Xbox One: The One Feature That Nobody Seems To Be Talking About

Why the amount of RAM devoted to game development doesn’t quite matter for Xbox One.

Posted By | On 14th, Aug. 2013 Under Article, Editorials


Following the reveal of the Xbox One in May and with a subsequent presentation at E3, the amount of attention the Xbox One has been receiving is truly worthy of a next-gen console. Of course, a lot of it was negative, first with Microsoft’s unveiling of the device as an all-in-one entertainment solution, emphasizing TV over gaming, and then with the DRM policies that required the console to authenticate online every 24 hours, along with restrictions on used game sales and sharing. Did we mention no self-publishing for the indies?

Of course, Microsoft did a complete turn-around on almost all of its policies, after which former Xbox boss Don Mattrick left the company to join Zynga. It didn’t take long before the self-publishing of indie titles on Xbox Live was allowed as well, and there are indications that Microsoft just may bite the bullet and release a Kinect-less version of the console next year for $400 (it will depend on the reception of the current hardware bundle releasing this November, however).

xbox one thumb
We’ve heard enough about the Xbox One and its features; how it features a Windows OS kernel that allows it to run apps. Heck, we know about amount of memory this OS takes up, reducing the overall amount of memory reserved for games to 5 GB (out of the 8 GB DDR3 RAM that the console has).

But one thing that no one seems to be talking about is the hypervisor, which Microsoft talked about in its architecture panel following the initial reveal event.

Along with the Xbox OS and Windows OS, there is a third “operating system” running on the Xbox One called the Hypervisor. A hypervisor by definition is actually a software that interfaces with the OS they are installed on. So for example, VMware is a hypervisor, even if we think of it as virtualization software that allows one to run or emulate Linux or Mac OS X within a Windows framework.

The hypervisor itself takes up some memory, and there is talk that the Xbox One’s hypervisor is actually Microsoft’s own Windows Hyper-V 2012, albeit a stripped down version of the same. This requires about 600 MB of memory, so count on the console version to require less. However, the hypervisor on the Xbox One differs greatly from others in that it is interfacing with the hardware directly. What does this mean? It means that the different operating systems installed within the console will each have their own set of resources, and can thus run on dedicated basis. It means that they can access the system’s memory and CPU without any middleware.

Xbox One Snap Mode
We’ve already seen this running with the Xbox One’s ability to switch between games and applications. This is because one set of resources is handling the game while another set is handling the app side of things. A process isn’t being ended – rather, it’s being suspend until you decide to get back to it. Interestingly enough, another advantage of having the software interface directly with the hardware is that Windows apps will be able to run on the Xbox easily, without requiring additional development.

Also, say the Windows side of things tends to crash. Your games will remain unaffected, while order is restored. But the most powerful aspect of the hypervisor is in its ability to allocate resources and memory where it sees fit.

In a way, it’s very much like a PC. If you use the task manager properly, you can set priorities for applications, thus allocating more memory to a process and making it run faster. Other processes don’t get suspended – they simply run slower (depending on how much memory you have). The system will keep a set amount of memory necessary to insure that the operating system doesn’t crash.

With the Xbox One, the games OS and Windows OS can exist autonomously, since they are each interacting with the hardware directly via the hypervisor rather than one being layered on top of the other. This means that if necessary, all memory for the Windows side can just be shifted over to games.
xbox 360 e3 2013
While Windows has access to roughly 2.5 GB (assuming the hypervisor requires 500 MB) and games are allowed 5 GB, the hypervisor could theoretically allocate memory from Windows for use in games. This technically means that if the Windows process is suspended and all resources are allocated for games that developers have up to 7.5 GB to use for game development.

Don’t expect it to be that much though. For all intents and purposes, 6 GB sounds much more realistic. But given the fact that one can’t switch or “snap” apps with a title such as Killer Instinct, it stands to reason that developers are indeed currently using the hypervisor in order to grab more resources for games.

Again, we’ll have to wait and see just what developers are capable of creating with all these new aspects in place. Needless to say, don’t expect either console to be necessarily limited by the amount of RAM allocated to game development any time soon.


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  • Bonzohazard

    Brilliant, and you’re right, I haven’t seen anyone elaborate on this….

    • spideynut71

      You won’t see anybody talking about anything positive concerning the X1…it’s frowned upon.

