Just around christmas time, hacking group H4LT had leaked the actual Xbox One development tools which includedsome firmware and documents that released a ton of insider information that shows how the Xbox One has evolved and will continue to change. This newest update revealed that Xbox One game developers now have access to a little more computing power and that’s great news for everyone, except those that really loved Kinect 2.0. Something not a lot of people know is that currently, both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have had access to eight cores, with two being reserved for running the operating system, and in the case of the Xbox One the use of Kinect. As we stated earlier in the year that the Xbox One will perform faster without the Kinect and this is the update that will finally start changing things.
Microsoft has been allowing developers since October access to 50 to 80 percent of the seventh processing core which is said to partly explain why a small amount of multi-platform games that were released in the later portion of 2014 performed better than the PS4 versions. But it should be noted that with this unlocking of part of the 7th processing core there comes a little downfall which is where the Kinect 2.0 supports might groan. The trade off is that the developers must now give up game specific voice commands in order to have any access to this 7th processing core. Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t shout your typical commands like “Xbox snap”, it just means that Halo 5 can’t have additional voice commands just for the game itself. The next trade off is that this 7th core is still used by the kinect and to continue to give users the opportunity to use “Xbox go to friends” or any of the other voice commands developers will need to figure out a timing issue because currently these voice commands use up to 50% of the entire 7th core. Because they want to use most of this core (up to 80%) that means that using voice commands when the developer has already given that processing power to their game might result in poor performance. This is however only a temporary issue, it’s been planned to be changed in a future SDK update.
Our friends over at Eurogamer have shared with us a explanation of how this actually works and why the timing issue is important and what it actually means in an end product.
The slide is interesting on two counts. It demonstrates performance of Ubisoft’s cloth simulation code running on CPU from one generation to the next, showing that good utilisation of the PS3 Cell processor produces better performance than the same code running on the PS4 CPU. Also interesting is that the Xbox One CPU hands in a 15 per cent performance boost over its PS4 equivalent – something that cannot be explained by Microsoft’s 9.4 per cent CPU clock speed advantage (1.75GHz vs 1.6GHz) alone. Could Ubisoft already be using the additional CPU time?
It’s an interesting theory, but the timing of the presentation (August 2014 – two months before the new feature was added to the SDK) suggests not. Speaking to a prominent developer, one potential explanation is that differences in code compiler efficiency might favour Microsoft’s console right now. How the availability of a seventh processing core will affect game performance going forward remains to be seen. Certainly, the whole point of Ubisoft’s presentation is that moving CPU tasks to GPU is the future, and in this respect, it is the PS4 that is in the driving seat. Based on the single example Ubisoft’s presentation provides (and it’s worth stressing that all of these numbers are derived from just one piece of code), PS4 is almost twice as fast.