Xbox One eSRAM Easy To Use But Its Limited Size & Deciding What Should Go There Are An Issue: Dev

“But in general it’s pretty straightforward,” says Warframe’s Sr. Programmer, Ron Janzen.

Posted By | On 10th, Nov. 2014 Under News | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet

xbox one esram

Ever since the launch of Xbox One, the eSRAM has been the major culprit behind lower resolution of certain games on the Xbox One. However the development situation seems to be improving with major AAA games like Destiny and Call of Duty Advanced Warfare running at 1080p, although the latter runs at a dynamic resolution.

Digital Extremes’ Warframe was one of the first game to achieve parity in resolution for the PS4 and Xbox One versions. So how did the developers utilized Xbox One’s eSRAM in this case and whether it was really a pain to work with? GamingBolt got in touch with the game’s Sr. Programmer, Ron Janzen to know more.

“The eSRAM was quite easy to work with. The issue is the limited size of the ESRAM (32MB) and deciding what should go in there. Currently we are using it for high-traffic render targets which pretty much fills it up,” Ron Janzen said.

“There are some scenarios where the ESRAM is used in a more dynamic manner which will be complicated by efficiently transferring data in and out of ESRAM as well as the associated synchronization issues which we do to gain better performance but in general it’s pretty straightforward.”

As with every console cycles, developers will come across major hurdles but with optimizations and better tool set, those obstacles can be overcome. Microsoft must be applauded for the work they have done since the console’s launch. The Redmond based company has released the popular June SDK update that have made life easier for developers and have added hundreds of new features to the console since launch.

On a related note, we reviewed the PS4 version of Warframe last year and found it to be a pretty solid first person shooter.

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  • Illusive Man

    Obsessed with ESRAM…

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    • scottsvxr .

      Obsessed with resolution….I wish I had a share button so I could share maybe half of my game’s

  • Vance

    it’s pretty strange to me with all these esram issues from “devs”.
    can someone clear something up with me:
    the xbox 360 had 10mb of edram (esram is an upgrade to this type of ram), I don’t remember reading any “dev” having issues with it. but now the xbox has over 3x that amount and that is al of a sudden too small for them now?
    – from what I’ve been seeing it’s not that esram is the issue, it’s that devs themselves don’t want to do the work.

    • andy

      Its not about them not doing the work. So what, games like Killzone Shadow Fall and Infamous Second Son (2 games that look astounding for launch and launch window games) are “3x” more evolutionary than their PS3 predecessors??? No the jump is a bit more detailed than that.
      Some devs came out and spoke the eSRAM “issue” a while back.
      Its simply a bottleneck and nothing complex.

    • Vance

      I’ve said its about them not doing the work because the issue is “deciding what to put there”, why were they not complaining about what to put in the 10mb edram of the xbox360 which is 3x smaller than that of the x1?
      if the 32mb in the x1 is a bottleneck, is the 10mb in xbox360 a bottleneck also?

      (i’m not sure whats the significance of you bringing up 2 ps4 exclusives when the discussion is about the xbox. also, the xbox had the best looking and most NPC launch and launch window games) anyway, he discussion is about esram so lets save this discussion for another time.

    • andre

      The requirements back then were different, the standard was 720p, lighting, physics etc were on another level and the reference was the PS3 which was hard to program for overall.

      Now things are different. The PS4 is the more powerfull console and its simple to program for. The XOne was not engineered to match the PS4 so developers have to be creative to achieve parity and the size of the eSram is not helping.

    • GHz

      So what are we all looking at when we play FH2? How is the XB1 able to handle all that geometry and state of the art lighting using forward rendering? Isnt that GPU suicide on a developer’s standpoint? But yet that game exists near one year after the launch of the XB1. If we should compare driving games, then DC in all respects should be running 60fps using the lighter GPU friendly deferred + FXAA tech right? But the fact is even though its closed circuit racer it can only manage 30fps. Logic then tells us that if FH2 was closed circuit, it might had ran a 60fps with the fx heavy 4xMSAA. What’s the DC devs excuse? PS4 should’ve ran DC @ 60 but its not. XB1 in this situation proves that it can tackle the impossible for a console so early on, while PS4 did what was expected. How do we explain that? Oh it’s that ESRAM. Simple.

