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Why Microsoft doesn't require Xbox One devs to run games in native 1080p

Top resolution doesn't always mean "highest quality visuals", explains hardware designer

There was a brief period of uproar the other week when Crytek revealed that Ryse: Son of Rome wouldn't run in native 1080p resolution on Xbox One, following a contradictory claim by Aaron Greenberg, chief of staff for the devices and studios group.

"Xbox One is designed to deliver the best blockbuster games today and for the next decade, and supports up to 4K resolution for games and entertainment," Microsoft told OXM in an emailed clarification. "However, we've left the decision up to individual developers to determine what resolution best fits their own design goals. Xbox One will present all titles at 1080p either natively or upscaled by the Xbox One."

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Xbox One engineer Andrew Goossen has now commented further on this in a (fairly layman-unfriendly) Digital Foundry report. "We've chosen to let title developers make the trade-off of resolution versus per-pixel quality in whatever way is most appropriate to their game content," he told the site.

"A lower resolution generally means that there can be more quality per pixel. With a high quality scaler and anti-aliasing and render resolutions such as 720p or '900p', some games look better with more GPU processing going to each pixel than to the number of pixels; others look better at 1080p with less GPU processing per pixel."

This differs to Microsoft's launch-day approach with the Xbox 360, Goossen continued. "We built Xbox One with a higher quality scaler than on Xbox 360, and added an additional display plane, to provide more freedom to developers in this area.

"This matter of choice was a lesson we learned from Xbox 360 where at launch we had a Technical Certification Requirement mandate that all titles had to be 720p or better with at least 2x anti-aliasing - and we later ended up eliminating that TCR as we found it was ultimately better to allow developers to make the resolution decision themselves.

"Game developers are naturally [incentivised] to make the highest quality visuals possible," he concluded. "And so will choose the most appropriate trade-off between quality of each pixel versus number of pixels for their games."

Thoughts on all this? I can't say choice of resolution ever bothers me hugely providing the game's aesthetic is appropriately conceived, but extra-crisp textures are always nice. Here are six ways Xbox One's exclusives back up Microsoft's rhetoric about the hardware's capabilities, as muddled through by me.

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