Warframe Tech Interview: Developing A Multiplatform Game On PS4 And Xbox One

Sr. Programmer, Ron Janzen from Digital Extremes shares his experience working on PS4 and Xbox One.

Posted By | On 03rd, Dec. 2014 Under Article, Interviews | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet

GamingBolt recently caught up with Digital Extremes’ Ron Janzen who is the Senior Programmer of Warframe. Warframe is a sci-fi first person shooter that is now available across the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. In this tech interview, we asked Ron about his thoughts on the PS4 and Xbox One, their complexities and what exactly is it like to develop across the two consoles. Check out his replies below.

Warframe was one of the first game to achieve parity in resolution for the PS4 and Xbox One versions. What’s your take on the differences between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4?

The PS4 and XB1 are more alike than in any previous console generation. They both have essentially the same architecture with some variations and trade-offs in how the architecture was implemented.  Each work great with our controller support and as we add new content so often with large updates every 4-6 weeks, we continue to get more and more familiar with the tech to continue improving the new content our gamers play.

Was the Xbox One’s eSRAM really a pain to work with?

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. 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.

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Warframe ran at 1080p and 60fps on the PS4. I find that interesting since not even Sony’s 1stparty studios are able to do that with their AAA games. What is your secret to this success?

Well, it wouldn’t be a secret if we told you 😉  We have a tremendously talented and experienced team who has been through all the console transitions since PlayStation 2 and the first Xbox so that historical knowledge really helps us hone in on what we need to do to get things running quickly.  Plus our engine was constructed to find errors and inefficiencies quickly in addition to the manual testing we do. Every little bit helps.

In our last interview, you were pretty happy with the PS4’s GPU. But within six months of the new consoles launch, AMD and Nvidia both launched GPUs that were way ahead than what is found in PS4 and Xbox One. Do you think the GPUs in PS4 and Xbox One will become obsolete as we go further in the new console cycle?

This has been the case with every console cycle. Even though the GPU’s in the PS4 and XB1 will fall behind in raw power to the most current PC GPU’s, it is offset by the fact that the consoles are a static target and it gives developers time to extract the maximum performance possible.  Static architecture allows us as a developer to focus on performance improvements thus benefiting the end user.  So with every update, they get better and better.  Imagine what Warframe will look like 3 years from now on the same system?  We’ll have unlocked most of the tech magic by then.

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Warframe was initially developed for the PC version in mind. If you guys ever work on a new project in the future, do you think you will be keeping a consoles first approach?

Warframe is a special case since it occurred during a console transition year.  We didn’t have access to the next gen hardware at the time it was being conceived so by default the PC came first.  We were however, always keeping the consoles in mind during development as we received hardware spec information and planned for the changes it would require to transition the game over.  I don’t know that we’d necessarily choose one over the other next time around, ideally it’s simultaneous.

Microsoft freed up the Kinect GPU reservation in the June XDK. In your opinion how important was that update?

It is minor for us since in most cases we are CPU bound.  We disable Kinect during the course of our normal gameplay thus freeing up the 4.5% GPU power, but from our performance reports, this gave minimal gains.

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