    • DarthDiggler

      Exactly HyperV is just one layer of abstraction away from the hardware. It’s really not necessary for gaming at all.

    • shinningserpent

      Will see when the systems come out,cause the suckstation launch line up sucks shit.

  • deeboy17

    Good read. I was wondering this myself. This info seems to be MIA on most articles concerning specs for the Xbox. Software is the key.

  • Kamille

    don’t try so hard GamingBolt, you’re not Digital Foundry.

    “This technically means that if the Windows process is suspended and all resources are allocated for games that developers have up to 7.5 GB to use for game development.”

    ^ stop giving false hopes to the Xbros.

    • XBO FTW!

      GTFO Phony fangirl!

    • Phillyblunz

      I know right, how do they expect to stall a process and take all its memory away? They gonna store it on the hdd and make it super slow? I think not. They reserved the 3GB so that processes could be frozen and not lose data, lol.

      This dude is tryin hard to find something positive about the xbone, I wonder how much this article cost MS?

  • XBO FTW!

    XBO FTW!

  • john smith

    Kinect needs to be sold with every XB1 if we are ever to see it’s full potential realized. Kinect functionality is also what makes the XB1 truly unique from the PS4.

    • bigevilworldwide

      Kinect functionality is the ONLY thing that makes XB1 truly unique from PS4* Fixed that for ya

    • JerkDaNERD7

      Cloud! and before you say Gaikai…..Gaikai SUCKS ass. It’s ONLY for STREAMING, and try not to convince yourself it’s more than that.

    • Clarence Thompkins II

      And what is “Cloud!”? I would like to you to show me proof that what Microsoft is saying won’t “suck” as well when it comes to this cloud computing…

    • JerkDaNERD7

      Well this is an example of Nvidia ALSO preparing it’self for the future:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkSSUChfjLk

      So if that be the case, you also have to take into consideration that FACT that Microsoft has already built HUGE Data Centers all over the world and have included 300,000 severs for Azure Live for Xbox One. So each and of one of those servers have GPUs and CPUs of their own contributing as a HUGE collective to certain rendering capabilities. Since it’s inception in 2008, Microsoft has poured billions into Azure overtime in preparation:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ44hEr5DFE

      Sony has only contributed 300 million for Gaikai and for a mediocre service that that ONLY does STREAMING….FACT! Sony’s as a whole, money is not long enough to support Cloud Computing.

      But I don’t consider that as Microsoft’s future proof and defining factor. Tile rendering will be the defining factor!

    • Clarence Thompkins II

      Forgive me if Clouding lighting doesn’t appeal to me, but for one that won’t make the game look any better. Lighting doesn’t require that much memory to render if it did open world games wouldn’t have a day and night cycle.

      Microsoft’s Azure is not just used for gaming business people use them, personal people use them, they are used for all kinds of appliciations such as windows products….Gaikai is used for games only as well as not spread throughout like Azure. Also if Sony thought it would be such an advantage which it isn’t they would have had it already:

      http://youtu.be/rCVplpC1YXY?t=2m18s

      Until Microsoft themselves shows me proof that “cloud” computing actually “boost games graphics” and won’t effect an offline gameplay then I will give you props. But until then I’d rather have Games Streamed than A.I and Light computing into my games because if something happens and my internet hick ups it would mess my gaming experience up more so if the A.I just becomes retarded or the lighting doesn’t work, more so than my game just needing to get rebooted.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      If you couldn’t convey the point I was making in response to your comment in how cloud can work than you shouldn’t respond at all. Why emphasize on the video itself and not see the potential? Simply because your intentions are not in line with the tech itself but because it’s Microsoft who’s console is built for it.

      Azure is used for the core purpose of making developing software in general (gaming, applications…ect) more efficient and for “real time” applications as well. So your “intentions” get in the way of seeing it’s powerful potential and why you consider that because it’s also made for other applications beside gaming that it won’t serve it’s purpose .

      So ask yourself this, if Sony had hardware support for cloud computing would you see this differently?! Thought so. Sony didn’t think of it because;

      1. hundreds of millions just for R&D

      2. you have to have your own servers (Data Centers) running it.

      Sony as a whole is only worth 11 billion, they won’t waste resources on cloud computing because it wouldn’t be sustainable because they are a hardware company. Azure is a billion dollar business in it’self catering to Microsoft’s already money generating business. Azure cost 10 billion!

