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 343 Industries’ Greg Stone, Senior Producer on the pulse-pounding real-time strategy game Halo Wars 2.
What specifically is your development team doing to enhance Halo Wars 2 for Xbox One X?
For Halo Wars 2, we’re taking the increased power of the Xbox One X to punch up the resolution to 4K, and will also support HDR. We’re really proud of the visual effects we have in the game and with 4K support and HDR, all of the artillery fire, plasma shots, particle beams, fire and ice effects all occurring on a massive scale in each battle will really “pop.”
How do these enhancements impact the gaming experience?
For a real-time strategy game, having support for 4K resolution is not just a visual improvement but a strategic one. This is because RTS players have to constantly make strategies and adjustments on the fly based on the units that they see. With 4K, you get so much more visual feedback that can actually help you improve as a player – you’ll be able to more easily discern an army composition at a glance with the increased visual fidelity, which is critical for coming up with counter strategies, recognizing key threats and more.
Also, even if you don’t have a 4K TV, thanks to Xbox One X the game will still run better, load faster and benefit from supersampled antialiasing when running at 1080p.
Why did your development team choose to focus on these enhancement areas?
Performance is always key in RTS games. For Halo Wars 2, we support up to six players with massive armies built up of infantry, vehicles, airships, Leader Powers and more, each with their own unique animations and sounds. On Xbox One X, we wanted to bring 4K support while also making sure all of this on-screen action remains at a steady pace. All of this combined – increased visual fidelity with 4K resolution and HDR support – really help the Halo Wars 2 experience feel more immersive. The increased speed of loading times also means that players can get into the action more quickly.
How do you expect fans of Halo Wars 2 will respond to seeing/playing it on Xbox One X with these enhancements?
We hope fans are just as excited for Halo Wars 2 on Xbox One as we are! Halo Wars 2 was packed with visual detail on Xbox One, and we think that on Xbox One X fans will really start to notice some of the finer details that may have been harder to see in the heat of battle – the subtle harmonics of a particle beam from a Locust, the smoke from a Scorpion’s canister impact, the depth of the Methane gas that envelops a field from Yapyap’s Leader Power and more.
How has the process been to get the game up and running on Xbox One X?
We have really enjoyed working with the Xbox One X development kits. The Xbox team continues to listen to the developers and built what we believe is the world’s best developer environment.
The inclusion of extra memory allows us to continue to test the game in the development environment without having to fully optimize the game to get it running. Thanks to this feature, we were able to get the game up and running on the Xbox One X the same day we received our development kits.
The ability to simulate the Xbox One and Xbox One S development environments through the Xbox One X development kit reduces the overhead of having to own all the Xbox development kits, and decreases the time it takes to test on all devices.
Finally, the inclusion of a programmable screen on the development kits was such a positive addition. We are able to see valuable information like current development environment and console ID right on the screen.
What enhancement were you most excited about to explore leveraging for Halo Wars 2 on Xbox One X?
The team was eager to use the additional power of the Xbox One X to push Halo Wars 2’s graphics to 4K. Halo Wars 2 is a graphically intensive game – we simultaneously show hundreds of units and effects on screen in massive battles. Seeing these encounters unfold in full 4K with HDR effects firing from the legions of troops and units is really impressive and truly helps sell the scale of our battles and it’s something our Halo Wars 2 fans need to experience for themselves.
What does 4K and HDR mean for your game, games in the future and development at your studio?
4k and HDR are technologies that we’re really excited about for the overall fidelity of our games. While we’re going to continue to make our games look the best we can on every Xbox, on systems that support these new features, we can elevate our imagery and add not just detail and granular fidelity, but also make scenes more immersive, objects more realistic (and fantastical) and use those pixels and pigments to draw players further into our worlds and experiences with a holistic approach to making the most of every platform’s power. And, of course, the inclusion of Dolby Atmos in the Xbox One X will enable our future games to take full advantage of vertical surround audio, for immersion and gameplay information that goes beyond aesthetics.
Thanks to Greg for taking the time to chat with us about Xbox One X Enhanced. We’ll be bringing you more interviews with more developers in the future, so stay tuned to Xbox Wire!