    • andre

      I don’t know about your HW/SW background but the ESRAM is not something magic. If it was then what’s the point of having video cards with 3GB or GDDR5? Shouldn’t the top video cards be all using ESRAM then? So it’s not simple that simple.

      Drive Club is a different game with different physics and effects, according to specialized sites it’s the most impressive racing to date in terms of graphics (that includes effects).

      Of course developers will develop ways to optimize the usage of ESRAM and get better graphics but it will not fix the graphic gap to the PS4 alone.

      Each genre of game is different so saying any game can run at 1080p 60Fps on the XOne because FH2 does it’s a display of lack of knowledge about how HW works, how SW works and the kind of processing going under the hood in games.

    • Mark

      while DC does have great graphics, it doesn’t even support physics damage to how the cars control in real time (FH2 does). It is cosmetic. Also, there’s even flat 2D crowd models on some of the sidelines……..and more. It does take many shortcuts to achieve what it has for beauty that it is (car models, roads and environments in general). But this is all on top of the fact it’s already been delayed a year……let’s give Forza Motorsport 5 an extra year too then. DC is impressive, but it has shortcomings man.

      Also, I didn’t see GHz say Esram is magic. But without contest, it is not being used currently in 3rd parties the way Microsoft will have them utilize it. At AMD and Microsoft Dev Conference, they were teaching these guys how it should be done……use Esram and DDR3 simultaneously. Then start DMA-ing resources in and out of the Embedded Sram. It is simply a fact that these studios need more experience with how to use it, at its POTENTIAL, per Microsoft and AMD.

    • GHz

      We’re still at stage 1 & 2! Lots to look forward to!

    • andre

      I’m sure developers will learn the ESRAM ways to benefit from it the most, but there is no way it will be enough to close the 50% difference in GPU Cores the PS4 has. It will get better but so will the PS4 and with both consoles at their maximum, the PS4 has the advantage.

    • GHz

      I’ll go with what the development community is saying. The difference between the 2 consoles in regards to power is minimal. Minimal to the point that its not worth mentioning. Then there’s the fact that some also said that they are built to take advantage of different approaches to rendering.

      “Xbox One does, however, boast superior performance to PS4 in other ways. “Let’s say you are using procedural generation or raytracing via parametric surfaces – that is, using a lot of memory writes and not much texturing or ALU – Xbox One will be likely be faster,” said one developer.

      procedural generation is making a comeback in a big way because its cost effective. ESRAM will dominate that space. Thats what it was built for. Raytracing via parametric surfaces, thats the future of video games. Now that the hardware is in the hands of Devs, they can talk about certain things now. Not everything, just some things.

      You keep saying, but there is no way it will be enough to close the 50% difference in GPU Cores the PS4 has.” I understand why, because its safe to follow the crowd and popular belief or risk being ridiculed. But please look at the proof. THE GAMES! XB1 has already pretty much closed the gap, w/o dx12, without proper use of ESRAM and Tile Resources. Remember, PS4 development is already close to the metal. Where is this obvious 50% more power? Why are XB1 1st party games, winning best graphics in a video game awards even though they are made in a bloated DX11 environment? FH2 just won one. How do you explain games like Quantum Break? And I swear you are underestimating what it means to render a game as large as FH2 that uses Global Illumination to light up it’s world while using Forward rendering. You have no idea what that means. Put it this way, evolution studios wouldn’t dare attempt such a thing. Its too GPU intensive, so how Play Ground pulled it off on XB1 is confusing the best of ’em. FH2 opened up the industries eyes as to what the XB1 can do. There is nothing on the PS4 on that scale. Technical wise. Something aint right. We’ve been misinformed.

    • andre

      Sorry but going with the crowd in my case is going with what most developers are saying and I’m talking about studios that are not MS or Sony related (like CD Projetkt Red for example) .

      Another thing to mention is ESRAM is only memory, it doesn’t do any processing, it can have lots of bandwidth, low latency and what not but it can only store and read info as fast as the GPU can do the calculations.