      Mark Cerny is but one man and if Sony based the creation of PS4 on his sole opinion, than PS4 is in for a rude awakening. If anything Microsoft is known for it’s think tank of developers:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLBVHZokt1Q

      Azure will be an incremental transition over time because of it’s dynamism and only grows in how developers “play and add” to it over time….like a modding community (AI,graphics,gameplay). So streaming a game is just that streaming and it’s only limited to what you have built for it, which is limited.

      Also, who’s to say in the next couple of years internet speeds won’t increase?!

      Government in action to establish internet like the telephone before it:

      http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57564815-38/fcc-pushes-for-gigabit-broadband-in-all-50-states-by-2015/

      Google’s respond to the challenge:

      https://fiber.google.com/about/

      So ask yourself, did Microsoft see this coming and in preparation build their console for this very purpose?!

      MIND BLOWING!

    • Clarence Thompkins II

      You can spend all the money in the world and it can still not work. If Sony had cloud computing technology I still wouldn’t care much because the internet just like cellular connection isn’t 24/7 to rely heavily on “cloud” computing to make your games better instead of the console itself won’t get the job done. as far as google goes i do hope they continue with their balloon to grant access to the internet for poor countries. But we are still ways away.

      Like I said before if somehow I get proven wrong and cloud technology goes beyond just lighting up a room then I’ll admit defeat, but right now these are not concrete facts. Right now these are opinions and I shall stick with mine.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      These are not opinions. These are established systems implemented as we speak, and not so much as IF but when. Seeing how fast technology is advancing and new digital industries arising every other season, no company at the edge of digital, tech or entertainment industries will doubt that the because of digitalization it is inevitable that internet speeds will increase because of it’s demand. I give it 5 years, and 2 for cloud to shine and the dwindling of PS4.

      Right now, launch titles are strong on both sides with a given edge on Xbox One with it’s few new IPs. So by the time the potential of cloud is met it’ll be too late for Sony to do anything.

      “google goes i do hope they continue with their balloon to grant access to the internet for poor countries”

      Whaaa?

    • Clarence Thompkins II

      They are still opinions because you are saying that cloud will actually have an effect on a system that’s not even out yet, it could be that whatever the case maybe that system may not be able to keep up with the cloud technology. In that clip you shown me, everything was running better on a Titan GPU with almost no latency as oppose if you had a weaker GPU set up.

      If (when) cloud technology becomes what you think it may become in a couple of years, Sony has enough resources to match Microsoft in a couple of years and with in 5 years I highly doubt the PS4 will be graphically inferior to the Xbox One.

      Both launch titles line up are weak as far as 1st party is concern. Yeah Xbox has Ryse, Dead Rising 3, Forza 5 and Killer Instict. But Dead Rising 3 can always come to PS4 in later years just like Mass Effect and Saints Row did. Also TitanFall is rumored to do the same thing. Below is confirmed to be crossing over.

      Sony’s Drive Club, Knack, and Killzone: Shadow Fall. 1. Will not have any chance of going cross platform since they are made my 1st party dev 2. Will not be on PC. But most people don’t take in to account Sony’s Free to play games WarFrame, Blacklight: Retribution, DCUO which will either be early 2014 or launch. Sony will always best Microsoft when it comes to quality and quantity of games so cloud or not I don’t see a valid argument there.

      http://www.google.com/loon/

      get with the times man it’s all about the loooooooooon

    • joe

      have fun playing dead rising 3 when dead rising 4 is out

    • maxinthefax

      “So by the time the potential of cloud is met it’ll be too late for Sony to do anything”

      Gaikai?

      and rumor has it that internet speed will double globally in 2015

    • Phillyblunz

      the ps4 does have hardware support for cloud.

      Its just that Sony actually has a capable console and doesnt need to supplement its power straight out of the box, as is required for xbone to at least start on even grounds.

      What is cloud computing if not streaming data to your console? Compute then stream,lol.

      Also GAikai is the world record holder for fastest internet streaming. Check Guiness.

      Once the ps4’s base power has been tapped you can bet Sony will start adding more via streaming (aka cloud!!)

      Of course ms is making a huge stink about it, its really the only way their console seems up to par. Byitself it would be lost in the woods,lol.

      You buy what you want, but dont be fooled by concepts which are not real today, and possibly never will be.

