GoW4 Dev on DX12 Performance Boosts, Xbox One S, ESRAM & Ultimate Edition PC Issues

Alessio Palumbo

Yesterday, we reported on the exclusive PC features of Gears of War 4 via Eurogamer, which had the chance to speak with The Coalition's Technical Director, Mike Rayner.

Today, Eurogamer's Digital Foundry published the full (and rather long) interview. Several interesting technical topics were touched, starting with the game's implementation of DirectX 12 and the relative performance boosts on both platforms.

The Coalition then, working closely with Microsoft's internal D3D12 dev team, transitioned the engine fully to D3D12 on Xbox One - and this again boosted performance greatly for us, and there is still potential to push the engine even further under D3D12.

DirectX 12 has allowed us to increase performance by giving us more direct control over the hardware, simplifying the driver layer, and allowing us to make fully informed and optimal decisions on how to manage graphics resources.

Rayner also clarified some comments made by Studio Head Rod Fergusson when the Xbox One S was announced, regarding its hardware advantages over the basic console.

We render our game at 1080p with some extra computation to support HDR and hardware scaling to 4K resolution if enabled. The Xbox One S allows us to add support for HDR and hardware scaled 4K output without additional demand on our game or compromising performance in any way.

When it comes to the Xbox One hardware, developers have long complained about the ESRAM module as one of the main causes of poor performance. However, The Coalition found a way to make it perform well.

ESRAM management when done right is not super complicated, but is certainly key to achieving optimal bandwidth performance on Xbox One. The simplest methods are the best as it often turns out. We have reached a point where ESRAM allocations and memory aliasing is performing well for us.

Finally, PC gamers are probably wary of the developer after the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition fiasco. When asked about it, Rayner talked about it as a lesson that will bear fruit with Gears of War 4, which will deliver a "great launch experience".

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was a great learning experience for us. We were the first major DX12 UWP title to market and while we did have issues to work through at launch, we managed to get through them quickly. Speaking directly to our community was a big deal for us post launch and they were fantastic at providing feedback, which we are adapting, where appropriate, into Gears 4. Our relationship with AMD and Nvidia is better than ever as we move towards Gears 4 launch on Windows 10. They are looking at builds of the game today and are providing great feedback to get the best performance out of their respective hardware. We are confident people will have a great launch experience playing the game.

Gears of War 4 received a new campaign trailer at SDCC 2016, with Marcus Fenix back in the squad; it was also confirmed that protagonist JD Fenix is named James Dominic after his father's deceased friend, Dominic Santiago.

The game will be out on October 11 worldwide for Windows 10 PC and Xbox One, with cross-play functionality included for cooperative modes.

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