The Xbox One we saw at E3 isn’t quite the Xbox One the team at Microsoft has in their hands right now. They’ve been making a few tweaks to the system, Xbox exec Marc Whitten shared on Major Nelson’s podcast today.
Whitten covered a few other updates on the internal status of the Xbox One. The closer they’re getting to launch, Whitten says, the more they’ve got this machine nailed down. So here are a few updates on where August is finding them.
Graphics and the machine
The highlights here: Whitten says they’ve got a driver they’ve built specific to the Xbox One. It’s 100 per cent optimised for it, he says. That, and they’ve managed to up the clock speed on the GPU.
Since E3 we’ve dropped in what we internally call our “mono driver.” It’s our graphics driver that really is 100% optimised for the Xbox One hardware.
You start with the base DX driver and you take out all parts that don’t look like Xbox One and you add in everything that really, really optimizes that experience. Almost all of our content partners have picked it up now.
This is the time where we’ve gone from theory of how the hardware works — what do we think the yield is going to look like, what is the thermal envelope, how do things come together — to really having them in our hands. That’s the time where you start tweaking the knobs because either your theory was right dead-on or you were a little too conservative or you were a little too aggressive.
An example that’s actually been really good news for us, an example of that is we’ve tweaked up our clock speed on the GPU from 800 MHz to 853 MHz. Just an example of how you really start landing the program as you get closer to launch.
It’s just an example where we really get close to the final performance envelope of how the box works and really making sure we have a great product for our developers to build great games against.
What does that mean for Xbox One versus PS4? Well, according to John Carmack, the two consoles are closely matched in terms of power. So maybe not much, though he hasn’t done extensive benchmarking on the two.
Not much is new here, but Whitten does give a few more details to put their new Smart Match system into context. And he explains what asynchronous matching means on the Xbox One.
We’re really getting into our ability to rethink how we do matching to make sure you get into the matches that you want and that game developers really have the ability to tailor those around both your skill — which has always been something we’ve spent a lot of time on — but also a lot of other factors. Like types of people you like to play with, types of matches you like to play in, and being able to really bound that up into a really great system and then through the power of Xbox One be able to do asynchronous matching.
Typically what happens on Xbox 360 is you go into matchmaking, you sit around a lobby, you wait for things to fill up…but you’re sitting not playing a game. So the question is why can’t you be running the matches that you like that are really tailored around you and something the title developers really highlighted as a really cool mode always in the background so that whenever you’re ready there’s a match there that’s waiting for you. That there’s always more matches so that we can shrink the amount of time of not playing and replace it with really, really great gameplay because you’re matched in a great way. And that’s what asynchronous matching allows you. It allows you to be doing it both in the game and to be able to actually be doing something else. Playing another game or doing something else in the dashboard while matchmaking is running on your behalf.
You know that neat-sounding new reputation system that ranks who you are as a player? It’s basically Microsoft’s attempt to make Xbox Live a more pleasurable experience. Here’s Whitten on that feature, where he explains how it’ll tie into the UI on the dashboard:
It’s a great example where, for us, how do we make sure that Xbox Live is a great community. That we reward positive behaviour, that we make it easy for you to get into matches with people with good reputation or that match your reputation and really give the community a voice into that system. And our reputation system is a great example of that.
When you see your gamer card we want you to see your reputation we want you to be able to see the reputation of the people you’re playing with or your friends. We want it to be front and center. We want it to be something you can track, that you understand where you are. Then we also want it to — you know, through smart match — be able to fit back into the system so that it’s a real part of how the system works, end-to-end.
You can listen to the rest of the podcast for more insight into where the team is at with the Xbox One — which is, basically, still testing the internal beta and taking feedback while approaching launch later this year.