In the old days of game design, developers would routinely bump up against the limitations of the hardware. That, according to Xbox head of studios Matt Booty, is a thing of the past, and Xbox Series X games will only be limited by developers’ imaginations.
“We’re at a point where the technology is out of the way,” Booty told The Guardian. “In previous generations, the hardware and its limitations would leave a pretty clear fingerprint on a game.
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“I remember the first early games that used sprite scaling and then suddenly every game had all these objects flying around the screen. You’d build a game around technical advances like that.”
Now, Booty believes, the Xbox Series X hardware is so sophisticated that Microsoft can “just let the stories and the characters that the teams have in mind reach the screen.”
It’s certainly an appealing prospect, although some would argue that much of the charm of older generation games was the clever tricks developers would use to make their visions fit within limited hardware. Fitting a whole living, breathing city into a PS2 for Grand Theft Auto 3 is impressive to this day, and David Braben managed to fit eight galaxies into a BBC Micro with Elite back in 1984.
Still, it’s nice to speculate what developers will be able to do with the sheer power of the Xbox Series X. The console is set to be released this year, and packs an octa-core AMD Zen 2 processor, 16GB RAM and 1TB of fast SSD storage. The AMD RDNA 2 GPU is capable of running games in 4K at 60fps, with some hitting 120fps – should you be lucky enough to own a TV which can refresh that fast.
All of this will result in a console with a “power you can feel” according to past Microsoft statements, thanks to the fast loading times and high frame rates. And it’s a point that Booty alludes to at the end of the interview, albeit in a different way: for him, it’s all about immersion.
Talking about how we’ve become “almost numb” to movie special effects, Booty said that he hoped that gaming was approaching that point too. “I think we’re inching up on that in games, where the tech to create is just there and hopefully players are being drawn more into the story and the world and less thinking, ‘Oh wow, the load time on this game is really short.’”
We’ll find out later this year, when the first Xbox Series X games drop.