Xbox Series X, having just made a big announcement regarding the specs of the upcoming console, is ahead of the PS5 in the PR stakes. After all, we have a tangible idea of what to expect from the Xbox console, and very little in the way of PS5 information.
In his recent blog post, Microsoft Xbox chief Phil Spencer clarified a few of the Xbox Series X's main draws, including its 8K gaming potential, advanced ray-tracing and backwards compatibility. He also mentioned a few other features, including a "quick resume" function and advanced audio capabilities, two features elaborated on by another top Xbox exec.
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Thanks to a podcast chaired by director of programming for Xbox Live, Larry Hyrb, we know a bit more about the advanced 3D audio and quick resume functions.
When playing Xbox Series X, you'll be able to pause and leave the game just as you do on current-gen consoles. However, the Xbox Series X's quick resume will allow you to do this with multiple games simultaneously, flipping between FIFA and Halo on the fly.
It doesn't end there. On Major Nelson Radio (opens in new tab) (Hyrb's podcast, named after his Xbox gamer tag Major Nelson) Hyrb announced Xbox Series X games can be paused and left even when the console is turned off. This means you can turn the console back on again and pick your game up right where you left it. Hyrb states:
“I had to reboot because I had a system update, and then I went back to the game and went right back to it. So it survives a reboot.”
This is something that's never been done before. On current-gen, switching off the console means quitting the game and returning to the "start" screen of any given game once the console boots up again. Launching right back into the action is part of Microsoft's drive to deliver gamers the content they want at a faster pace.
The fun doesn't stop there. Hyrb speaks to Jason Ronald, Xbox's partner director of program management, about the immersive audio capabilities of the Xbox Series X. In an interview in April 2019 (opens in new tab), Sony's Mark Cerny said this generation of consoles would show a leap in audio comparable to the leap in graphics during previous generations, and Ronald says the same. He mentions spatial audio developed using ray tracing, that can put you right in the action.
JR: "[Ray tracing means] more realistic lighting. We can even use ray-tracing for things like spatial audio, to have ray-traced audio..."
LH: "Wait a minute, that's the first time I've heard that, ray tracing audio?"
JR: "Yeah, we're really focusing on immersion in your gaming experiences, and that applies to both the visuals as well as the audio experience you have... spatial audio really puts you into the environment, to know where your enemies are."
It sounds like "ray tracing audio" is going to change the sound game as much as conventional ray tracing will do for the graphics. Either way, we're excited to get immersed in as many games as possible, straight after we boot up the console. It's going to be one of those admin features that will feel as though we should have had it all along.