    • Nathan O

      This guy did a pretty good job of breaking it all down for ya. Take a read if ya like.

      http://videogamesandnews.com/xbox-one-cloud-a-pr-gimmick-or-the-real-deal/

    • Clarence Thompkins II

      Dedicated Servers are nice yes but we are not talking about dedicated servers in this debate, the subject is will cloud computing be an advantage for Microsoft as far as graphics and as far as better than GaiKai’s streaming services. Both cloud technology will be able to 1. Stream games 2. compute in the cloud.

      I know numbers are real big for both companies, but until I see results I can’t believe it until its shown.

    • spid3r6

      Titanfall and Call of Duty will be having dedicated servers thanks to MS cloud…..Call of Duty for PS4 will work on Peer to peer. This is not a gimmik this is real…Oh and have fun playing peer to peer in Killzone which is limited to only 24 players ,all that power and yet it cant support the standard 32 for current gen.

    • Phillyblunz

      Is that why ps3 has first person shooters that support 256 players in one match?

      Failed you have, into exile you must go….

    • quinten488

      Streaming High-def games suck? your an idiot

    • val

      you should probably learn the difference between your and you’re before you call someone an idiot……

    • JerkDaNERD7

      I know! Streaming sucks, glad we’re in agreement. Now how bad is PS4?

    • quinten488

      streaming suck because of your suck ass internet

    • JerkDaNERD7

      How do you know I don’t have Google Fiber?! O.o

    • quinten488
    • JerkDaNERD7

      Wait a minute, I think there is a miscommunication here bro!

      I’m for Azure not Gaikai! you misfired on the wrong dude my friend. Im Xbox Day One.

    • quinten488

      Gaikai is better but you fanboys are blind so go get the Xbox 180.

    • JerkDaNERD7

      LMAO!

      Gaikai…streaming?! Why did you post that sad vid of him making fun of it. did you know they had to dumb down the graphics just to get it running efficiently?!

      Azure true power, Cloud Computing!

    • quinten488

      something an Xbot would say

    • JerkDaNERD7

      I know, cause it’s true. Something a Fony fangirl would say:

      “Sony is omnipotent and omnibenevolent. All hail Sony….and Lord Mark Cerny!”

    • quinten488

      Xbot comment #2

    • TheKingofSa

      Actually, YOU’RE* an idiot lol

    • quinten488

      you hurt my feelings man

    • PachterStation

      Kinect maybe better than what Sony has to offer, but around a third of Xbox 360 owners paid into it. Most gamers couldn’t care less about Kinect games and whatever else it can do.

    • Phillyblunz

      Plus the fact that Kinect is laggy, inaccurate and most of the time flat out does not work.

      Where-as the move is highly accurrate and provide 1:1 motion control on all axis’.

      Tiger woods motion?
      -On kinect you get only power meter motion.
      -On Move you get full motion control, direction, power, speed, slice, etc.

      Any game except maybe dance/workout games are better on move then kinect.

      I have already been hearing developers saying the new kinect is still too laggy and inaccurate to be used for hardcore games like shooters, where as the move was awesome at shooters on ps3, with the new ps4 camera move will get even better then awesome!!

      I really hope one day that kinect becomes a useful device, it would be the future of digital interaction if it was done right and actually worked. Cameras are not the way to do this type of motion control. Time of flight is a step in the right direction, hopefully by the time the 4-5th kinect comes out it will be closer to what the move has done on ps3 and beyond.

  • Ghậyath Alkubaisi

    waiting u xbox 🙂 🙂

  • Tim Doggamania

    The one problem I see with the article is statement. “But given the fact that one can’t switch or “snap” apps with a title such as Killer Instinct”. In the reveal it actively shows an app snap twitch tv with killer instinct playing. If you want the youtube link ill surely be glad to show you all.

    • Phillyblunz

      We all know that was said simply to drum up attention.

      Everybody already knows 3GB or RAm is reserved for the OS, its not fully selectable as he tries to imply.

      He is trying to seed doubt in the minds of those who have decided against xbone, they want people to be confused because the truth for xbone is not very nice these days.

      Why else have they changed almost every announcement made about the xbone 180 to date? They realize their mistake and are trying every trick in the book to fool people back to thier side, its a desperate attempt but based on many comments here I would say many are falling for it.

      Cheers.

  • Tim Doggamania

    @52.40 in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSXicnwHgss
    shows twitchTV app snapped with killer instinct playing..

