Xbox's latest dev tools add a surprise to the $299 Series S running out of memory

Xbox’s latest dev tools add a surprise to the $299 Series S running out of memory

Enlarge / The cheesy visual multiplier applied to this Series S doesn’t mean it gets four times the memory in this week’s Microsoft GDK update. The actual amount of the multiplication is impossible to confirm until Microsoft updates its public filings on this.

Sam Mashkovech

The latest update to Microsoft’s Game Development Kit (GDK), an official API that targets game development on Xbox consoles and Windows PCs, seemed set in stone when it was announced in June. Two months later, however, this update went live with a surprise bonus so new it has yet to be detailed on the company’s Github repository.

Instead, the news comes from an unlisted official video from Microsoft, first spotted by XboxERA reporter Jesse Norris, which included a tantalizing proclamation. June’s GDK is currently live two months after its named month, and it now includes an increased memory allocation exclusively for the low-cost $299 Xbox Series S console.

This video does not link to specific patch notes or announcements, and at the time of publication, research in the publicly shared GDK does not clarify how this increase in memory allocation was achieved. Microsoft representatives did not immediately respond to questions from Ars about the technical failure of this update.

Bringing developers closer to the 10GB total of S-series memory

In the meantime, it’s reasonable to assume that this newly available pool of RAM, which the video’s narrator describes as “hundreds of megabytes”, had been allocated elsewhere on the S-series systems until the update. Today, perhaps bound by OS-level processes (which previously sucked up around 2GB of the Series S’s total 10GB pool) that the company has since been able to reduce.

Ars sources confirmed what current-gen console testers and researchers largely knew: the gap in available RAM between the $499 Xbox Series X (16GB total) and the lesser Series S. expensive (10 GB in total) made cross-platform development between the two systems more complicated than Microsoft initially announced. In Microsoft’s best-case scenarios, a Series X game that targets 4K resolutions and incredibly high-resolution textures can pull down all the textures for a 1080p TV screen and get away with identical rendering load, mostly thanks to a lot others the architecture being identical between consoles (especially processor and storage specs).

As more and more third-party developers have discovered since they got to grips with 2-year-old consoles, that’s not always how dev environment transposition works. Some developers still find that their virtual environments, effects budgets, and lighting scenarios are hampered not only by less total GDDR 6 RAM, but also by a reduction in its bandwidth from the 320-bit bus of the serial X to the 128-bit bus. of the S series.

So even a small jump to, say, 200MB of RAM, or 2.5%, could make a significant difference to a developer trying to transpose some level of shadow fidelity or ambient occlusion from Series X to the S series. The “hundreds of megabytes” number could be even higher, anywhere between 512MB and 768MB, although we’re still waiting to find out exactly how much.

Few modern games are a Flaw apart previous generation consoles

The move comes as both current-gen consoles continue to miss some of their biggest technical selling points, at least on a software level. Many of the biggest games of the past two years have failed to demonstrate truly groundbreaking features, especially the near-infinite virtual worlds that could be enabled by a combination of PCI-E 4.0-level storage and supercharged memory pipelines. .

This has been exacerbated by a few highly anticipated Sony games reversing their previous “current-gen exclusive” statuses in favor of cross-gen launches on PS4 and PS5, ostensibly to keep game sales going when current-gen systems were largely down. sold out and behind schedule production. So far we’re mostly left with last year Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart as a magnificent display of power exclusive to current-gen consoles.

At least in the case of the Xbox ecosystem, as more current-gen exclusives gear up for their launches, greater memory parity between Series X and Series S could help development efforts. for games 2023 like Forza Motorsport and star field. When these games launch, the Series S’s default built-in storage of 512GB could increase, or its proprietary storage expansion cards could drop in price. Either move would bolster the weaker, cheaper system’s sales pitch if the new games indeed delivered on the Series S promise of being “as powerful as the Series X, but for TVs.” 1080p”.

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