      PS4 and XOne took different approaches as you said, while the PS4 opted for more hardware (the GPU cores), MS opted for the ESRAM, can the XOne solution achieve same results as the PS4? Maybe, but it will be very dependent on the type of game and skill of the developer (deciding what goes into the ESRAM and how the game engine will deal with different memory timings), whereas the PS4 approach gives full power from the start allowing for simpler engines.

      Using the ESRAM will be like programming for the Cell (on a much less scale), developers will have to put a lot of thought on the optimizations to get the best out of the system, but power is power and come on we are talking 768 vs 1152 GPU cores, and yes, it’s a big difference.

      Good thing is, multiplatforms will probably achieve parity way faster than last generation, and exclusives will be a catch up game.

    • GHz

      CD projetk agrees with what I just told you about approach to rendering.

      Balazs Torok: “I would say that targeting Full HD with a complex rendering pipeline is a challenge in terms of ESRAM usage. Especially when this pipeline is built on deferred rendering. We are definitely taking advantage of the ESRAM on Xbox One, and we know that we have to fit into these limits, so we are constantly optimizing the usage.”


      For example, FH2 devs stayed away from the popular deferred rendering. Opting for forward instead. The result is the best racing game so far this gen. You have to learn to understand what these pple are saying as a whole. XB1 runs into parity problems because, not just because DX11, but also because the graphic engines that are still in use are old, and supports older paradigms sort of speak. These are in the favor of PS4, and ain’t nothing wrong with that. Thats what the ps4 was built for.

      XB1 will shine when true next gen engines drop. Unreal Engine 4. It will set the standard for how to better exploit NEW RENDERING features! XB1 hasn’t even started yet because it is crippled by DX11 and old graphic engines so far. But still its doing pretty good. You still need a pixel counter to let you know that its running some games on a lower res. Thats fact! How is that 50% more power PS4 style? Lets be real now.

      Drop the ESRAM argument, because everything you say points right back to FH2. And there is not ONE game on PS4 that matches that game in scope technically. Done. Let me not even talk about RSOR, and that was a launch title. ESRAM wins.

      All the number talk and spec sheet recital in the world don’t measure up to actual application and results from them. Again how do you explain Quantum Break. There is no game on the planet like it. There is no graphic engine that behaves like the one QB was made in. It’s a first!

      What I meant by “following the crowd” is what you’re doing right now. Just repeating what everyone is saying w/o paying attention to what these devs are saying ENTIRELY. When they say the PS4 is more powerful, you guys hang on to that and then you exaggerate that power. Thats what I meant. The devs however don’t exaggerate that power. They say it’s slightly more powerful. Then you guys turn around and say ps4 so powerful, the XB1 will never catch up. You follow? Devs never said that, and the games are the proof. While you all hang to 50% more power that in reality, don’t translate into real games, Devs try to explain to you that 40% more pixels dont equal to 40% better picture. But you guys dont listen. Thats all Im saying.

    • andre

      If I’m repeating what other people are saying so are you since the argument ongoing for the XOne is exactly the same “Wait for the new engines”. There will be improvements but no revolution.

      FH2 is really nice but hey, lets not exaggerate, the graphics are nice but the scope of the game is nothing extraordinary and it’s an arcade game not simulation, so its more eye candy than physical effects which exactly for not being simulation are simplified, so forza is not a good example of what a system is really capable.

      Bringing Quantum Break to the discussion, sorry but I have to say this, is borderline fanboysm since the game is months away from release and we all know how hyped up games are these days. I could argue that Uncharted 4 will beat it in terms of graphic quality hands down, but then I wold be playing on the same field, which is speculation.

      The DX12 is another miracle fans are waiting to happen that will not. Again, it will improve the system but will not make miracles, these are optimizations and lower level APIs that will allow developers to get more power from the system. And optimizations are always part of the console lifecycle, PS4 also receives optimizations to its libraries and since the architectures are basically the same, there is nothing the XOne can do that the PS4 can’t and vice-versa.

      It’s Esram and parallel memory access vs GDDR5 and 50% more GPU cores. Engines that “understand” Esram will benefit from it, but there is no miracle. In the end, as I mentioned before, multis will have very similar performances on both platforms with exclusives pushing the limits and making no difference in the end since most of the time people will be doing comparisons without seeing both sides. We will all have to rely on Digital Foundry for the conclusions.

