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Part of the Xbox One's memory footprint gets eaten up by the OS UI leaving only 5 GB for games, Crytek points out

Crytek has focused much of its recent gaming efforts on cloud-based streaming PC gaming services.   But the top gaming engine developer remains a force in the console market as well.  It aired its thoughts in a recent interview with GamingBolt, notably its complaints about this generation of consoles "lacking" video memory hardware.
 
I. Too Little Memory?
 
Crytek’s US Engine Business Development Manager Sean Tracy comments on the current generation of consoles:

I would have to agree with the viewpoint that 8 gigs can easily be filled up, but also keep in mind that developers don’t necessarily even have access to all 8 gigs of it. For example the Xbox One retains some of the RAM for OS purposes. Since technology, as Ray Kurweil states, progresses exponentially, we will soon find that the computational requirements of games will quickly hit the ceiling of a few gigs of ram. We already had to manage quite intensely our memory usage throughout Ryse and this will be one of the limiting factors surely in this generation.

As hardware gets stronger the complexity of scenes can be increased and the dynamism within them. However, with that said it’s not the raw power alone that will allow for photo-realistic graphics but technology that intelligently scales and utilizes all that the hardware has to offer.

Crysis 3

II. The Hardware

The Xbox One has 8 Gigabytes (GB) of DDR3 -- specifically, sixteen 4-Gigabit (Gb) modules (H5TQ4G63AFR-TEC) from SK Hynix Inc. (KRX:000660), according to a teardown by iFixit.  That memory must be shared between graphics (e.g. textures, etc.), program data from running applications, and operating system data/core apps.  The lattermost category -- operating system data/core apps -- consumes 3 GB, leaving only 5 GB left for games and other apps to use .
Xbox One board
The Xbox One motherboard packs 8 GB of DDR3 (orange). [Image Source: iFixit]

The Xbox One does have 32 Megabytes (MB) of on-die "embedded static" RAM (ESRAM) on its graphics processing unit (GPU) die, which offers much faster speeds for speed-dependent applications such as alpha transparency blending.


Sony PS4 boards
The Sony PS4 packs 256 MB of system memory (green, right), and 8 GB of GDDR5 graphics memory (orange, both). [Image Source: iFixit]
 
By contrast the Sony Corp. (TYO:6758PlayStation 4 (which happens to be outselling the Xbox One) has 2 Gbit (256 MB) of memory (via a single dedicated chip) for system tasks, including the OS and core apps according to the results of an iFixIt teardown.  It also packs 16 4-Gb GDDR5 modules (K4G41325FC-HC03) from Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935), for a grand total of 8 GB of GDDR5.

III. Other Opinions
 
How this all impacts gamemakers depends on what the developer's expectations of realism are.
 
Havok, a Dublin, Ireland subsidiary of Intel Corp. (INTC) which makes physics middleware for both consoles, had previously put things in a more diplomatic manner.  Product manager Andrew Bowell commented in a previous GamingBolt interview:

Even with the large amounts of RAM available, the developers will still find ways to use even last byte. To that end, it is always a requirement for middleware to have the smallest possible memory footprint. This is also becoming even more of a requirement as console developers look at ways to bring their title to mobile platforms.



And others still didn't seem to consider it a big deal at all.  Lighting middleware company Enlighten also spoke to GamingBolt about the memory question.  COO and cofounder Chris Doran comments:

Both of these are more than sufficient. To understand why, you have to remember than on the current generation we had around 512MB of memory to play with. This meant that developers would routinely ask us to fit our global illumination calculations into 10-20MB.

On the next-generation consoles, developers are happy to give us 10 times more space to play with – in some cases even more! And with 8 CPU cores and powerful GPUs, there is plenty of compute resource for us to make use of. It is this massive increase from current generation to next generation that really excites us – that factor of 10 increase is going to be far more significant than the additional memory on the PS4.

I’m sure as the cycle evolves, developers will look at ways to squeeze more out of the PS4, but we have a long way to go with exploiting the opportunities presented by the massive jump in resource over PS3 and 360.

(Enlighten did the lighting effects for Electronic Arts, Inc.'s (EA) Battlefield 4.)

The message seems to be that the Xbox One's unified memory scheme and heavy OS memory usage does create some limitations, but unless you're making Crysis 4, those limitations won't necessarily be dealbreakers.

Source: GamingBolt





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