In order for a new games console to have launch day games, developers need access to the console hardware well in advance. These development kits typically take the form of PCs, which then iteratively get updated until they match the hardware and form factor of the final console. Project Scorpio is no exception, however, Microsoft decided to ask developers what they most wanted before producing the final development kit.
In a new video produced by Team Xbox, Major Nelson sat down with Kevin Gammill from the Xbox Engineering team to discuss what additional features the Scorpio dev kit includes for developers to take advantage of.
The dev kit includes four additional compute cores, 12GB extra RAM, and an extra 1TB SSD over what the final console will ship with. Developers always need more performance headroom than what ends up shipping in the final console. That allows a game to be created and seen running on the hardware before the optimization happens, which is typically done late in a project. So by offering a higher spec for the Scorpio dev kit, Microsoft is allowing developers to take full advantage of the performance on offer rather than compromising just to get builds running early in a project.
Microsoft mounted a tiny display mounted to the front of the machine, which is complemented by five programmable buttons. According to Gammill, developers can use the screen and buttons however they like. They can output debug information, test second-screen gaming, and use those buttons to switch between display resolutions on the fly, for example.
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The back of the dev kit includes an additional network port to allow for debug information to be streamed from the machine without impacting speeds on the main network port. There's also an additional plug-in device called an Xbox Transfer Device. It allows data to be transferred to the dev kit's internal drive at a rate of up to 450MB/s. That's important when you want to quickly test a 50GB game, or deploy several gigabytes of patch data to an existing build several times a day.
- Project Scorpio: What We Know (and the Details We Want) Project Scorpio: What We Know (and the Details We Want)
Finally, Microsoft redesigned the cooling of the dev kit to allow them to be stacked on top of each other. That way several dev kits can be installed together and setup to share a single display if the developer wishes. Such a feature will also come in handy at shows such as E3 where space is limited but you want several stands offering a sneak peak at an in-development game.
Developers already have these dev kits and Microsoft will be hoping the additional features translate into a lot of new must-have games to help sell the final Scorpio console. We'll get a first taste of how well that is working out at E3 starting on June 13.
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