    • GHz

      Nope, dont compare me to you. You’re the one that brought up CD projetk as an example. But you chose to stick with only a part of what they said, because it fits pretty in what you want to hear. You don’t even bother try to understand the other things they said to get the whole picture. And when i said the games are the proof, not only did CD projetk explained in plain english how ESRAM relates to deferred rendering, there is a game, FH2 that did well w/o it. CD projetk project understands this. But the witcher 3 is multi platform and its safe to say PS4 wouldn’t be able to handle forward rendering with all that global illumination. Not with the size of the worlds in that game. Deferred would be the better choice because even though the XB1 is at a disadvantage, at least it’ll be able to keep up. If it was the other way around, then that would’ve been headaches to get the PS4 running using forward. Understand? no biggie. it is what it is. In this instance, PS4 is the more powerful machine. They are talking about approach to rendering.

      The problem is pple forever take what these devs say out of context, to better fit what they want to hear, and for the more technical minded, their limited understanding. Or in the case of a gaming site like this one or eurogamer, headline to get clicks, but like that CD projetk interview reveals, there more to it than just that. You just have to understand what they are saying.

      About FH2, now your just making stuff up. Same advance physics engine from Forza 5, just tweaked for off road driving too. Its no exaggeration. You have websites dedicated to driving enthusiast, and they swear that F5 & FH2 is more or less accurate in displaying how these vehicles perform on road.

      QB, not only have we’ve seen 16 minutes of real footage running on XB1, but it has been verified by attendees at Gamecon. QB stole the show, the most next gen looking game there at the time. No gimmicks. Why would you compare that experience to that of Uncharted 4? Sony haven’t shown no gameplay let alone showed it off to the press. All we got was an “in engine” cinematic intro.

      As far as DX12, don’t confuse graphic res with graphic features. It’s accurate to answer a question like,” will DX12 improve graphics on XB1?’ with the the answer, “not much.” Because graphic fidelity can improve independent of DX12. Middleware software can handle that job. DX12 is about opening up more features and capabilities, and MS said that they are NOT ready to talk about what the features are yet. NDA. Throw in the fact that both platforms are only a year old, best believe that graphics will improve over time. It’ll be stupid to believe otherwise.

      No one mentions anything about miracle in regards the stregnths of the XB1. You however ant to believe that 50% w/e translates to 50% better looking game. Thats false. Devs already cleared that up. You van believe anything you want though.

      “multis will have very similar performances on both platforms”

      YUP! its happening already, Destiny, CODAW, ACU, Alien Isolation etc.

      “exclusives pushing the limits”

      FH2>DC in so many ways its not even funny. Trumps it in overall presentation and scope. We can compare these 1st party efforts. No diss to the ps4, it is what it is.

      Digital Foundry couldn’t even tell us that KZSF MP was 930 X 1080p. They told is it was full 1080p and a solid 60 frames per second. They were wrong on both accounts. They told us ESRAM was a bottleneck until they were told that its better code render targets to fit ESRAM 1st because it benefits all GPU’s with caches. So what else they got wrong? How trustworthy are they?

      My advice, forget a pixel count and trust your own eyes and make your own assessment in regards to the games you want to play. Too much funny business with the gaming media.

    • andre

      Sorry GHz but CD Projekt didn’t go into specifics of the ESRAM, they only said that it was complicated to work with its limits specially with an engine using deferred rendering, if you have a source that says otherwise, please send me the link.

      Speaking of deferred rendering, I’m led to believe that the XOne would actually be at an advantage here since deferred requires lots of read/writes to the G-Buffer, but even then it’s hard for me to see how just the ESRAM bandwidth can compensate for the lack of cores on the GPU specially since its Bandwidth is not much faster than GDDR5. Moreover, the memory can only move information if the processor can provide it.

      In both cases it seems to me that the XOne requires lots of optimizations to work efficiently and to get the same results it would have to simplify the calculations (lighting maps for example). This still can result in great visuals like RYSE but the end result is more about artistic direction than raw calculations.

      QB was demoed in a controlled environment. I’m pretty sure everything shown was handpicked to display the best case scenario, you should know that, not doubting their capabilities but I don’t remember anything special coming from the studio behind QB.
      Might be stunning? Yes, but we can’t judged products which are not final.

