Xbox One: Microsoft upgrades GPU speed and graphics drivers

Xbox One Don Mattrick

A senior Microsoft executive has revealed that the clock speed of the Xbox One graphics processing unit has been increased.

Speaking on the podcast of Xbox mouthpiece Larry 'Major Nelson' Hryb, corporate vice-president Marc Whitten claimed that the speed had been increased from 800 to 853mhz, ostensibly providing a 6% increase in graphics processing performance.

Furthermore, Whitten has claimed that the graphics drivers provided to developers have been updated – meaning that studios should be able to better tune their code to the final architecture of the machine.

"Since E3, we've dropped in what we internally call our mono driver," he said. "It's our graphics driver that really is 100% optimised for the Xbox One hardware. You start with the base DirectX driver, and then you take out all parts that don't look like Xbox One and you add in everything that really optimises that experience. Almost all of our content partners have really picked it up now, and I think it's made a really nice improvement."

It is, however, common for console manufacturers to regularly update development kits with new drivers, APIs and libraries before the release of a new machine.

Meanwhile, Whitten also spoke briefly about the Xbox One's 'asynchronous matchmaking' system, which is designed to make it easier for gamers to set up multiplayer sessions that aren't full of potty-mouthed teenagers.

"We're now deeply integrating the live services," said Whitten. "Look at an example like 'smart match' – it's our ability to rethink how we do matching, to make sure you get into the matches that you want, and that game developers have the ability to really tailor those around your skill, and also other factors like the type of people you like to play with and the types of matches you like to play in."

Essentially, players are able to keep a matchmaking window for a favourite title open, even when they're on the dashboard or playing something else. The app remembers the players' friends and preferred opponents, match settings, etc, and pushes a notification at them when there are enough participants available.

"When your friends are ready to play, you can drop back in," said Whitten. "That for us has been really key in how we've thought about building the system."

Both Microsoft and Sony are holding press conferences at this month's Gamescom event in Cologne. It is likely that the company's will finalise the exact dates for their hardware launches, and new game announcements are also possible.

Xbox One and drivers: a developer responds

Games programmer Byron Atkinson-Jones is the founder of indie developer Xiotex, and once worked at Microsoft's Lionhead Studios. He listened to Whitten's comments about the Xbox One graphics drivers. Here's what he had to say."What he's saying is that Microsoft has introduced an interface for XBox One developers to make using the hardware a lot easier – what we call an abstraction layer. This presents the hardware in a more human friendly way, making something that might otherwise be complex to control into something a little easier to harness. Most of the early work in games development is what we call boilerplate stuff – it's what we all have to do in order to get the consoles up and running ready for our games, and it all looks identical. He's saying that the driver is going to be the way to talk to the hardware without going down to the register level. The hardcore will want a lower-level access than that, but for the rest of us it's mostly going to be fine.

"My first reaction is that this is a strange thing to be talking about. It's going back to the days when we used to announce how many dot products the hardware could do per frame – do consumers care about that kind of thing?

"Maybe it's okay from a dev point of view – it's all about ease of use. However, it also sounds like yet more, 'there's a layer of abstraction between the developer and the real machine' and in this sense it's seeming more and more like a PC rather than a dedicated games console.

"This is not necessarily bad. I for one jumped for joy when Sony announced the PS4 was more of a PC architecture. What worries me though is that given it's a driver based architecture, does that mean that Microsoft can turn on and off certain features depending on which developer level you are? I.e. are you an indie developer or an AAA developer?"

Powered by article was written by Keith Stuart, for on Friday 2nd August 2013 16.20 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


Register for HITC Gaming Digest