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Measuring the Xbox One Against PCs With Titanfall 377

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-you're-thinking-with-death-robots dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this week, Respawn Entertainment launched Titanfall, a futuristic first-person shooter with mechs that has been held up as the poster child for the Xbox One. The Digital Foundry blog took the opportunity to compare how the game plays on the Xbox One to its performance on a well-appointed PC. Naturally, the PC version outperforms, but the compromises are bigger than you'd expect for a newly-released console. For example, it runs at an odd resolution (1408x792), the frame rate 'clearly isn't anywhere near locked' to 60fps, and there's some unavoidable screen tear. Reviews for the game are generally positive — RPS says most of the individual systems in Titanfall are fun, but the forced multiplayer interaction is offputting. Giant Bomb puts it more succinctly: 'Titanfall is a very specific game built for a specific type of person.' Side note: the game has a 48GB install footprint on PCs, owing largely to 35GB of uncompressed audio."
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Measuring the Xbox One Against PCs With Titanfall

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:27AM (#46497319)

    Filthy console peasants never seem to learn.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Will someone more aware of the rationale behind this tell me that this is not as retarded as it sounds?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:32AM (#46497333)

      It was so that lower spec PCs can run it.

      • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:37AM (#46497353)

        That doesn't make any sense. Why not offer an install option to decompress the audio if that is the case?

        I could see them wanting lossless audio, but FLAC isn't very computationally expensive, and fuck we have so many cores these days you could just dedicate one of them to this and only this and you wouldn't lose anything. It is also quite literally impossible to improve audio quality beyond 48/16 FLAC if you have normal human ears, and it costs all of nothing to implement.

        • by Nemyst (1383049)
          Not saying that they're absolutely right, but there are a few elements to keep in mind:
          -While playing back a single FLAC (or another lossless format) isn't too expensive, games aren't music players. When you have 128 FLACs playing back at the same time, the dynamics change.
          -The game's minimum spec includes dual-core CPUs. You can't dedicate an entire core to sound in that situation, yet I doubt they wanted to specifically code their engine to behave differently for dual-cores.

          Now, I also heard that thei
      • by marcello_dl (667940) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @08:24AM (#46497655) Homepage Journal

        >>(35GB of uncompressed audio)
        > It was so that lower spec PCs can run it.
        OMG have you thought your answer through? that would be effective only for a PC which is powerful enough to manage the graphics and engine and does not spare the cycles for audio.

        Given that a 166mhz pc from twenty years ago effortlessly decoded mp3s in realtime, that in the meantime people have improved decoders, encoders, formats that audio playing is parallelizable, that uncompressed audio requires uncompressed IO, I think "aliens wanted that" is a better explanation. The best of course being that a 45gb game is less piratable than a 10gb one.

    • by Shinobi (19308) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:34AM (#46497341)

      It was claimed that uncompressing the audio would tie up an entire core. The large amount is also because they stupidly install all languages at once, even if you select a specific language at installation time.

      • by vipw (228) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:28AM (#46497855)

        That's the claim, but the probable truth is that it's intentional bloat to reduce piracy.

        • Watch for the rip that replaces all the audio files with 0 byte empty sound files...

          C'mon, that'd be the lamest idea in anti-piracy since always-online.

        • by Gadget_Guy (627405) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:56AM (#46497965)

          That's the claim, but the probable truth is that it's intentional bloat to reduce piracy.

          Considering that both the pirated and legitimate versions of the game has to be downloaded, how would forcing it to be a large download prevent piracy? It would make things harder to distribute the pirated version on optical media, but who does that these days?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @07:04AM (#46497513)

      It is as retarded as it sounds. There is absolutely no justification for it in this is this day and age. Using look ahead decompression and caching would be a net equal, or perhaps a smidgeon higher CPU usage. It means they are in effect wasting DMA bandwidth and CPU cache by streaming uncompressed files.

      I'm a DSP guy by trade, and it's one thing that's obvious - game programmers don't know how to do sound properly.

      They continue to insist on driving audio by the "main" game engine thread (see Valve's games with looping audio and stutters when things get busy). Or even when they dedicate a thread, they continue to use a push model for sound - when almost all modern audio APIs have agreed that a callback based model is the "correct" way. (The notable exception being OSS which is broken for this reason).

      The pro-audio guys have pretty much nailed how you do low latency high priority audio, and the game programmers continue to get it wrong.

