Dev Kit Revealed for Xbox Scorpio
It was revealed by Microsoft via Gamasutra, the console’s developer kit. The hardware specifications of the Scorpio dev kit are, slightly better than those of the system itself, but Microsoft told Gamasutra that they made an extra effort to design the dev kit in a way that would make developers’ lives easier.
“For developers, Scorpio — and its cousin across the aisle, Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro — present familiar opportunities and challenges. By expanding “the Xbox One family of devices,” as Microsoft representatives are fond of saying, the company has significantly blurred the line between being a PC game developer and a console game developer.
Console game devs must now think like PC game devs
The limits and comforts of having a single device to target are gone; in their place, developers who make games for Xbox must now think like PC game devs, building their games to scale across at least two significantly different hardware configurations.
The pitch to game developers, according to Xbox software engineering exec Kareem Choudhry, is that you don’t have to do anything to your existing or future Xbox One games to get them running better on Scorpio — they just will.
“You can just write to the original set of [Xbox One] requirements that we have today, and then we’ll do the work to make sure that it actually runs better. But [developers] don’t have to do any custom work for Scorpio,” Choudhry told Gamasutra. “We’re just inviting people to come in and take advantage of it. In terms of requirements if they do decide to take advantage of it, we want that content to run, at minimum the same as but ideally better than it does on the original Xbox One.“
Microsoft’s pitch to developers, then, is that Scorpio is to Xbox One as a recommended PC system spec is to a minimum PC system spec; the components are more powerful, but the underlying platform is the same.
The same goes for the new Project Scorpio dev kit, which Microsoft says is basically an Xbox One dev kit upgraded to benefit from a couple years’ worth of technological progress and developer feedback. It differs from the Scorpio console that will appear on store shelves in a few key ways, but in order to dig into them we should first talk about the retail Scorpio specs.”
As we mentioned last week the console currently known as Scorpio will feature a new custom eight-core CPU clocked at 2.3 Ghz. Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s group program manager for Xbox Core Platform, claims that’s a 31 percent improvement over the Xbox One S, and that the CPU itself works more efficiently with the console’s GPU.
“The other thing we did is improve our GPU to CPU coherent bandwidth. So the bandwidth between the CPU and the GPU is drastically improved as well,” Gammill said. “The net result of all that is that not only does the CPU clock faster than it does in Xbox One, it’s actually more efficient than the one in both Xbox One and Xbox One S. We had more time to tune it. You learn a lot when you put something out there, you can iterate on it, and this is the result of our learnings.”
— Xbox Spec sheet from Gamasutra
“The GPU in question sports 40 customized compute units at 1172 Mhz, but the Scorpio dev kits will actually ship with a bit more power — 44 CUs, rather than 40.
“At a high level, it’s much easier for a game developer to come in higher and tune down, than come in lower and tune up. Or nail it. That just rarely happens,” said Gammill, by way of explaining why the Scorpio dev kit is a bit beefier than its retail counterpart. “Our overarching design principle was to make it easy for devs to hit our goals: 4K, 4K textures, rocksteady framerates, HDR, wide color gamut, and spatial audio.”
What’s more interesting about the Scorpio console is that, according to Microsoft, it’s designed to incorporate basic, oft-used DirectX12 draw calls into the GPU command processor itself, potentially freeing up some processing power for devs.
The dev kit has exactly the same ports (down to an HDMI IN jack) as the retail Scorpio, as well as an additional three front-facing USB ports and an extra NIC (network interface card) for transmitting debug information while running a multiplayer game.
The kit now also vents from the back and sides, rather than the top, to make it easier for devs to stack Scorpio dev kits without running into problems or having to build weird spacers out of office supplies (or Lego.)”
For more information on the xbox Scorpio dev Kit, visit the Gamasutra article.