Microsoft Shares Vision for the Future of Windows and Xbox One Game Development, DirectX 12 and More

Today Microsoft held a panel at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Which DualShockers attended. During the panel, Microsoft’s Jason Ronald gave an overview on what the future of game development on Windows and Xbox looks like.

Below you can read a full recap of what was shared, and check out all the slides of the presentation.

  • Windows 10 adoption and engagement is “massive.”
    • Over 200 million active devices.
    • Over four billion hours spent playing PC games on Windows 10.
    • 6.6 million hours spent streaming Xbox One games to Windows 10.
    • Paid transactions doubled, while revenue per device multiplied by 4.5 times.
  • Xbox live active users are now over 48 million.
  • DirectX 12 is helping to “push the limits of visual quality and performance” on Xbox One, thanks to the collaboration of early adopters among developers.
  • The goal of the Universal Windows Platform is to make it easier for developers to to make their games where their players want to play.
  • If developers want to make games only for the console, Microsoft will continue to support that.
  • Moving forward, Universal Windows Platforms will support devices that haven’t even been released yet, like Internet of Things devices, HoloLens and more.
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider and Gears of War Ultimate Edition are the first wave of Universal Windows Platform titles. Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition and Quantum Break are considered the second wave, alongside many more in currently active development.
  • Microsoft is “fully committed” to making Universal Windows Platform the “greates platform for game developers.”
  • The API surface area for game scenarios has been expanded to make sure that game developers don’t have to do “unnatural things to take advantage of the platform.”
  • The packaging and ingestion process for triple-A games has been improved, since there are very different problems in shipping a 50 megabytes smartphone app and a AAA title that weighs 80 gigabytes. Microsoft has spent a lot of effort in improving that experience.
  • Microsoft continues to work with middleware providers to give developers all the tools and support they need when they work on Windows.
  • The company is listening to feedback from developers and gamers, and and it directly influences the roadmap for improvement.
  • The ability to disable V-sync will be implemented later this year, alongside support for G-Sync and freesync. Those features are being tested right now by Microsoft’s first party studios.
  • UWP app support will be implemented on Xbox One in summer 2016. Developers that are writing an UWP app on Windows 10 today can be confident that it will run on Xbox One. The vast majority of the code is directly portable across devices, leaving developers time to optimize the code for the unique capabilities and control schemes of each device.
  • A lot more announcements about the UWP roadmap and the future of UWP will come at Build between March 30th and April 1st. All the content will be livestreamed.
  • DirectX 12 reduces CPU overhead significantly compared to DirectX 11, offering up to 50% CPU and 20% GPU performance gains on existing PC hardware.
  • Star Wars: Battlefront is the first DirectX 12 title on Xbox One.
  • Microsoft wants to make sure to drive improvements in the PC DirectX 12 drivers thanks to a deep partnership with Nvidia, AMD and Intel.
  • Multi-GPU setups are fully supported, both for traditional SLI and Crossfire with arrays of the same GPU, and unlinked setup with different GPUs, that wasn’t available before. If you have an integrated GPU DirectX 12 can take advantage of it to get more performance out of your PC.
  • Gears of War: Ultimate Edition will get an update soon adding support for multi-GPU.
  • A new and improved shader compiler and Shader Model 6 are coming.
  • Performance monitoring tools that are now available for Xbox will be made available for PC developers. The best performance tools will be made available across all platforms. In the future, if any improvement is made to those tools for one platform, it will apply to all.
  • Support for High Dynamic Range and Wide Color Gamut will be implemented, allowing for an improvement in detail “arguably more impactful than raw resilution itself.” If a game uses phisically based rendering, high dynamic range support can be added with a “very minimal engineering cost.” That’s because PBR already generates most of the data necessary for HDR.
  • A developer preview of HDR support for Windows 10 will be available later this year.
  • Microsoft’s goal is to provide a single tool chain for developers regardless of the target platform, PC or console.
  • An universal development center will be implemented, providing developers with a single path to submit their games regardless of the platform they target.
  • Microsoft “strongly recommends” moving development to Windows 10, but will also continue to support Windows 8.1. The company understand that there is a significant IT cost for large studios to completely move over to Winows 10.
  • The Xbox and Windows stores will be merged later this year, bringing features from the Xbox store to the Windows store as well, including DLC support, bundles, subscriptions, pre-orders and flexible platforms.
  • Xbox Live is seen as the “connective tissue of a cross-device gaming ecosystem.”
  • Microsoft is making a significant investment in increasing reliability and availability of Xbox Live. It’s “critical” for Microsoft to make sure that the service is always up and running with all of its features.
  • The company is focusing on making Xbox Live integration easier for developers.
  • New features are being implemented, like tools to drive engagement, retention and monetization, and cross-network gameplay support.
  • Microsoft will implement a Xbox Live Tournaments Platform for competitive gaming and eSports.
  • The house of Xbox is working with eSports industry leaders in order to learn from their experience and understand what makes eSports compelling for players of all different skill levels.
  • Microsoft wants to make sure that its offering is “the home of the best competitive gaming ecosystem.”
  • It will be easy for developer to integrate support for tournaments in their games, taking advantage of Xbox Live.
  • Developers can create a single tournament integration in their game, and support multiple tournament operators with it. They can also create their custom tournaments.
  • For this new platform, Microsoft is initially partnering with Faceit and ESL.
  • A preview SDK of the tournament platform is available for developers today. The first titles supporting the platform will launch later this year. More announcements on what these games are will come at a later time.
  • ID@Xbox now includes over 1,400 developers. Over 200 titles have been shipped and many more are coming.
  • Microsoft made the following commitments to its game development partners:
    • Provide the best platform and services for both developers and gamers.
    • Enable partners to target the largest gaming ecosystem in the industry.
    • Continue to provide the most passionate and engaged gaming community.
    • Unify the developer and customer experience across console and PC.
    • Deliver the most efficient, powerful and easy to use game development tools, allowing developers to focus on making their games great and fun.
    • Listen and respond to feedback from the development community.
  • If a developer wants to make a console only experience, that’s great and Microsoft will love to have them on the platform. If they want to make it PC only, that’s great as well. Yet, there are many gamers that have both platforms, and Microsoft wants to give developers the ability to target both at the same time.

If you’re a developer who didn’t have a chance to attend GDC, or this specific presentation, and you’re interested in the full audio recording, we’re happy to share. Just contact giuseppe@dualshockers.com, and we’ll send it your way.

[On location reporting: Steven Santana]

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