      Digital Foundry learned that guerilla implemented a new upscale method in KZ which was probably why they missed it. Dismissing their analysis for one case isn’t handpicking the examples that suit you better?

      I totally agree with the gaming media part. I’d say 99% of the fanboys on sites like IGN would never notice the difference if these same sites didn’t bring that up (of course they are loving it, so many clicks per article that is not even funny). Side by side a 900p vs 1080p game look the same, but when fanboys know about it, they just know everything 🙂

    • GHz

      What they said is getting into specifics, and is a clue that supports the idea that the speed/strength of the consoles depends on development approach. Keep in mind when they share their experience, its based on the current situation with the API. We all know things can change as it improves.

      So add what they said and look at what was achieved with FH2, which was drawn up using a form of forward rendering and you can see that my assessment is sound. Close to 100% of games are done using deferred which as of now, do not cater to the strengths of the XB1. BUt the XB1 can keep up despite that. Things will change though, because its normal that it do as Devs get more accustomed to these machines. And I’m not talking about better API, just better software hacks like the ones employed in FH2, and from what it looks like, Quantum Break.

      Can the witcher run on PS4 if it used forward rendering to draw, with all that expensive lighting? Can it run on XB1 the same? Deferred is the preferred method, and for now like CD Projekt said, not so friendly with XB1’s ESRAM. In this case PS4 > XB1 in development environment friendliness. Same old story. I get what they are saying, while most take it out of context and exaggerate the difference in power.

      “I’m led to believe that the XOne would actually be at an advantage here since deferred requires lots of read/writes to the G-Buffer”

      Dude, lets not pretend that we’re smarter than the dev in regards to how they build their games. CD Projekt said, ” targeting Full HD with a complex rendering pipeline is a challenge in terms of ESRAM usage. Especially when this pipeline is built on deferred rendering.”

      So how is the XB1 at an advantage? He just explained in one lick why some games are @ lower res on the XB1.

      About not trusting DF: I gave you 2 instances, you concentrate on one. There are plenty more, but thats a waste of time. Trust your eyes, not a pixel count.

      I agree with everything else you said.

    • theduckofdeath

      There is a presumption that since there are 50% more CUs and 100% more ROPs, that these parts can be used at 100% efficiency. The devs are building real-time rendered games, not running benchmarks.

      Two MS engineers gave an interview with digital foundry. They stated that they kept XB1 as balanced as possible, and that overclocking was more effective than enabling the last two CUs (12 + 2). They stated that at the throughput number they threw out for eSRAM plus DDR3, those CUz could not saturated or even be cost effective vs. overclocking. Maybe they were full of it. Who knows…

    • Mark

      Smooth……..time will tell. Eh man thx for a nice lil debate, u and GHz. Good to see some constructive argument, not a bunch of unfounded, biased hatred lol. I can totally accept someone’s preference, but it’s tough to see the constant immaturity and hate online.

    • GHz

      Good point about the ESRAM because thats what the more skilled devs have been saying from the get go. They also said from the beginning that XB1’s API DX11, is the cause of why they cannot maximise YET what the XB1 can do this early on. Graphic drivers to be more precise. Which means its not a hardware deficiency thing. We’re talking PS4’s close to the metal API vs XB1’s bloated less than pleasant to work with API. Yet devs still managed to close the gap in parity in 3rd party games. What does that mean?

      “If it was then what’s the point of having video cards with 3GB or GDDR5?”

      What ESRAM encourages devs to do if they want to stay competitive, to better anticipate the changes to come, is optimize their render target to reduce bandwidth cost. Today, the best way to do this is by using ESRAM. Not only does it benefits XB1 when making cross platform games, it also benefits PS4. So if you’re about saving development time, go the ESRAM route 1st. This has been discussed and proven, and is described as a trend that will continue. Now isn’t that forward thinking, to have put that dedicated tech in the XB1, in support of future trends? Keep in mind now that not all devs possess the same skill level. Not saying the less knowledgeable are stupid, just saying that they haven’t upgraded their skills yet. A devs opinion will always be a reflection of their level of access n know how.