      • by Nemyst (1383049)
        That's sadly a byproduct of how game engines are developed, I'm afraid. For the most part, game engines originate from graphics engine (so just graphics and then stuff tacked onto it), which means the vast majority of programmers working on the engine will be either generalist programmers or graphics programmers. In both cases, it's unlikely that they'll know how to deal with audio in any real capacity (I know I don't), so they'll use the same model that graphics uses: pushing commands.

        Now, I'm sure that
        • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @03:15PM (#46500035)

          That's sadly a byproduct of how game engines are developed, I'm afraid. For the most part, game engines originate from graphics engine (so just graphics and then stuff tacked onto it), which means the vast majority of programmers working on the engine will be either generalist programmers or graphics programmers. In both cases, it's unlikely that they'll know how to deal with audio in any real capacity (I know I don't), so they'll use the same model that graphics uses: pushing commands.

          Now, I'm sure that the larger devs have dedicated sound engineers, but I'm not sure just how much leeway they have with designing (and most likely, scrapping and completely redoing) the sound engine. It's also likely that their bosses will come from either a managerial background or a generalist programming or graphics programming background. Game development could use more specialists and needs to give them the flexibility they need.

          Audio programming specialists like me are rare, but not unheard of. For most games, though, using a commercially available 3rd party engine is not only sufficient but probably preferred. So, the "audio programming" one is likely to do is mostly a case of resource management and integration with game development tools. It's the same reasoning as to how most games don't really require a custom-built game engine anymore - it's probably best left to the most specialized of games.

          In my case, I was able to build a custom audio engine from scratch (yes, throwing away our old one) on top of the low-level audio API FMOD provides, but I think that's probably fairly rare nowadays, and for fairly good reasons. Our game was massive in scope, and had some pretty specific audio requirements and constraints, so it made sense to do this. I'd be pretty surprised if Titanfall had the sort of extreme requirements that we had, though, so they could probably get away with doing this. The fact that they could even fit all the uncompressed audio in a reasonable space demonstrates that there actually wasn't a lot of audio to begin with, at least not compared to the monster I was working on.

          BTW, pushing commands works just fine for audio engines. In fact, it's the only sane way to do things at the high-level API, because that lets you efficiently and safely queue commands across a thread boundary. You're probably talking about push-vs-pull model audio processing, which is a complete non-issue, because game programmers almost never get down to that level of detail in the audio code. That's entirely handled by the low-level audio engine.

      • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @02:57PM (#46499907)

        It is as retarded as it sounds. There is absolutely no justification for it in this is this day and age. Using look ahead decompression and caching would be a net equal, or perhaps a smidgeon higher CPU usage. It means they are in effect wasting DMA bandwidth and CPU cache by streaming uncompressed files.

        I'm a DSP guy by trade, and it's one thing that's obvious - game programmers don't know how to do sound properly.

        They continue to insist on driving audio by the "main" game engine thread (see Valve's games with looping audio and stutters when things get busy). Or even when they dedicate a thread, they continue to use a push model for sound - when almost all modern audio APIs have agreed that a callback based model is the "correct" way. (The notable exception being OSS which is broken for this reason).

        The pro-audio guys have pretty much nailed how you do low latency high priority audio, and the game programmers continue to get it wrong.

        As a professional game audio programmer, let me say that you're painting with a pretty large brush when you say that "game programmers don't know how to do sound." No offense intended, but you really shouldn't try to sound like an expert on game audio about unless you've worked on a AAA game engine. There are demands that games place on hardware systems that you really wouldn't understand. It's not like a DAW system where you can devote nearly 100% of the system resources to processing the audio. Yes, of course there are similarities, but the constraints and requirements are very different.

        First of all, unless they're absolutely retarded, no audio programmer would push any sort of audio processing on the main thread. Sorry, but it just wouldn't, and isn't, happening. I don't even have to look at the source code to know that, because I know these guys aren't utter morons or incompetents.

        Secondly, if you're a DSP guy, you're largely working at a level that game audio programmers do NOT typically work at - that is, the DSP and mixing level. Most game engines use professional third-party mixing/decoding engines with excellent, highly tuned code developed by specialists over many years of work, and are every bit as optimized as pro audio engines. Having used FMOD in our own game, I know it can decode and mix real-time compressed data in dozens of streams simultaneously, applying lowpass, highpass, reverb, echo, etc to them, and still only take up a small percentage of a single core. I believe Valve licenses the Miles Sound System, but I don't know for certain that this is the engine used in question.

