Before Microsoft reveals more details about the retail version of its Project Scorpio console at E3 on Sunday, the company showed off the Scorpio development kit, which it sent out to many first- and third-party developers so they can start to create their games on the new platform. In a video released by the company, Kevin Gamill, the Xbox partner group program manager and a member of the Scorpio engineering team, talked about some of the features included in the Scorpio dev kit.
Internally, the dev kit contains more horsepower than what future Scorpio owners will have with their own copy of the console. It contains four more compute units, an additional 12GB of GDDR5 memory (for a total of 24GB of RAM), and an extra 1TB SSD. Compare that to the specs of the retail version of Scorpio, which has only 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and a 1TB drive. Gammill mentioned that the extra hardware within the dev kit allows developers to improve their development iteration time, which allows them to quickly go through the process of debugging a specific build of the game, transferring it to the dev kit, and then testing it for further errors.
Assisting with the transfer of a build from a PC to the dev kit is a small square device attached via a wire to the back of the console called the Xbox Transfer Device. This raises the transfer speed from a PC to Scorpio to 450Mbps, which Gammill said will bring a game build to the kit in less than four minutes. Previously, the time to transfer data of a build would take 20 minutes. The result is a faster process that gives developers more time to remove bugs and errors from their game's final build.
At the front of the console are five programmable buttons and a small display. Developers can assign their own specific functions for each button to quickly access functions in a specific build of the game. Developers can also manipulate the display to show a multitude of data. In addition to showing the game’s current framerate, Gammill said it’s also used as a monitor to show actual gameplay. He even said that some developers are making their own games specifically for the small screen.
Other features in the dev kit include an additional NIC at the back of the console, which is used to separate “debug traffic” so that developers can monitor network traffic on the main NIC that will come with the retail version of Scorpio. Most of the images in the video showed multiple Scorpio dev kits stacked on top of each other. Gammill said that this was possible because the engineers changed the airflow so that air comes through the rear of the console and out through its sides. In current iterations of the Xbox One and Xbox One S, the heat generated inside the console leaves through the top, which didn’t allow for anything to stay on top of the console.
It’s no coincidence that Microsoft showed this video today. Its “Xbox E3 Briefing” is scheduled for this coming Sunday at 2pm PDT. A year ago, the company revealed Scorpio at the same show, and in that time, it slowly pulled back the curtain on the upcoming console, most notably its specs. Now that we have an idea of what the developers are working with it’s time to see what customers will get to use later this year, and more importantly, the price that fans will have to pay in order to get their own Scorpio console.