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DF Direct Weekly talks Xbox Anniversary, Xbox 360 FPS Boost and Nvidia upscaling

Plus: Hellblade PC's RT upgrade discussed.

Welcome to the 38th Digital Foundry Direct Weekly - and perhaps unsurprisingly, owing to the huge Xbox 20th anniversary celebrations, the line-up of topics for this week's show is dominated by Microsoft discussion. Leading off the show, we talk about the event itself - spearheaded by a tight, entertaining 30 minute stream that reminded us of Xbox's many firsts, before doubling down with the reveal of more OG Xbox and Xbox 360 backwards compatibility titles... and even some legacy FPS Boost support. We'll be talking about that specifically in separate content but it's great to see some previously X-enhanced Xbox 360 games also receive frame-rate enhancements, meaning that the likes of Assassin's Creed, Mirror's Edge, Fallout 3 and Gears 3 now run at enhanced resolutions and at 60fps to boot. And with the release of Sonic Generations, we have a new game receiving both upgrades, making it the best non-modded version of the game available - and yes, I bought it (the £4 credit gifted to my Xbox account helped too).

Beyond the #Xbox20 celebrations, there was plenty of other Microsoft-related news. That kicked off with Xbox boss Phil Spencer coming out in favour of emulation and seemingly coming out against Activision management. On the former, we've seen Spencer's commitment to the idea that the games you buy today (and bought yesterday!) should be playable on current generation systems, but we're certainly curious to see how far that commitment goes. I've no doubt that the Xbox emulators built into Series consoles could run any older generation Xbox game, but would we be able to play our old discs? Would Microsoft allow, say, official Retroarch support on Xbox platforms? What about other consoles? Beyond that, Phil was also in the news for confirming Xbox and PC exclusivity for The Elder Scrolls 6 - staggeringly obvious perhaps, but there's always been the hope from some quarters that this exclusivity would be time-limited and that 'Microsoft would be leaving money on the table' by not eventually launching on PlayStation. It's an interesting argument I hear a lot that somehow doesn't seem to be extended to Sony first-party titles appearing on Xbox.

Other Microsoft-related news? A while back we reported on GPU-related issues with camera movement in Age of Empires 4, an issue we logged with the developer during our review process. The good news is that it's been resolved - and it's great to get constructive feedback from any quarter considered for the betterment of the game. We also spend some time discussing Hellblade's PC upgrade, bringing with it the ray tracing features from Series X, along with DLSS. It's a decent upgrade, even though some of the RT features do not integrate well with the way the rendering is set-up on some elements.

Instigating, perpetrating and executing DF Direct Weekly #38 we have Tom Morgan, Alex Battaglia and Rich Leadbetter.

  • 00:00:00 Introductions
  • 00:00:38 Xbox 20th Anniversary, backwards compatibility update + more
  • 00:15:50 Phil Spencer calls for wide support of emulation
  • 00:20:21 Elder Scrolls 6 will only appear on Xbox Series and PC
  • 00:24:20 Nvidia launches new upscaling algorithm
  • 00:30:05 Age of Empires 4 gets update based on feedback
  • 00:33:16 Hellblade PC patch brings RT and DLSS
  • 00:41:57 DF Content Discussion: Elden Ring network test
  • 00:48:41 DF Content Discussion: Guardians of the Galaxy post launch update
  • 00:53:57 DF Supporter Q1: Why do so many games release with incorrect frame-pacing?
  • 01:00:58 DF Supporter Q2: The saga of conflicting cloud gaming experiences
  • 01:11:05 DF Supporter Q3: If a current-gen game is displayed at 1080p output, will the game potentially perform better?
  • 01:14:13 DF Supporter Q4: UE4 DX12 HDR doesn't always work on but DX11 HDR works. Is there any way a user can fix this?
  • 01:16:40 DF Supporter Q5: With the limited availability of PlayStation and Xbox consoles do you think this will lead to both companies having nearly equal amounts of console sold?
  • 01:21:01 DF Supporter Q6: Do you expect Sony or Microsoft to come forward with handheld versions of their consoles anytime soon?
  • 01:24:13 DF Supporter Q7: Tom, recommend me somewhere to eat in Brighton!

We also spent some time talking about Nvidia's recent software based upscaling solution - spatial-based, like AMD's FSR with similar drawbacks in using it. At the most fundamental level, these scalers can do a fairly decent job at very higher resolutions, depending on content. However, these solutions tend to work better on consoles where the player is much further away from the screen and where it's often integrated with dynamic resolution scaling. I suspect Nvidia simply wants a more widely supported upscaling solution that doesn't require RTX technology or big developer buy-in, but based on the press briefing we had, DLSS and techniques like it are clearly the way forward - hence the release of ICAT.

This is a screenshot and video-based comparison tool available to all designed to allow for easy ways to produce the kind of comparisons we produce at Digital Foundry all of the time. Movie file support needs to be drastically improved, but it's a good tool for more easily lining up streams, playing them back in sequence and zooming in. What it doesn't have is actual data-driven image quality comparison metrics - and peeling that particular onion is going to be an interesting project going forward - ICAT invites subjective comparison when the hot topic is quantifying image quality in some way that is more 'intelligent' and meaningful than native resolution pixel counts. It's something we've spent the best part of a year mulling over and occasionally researching too.

Content discussion? Tom Morgan shares his thoughts on his Elden Ring testing (more on that here on Eurogamer soon) while we also talk about Guardians of the Galaxy being patched with ray tracing support... an upgrade bemoaned by John Linneman who'd literally just finished the game when the patch appeared. Perhaps it's down to the pandemic, but we have been drifting towards a situation where games launch without all of their features. It's not ideal, especially for single-player story-driven adventures exactly like Guardians of the Galaxy.

We round off as usual with DF Q+A - yes, if you join our supporter program, not only do you get to see the show days ahead of general release, you can also pose questions for us too. Why do games ship with inconsistent frame-pacing? The causes are many and varied but fundamentally, if Ridge Racer could get it right with a perfect 30fps on the PS1 launch back in 1994, it's sad to see it still being an issue today. We also talk about xCloud - with one supporter asking us to cover it because it's brilliant and of native quality, while another derides it as unplayable. Can they both be right? Will Sony and Microsoft make handhelds? If Sony and Microsoft are both selling out of their consoles, will overall sales be a dead heat? And finally, Tom Morgan answers the most important question of all: where can you get a good bite to eat in Brighton?

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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