system menu was incredibly laggy for a dedicated platform if you were playing a game.

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I don't have a problem with Microsoft boasting about the entertainment features because, if you think about it, consoles have been multi-purpose at least since the Sega Saturn debuted.  (You'll recall it could play music CDs.)  I do, however, have a problem with Microsoft not showing a single live demo, which Sony did (even though they technically cheated on the Watch Dogs demo by running it on a PC).  I know E3 is around the corner, buy why waste our time?

 

One thing I like that Microsoft did is mentioned they were bundling the Kinect with the system, making it a standard device.  I think it is foolish to release a new console these days without having speech recognition as a base feature.  When Sony didn't say anything about this in the presentation, I thought they missed an opportunity.  It think it's a practical feature.

 

Now, this is probably going to sound like a dumb question, but I'm going to ask it anyway because it's been bugging me:

 

If the Xbox One has a x86-based CPU, shouldn't it be possible to provide to provide backwards compatibility with the games from the original Xbox?

 

Disregard the part about BC.  I was given some bad information.

 

 

Of all the rumored names, I thought 'Infinity' was the strongest, frankly, and caries the same connotation as "One", more or less in this (non-mathematical) context.

 

The name is lackluster, the industrial design is lackluster, hardware is good, but the platform will succeed on the back of its software stack and services.

My take on "One" is that they mean "one system to do it all."  I'm going to disagree with you on "Infinity," because I think if you release a system with that name, it suggests there's nothing else you can release that will top it.  I was hoping on "Gamma" myself, since it's the 3rd system and it sounds cool.

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It's worth noting that the Xbox will be running three kernels on top of a hypervisor. That's what I'd be worried about for performance, not the raw hardware.

 

Actually, the hypervisor is one of the "three OSes" they mentioned, so its two OSes on top of a thin hypervisor. One to run AAA games, one to run the system software and apps, and which Ars is also reporting to also provide some resources to the games OS in some manner. Ars specifically mentions Kinect processing, which seems likely given that certain gestures are always recognized.

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The new kinnect tech is what interests me.

http://gizmodo.com/kinect-2-full-video-walkthrough-the-xbox-sees-you-like-509155673

 

Technically very impressive, and the idea of allowing developers to use biometric feedback opens some intriguing possibilities (L4D style AI director that knows when you're scared?)  

 

But mostly, I find the idea of constantly connected camera that always watching and listening to me really, really creepy. The kinnect is mandatory and apparently, the console just won't work without it. 

 

Now, my wardrobe is largely free of aluminium headware, but this just feels way wrong to me. Even assuming we can trust microsoft not sell this information (hey advertisers! would you like to know whether your ads provoke an emotional response?), there's always the possibility of it being hacked.

 

That said, we already have phones, tablets and laptops with mics and cameras, so maybe I am just being paranoid.

 

Either way, I saw nothing that will tempt me from my ivory tower of pc gaming. I mostly play with KBM, have an xbox controller for when I don't and I doubt there's enough money in the world to convince to join the great unwashed on xbox live

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But mostly, I find the idea of constantly connected camera that always watching and listening to me really, really creepy. The kinnect is mandatory and apparently, the console just won't work without it. 

 

And soon we'll have Google Glass. The future of always being watched and recorded is inevitable... 

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Could ESRAM + DDR3 outperform GDDR5 for a typical video game?

 

It could be better for certain kinds of problems, though GDDR5 can probably say the same for a different set of problems. Given the way that games are constructed today, and the balance of the kinds of problems involved, I'd say its likely to close to give anyone an edge. The difference, if any, will be that on PS4 what you see is what you get, whereas on the XBox One you have the option of moving things between the two and seeing what works best. You might come out ahead, or you might come out behind, but you have to make some effort. That, assumes, of course, that the memory is software managed and not just a massive, hardware-controlled cache. If that's the case, then what you see is what you get, just like Sony's system.

 

But I tend to think that the 32MB of ESRAM will mostly be consumed by various graphics buffers for much of its life, and as a scratchpad for intermediate results.

 

Mostly though, given that the XBox 360 was a unified GDDR system (it too had a EDRAM framebuffer-only memory of 10MB), that Microsoft went this route because they believe it will save them costs, especially over the lifetime of the console. DDR3 is cheap and available, and will be for many years to come, that's not so much the case with GDDR5 -- its expensive now, and its not going to get cheaper relative to DDR3. Since the ESRAM is on-chip, it'll carry less cost as Microsoft migrates to smaller silicon fabrication processes.

 

If its been effective at reducing the manufacturing costs, then they can launch at a lower price point and drop prices sooner to help gain market share. Or, just take home higher profit margins.

 

Playstation 4 is taking the path of being the system that gamers will want, while Xbox One is taking the path of being the system that, they think, everyone will want.

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Playstation 4 is taking the path of being the system that gamers will want, while Xbox One is taking the path of being the system that, they think, everyone will want.

 

I agree with this assessment but I'm baffled at the idea that they'll find a market out there for a device like this. Maybe some families will think it's a good compromise machine. But the Xbox brand has built on the loyalty of hardcore gamers and top-performing games for young men. It's too big a void to cross in my opinion, and I think they're only attempting it because their poor hardware choices have forced their hand.

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Could ESRAM + DDR3 outperform GDDR5 for a typical video game?

 

...on the XBox One you might have the option of moving things between the two and seeing what works best.

But I tend to think that the 32MB of ESRAM will mostly be consumed by various graphics buffers for much of its life, and as a scratchpad for intermediate results.

Regarding the embedded RAM, we won't know the impact it will have until we know how it's used. As Ravyne says, maybe it'll be addressable as usable RAM, or maybe it will have a special fixed function.

 

On the 360, the embedded RAM could only be written to by ROP (the only place ROP could write to), and then data could only be copied from EDRAM to main memory (GDDRAM) in large chunks (graphical "resolve" operations). Or, in simpler terms: only render-targets could occupy EDRAM.

This is actually one of those quirks that developers have to deal with... When not in use, render-targets live in main RAM, but the only place you can draw to is EDRAM, so your engine has to hide the fact that when you bind a new render-target, if you want to draw over it's existing contents, you first have to draw a full-screen quad textured with the render-target's previous contents (to copy this data back into EDRAM), and when you're finished, the engine has to copy the EDRAM values back into main RAM.

This also placed a lot of restrictions on the resolution of the render-targets you could use, because they'd have to fit in EDRAM. A FP16 HDR buffer and a D24S8 buffer at 720p are ~10.5MiB, which doesn't fit... which means it's impossible to do FP16 HDR rendering (and depth buffering) at 720p on the 360, without resorting to rendering the screen in two passes and stitching them together.

 

My guess would be that the One's embedded RAM will be used for a similar fixed purpose, and won't be freely addressable RAM that the developer can use however they like.

 

Sony mentioned that they decided against using embedded RAM for this exact reason -- that although it has some benefits, it's a huge quirk that developers have to deal with (and the PS3 was quirk-central, so they've got some making up to do!).

 

Regarding DDR3 vs GDDR5: we have to wait and see what the cache miss times are like for each console specifically before we know for sure.

t will probably also depend on whether you're CPU-bound or GPU-bound.

 

P.S. does anyone else have the new consoles in their offices yet? I could go run some benchmarks, but I really don't have time, and I wouldn't be able to share the results anyway dry.png

Edited by Hodgman
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