      DC development was pretty much traditional. Nothing deep about it. The biggest hurdle for evolution studios was network social implementation. The physics in DC is not more advance than that in FORZA 5 and FH2. Thats common knowledge. It is a pretty racer though. Solid too, but very limited in scale and scope compared to the likes of FH2. FH2 was made possible by efficient use of ESRAM, so yes, even with a bloated API DX11, XB1 have closed the gap. The proof are the games.

    • andre

      Please check the answer I gave to Mark.
      It’s a very interesting discussion 🙂

    • theduckofdeath

      You are dealing with two different games. No, not all devs are created equal, but it is silly to put unnecessary limitations on their work. If two teams are contracted to build a house, and you give one team proper tools and equipment, while the other gets makeshift tools, then someone has to make concessions or find time consuming workarounds. Think about how much wasted time there is when you try to do a job with a crappy wire stripper or battery operated tools vs. plug-in.

    • GHz

      We’re talking about 1st party maximising the potential of their hardware. Each will approach development to better suite their respected platform. The results say a lot.

      In regards to 3rd party tackling multiplats, and the conditions they have to work in, you’re right. In regards to the XB1, nothing can be done until it is powered by its true API. Then we can judge.

    • Kidd

      Yeah Dev’s are lazy they should be making new lighting system’s,new engine’s, new design, Etc there so used to old gen I don’t see dev’s making the effort.

  • Generalkidd

    They probably could’ve implemented up to 128 MB of ESRAM without really driving up costs. Or perhaps stuck with eDRAM like on the Xbox 360 which the Wii U also uses, a lot of too.

    • Psionicinversion

      eSRAM takes up alot of space on the die so thats the most they could fit on


    Are people still talking about the limitations of this garbage……?

  • Guest

    eSRAM was included with the intention of eventually using tiled resources which have finally come about with DX 11.3 and eventually DX 12 being implemented. I think we’ll see the eSRAM become a boon once that is common place.

  • Charles – The Great and Powerf

    Its not a “culprit” Its dedicated graphics RAM thats a fast lane on the highway. Imagine you have 70mph on a highway and instead of adding twice the lanes at 70 mph to ease traffic durring congestion, you add a seperate highway that goes 140 mph that is only used for priority traffic. Thats ESRAM. Doubling the lanes on the highway is GDDR5 RAM, but its still going 70 mph. I think we will get better at driving 140 mph, in the smaller lanes and gain some awesome ground in the near future. I’m hoping DirectX12 simplifies driving 140 mph. But we’ll see. Charles out.

    • Allandor

      Actually it would be two 104 mph lanes that were added 😉
      While the 70mph lane (or the 140mph lane (ps4)) are full of two way traffic with traffic lights in the middle because the traffic crosses with other lanes (CPU vs GPU).

    • theduckofdeath

      It is a fast lane, but their is way too much traffic waiting to use it. Being limited to “one lane” and the increased but finite speed limitation doesn’t adequately alleviate the bottleneck in the slow lanes.

      In short, it is preferable to DDR3 alone, but doesn’t solve the problem. I suppose Microsoft committed to DDR3 to guarantee 8 GB per console.That solution lneeded to be propped up with embedded RAM. Now the die size is drastically increased, increasing complexity, thermal envelope & costs, while lowering yields. Thus, the chip is limited to 32 MB eSRAM and 12 functioning compute units. Viola, we have the XB1 as we know it today.

      Sony took a gamble on DDR5 availability and lucked out. Who’s to say if both MS and SONY had insisted on DDR5, a shortage would not have resulted, yielding 4 GB DDR5 consoles and/or limited availability?

  • Mark

    Ok, since GamingBolt keeps screening my post (lol), I’ll just say that the Esram isn’t being used to its full potential, per Microsoft and AMD Developer’s Day Conference. Whew, people r losing sleep over this man. I won’t. I’ll be up tonight all over MCC and DA:I early access.

  • Mark

    Esram usage isn’t being fully utilized, per Microsoft and AMD. Anyway, here comes MCC and DA:I early access tonight!

  • marc berry

    Get ready boys this is going to get fun.
    “efficiently transferring data in and out of ESRAM”
    This is the hard part. The limited size of the ESRAM is not limited if you can move data in and out.


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