UPDATE 10/16: Further confirmation of a cover-up regarding the Xbox One resolution has been added to the bottom of this article.
The other day a rumor broke out that Call of Duty: Ghosts would be running at a much lower, much more “current gen” resolution, on the Xbox One than it does on the PS4. Claims have come about that the Xbox One version of the game runs at a native 720p resolution, while the PS4 version runs at 1080p.
Some fanboys attack this on Twitter by saying all Xbox One games run at 1080p, but they don’t understand the concept of an upscaler and how the system upscales content to output to a 1080p television.
The guy who started the rumor in the first place, Pete Dodd, updated his blog yesterday with more information about the issue, and now it’s sounding like something that’s definitely confirmed…
Days have passed and I’ve heard it from many sources now. This is no longer something I consider flimsy. If it’s not true I will be shocked at this point because the sources are that strong (I will also lose all credibility – that’s not something I’m oblivious to). Though, there is a wrinkle to it that I didn’t know about during the initial rumor… Activision is very hard at work trying to up the resolution. Whether this comes as a day one patch, or a day 100 patch, or what… I don’t know. It does point to Microsoft’s tools being behind more-so than just a huge power gap (the gap does exist but the XB1 is powerful enough to run this game at 1080p, clearly). The point is that Activision is still working very hard on it. As such they aren’t talking about it. Microsoft isn’t talking about it. The press isn’t allowed to talk about it. It’s a forbidden topic.
What isn’t a forbidden topic is the native 1080p resolution of the PS4 version. Sony’s Adam Boyes proudly announced that the game was running in native 1080p at yesterday’s PlayStation Brazil conference that was live streamed around the world on UStream. Sony is proudly proclaiming the resolution that Ghosts runs at on their system, because it’s something to brag about. On the other hand Microsoft is deferring questions about Ghosts to Activision, and the press is forbidden to discuss the Xbox One resolution matter. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
The comments about Activision working hard to fix the game is interesting, as it will be in the form of a patch. The game is already packaged and shipping to retailers. Unless it comes in the form of a Day 1 patch, that disc you put in your Xbox One will run natively at 720p.
As for the patch itself, it will be a first for a console game to radically increase the game resolution that much. Ghostbusters: The Video Game and Burnout Paradise got minor resolution boosts, but this would be a huge change. The closest comparison would be Zone of the Enders 2 HD on the PS3 that launched pretty bad, and then they spent an entire year re-writing the rendering engine to bump it up to 60fps, which was then patched in. That took a year. How long will it take for Activision to fix Ghosts?
Even funnier is the IGN Xbox team’s podcast this week, where they basically stumble over themselves to try to downplay the Xbox One 720p issue. I understand you have to play to your audience of Xbox fans who have plopped down $500 for underpowered hardware, but trying to downplay a major technical limitation of a next-generation gaming system just makes you look like a paid shill.
For those who can understand the more technical side of things a NeoGAF poster found this comment by the creator of FXAA, Timothy Lottes, which was made back when the two systems were still being developed. Back then, the Xbox One was Durango/720 and the PS4 was Orbis. His comments here discuss why the Xbox One has such a hard time reaching 1080p with games. It’s the 32MB of esRAM that Microsoft slapped in the system as a bandaid to help compensate for the slower DDR3 RAM they chose to use in the system:
Only DDR3 for system/GPU memory pared with 32MB of “ESRAM” sounds troubling. 32MB of ESRAM is only really enough to do forward shading with MSAA using only 32-bits/pixel color with 2xMSAA at 1080p or 4xMSAA at 720p. Anything else to ESRAM would require tiling and resolves like on the Xbox360 (which would likely be a DMA copy on 720) or attempting to use the slow DDR3 as a render target. I’d bet most titles attempting deferred shading will be stuck at 720p with only poor post process AA (like FXAA).
My personal project is targeting 1080p@60fps with great AA on a 560ti which is a little slower than the rumored Orbis specs. There is no way my engine would hit that target on the rumored 720 specs. Ultimately on Orbis I guess devs target 1080p/30fps (with some motion blur) and leverage the lower latency OS stack and scan out at 60fps (double scan frames) to provide a really great lower-latency experience. Maybe the same title on 720 would render at 720p/30fps, and maybe Microsoft is dedicating a few CPU hardware threads to the GPU driver stack to remove the latency problem (assuming this is a “Windows” OS under the covers).
It’s interesting to note that Sony at one point considered a similar architecture for the PlayStation 4, but decided against the esRAM direction in favor of high-speed GDDR5 RAM. It’s looking like they may have made a very smart decision in that case…
If you’re OK with 720p content being upscaled to 1080p on the next-generation system you just spent $500 for, none of this should bug you. But if you want a real next-generation system, not one that runs games at the same resolution as the Xbox 360, this is something that should really piss you off. Especially since Microsoft is forcing the press to not talk about it until the system and games are released and they’ve ran to the bank with your money.
Something to think about. If there isn’t an issue with the resolution, then why is Microsoft trying to keep it quiet with an embargo?
So apparently Microsoft's Albert Penello isn't even allowed to know the Xbox One's Call of Duty Ghosts resolution.
— Erik Kain (@erikkain) October 26, 2013
This is weird since I know for a fact that many people do know what its resolution is but can't say due to Microsoft's embargo.
— Erik Kain (@erikkain) October 26, 2013
Apparently the review embargo for Call of Duty: Ghosts expires for all platforms except the Xbox One on November 5th, the day the game actually ships. The Xbox One embargo is up on November 12th.