Testing the Xbox One X for frametime and framerate performance marks an exciting step for GamersNexus. This is the first time we’ve been able to benchmark console frame pacing, and we’re doing so by deploying new, in-house software for analysis of lossless gameplay captures. At a very top-level, we’re analyzing the pixels temporally, aiming to determine whether there’s a change between frames. We then do some checks to validate those numbers, then some additional computational work to compute framerates and frametimes. That’s the simplest, most condensed version of what we’re doing. Our Xbox One X tear-down set the stage for this.
Outside of this, additional testing includes K-type thermocouple measurements from behind the APU (rear-side of the PCB), with more measurements from a logging plugload meter. The end result is an amalgamation of three charts, combining to provide a somewhat full picture of the Xbox One X’s gaming performance. As an aside, note that we discovered an effective Tcase Max of ~85C on the silicon surface, at which point the console shuts down. We were unable to force a shutdown during typical gameplay, but could achieve a shutdown with intentional torture of the APU thermals.
The Xbox One X uses an AMD Jaguar APU, which combines 40 CUs (4 more than an RX 480/580) at 1172MHz (~168MHz slower than an RX 580 Gaming X). The CPU component is an 8C processor (no SMT), and is the same as on previous Xbox One devices, just with a higher frequency of 2.3GHz. As for memory, the device is using 12GB of GDDR5 memory, all shared between the CPU and GPU. The memory operates an actual memory speed of 1700MHz, with memory bandwidth at 326GB/s. For point of comparison, an RX 580 offers about 256GB/s bandwidth. The Xbox One X, by all accounts, is an impressive combination of hardware that functionally equates a mid-range gaming PC. The PSU is another indication of this, with a 245W supply, at least a few watts of which are provided to the aggressive cooling solution (using a ~112mm radial fan).
Art asset creation was one of our key points of discussion at GDC 2016. Speaking with CryEngine, we revealed some of the particle effects and computational fluid simulation performed at the engine-level – stuff that really drives games we play in the visuals department. Textures and “painted” objects are also a critical point for discussion, an aspect of game art that software tools creator Allegorithmic is intimately familiar with. Allegorithmic's “Substance” software tools are distributed to and used by major triple-A studios, including Activision's Call of Duty teams, Naughty Dog (Uncharted 4), Redstorm (Rainbow Six: Siege), and more.
In this behind-the-scenes discussion on game creation, we talk GPU resource limitations, physically-based rendering, and define different types of “maps” (what are normal, specular, diffuse maps?). For a previous discussion on PBR (“What is Physically-Based Rendering?”), check out last year's Crytek interview; PBR, for point of reference, is being used almost everywhere these days – but got major attention with its Star Citizen integration.
This week's news cycle was, unsurprisingly, dominated by the two major releases: Fallout 4 and Black Ops III, shipping within a few days of each other. We're anticipating a similar story to be true for next week's blockbuster Battlefront launch.
Big items for the week mostly include Fallout 4's concurrent user record on Steam, alongside its $750 million generated in 24 hours, and Black Ops III's $550 million 72-hour generation, a game which is expected to surpass $1B by the end of the year. Other items, for Battlefield players – not Front, but Field – the “Legacy Operations” DLC will release a free-to-download Dragon Valley remake, updated from Battlefield 2. Outside of the shooter world, Roller Coaster Tycoon World has been delayed into 2016, citing performance and usability/mechanical bugs, and Legacy of the Void has finally shipped to PCs globally.
The video recap, with a bit more detail, is available below:
Activision's latest in its seemingly undying shooter franchise launched with fairly simplistic graphics settings, but still has a few items that may raise questions – like Order Independent Transparency and Subsurface Scattering. We talk about some of these at a top-level in our Black Ops 3 GPU benchmark, found here, but dive deep in this latest guide. Ignoring difficulties encountered with VRAM and memory, the heavy LOD scaling and graphics controls allow for scalability across the $130 to $1000 GPU range.
Our Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 optimization guide shows the best graphics settings for improving FPS, including screenshot comparisons of the settings. We independently benchmarked all of the game's settings. The screenshots below show texture quality (resolution) comparisons, preset & texture VRAM consumption, FPS performance for each setting, and more. We also define Order Independent Transparency, Volumetric Lighting, Subsurface Shadows, Mesh Quality, Shadow Mapping, and more of Call of Duty's options.
All of these tests were conducted using the patch released on November 7, which contained some bug fixes not addressed at launch. The latest nVidia (358.87) and AMD (15.11) drivers were used for testing. More below in the methodology sections.
Each setting will be listed by severity of its impact on FPS. Higher severity FPS impacters will be listed first.
We're in the final throes of our Call of Duty: Black Ops III content before moving on to the next game – you know the one. While processing data for our forthcoming graphics optimization guide, we realized that Black Ops III is among the most VRAM-hungry games we've ever tested, consuming upwards of 10GB GDDR5 on the Titan X.
Our GPU benchmarks included some initial memory benchmarking, stating that the 980 Ti saw full saturation of its 6GB framebuffer at 4K/max settings. We also showed that the game commits 15.2GB of memory under max settings (pageable address space), with an active physical consumption of about 6.7GB (working set) in Multiplayer. Our testing presents that the singleplayer campaign is far more intensive than multiplayer, to the tune of 38.6% lower FPS on the GPU side.
During tests of all Call of Duty: Black Ops 3's graphics settings, we uncovered a VRAM consumption approaching 10GB in campaign mode when using 4K & “Extra” settings.
Last week's game news recap overviewed major No Man's Sky, Star Citizen, and RPG news (including some Fallout 4 discussion). That was our first weekly recap of games industry news and, finding it to be tremendous fun and receiving positive feedback, we've returned with the second episode.
This week was another eventful period for the industry, heralding the arrival of Black Ops III, the Fallout 4 launch trailer, and putting a public spotlight on Valve's advertising during sales. News also erupted surrounding the Warcraft movie trailer, followed shortly by news that The Witcher series has already gone through pre-production for its own movie creation. Granted, the Witcher is technically based on a book – but close enough.
FPS games are shrouded in arcane mythology pertaining to the accuracy of mouse input, with never-ending debates over acceleration, smoothing, mouse input filtering, and raw input detection. Call of Duty: Black Ops III doesn't escape from this.
One of the first questions we encountered upon publication of our Black Ops III benchmark related to mouse smoothing and acceleration. Namely, “how do I get rid of it?”
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 arrived on PC at midnight, bringing with it high-fidelity graphics that stress PC components – all the way down to the memory. We set forth on benchmarks for Call of Duty: Black Ops III immediately, with our first FPS tests focusing on GPU performance, alongside some RAM & VRAM insights. More tests are forthcoming, so be sure to follow us for those.
Before jumping into the BLOPS 3 benchmarks, let's explain the game's graphics settings. Until our graphics optimization guide for Call of Duty arrives, this detailed list of game settings should assist in determining which options can be disabled or tuned for a higher framerate.
Update: Our Black Ops III graphics optimization guide is now live for per-setting analysis.
Activision allowed two of their most credentialed employees to host a PAX ’15 panel on the role users play in game development. PhDs Justin Shacklette and Spencer Stirling spent nearly an hour explaining how the company is constantly, intelligently collecting data referred to as "Smart Data."
The relatively new (~4 years old) Game Science Division is a group of physicists and mathematicians who also happen to be talented programmers. Their goal is to collect and analyze data to find ways to make the games more fun. Using metrics to make products better is nothing new, and marketing teams are doing this in almost every business in the world; however, as far as Shacklette knew, only Activision and one other company (Riot) have been doing this to improve games instead of just sales.
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