    • DarthDiggler

      You can’t trust MS’s demos — remember Milo? 🙂

    • Nathan O

      That was a research project, not a stage demo.

  • cozomel

    wow, its a fanboy jerk circle in this mother.

    • TheKingofSa

      It’s an Xbox article, troll

    • cozomel

      What’s the matter? the truth hurt? fanboy!

  • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

    Cool article…thanks for the info. I think this is my first time hearing about this.

  • PachterStation

    I still think that the Xbox One needs to retail for the same price as the PS4. Microsoft have sold around 78 million Xbox 360s, but around 24 million paid into Kinect. Kinect for the Xbox One, most will probably stay in the box. Box it without Kinect to bring down the price. And most people couldn’t care less about the bells and whistles, which was the case with the PS3. Most just want games, games, games.

    • john smith

      MS spent as much money on the Kinect sensor as they did on the whole XB1. After an investment like that why would they sell it separate? Developers would be a lot less likely to intergrade it into their games making it a huge waist of time, money and resources.

      Do you think that in the next 20-30 years we’re still going to be holding controllers in our hands as we do now to game? If you do then you’re pretty naïve. Kinect is the very earliest steps towards what’s to come, not just how we interact with games but everything. If you’ve ever seen the movie Minority Report you’ll know what I’m talking about.

      In my opinion Kinect should be encouraged not discouraged because it’s like saying no to progress and the future. Don’t fight it embrace it!

      http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/ironman28/clips/FFminorityReportGesturalinterfaceH264.mov/

    • bob

      What are the most popular genres? FPS, racers, sports etc, who are mostly likely to play these games? teeens, young adults etc. now do you think they will want to jog on the spot pretending they are a running soldier? or pretending they are steering a car with an invisible steering wheel?. can you think of a way Kinect can benefit the player in any of the most popular games like battlefield, fifa or skyrim? Its not the right device for gaming, its definitely good gadget but it has been given the wrong application. unless people start getting the massive 360 degree battlefield 3 simulator like they did on the gadget show (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQR49JGySTM) then I don’t think it will benefit us. And if people could fit this in the living rooms it still takes away game mechanics such as the vaulting as there is no way to simulate that.

      Its a nice thought but Kinect is not the future of gaming. and as for people saying developers will incorporate Kinect features if everyone has one, read this… http://www.edge-online.com/news/battlefield-4-head-dismisses-motion-control-as-a-gimmick/

    • Phillyblunz

      I agree it will be the future, but until then it will be a mostly useless peripheral that kids and soccer moms use for dance and workout games.

      For hardcore gaming it is no where near accurate or fast enough.
      Although the gun smith use was the closest it has come yet, not really a game feature but seemed to work good for the loadout menus. Thats kinects real future, for os interaction, or a tv guide viewer. Then as you say 20-30 yrs down the road it will be in everything and be up to par for games, etc.

      I would like to thank all the xbone 180 buyers for struggling through the frustration so one day I can have a functional motion control scheme.

      You guys are heroes, I could never put up with that.

    • Edonus

      That is fanboy drivel. Someone that would keep kinect in the box would not ever buy a XBOX ONE so the whole argument is stupid. There is no sane reason (oh there are reason but they are dumb as all fuck) for someone to completely ignore a high input expanding piece of hardware that comes with something they bought. They are 98% more likely to just not buy it.

      MS has done a smart thing and just need to get to launch with as little catastrophes as possible. Their product shank the Ps4 in the shower and drowns it in the toilet. MS is gambling…. but they have made several really big bets with great return and if they only get one to catch they are going to be a major success.

  • kftgr

    With the separate OSes in action, developers could create complementary apps that could be run in addition to the main game. Perhaps mini or social games to gain resources that flow over to the main game. As apps are smaller, updates and quality assurance would be easier than if the functionality is built into the main game. This also brings about the possibility of Xbox specific functionality while keeping the multiplatform main game the same.

  • Axe99

    I think this is a good thing, and a great way for Microsoft to migrate Windows over to Xbox and just have a one OS ecosystem, but I’ve never been impressed with Windows. Pretty much forced to us it as PC gaming is pretty limited on any other OS, but it’s often been a painful experience. Bring back PC-DOS!

  • chazor

    Now if M$ would release the ability to have VM`s running in the hyper-visor to access say a second installed graphics card, the same way both OSes here can access the x1`s resources it would make some PC gamer`s very happy.


 

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