Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 Posted by Jim Thacker

Microsoft announces specs for Xbox One

Microsoft has officially unveiled Xbox One, its successor to the Xbox 360. The machine will go up against Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 and Nintendo’s existing Wii U in the ‘eighth generation’ of games consoles.

Not surprisingly, the story is currently front-page news on most the technology websites. Below, we sift through the first wave of coverage to pick out the key points for CG artists.

The key points for games artists
A lot of the early coverage focuses on the Xbox One’s design (“chunky” and “inelegant”, according to the BBC – it does look rather like a TiVo), lack of backwards-compatibility and the fee to play pre-owned games.

But from a game artist’s point of view, of equal importance are the hardware specifications themselves.

Engadget reports these as “an eight-core CPU, USB 3.0, WiFi direct, Blu-ray, 500GB HDD, HDMI input and output and 802.11n wireless” – consistent with those leaked this January under the codename Durango.

We can’t find any mention of the GPU yet, but if that also follows the leaked Durango spec, it would be an 800MHz processor with 12 shader cores.

That places the Xbox One roughly on a par with Playstation 4 in terms of raw performance and some way ahead of the Wii U.

Physics simulation in the cloud?
Developers also gain access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform – something Wired speculates will enable tasks like physics simulations to be offloaded to the cloud, freeing up the local processors.

However, games do not require an always-on connection for DRM purposes, as some had feared.

The frame rate of the Kinect has been increased from 30fps to 60fps – primarily to support Skype video calls, it seems – but there’s no word on the hand recognition shown in recent Microsoft tech demos.

Middleware support
Middleware providers have steadily been issuing news releases to confirm that their tools are supported, with Allegorithmic (Substance Engine), Geomerics (Enlighten) and IKinema (IKinema RunTime) first out of the gate.

We’ll update the list as we hear from other middleware developers.

Read CVG’s coverage of the Xbox One

(Individual stories on key issues)