Xbox Series X: What's Velocity Architecture All About? Microsoft Explains
Xbox's Jason Ronald shares new details on what Xbox Velocity Architecture means for next-gen games.
One of the new features of the Xbox Series X is called "Xbox Velocity Architecture," and it's a new piece of technology that Microsoft says will help the console make games look and run better.
In a blog post, Xbox's Jason Ronald mentioned that, with current-generation games, designers oftentimes need to create things like elevators and hallways to hide things in the background as the game loads certain in-game elements. "This challenge would continue to increase exponentially and further constrain the ambition for truly transformative games," Ronald said. "This feedback influenced the design and development of the Xbox Velocity Architecture."
To understand what Xbox Velocity Architecture is, Ronald said you can think of it as "the soul" with the Series X's new custom processor as the heart. "Through a deep integration of hardware and software innovation, the Xbox Velocity Architecture will power next-gen gaming experiences unlike anything you have seen before," Ronald said.
The four major components of the Xbox Velocity Architecture include the Series X's NVM SSD, hardware-accelerated decompression blocks, a new DirectorStorage API layer, and a Sampler Feedback Streaming.
Ronald provided an overview of each of these components, and you can see his comments further down the page. His comments get deep into the specifics, but in short, Xbox Velocity Architecture is a new system that will allow developers to access capabilities "beyond the raw specifications of the hardware itself."
"The Xbox Velocity Architecture fundamentally rethinks how a developer can take advantage of the hardware provided by the Xbox Series X," Ronald said. "From entirely new rendering techniques to the virtual elimination of loading times, to larger, more dynamic living worlds where, as a gamer, you can choose how you want to explore, we can’t be more excited by the early results we are already seeing. In addition, the Xbox Velocity Architecture has opened even more opportunities and enabled new innovations at the platform level, such as Quick Resume which enables you to instantly resume where you left off across multiple games, improving the overall gaming experience for all gamers on Xbox Series X."
The Xbox Series X is due to release this year, with Halo Infinite as a launch title. Microsoft will show off more of Halo Infinite during an event on July 23, so keep checking back with GameSpot for more very soon.
Xbox Velocity Architecture:
- Custom NVME SSD: The foundation of the Xbox Velocity Architecture is our custom, 1TB NVME SSD, delivering 2.4 GB/s of raw I/O throughput, more than 40x the throughput of Xbox One. Traditional SSDs used in PCs often reduce performance as thermals increase or while performing drive maintenance. The custom NVME SSD in Xbox Series X is designed for consistent, sustained performance as opposed to peak performance. Developers have a guaranteed level of I/O performance at all times and they can reliably design and optimize their games removing the barriers and constraints they have to work around today. This same level of consistent, sustained performance also applies to the Seagate Expandable Storage Card ensuring you have the exact same gameplay experience regardless of where the game resides.
- Hardware Accelerated Decompression: Game packages and assets are compressed to minimize download times and the amount of storage required for each individual game. With hardware accelerated support for both the industry standard LZ decompressor as well as a brand new, proprietary algorithm specifically designed for texture data named BCPack, Xbox Series X provides the best of both worlds for developers to achieve massive savings with no loss in quality or performance. As texture data comprises a significant portion of the total overall size of a game, having a purpose built algorithm optimized for texture data in addition to the general purpose LZ decompressor, both can be used in parallel to reduce the overall size of a game package. Assuming a 2:1 compression ratio, Xbox Series X delivers an effective 4.8 GB/s in I/O performance to the title, approximately 100x the I/O performance in current generation consoles. To deliver similar levels of decompression performance in software would require more than 4 Zen 2 CPU cores.
- New DirectStorage API: Standard File I/O APIs were developed more than 30 years ago and are virtually unchanged while storage technology has made significant advancements since then. As we analyzed game data access patterns as well as the latest hardware advancements with SSD technology, we knew we needed to advance the state of the art to put more control in the hands of developers. We added a brand new DirectStorage API to the DirectX family, providing developers with fine grain control of their I/O operations empowering them to establish multiple I/O queues, prioritization and minimizing I/O latency. These direct, low level access APIs ensure developers will be able to take full advantage of the raw I/O performance afforded by the hardware, resulting in virtually eliminating load times or fast travel systems that are just that . . . fast.
- Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS): Sampler Feedback Streaming is a brand-new innovation built on top of all the other advancements of the Xbox Velocity Architecture. Game textures are optimized at differing levels of detail and resolution, called mipmaps, and can be used during rendering based on how close or far away an object is from the player. As an object moves closer to the player, the resolution of the texture must increase to provide the crisp detail and visuals that gamers expect. However, these larger mipmaps require a significant amount of memory compared to the lower resolution mips that can be used if the object is further away in the scene. Today, developers must load an entire mip level in memory even in cases where they may only sample a very small portion of the overall texture. Through specialized hardware added to the Xbox One X, we were able to analyze texture memory usage by the GPU and we discovered that the GPU often accesses less than 1/3 of the texture data required to be loaded in memory. A single scene often includes thousands of different textures resulting in a significant loss in effective memory and I/O bandwidth utilization due to inefficient usage. With this insight, we were able to create and add new capabilities to the Xbox Series X GPU which enables it to only load the sub portions of a mip level into memory, on demand, just in time for when the GPU requires the data. This innovation results in approximately 2.5x the effective I/O throughput and memory usage above and beyond the raw hardware capabilities on average. SFS provides an effective multiplier on available system memory and I/O bandwidth, resulting in significantly more memory and I/O throughput available to make your game richer and more immersive.