Microsoft’s Build conference was last week, and the company’s keynote functioned as a simultaneous look at the future of Windows, the development of various bots and artificial intelligences (Tay’s debut, in retrospect, didn’t do much for this area), as well as the launch of HoloLens, Microsoft’s AR platform.
Build is a developer conference rather than a gaming event, but VentureBeat caught up with Xbox head Phil Spencer to talk about the platform and its future. With so much talk in the news about a possible PlayStation 4.5 (as well as myriad rumors about what kind of device it might turn out to be,) what can gamers expect from the Xbox One?
When asked point-blank about the possibility of an Xbox 1.5, Spencer said: “I don’t know. Not a big fan of one and a half. I think about what happens in most spaces. If I’m going to move forward, I want to move forward in big numbers… I can understand other teams’ motivations, why they might want to go do that. But for us, our box is doing well. It performs. It’s reliable. The service is up. If we go forward with anything I want to make it a substantial change.”
This doesn’t mean Microsoft isn’t planning some sort of upgrade — Spencer’s comments could be read as a remark on either branding (not wanting to rebrand the Xbox One as anything else without a big jump) or as pushing for a significant, rather than an incremental change.
One potential way to read Spencer’s comments is that he’s trying to avoid the rampant speculation currently taking place around Sony’s PlayStation 4K upgrade. While claims that an upgrade is coming have come down from reliable sources, the exact specifications of that upgrade are completely unknown. It could wind up being a standard PS4 in a new slim form factor with reduced power consumption and 4K Blu-ray support, or it could be something with significantly more oomph.
Microsoft was burned badly in 2013 when the original Xbox One it unveiled didn’t match what consumers’ expected the device to deliver. Spencer has every reason to avoid a similar situation, especially if Sony is really set to announce something by E3 this year.
On the other hand, it strains credulity to think that Microsoft, which has evidently decided to sit out VR in favor of AR and HoloLens, would allow Sony to waltz ahead with its own plans for a higher-performance console without answering the PS4K with some type of Xbox One upgrade. Right now, the performance gap between the Xbox One and PS4 consistently favors the latter, but not by a large enough degree to sway most people. The difference between 720p and 900p when both platforms are at 30 FPS just isn’t that large. If Sony were to offer a PS4 that could hit 1080p at 60 FPS and the Xbox One is still stuck at 720p and 30 FPS, that would matter — and a 1080p@60 FPS target is well within the PS4K’s hypothetical reach.
So far, Spencer has clarified that he never intends to launch upgradeable Xbox One kits and that the company doesn’t want to rebrand for an Xbox 1.5 without significant improvements. He’s not quite stated that Microsoft has no upgrades in the pipeline at all.
The Windows Store and the future of PC gaming
When asked about the future of the Windows Store and the impact on PC gaming, Spencer implied that Microsoft’s messaging on this front hasn’t been as good as it could have been. Many of the flaws identified with games like Gears of War, including the lack of support for modding, the inability to disable V-Sync, no multi-GPU support, G-Sync not functioning properly in all cases, and the way certain overlays and software programs don’t work with Windows Store titles are the result of an early launch, not fundamental limitations of the Windows Store itself.
“My biggest concern when Tomb Raider launched was that I was going to see a review of the Win32 version next to the UWP version and the UWP version would be running at half the framerate,” Spencer said. “I knew that would be dead in the water. We didn’t see that. People bought it. It got downloaded and installed on their PC. It ran at framerate. It was a pretty game.”
Spencer went on to state that the company would be dealing with many of these problems in the months ahead. “Turning off Vsync, support for G-Sync and FreeSync, that’s May. Then we’ll deal with mods and injections this summer.”
Spencer also implied that game mods would still work with Windows Store applications, or that at least some mods would. The distinction appears to be whether or not the mods themselves are used to modify a game’s underlying code. In theory, it seems that a UWP game could choose to load mod data from a different location, and therefore preserve the ability to mod titles. What’s going to be more difficult is game mods that change an executable or that require direct shader injection. One of the more popular visual mods for dozens of titles is ENB Shader Injection, while Xcom’s The Long War mod directly modifies the base executable. It’s not clear if either of these types of mods will ever be allowed on Windows Store titles, the interview makes it clear that Spencer views application sandboxing as a critical security feature that users’ need to keep them safe online.
source : www.extremetech.com