Xbox One October SDK Reduced CPU Cost of Rendering, Updated Graphics Driver To Improve Memory Usage

The recent Xbox One SDK leak reveals more information about the improvements applied to the console.

Posted By | On 02nd, Jan. 2015 Under News | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet

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The recent Xbox One SDK and its respective documentation leaks have revealed new information about the different updates that Microsoft has applied to its Xbox One video game console. A few moments ago we reported on how the November SDK update unlocked more CPU power, but Microsoft actually implemented a few important upgrades in the October update as well.

This piece of information was revealed by a user on Union Video Game Forum who pasted screenshots from what looks like the Xbox One SDK documentation. Although most of the information in those screenshots are technical jargon, two pieces of information caught our eye. The October update has reduced the amount of memory utilized during runtime. Microsoft achieved this by updating the graphics driver so that memory overhead of vertex and pixel shader objects is reduced. According to tests, this saw a reduction of 45% in memory usage.

The other feature that the October update bought in was the inclusion of Descriptor Tables support. A descriptor table defines the characteristics of the various memory areas used during program execution, according to Wikipedia. Due to this, the shaders can  load resource descriptors from memory tables which can help reduce the CPU cost of rendering. What’s more? It’s ready for DirectX 12 as it can support the new API’s descriptor tables.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  • GK15

    Awesome 🙂

  • Cenk Algu

    They are preparing the console for dx12.Windows 10 update will unlock some parts of the hardware for dx12.It is definetely gonna be a big blast,Cant wait the games with dx12.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      It’s only going to unlock extra cores and provide CPU overhead reduction. Other than that it’s going to be mostly developer implementations, which is really cool. Can’t wait to see games fully designed and rendered with Dx12.

      Oh and probably a significant boost in esram performance. ;D

    • Psionicinversion

      extra cores? extra feature sets not cores ffs.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      Not only feature sets with volume tiled resources and typed UAV load, but also unlocking further cores and most of all CPU overhead reduction. The unlocking of extra cores is not limited to PC, also sometime in the coming years Sony will also be capable of unlocked cores I think. All up to Sony anyways and how competent their development team are.

  • Salama

    That’s pretty awesome. 45% is a huge chunk. Hopefully this won’t take a year to be in full use by the dev’s.

    • d0x360

      It most likely will if not longer. Things like this are engine dependent so they have to rewrite code to take advantage of higher efficiency levels. They will probably see an improvement in general performance without writing any new code but there won’t be any significant gains until devs implement changes. Its possible games coming out in the summer will see some improvement and its possible teams like cd projeckt red will take advantage cause they are always looking to push limits but based on how most major studios work and their huge interest in keeping costs down most games won’t see any advantage till holiday 2015 or so.

      The type of code needed is low level stuff that can’t be easily rolled in. Its the kind of thing you plan for and write code for when you are just starting to build the visual aspects of your game. Figure visuals are final minus polish and small tweaks about 12 months from release on a normal game. That gives artists enough time to layer in detail while the engine team works on squeezing extra frames out of what they built already. That’s assuming a 3 year Dev cycle mind you.

    • Salama

      There is always the possibility that some studios have had a head start on the dx12. They need real life product testing.

    • d0x360

      Oh definitely. Major studios have access to some of that stuff but even they can’t full optimize until its finish but they are most certainly coding towards the new standard.

    • Toni D

      They have said its going to take one work month for a person to take an existing PC game and convert to Xbox One when all tools are out.
      A team can do it really fast, probably less than a week.

    • Guest

      When they ported Forza5 to PC it took a team of 4 people one month to complete. Granted it was not at all optimized, but it did run.

  • TheXboxJunky

    It goes to show how talented the devs were to get games to look/run as well as they did previously. MS clearly had immature dev kits when they had to scrap the always online system. Now that they’ve had more time their dev kits are getting into MUCH better shape. It will be awesome to see what devs can do with these new kits plus the rest of the DX12 features.

    • d0x360

      Oh no doubt. The OS and SDK were about 8 months to a year behind where they should have been because the team had to basically rewrite everything after they removed the game sharing and no disc thing.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      Or Sony just pushed their hand earlier then they expected? If anything we all can agree Dx11 as of now in the XOne is nothing but a mad scramble to what it should have been with Dx12.

  • d0x360

    Even a 20% reduction in memory use from pixel and vertex shaders is considered massive. If they really managed to knock 45% off…that’s mind blowing. I remember working with unreal 2 when Microsoft and AMD created the first unified pipeline (xbox360 gpu) and that only improved general memory use for either side of the pipeline by about 12%/ and that was a huge shift in hardware design efficiency so to get a higher percent with better code is…it’s seriously staggering.

