Sniper Elite 3 senior producer Jean-Baptiste Bolcato talks about the challenges of developing on the Xbox One.
Much has been said and written about the Xbox One’s eSRAM. While it doesn’t approach the power offered by the PS4’s unified architecture – and has even been blamed for Xbox One titles being unable to run at 60 FPS and 1080p – many developers have defended it. After all, this is the beginning of the new generation – as a developer’s understanding of the hardware improves, so does the visual quality of the games.
Rebellion Games’ Jean-Baptiste Bolcato, who is working as a Senior Producer on the upcoming Sniper Elite 3, had some interesting opinions about that though. GamingBolt spoke to him about Sniper Elite 3’s Xbox One development and asked how the team was handling eSRAM. Some developers use it for texture streaming, storing z-buffer and praise its ease of use while others have problems – how is Rebellion handling that?
Bolcato stated that, “It was clearly a bit more complicated to extract the maximum power from the Xbox One when you’re trying to do that. I think eSRAM is easy to use. The only problem is…Part of the problem is that it’s just a little bit too small to output 1080p within that size. It’s such a small size within there that we can’t do everything in 1080p with that little buffer of super-fast RAM.
“It means you have to do it in chunks or using tricks, tiling it and so on. It’s a bit like the reverse of the PS3. PS3 was harder to program for than the Xbox 360. Now it seems like everything has reversed but it doesn’t mean it’s far less powerful – it’s just a pain in the ass to start with. We are on fine ground now but the first few months were hell.”
Will the process become easier over time as understanding of the hardware improves? “Definitely, yeah. They are releasing a new SDK that’s much faster and we will be comfortably running at 1080p on Xbox One. We were worried six months ago and we are not anymore, it’s got better and they are quite comparable machines. The Xbox One is a bit more multimedia, a bit more hub-centric so its a bit more complex. There’s stuff you can and can’t do because it’s a sort of multimedia hub. PS4 doesn’t have that. PS4 is just a games machine.”
The PS4 is thus more of a gaming machine in its core focus. “Yeah, I mean that’s probably why, well at least on paper, it’s a bit more powerful. But I think the Xbox One is gonna catch up. But definitely there’s this eSRAM. PS4 has 8GB and it’s almost as fast as eSRAM [bandwidth wise] but at the same time you can go a little bit further with it, because you don’t have this slower memory. That’s also why you don’t have that many games running in 1080p, because you have to make it smaller, for what you can fit into the eSRAM with the Xbox One.”
Despite the challenges, Rebellion Games are working closely with Microsoft and Sony while developing Sniper Elite 3. They are currently targeting 60fps for both the console versions. It is also interesting to note that Bolcato reveals that a new SDK update is on its way that will improve performance on the Xbox One. What that update will exactly do is still currently unknown or may be it’s the driver update that we reported about a month ago. Stay tuned for more details on Sniper Elite 3, including gameplay mechanics and the differences between current and next gen versions.