Many of gaming’s most compelling stories come from those who’ve helped to create our favorite Xbox One games. In our Inside Xbox One X Enhanced series, these creators will share the behind-the-scenes accounts of the work involved in enhancing these epic games for Xbox One X, how they’ve helped chart the course of the world’s most powerful console, and what that means for the future of gaming. Today, we’ll be chatting with Kevin Boland, Lead Render Engineer at Slightly Mad Studios about enhancing Project CARS 2 for Xbox One X.
What specifically is your development team doing to enhance Project CARS 2 for Xbox One X?
We’ve worked hard to bring the authenticity and fun of Project CARS 2 to the Xbox One X by focusing on the added power that comes with the Xbox One X. Taking a quick look at some of the more noteworthy enhancements, the first on the list is the one that will probably be the most noticeable―the standard rendering resolution that has been increased from 1920×1080 to an impressive 2560×1440.
The extra power that is now on tap means we could also increase the detail levels of all car and track models, as well as shadow quality and resolutions. Upped significantly, too, is the all-important anti-aliasing quality, as well the environmental map reflection quality and update rate.
We’re also really excited by the increase in the wet track quality and refresh rate. Project CARS 2 is in a space of its own when it comes to dynamic weather, and it just looks fabulous on the Xbox One X.
Key to how we chose to bring these enhancements to Project CARS 2 fans is found in a new in-game option named “Graphical Bias” which allows players to set up their own graphic settings while maintaining optimum FPS (frames per second), thereby allowing them to get what they most want from the game in terms of the balance between graphics and performance.
This Graphical Bias comes with three options. The first is GRAPHICSBIAS_ENHANCEDVISUALS which effectively allows for 1440p (2560×1440) with all shadows, track and vehicles, and rear-view mirror details set to as high as possible. The second option, GRAPHICSBIAS_ENHANCEDRESOLUTION, expands the resolution to 3K (2880×1620) and automatically balances the details to compensate for the big increase in resolution. Both these options may dip into the dynamic scaling a little more than the final and third Graphical Bias option, GRAPHICSBIAS_ENHANCEDFRAMERATE, which is in 1080p with all settings using dynamic scaling to ensure the framerate remains at 60 fps as much as possible.
Project CARS 2 on the Xbox One X demonstrates our commitment, as a studio, to continue to improve how our fans experience our games, and we are excited to keep plugging away to fully maximize the potential of the new GPU power available.
How do these enhancements impact the gaming experience?
Our studio has always understood the crucial relationship between simulation and immersion. Motorsport is about more than pushing the envelope with racing action and fun; ultimately, players want a complete experience, and that means graphically, the game must make you feel emotion. The better visuals that come with the Xbox One X means a better on-track experience, particularly with our LiveTrack 3.0. With all four seasons of dynamic weather, day-to-night transitions, and beautiful tracks and cars, the new power that comes with the Xbox One X really does bring a new dimension to what critics have already judged one of the most gorgeous motorsport games ever released. Getting into your race car at dawn at the scanned Nordschleife with the mist ghosting across the hills, that’s the kind of immersion that brings simulation to life.
Why did your development team choose to focus on these enhancement areas?
Our decision is intimately linked to what we said about the relationship between simulation and immersion. Ultimately, though, it comes down to us as a team giving our players what they want most, and for this, we scan and monitor our forums extensively.
How do you expect fans of Project CARS will respond to seeing on Xbox One X with these enhancements?
We hope they will enjoy the enhancements, obviously, but more than that, we really hope they like the flexibility we have given them. We felt that offering our players the flexibility to decide how to make the best use of the new enhancements fits in perfectly with what is at the heart of Project CARS 2 — the ethos of anytime, anywhere. We are strong believers that our players know best what they want from the experience — what we do is create the easy-to-use options that allow them to explore and achieve their own targets and desires.
How has the process been to get the game up and running on Xbox One X?
Xbox One X is a great bit of hardware. As developers, we’ve really enjoyed the process of getting Project CARS 2 running on Xbox One X, and honestly, the deeper we mine, the more we realize we have only started to scratch at the motherload.
Microsoft has done a great job over the last 18 months to get their SDK and their tools to a point where we, as developers, can get right in and get things running with a minimum of fuss. There has not been one thing that has made the experience of using the XDK better — everything has improved and has become far more stable in the more recent XDKs. Coupled with the extra features the new Scorpio kit provides, it has made working on the Xbox an absolute joy.
In particular, there are two components to the kit that we have really enjoyed working with―the LCD panel at the front, which you can program to render whatever you desire (with the IP address on by default, it’s proven seriously handy when flipping between kits), and the buttons you can predefine for various functions that allow you to individualize your development experience based on what is most important to you.
And, of course, the kit comes with a new USB fast transfer cable that makes the transfer of massive amounts of data to the kits a doddle — this has proved incredibly useful for us. So, all in all, big kudos to Microsoft.
What enhancement were you most excited about to explore leveraging for Project CARS 2 on Xbox One X?
Power and performance are the defining rules of motorsport, but it’s also the meat-and-bones of creating a motorsport racing game. With our Madness Engine, and our SETA tyre model, for instance, we are already pushing the boundaries of what current hardware can cope with. As hardware becomes exponentially more powerful, so can we continue to refine our engine to take advantage of these systems while retaining the core framerate and graphics that have made our franchise such a success. For us as a studio, our excitement comes from being able to create an even more immersive game while not worrying about whether the platforms can cope with the extra load. You can never have enough horsepower — or computing power! Ultimately, the boost in performance for Xbox One X is a big plus for both developers and players. The less we, as developers, have to leave on the table graphically and otherwise to retain 60 fps, the better the experience for our players.