When news hit that the Xbox One version of Call of Duty: Ghosts would be running at 720p and upscaled to 1080p, there was more than a tiny blip on the Internet’s “OhShitOMetre”. With the PlayStation 4 happily spitting out native 1080p at 60 frames per second, debate rose as to whether or not this was an indication that the Xbox One was destined to be one step behind Sony’s PlayStation 4.
Website Eurogamer got in touch with Infinity Ward main man Mark Rubin to discuss what exactly caused this discrepancy between the two next-gen versions of Call of Duty: Ghosts. The bottom line, as Rubin points out, is the resource allocation that’s baked into each console. Aiding the issue is the fact that Ghosts is a launch title for new hardware, and up until very recently, Microsoft and Sony have been fiddling with and tweaking their console operating systems, which makes building launch titles very difficult for developers.
“…honestly, the hardest thing to deal with is not the architecture. It’s the OS (operating system) of the systems. That’s the thing that comes on the latest. The Xbox One’s OS on their box versus the Sony OS, becomes the hardest. All the SDKs and stuff you have to work with – that’s the stuff that changes, not the hardware itself.”
Obviously, this creates a problem for Infinity Ward’s software engineers as they constantly have to rewrite pieces of the game engine to fit with Microsoft’s or Sony’s shifting memory and CPU thread resource allocations the closer it gets to launch day. This shifting resource allocation in the Xbox One OS is, “in a way”, responsible for the lower resolution in Ghosts.
“I don’t know if I can point to one particular cause. Early on, we didn’t know where exactly the resolution of anything would fall because we didn’t have hardware or the software to support it. We tried to focus in on 1080p, and if we felt like we were on borderline of performance somewhere… We tried to make the best decision for each platform that gives you the best-looking game we could get and maintains that 60 frames a second.”
Call of Duty: Ghosts runs at 1080p on the Xbox One; Rubin confirmed that they had little issues getting that done internally. However, in 1080p the development team experienced inconsistent frame rates, and 60fps is a Call of Duty franchise staple. As a result, they decided to lower the native resolution and upscale to 1080p in order to maintain a constant 60fps on Xbox One.
In the future, Rubin is adamant that this won’t be an issue for Xbox One. It sounds as if launch title constraints mixed with shifting resource allocations for the Xbox One OS caused unfortunate headaches for Infinity Ward.
“And it wasn’t a lack of effort. It wasn’t that it was like last minute. We had the theoretical hardware for a long time. That’s the thing you get pretty quickly and that doesn’t change dramatically. It was more about resource allocation. The resource allocation is different on the consoles. That huge web of tangled resources, whether it’s threads-based or if it’s GPU threads or if it’s memory – whatever it is – optimisation is something that could go theoretically on forever.”