Last week Digital Foundry paid a visit to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington for the first technical overview of the hardware powering the next Xbox, Project Scorpio. While the specs and underlying technology are truly impressive, a real-time demo would only validate the new machine even further. This is where Turn 10’s ForzaTech demo plays a key role.
ForzaTech is not an outright demonstration of Forza Motorsport 7 — that reveal is likely being kept under wraps until E3 in June — instead, ForzaTech is a showing of what’s possible on the engine with all the bells and whistles, and as we’ve previously reported there’s even headroom left to spare. Chris Tector, Studio Software Architect at Turn 10 Studios explains further:
“ForzaTech is really the place to let us prove out platform features like Direct3D 12 [on PC] and also lets us help with internal things that nobody else gets to see – in this case, the modelling that happened with Scorpio,” shares Tector.
“We were really able to help prove that out… Our part in it – and an important part for us, because it’s a two-way thing – we wanted to make sure that the hardware was going be able to do what we wanted, what we had as a vision, what we wanted in Forza next, but we also wanted to make sure that however it’s being proved out, that the promise was solid, that the model made sense to us.”
The innovative Performance Investigator for Xbox (PIX) optimization tool allows developers to take existing Xbox One games and feed that data into a hardware emulator, with the goal of running those titles at frame-rate at 4K resolution on Scorpio.
It should come as a shock to no one then that as a first-party team Turn 10 was able to do more: tweaking the engine as necessary, creating multiple profiles to be ran on the hardware emulator before actual hardware was created.
“We provided a ton of data with ForzaTech, where we actually rendered different stress scenes at different resolutions – 720p, 1080p, 4K – and then stressed different points in the engine: anisotropic filtering, multi-sampling, pushing heavy LODs through, just to try to get a feel for where the different bottlenecks where,” says Tector.
Knowing just where the bottlenecks were was an invaluable asset, allowing the team to not only understand the performance profiles according to the resolution and visual settings, but to then prove those predictions against what had already been done on the Xbox One. Working directly with the hardware team, Turn 10 provided input well ahead of time not only to the benefit of their side of things but other developers as well.
Once prototype Project Scorpio hardware was on the scene — a cardboard box full of loose motherboards, debug connectors, and a large PC fan needing to be taped down — getting the ForzaTech demo up and running took only two days, with the majority of that time devoted to adapting the codebase from an earlier XDK (Xbox Development Kit) dating just after the ship-date of Forza Motorsport 6.
The ForzaTech runs at a crisp 60 frames-per-second at 4K resolution with native assets for the cars and tracks according to a “super-stringent” resource budget. Interestingly enough, the budgeting for the engine adheres to a sub-frame level, meaning it isn’t a factor of whether or not the scene consistently hits 60 FPS, it’s more so whether the environment has hit a specified number of milliseconds.
While the ForzaTech demo on Scorpio’s hardware translates to GPU utilization in the mid-60’s at 4K, the same scene is suggested to translate to utilization in the 84-90 percent range at 1080p on the Xbox One.
The cards are being kept close to their chests in regards to what the Forza engine is capable of on the now-finalized hardware for Project Scorpio, reserving that for E3 this June. Chris is eager to point out that further optimization has allowed for the addition of new features for Forza Motorsport 7.
Color us excited. As we draw nearer to this year’s E3, keep an eye peeled to GTPlanet for more on Project Scorpio as it becomes available.