        That being said, I agree that leaving audio uncompressed seems unnecessary, at least for technical reasons. Having said that, I don't like to question the programmers judgment because I'm not there working on the project, and don't have all the fact. I have some recent experience with this, having recently shipped a game with a new, custom game engine I wrote that sits on top of the low-level FMOD mixing engine. We decided to keep all our samples compressed in memory, and were pretty impressed with the overall performance.

        MP3 was used for most samples, as it has the most efficient decoder, and Vorbis was used when required for either seamless looping or multichannel audio. Additionally, each voice also had lowpass and highpass filtering performed on it. Dynamically calculated reverb settings and a custom echo filter I wrote was applied to the mix as well, plus the overhead of basic mixing operations, of which I used the highest quality 5-point spline-based mixing variation. We found that, on average, audio processing tended to take between 10 and 40 percent of a single core on a typical mid-grade PC (of about two years ago), depending on the level of activity going on at the time, with the vast majority of the CPU time used for audio decoding. Overall, it was pretty impressive to see all that being done in real-time without substantially impacting the rest of the game.

        The real constraint in o

    • by Arker (91948)
      Yeah, it's as retarded as it sounds.

      Official explanation is that older machines were using too much CPU decoding the audio. In this case the fix could be worse than the problem, because now you run the risk of saturating disk and memory IO. Frying pan, fire, hah.

      Might have been wise to shop around for codec/decoder combinations that worked properly instead.
    • by fatp (1171151)
      Make it as bloated as possilbe
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:39AM (#46497891)

      My guess would be that they could not use the same compression codec used on XBox due to licensing issues, found that out only briefly before release date and didn't have time to redo it for the PC version and all they could get done in time was to pump the uncompressed audio files out.

  • by John Pfeiffer (454131) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:45AM (#46497363) Homepage

    Whatever the rationale for the uncompressed audio, I've got a 3.20GHz hexacore, and it has trouble sometimes. A couple rounds I've had the audio completely cock up from what I can only describe as it trying to play too many sounds at once...then just playing broken bits...then completely breaking down, requiring me to tough it out until the audio is reinitialized with the start of the next round.

    I'd also like to note that it took me about 45 minutes to download the whole game, and a whole hour and a half for the installation...most of which was spent extracting the audio.

    That said, the game is abso-fucking-lutely amazing and I love it. I need to fix the cooler on my other 6870 so I can put it back in, SLI the suckers, and turn the graphics up to 11. :D

    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:34AM (#46497463)

      I wonder how much your audio problems are the result of having to load the audio files and juggle them around in RAM? Where's it get the samples from? I hope not load them on the fly, and at the same time I hope not pre-load them.

      There are many cases where compression can actually speed up things as reading and writing huge data is more expensive than doing a bit of maths on the much smaller result.

    • A couple rounds I've had the audio completely cock up from what I can only describe as it trying to play too many sounds at once...then just playing broken bits...then completely breaking down, requiring me to tough it out until the audio is reinitialized with the start of the next round.

      Sounds like the audio is running on a separate thread.
      Most likely, the main audio parts are loaded at launch. The thread will then destroy and load current audio while the game is running, basically hot swapping.
      The reason for the corruption is probably due to failed create/destroy requests, and didnt complete in the required time for the thread.
      Either that, or they haven't made it truly thread safe. Could even be a simple case of the audio play request has been made and completed before the audio was destr

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      So, using onboard sound or a PCIe/PCI soundcard? If it's the first case, it'll most likely be a driver issue. And since most onboard solutions are realtek, you get what you pay for. Complete shit. If it's the latter, you can probably narrow it down to one of three things: Something wrong with the engine/driver. Incorrect PCI/e latency, an extra "feature" of the driver like various DSP modes causing an issue.

      • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

        So, using onboard sound or a PCIe/PCI soundcard?

        sound card? 1995 paged you - they want their sound blaster back.

        • He's right, you can still get sound cards, though given the prevalence of the aforementioned embedded Realtek audio (that is, shit) its uncommon to use them. I'm not really sure what the exact use case for them is, since windows threw the hardware acellerated audio baby out with the Vista bathwater, the hardware is just a shitty DAC, a puny amp and some 3.5mm jacks. The rest is at the mercy of whatever crap drivers the vendor bothers to release.

          Killing hardware accelerated audio was just fucking stupid.

      • And since most onboard solutions are realtek, you get what you pay for. Complete shit.

        Complete shit?! May you elaborate? Realtek produces quite damn advanced stuff [realtek.com.tw].