    • Psionicinversion

      or it was really unoptimised beforehand, either way its good. If thats part of readying the system for DX12, and that memory reduction stuff comes to PC… you will see CGI level gfx not on X1, on PC though 😀

    • d0x360

      I’ll sure it was rough around the edges but I wouldn’t say it was unoptimized otherwise it would have no hope coming anywhere near ps4 unless the both of them were horribly unoptimized lol.

      Yea it would be great if whatever they did could be rolled into the PC side too. Without specifics we may not know unless a Dev spills the beans. Its possible these tweaks are Xbox specific but who knows. The Xbox runs a highly modified win 8 kernel so anything is possible but thr changes might be specific to the hardware in the Xbox and the software running on it. Hopefully some more details come to light cause I’m real intrigued to see what they actually changed. I used to have a good friend in the Xbox division, he leaked me internal documents before Xbox live launched back in the day.

      I wrote an article for xbox-scene (modding community for og Xbox) about the protocols and security features and 3 days later I got called by a lawyer demanding I remove the article and destroy the documents I had. It was some pretty awesome stuff nobody was ever supposed to see. I think I have them on a CDR somewhere I should try to find them. No risk now since that old system is gone. I gotta say it was impressive. I have a background in network engineering and development and live has some of the strongest security in a public facing network I’ve ever seen. I wish Sony had taken ms up on the offer and licensed Xbox live tech for psn.

      Anyways I’m rambling lol. Unfortunately my buddy works for a diff tech company now so no more cool leaks but I do get some cool pictures of robots.

    • Psionicinversion

      Well xbox gaming OS is different to the windows 8 one some how but pixel and vertex shader optimisation would surely come down to the API and its use in the target GPU. seeing as the GPU is GCN tech surely that would apply??

      Im thinking it must be the API because outside of that they get optimised by the devs in the game so for it to be a global thing must be at the API level

    • d0x360

      I think its probably lower level than api. Api is the application layer that allows software (game engine) to speak to hardware through the OS so this optimization may have been direct in the OS itself meaning instead of needing an api layer to translate and execute its talking directly to the hardware which eliminates any overhead. Only reason I’m making that assumption is because of the high percentage of memory being saved. Api optimization usually doesn’t allow for that level of savings unless the original was really bad.

      I’m going to try to find out. I downloaded the SDK I need to read the documentation. Hopefully there are .DLL files in there I can open with a hex editor and maybe even load into visual studio and good at look at their function calls. If I find out anything of value I’ll post it on here. If there aren’t .DLL files then I need to figure out the Xbox equivalent. Example, on PC we have .exe and on Xbox they are .xbe

    • Psionicinversion

      hmmm hopefully all this juicy goodness will be in windows 10.

    • d0x360

      It would be nice but we will have to wait and see. The main reason consoles can do so much with so little aside from being set hardware is because since you dont have to worry as much about security you can give software access to hardware that you would never allow on a PC. Removing tons of layers of abstraction and security allows for far more efficiency but to do the same on a PC would be a disaster. It would open up massive holes in the OS and give hackers so many new attack vectors there would be no way to ever keep up. In fact that’s one of the main reasons Microsoft created direct x.

      There was no efficient way to program games with windows and they couldn’t allow them direct access to hardware because if game devs have it everyone has it so they built a layer between the os and hardware (api) that anyone could call functions but not risk direct control of said hardware to do evil things.

      What would be nice is if there was a game console that allowed access like our current consoles do but with hardware you could upgrade and run standard PC games on. The drawback is it wouldn’t do anything else but you would have the benefit of console level security and optimization with the PC ability to upgrade anytime you want. It would be a hard sell but I’d buy something like that. They could do a modular system where if you want better visuals you just attach a self contained GPU block.

      I think Acer was working on something similar but it ran regular windows. If you wanted more power you just swapped out different blocks. They ended up killing the project though.

    • Psionicinversion

      Thats the main problem, those blocks have to be manufactured and theres no guarantee of a sell plus like you said the main point of a console is to optimise to fixed hardware but your still going to have the same problems with an upgradeable console

      Theyve recently tried do it with a mobile phone called Aria, i think it might actually start entering production soon. It disappeared for ages but think its ready. I still think its going to be a fail though.

