Microsoft has put tremendous effort into both promoting and actually building the upcoming Xbox One X as THE first true PC-level 4K ultra HD and HDR gaming console, for owners of 4K high dynamic range TVs more than anyone else. As Albert Penello, senior director of product management for the Xbox One X recently explained in comments to Wired magazine, “I’m guessing that around half the people who buy a One X on day one will already have a new TV,”. Since virtually all new TVs being made by major brands are now 4K models with at least some HDR, this is the consumer market the One X is most geared for.
And its published specs genuinely seem to indicate some serious ultra HD gaming prowess. The One X features a custom eight-core 2.3GHz CPU and a six-teraflop graphics processor. The wealth of new games being released for the One X are almost invariably being touted for the cutting edge graphics that they’ll give gamers if played via 4K TV on the new powerhouse console.
All this however begs the question of what the other half (and probably more) of Xbox fans who don’t own powerful new 4K TVs with cutting edge technology should do with the Xbox One X. Well Microsoft definitely hasn’t forgotten about them either.
The company has obviously realized that broad sales will require a broad user base and while 4K TVs are indeed cheaper and more widespread than ever, many, possibly most potential Xbox customers still use HD TVs or even older for their gaming.
For this reason, Microsoft started an entire Xbox One X testing program which focused exclusively on seeing how well the console can work on even the shittiest old TVs while still delivering a genuinely decent gaming experience. As Penello explained in further comments, Microsoft created an entire secondary project for Xbox One X testing on a TV so crappy and old that it’s called the “Dream Killer”. Or as John Snavely, principal design manager for the Xbox software interface explained,
“it’s where we break designers’ hearts. It’s a TV we should’ve thrown away a long time ago. It’s awful. We put a lot of time into making sure our content looks good on the Dream Killer,”
As the dream killers description suggests, the TV is essentially a means of trying to deliver at least some of the best that the new One X console has to offer under the ugliest of display situations. This development effort obviously couldn’t do anything about 4K UHD graphics or HDR color and contrast details in TVs like these but the programmers working on the Dream Killer have at least done their best to make some of the finer gaming experience delivered by the new console translate across to any TV with certain games (some more than others). This could include audio details, motion rendering, realistic controls and other processing intensive aspects of gaming that don’t depend on a TV’s resolution at all. Instead they count on the One X console’s enormously powerful processors to deliver as immersive an experience as possible regardless of TV.
Forza Motorsport 7 for Xbox One X
Chris Tector, a studio software architect for “Forza Motorsport 7” by Turn 10 Studios explained it quite succinctly in his own comments about game development for any TV:
“Having that moment when you race in the rain, on Nurburgring, in this purpose-built car and you’re hearing the rain hitting the body, it gives you that feeling of when a storm’s started while you’re driving and you’re tensing up inside. It’s all these components: the graphics, audio and simulation – you’re fighting the car to keep it on the road – it builds up and turns into one of these moments.”
Considering how much effort has been placed into making “Forza Motorsport 7” into one particularly 4K HDR-ready Xbox One X game, Xbox fans might find it reassuring to know that even in this case, there’s something to offer for anyone who wants to try it on the One X even if it means using some old 720p or even SD TV.