    • by dbIII (701233)
      That's a software issue. The last time I had trouble getting enough processing power to decode mp3 files it was because I was using a 586 - I was too much of a cheapskate to get an Intel Pentium 60 to do that task. Even then it was fine in mono.
    • Impressive. It would take me just under 24 hours of constant, full-speed downloading before I'd manage to get 35GB.

      Fuck you and your post internet connections! I say this in the nicest way possible of course, but it surprises me how much people under-appreciate what they have in terms of bandwidth.

      • by Imrik (148191)

        The download was probably quite a bit smaller as the audio was compressed for download, it then had to be uncompressed for the installation.

  • Piracy prevention? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:35AM (#46497465)

    The cynic in me wonders if the retarded idea of using uncompressed audio and not giving you the option to install just a subset such as the language of interest is some way of attempting to prevent piracy.

    Maybe someone had the bright idea that people wouldn't bother trying to pirate that much data.

    Maybe I'm just jaded.

    • by jones_supa (887896) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @07:03AM (#46497511)
      Pirate groups are known to sometimes work around these issues. In this case they might rip away everything but English and tweak the game to still work. Then they might ship the audio compressed (MP3, for example) and a tool which does the conversion back to RIFF Wave (or whatever the game company is using). During the uncompression, that tool displays some pixel art animation and plays chiptune music, of course. ;)
    • I don't know a lot about content copying, but have compression tools gone out of fashion while I was not looking? I'd guess that even if the game itself was uncompressed, crackers would deliver it RAR'ed.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @07:09AM (#46497521)
    Why the odd 1408x792 resolution?
    • Why the odd 1408x792 resolution?

      Presumably that's as far as they could dial it up without having the Xbone choke.

  • Man a game like titanfall is for the hardcore gamer, a hardcore gamer worth its salt has a SSD these days. Asking for 35GB of SSD space just for audio is ridiculous.

  • sad resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sixsixtysix (1110135) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:25AM (#46497847)
    While I wasn't expecting 4k levels of resolution, that these new consoles aren't even pure 1080p/60 is pretty fucking pathetic.
  • by nehumanuscrede (624750) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:57AM (#46497971)
    I have a strong gaming rig and I won't bother with Titanfall for one simple fact: The PC version requires Origin to play it.

    I tried it with Battlefield the last Battlefield game and it was such a trainwreck I uninstalled it and tossed the game in the trash before ever getting to play it. It went something like this:

    Buy the physical media ( dvd ) install game. Try to play, find out you have to install Origin, cuss, install Origin, register and do all the BS required. Try to play, find out there is a multi GB PATCH to install before I can play, cuss some more, start download ( which takes HOURS coming from their servers ) finally get it all downloaded, try to play, discover my browser opens up instead of the game, Origin now wants to install some plugin to the damn browser. At which point I gave up from sheer anger and uninstalled the entire thing, Origin and all.

    I put the Battlefield disc in the microwave then ran it through the shredder resolving to never again touch any game that had an Origin requirement.

    So, Titanfall may be the most amazing game ever made but due to the Origin requirement, it is a game I will never play.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @10:19AM (#46498039)

      Please next time return the disk as it didn't work without requiring to download and install other things that didn't come on the disk. Probably no where on the box did it say you'd have to download more patches before the game would work. If the store doesn't take software returns, do a charge back on your credit card claiming the produce was defective (didn't contain everything needed to run) or didn't work as advertised.

      Destroying the disk can be fun, but it doesn't send a message.

    • by ildon (413912) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @11:22AM (#46498377)

      For starters, you already did the work of installing Origin and setting up an account. So even if you deleted Origin, you still already have an account so that work is a sunk cost. Second of all, you would have had to install that multi-gigabyte patch regardless of if Origin existed or not because you wouldn't have been able to connect to the game servers and play without it, so that has nothing to do with Origin. Third, the browser plugin is specific the the Battlefield Battle log feature. The game was designed to use a web browser as its server browser. It's something specific to BF and you would have had to do that to play it regardless of if Origin existed or not, and it's not a feature of Titanfall so you wouldn't have had to do that again to play Titanfall.

      So right now, if you wanted to play Titanfall, your steps would be:
      1. Install Origin.
      2. Install Titanfall.
      3. Log into Origin.
      4. Possibly download a Titanfall patch (I don't know if there's a patch because I didn't buy it because I'm not a fan of CoD style shooters), which you would have had to do regardless of Origin's existence or non-existence.
      5. Play.

      That's it.

      Seriously, 90% of your problems with "Origin" were problems with Battlefield.