      The X1 has 3 OS’s you got windows, xbox OS and then a small OS that talks between the 2 all using the hypervisor so unless you created a sandboxed virtual OS to run inside windows to handle the gaming aspect of the OS you still cut off. So more problems but tbh. I dunno if hackers would really bother with that for a normal PC, sure it could be done to gain access to corp computers but as long as the security is hardened to the point it can be disabled then shouldnt be a problem with proper low level stuff

    • d0x360

      Well the thing of it his you could have the best software security in the world but if your hardware is allowed to run any code thrown at it like a console does then you effectively bypass every piece of security you have built up. That’s why they dont allow that.

      There was an initiative called palladium a few years ago which was to be built into CPUs. It would have allowed for trusted hardware (no hardware can be trusted today) but its true purpose was anti piracy and enough people thankfully made a stink and it never happened.

      You have to remember hardware is insecure, always. It will run anything and since its in control of you execute dirty code it can overwrite software. So say for example you give direct HW control to the GPU and DSP. You could use them to change the OS kernel and there would be no way to detect it. You basically have a hardware rootkit that no security software could ever detect or block and from there a hacker could do anything they want on a system without a user ever knowing. Dangerous stuff which is why windows, linix, Unix etc etc never allow that direct control. They let you use api function calls which talk to the OS which then talks to the hardware.

      The Xbox one sort of runs multiple operating systems but its not like a PC. All of them are running on a virtual machine controlled by the hypervisor as you said. The part that has the dash and apps runs on the modified win8 kernel which blocks direct hardware access. The game virtual machine allows hardware access via api and directly (GPU only). The ARM CPU in the Xbox one is speculated to be responsible for starting both virtual machines and also running checks during runtime. So if for example someone found an exploit that allowed running of unsigned code (homebrew, pirated games etc) the arm CPU would see that and kill the VM and start a new one effectively blocking anything that isn’t supposed to run from doing so.

      The reason Microsoft went with virtual machines instead of just always running the os behind a game like Sony does is for a couple reason. First is security like mentioned above. Even if the system is cracked it won’t let you do anything. second performance. Microsoft can keep updating the OS making it smaller and more efficient. Everytime they do they can say OK we now have these resources free so when a game is running it has X% more CPU time and can use X% more ram.

      It was actually a pretty genius idea its just a shame they decided to go with such weak hardware to back it all up.

      I’m really hoping they go ahead with the idea of enabling every Xbox to be and SDK. I’d love to tinker with the internals of that box. Its a very intriguing design.

      As for that phone, google bought out the company and they arw still moving forward with it slowly but surely. I think it’s a great idea.

      For example say you are going out and you know you won’t be playing games or watching videos etc. You could swap out the CPU and GPU for something lower end and extend the battery life significantly. Also instead of buying a new phone every year or 2 maybe all you really need is the new CPU block for better performance or maybe just a new screen or some ram.

      I dont think it will become a mainstream phone but its possible. A single chasis that can be customized to fit your budget and upgraded over time. That’s a cool idea.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      That is why some had hope Steam OS would be the answer to PC prayers….

    • Psionicinversion

      i wouldnt use steamOS anyway as a starter system it will have a very long way to go

    • TheWayItsMeantToBePlayed

      Considering the massive leak that all is not well in Valve HQ and there’s major problems with the company (As in they won’t dev new games and are just stuck on building on old ones as it’s so profitable). I really don’t have hope in Steam OS. If anything, the lack of movement seems like the project is dead and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Gabe Newell on stage at that Windows 10 conference.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      Lol, that would be hilarious!

    • Mark

      Where will u post ur findings? Here?

    • d0x360

      If I find out anything definitely. There isn’t much to go on. The scene release of the SDK isn’t the full package. It has all the files one would need but it doesn’t have all the documentation, plus there is no way to actually run anything so preforming basic tests still isn’t possible. One still needs actual SDK hardware sp unfortunately this release is pretty useless unless someone figures out a way to get it to actually run. Due to the nature of hardware in both systems emulation is possible but unlikely especially on the Xbox since its running virtual machines. So..yea roadblock.

      I have a friend who used to work at a studio in Boston. Im going to reach out and see if they had any console Dev kits before they closed down. If I can be pointed in the right direction on which files to examine its a start.

    • Mark

      Smooth. If u post it here, I’d read ur full reply.

  • bardock5151

    Guest? Andy? Where are you?

  • Toni D

    Cant wait to see the results on a Xbox game.
    Also cant wait for the new AMD and nVidia gfx cards for PC, which were hinted almost 2 years ago…expect similar tech on those as they said its going to be a 4 generation leap in one big bang.

    Expect low level CPUs, eSRAM and optimizing from now on until W10 era is over.


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