XBox One vs. PS4: How software makes the XBox One games look and play better.

The gaming world is buzzing about the so-called “Resolution Gate”.   An alarming scandal surrounding the next-gen console systems, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit turned off by the idea that these new systems both seem to be content with running 720p resolutions on my 1080p televisions… I mean.. I’ve been running 1080p standard on all my PC games for years now.  It seems rather odd that they can’t release a console capable of full 1080p resolution.

Truth-be-told, however, it should be noted that there’s more to a game than resolution alone, and certainly these games that are being run at lower resolutions and upscaled are doing so because the developers of the games figured that a lower resolution would allow them to deliver more effects and a more immersive experience.

There’s been a awful lot of huff-and-puff over Call of Duty: Ghosts and how it runs at 1080p on the PS4 while the XBox runs at only 720p. Websites have put together painstaking videos of the two consoles playing synchronized titles side-by-side so that you can compare them and pick out every little tiny spec of detail that might help you declare a winner, as if it were that important.

Spec wise, the PS4 has a Raw advantage in the hardware.  But I watched the YouTube comparisons of XBox vs. PS on BattleField 4 and I just have to say… you know… the XBox One version of BF4 looks considerably better.  This baffled me at first… did they tag the left and right sides of the video incorrectly?  Looking down at the bottom of the screen, however you can clearly see a DPad icon that is differently represented for each console that proves that they didn’t mix up the videos and put the wrong ones on each side.

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Then I thought about it… If it isn’t hardware that makes it look better, then it must be… software.  Lets not forget a couple of things.  As a developer myself who has released games for both XBox 360 and PS3,  I can tell you, that one of the biggest things that has been holding back Sony in PlayStation development has been their development tools.  The PS3 was a very custom beast and therefore very unwieldy to the degree that many developers simply refused to work with it. Presumably the PS4 is also a rather custom beast, at least in terms of software.  This time around the PS4 is using industry standard CPUs and GPUs (Microsoft and Sony have chosen the exact same hardware vendors for these critical parts).. but PS4 does not benefit from the years and years of development experience that Microsoft has with DirectX, development tools,  and operating systems in general.

The Xbox one runs Windows and can, therefore, leverage many of the features, including video drivers that are familiar to hardware and software developers. The video drivers are mostly identical to the drivers that power PC games that driver developers have been spending decades perfecting.  Video drivers are important for managing video textures, shading, geometry, and other effects efficiently.  DirectX has been in use by PC Games for Years and Microsoft has the best tools for developing software and games that the world has ever known. Microsoft has spent years perfecting its DirectX API, outpacing the developments of OpenGL by a significant margin.

Hardware is connected to the games through a software layer of drivers and APIs.  To get the most of the APIs, you need stellar layers of software in-between.

The BattleField 4 comparisons between the XBox One and PS4 show a clear advantage to the XBox in the categories of sharpness and texture resolution and this advantage, to me, can be explained by the operating system and hardware drivers.

But all specs aside, it should be noted that arguing over which mediocre game system is less mediocre is silly and childish.  The Power of these systems is not anything to get excited about.   And just because the PS4 has a slightly better version of the same GPU that powers the XBox One, doesn’t mean that the PS4’s GPU is almighty and powerful.  These systems are petty compared to what PC’s are doing in their sleep these days… in addition, the use of AMD CPUs means that they’re going to be hungry for electricity and not-at-all energy efficient.

The mark of modern technology isn’t speed but efficiency.  Sure you can crank your AMD CPU up to 5Ghz if you want to water-cool it, but it is ridiculous.   The newest AMD CPU has a 4.7 – 5GHz turbo frequency and comes with a water-cooling kit, standard, and consumes a ridiculous 220W of power.   This is hideous and wasteful and doesn’t mean that you have the most modern technology on the block.  Engineers have been liquid cooling computers for decades, sometimes even submerging them in tanks of liquid nitrogen… nothing new.

But again, the specs for both of these systems are ridiculously underpowered.  The PS4/XBO’s CPUs clock at just 1.5 and 1.75Ghz respectively and is based on AMD technology (the same tech that you can buy in a 4.7-5Ghz package), not the superior Intel technology which runs circles around AMD in terms of clock-for-clock performance.

When I look at the screen shots and videos for both of these consoles, I see ugliness.  I see jagged edges that were promised to be a thing of the past in the year 2000 with the release of the 3DFX Voodoo 5 (13 years ago as of this writing), I see low resolution images, low resolution textures, and game physics that are nothing revolutionary.  As a PC gamer, I’ve been seeing graphics better than this for years.  These consoles have nothing to offer me other than the convenience of being standard.  Furthermore, playing console games is turning all you people into mindless zombies.  Go out and do something… learn something.  I think you’ll find intellectual conquest more satisfying than brain-dead, rehashed video games.


0 Replies to “XBox One vs. PS4: How software makes the XBox One games look and play better.”

  1. Fantastic post as always! Always love your well-rounded perspective on things. I’m with you, amazed by how this “Resolution Gate” has lit a fire in the gaming sector. Then again, details play a huge role in gaming, do they not?

    The insight on the role of software in this drama is fascinating – the mentioning of DirectX and its contribution to Microsoft’s XBox One speaks volumes. But how much weight does the XBox’s software superiority hold compared to PS4’s raw hardware edge? Any views?

    As an observant from a programming background, I find myself slightly more concerned with performance efficiency than graphics superiority. For instance, the discussion on AMD’s energy consumption caught my attention – are we talking about green gaming here? How often do power consumption and environmental impact factors come up in the console race? On a lighter note, I guess not everything that’s turbocharged is necessarily ‘cool’, eh?

    Regardless, your conclusion resonates with me – no console can compete with the versatility and growth scope of a personal computer. Plus, you’ve inspired me, maybe it’s high time we rethink how we spend our leisure time.

    Somehow, I’m reminded of that Adele song, “Hello from the other side, I must’ve called a thousand times..”, seems so appropriate for PC gamers reaching out to the console crowd right now!

    1. Kudos for bringing up the energy efficiency aspect! It’s a topic that doesn’t get much attention in the gaming sphere. Maybe it’s high time it did?

      1. Right? Like, finally somebody talks about efficiency over sheer power – it’s not the 90s anymore. Gaming rigs guzzle energy like nobody’s business; it’s kinda irresponsible if you ask me. Maybe if gamers cared as much about the planet as they do about FPS, we’d see some real innovation in eco-friendly tech.

          1. Eco-friendly? Gimme a break, we’re talking about gamers, not tree-huggers. Demand follows sick graphics and fast gameplay, not some greenpeace agenda. Plus, who actually looks at their power bill and thinks, ‘wow, I should get a less powerful console’? No serious gamer, that’s for sure.

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