      • by nehumanuscrede (624750) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @11:59AM (#46498585)
        Chuckle. Anyone who has been playing PC games ( and console games for that matter ) knows that within a month of launch, you can expect one or more patches to fix the product they rushed out the door to meet some deadline. Guaranteed.

        I'm pretty much done with jumping through all the hoops for this. If you want to make it a pain in the ass just to play it, then I just won't play it. Pretty simple really.

        Not that they care as they have legions of folks who are willing to put up with the BS to play at any cost, but in time they too will become jaded with the system and become ex-gamers as well.

        Steam seems to have finally got it right in my opinion. I have zero issues with that platform now and the majority of my games come from there.
      • by Chryana (708485)

        I agree with most of what you said. With that said, I am really sick and tired of having to create an account on some service I don't care or need every time I buy a game. I already paid good money for the stupid game, but the greed of game distributors is endless. They probably milk the personal data they ask for for everything it's worth, and then they want to nickel and dime their customers to get every little trivial addition to the game, such as new players skins and weapons. Honestly, if buying a movi

    • by Sibko (1036168) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @02:17PM (#46499639)

      I tried it with Battlefield the last Battlefield game and it was such a trainwreck I uninstalled it and tossed the game in the trash before ever getting to play it. It went something like this:

      Buy the physical media ( dvd ) install game. Try to play, find out you have to install Steam, cuss, install Steam, register and do all the BS required. Try to play, find out there is a multi GB PATCH to install before I can play, cuss some more, start download ( which takes HOURS coming from their servers ) finally get it all downloaded, try to play, discover my browser opens up instead of the game...

      About the only thing Steam doesn't require here, is a plugin for your browser.
      Sorry, I just feel like pointing out the slag that other distribution systems seem to get when Steam does the exact same thing, or is worse. It reminds me of the kind of love Apple used to and still does get.

  • If you've ever written software that is ported to multiple platforms, you know that the performance of the ported version can only match the original, if serious performance tuning is done. Performance of ported software is not a measure of the hardware, but of the effort put into making it work better.

    • by Kremmy (793693)
      You're wrong to begin with, but you're completely off the wall in this case because we're not really talking about different platforms, we're talking about the Xbox One and Windows. The Xbox One is an AMD APU PC, what kind of platform differences are you on about? the Xbox One is running a distribution of Windows. This is the point where any additional effort required means they did it wrong.
  • Does the Xbox install use the same amount of space? Considering you have a fixed 500GB and games have to be installed to the drive, I would be slightly upset that one game takes up that much space.

    I couldn't imagine trying to do the digital only thing they were trying to push last year. That's so much data being downloaded at once you would probably get flagged as an evil file-sharer by your ISP.
  • by Kimomaru (2579489) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:35PM (#46499341)
    On Titanfall's release day, I posted a user review on Metacritic giving the game a zero, saying that I got a refund on Origin (they have a return policy for games, lucky me) and that I felt that the game was basically a super-modded Call of Duty - a sentiment that has been echoed even by more traditional gaming outlets. I also mentioned that when it comes to liking or disliking TItanfall, there are two types of players, 1) players who still enjoy Call of Duty and 2) players who don't. If you still enjoy the old CoD gaming formulas, give this game a try, otherwise pass on it. After a couple of days, the review was taken down, presumably because it was considered trolling? Not sure. I couldn't have been more honest.

    Titanfall is not a great game, but opinion aside - some odd facts. Has anyone noticed that the textures on the PC version almost seem excessively low res? I find this particularly baffling. The other thing that troubles me is that Vincent Zampella aparently tweeted on October 29th that he wasn't aware that Titanfall was going to be an Xbox One exclusive until just then (http://www.gameranx.com/updates/id/18380/article/titanfall-perpetually-a-microsoft-exclusive-respawn-unaware-ea-made-a-deal/). So, the only way he could have been unaware is that they were already working on a PS4 version and that the exclusivity deal announced in October quashed it. It just feels like a couple of these points kind of add up that Microsoft needed to make sure that it was exclusive and that the PC version wouldn't outshine the Xbox One version in the inevitable side-by-side comparisons. And, for its part, I must confess that I'm hard pressed to find much difference inthe Xbone-to-PC side-by-side videos.

    In the end, I think the effort was wasted. There weren't many players broadcasting Titanfall on Twitch last night. And, as an avid gamer, it just feels like a lot of jockeying when versions of already-finished games are stopped with exclusivity contracts. I just can't get behind the Xbox One platform at all.

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