Both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One will bring console gaming to the present this year by allowing users to suspend the games they're playing. Save points can be a thing of the past on these consoles. Games don't really have to be turned "off".
We reported as much about the Xbox One a few months ago. Sony then promised these kind of features for the PS4 during their reveal event in February.
This week's Xbox One event made things even more clear, because Microsoft actually showed this happening. Specifically, they showed how an Xbox One gamer could momentarily stop playing a game to answer a Skype call or switch to live TV. The game seemed to be paused, but there's more to it than that. The game was, most likely, suspended.
The demonstration helped make some of the developer info we'd seen for the console a few months ago much more clear. We thought we'd share it with you, because, really, this seems like a very good way for games to work on a console. Plus, given all the confusion out there about other things related to the next-gen, it's nice to read some hard facts.
Caveat: this Xbox One development info was circulated by Microsoft to its partners at the beginning of this year. It may have changed, but based on what we saw this week, probably not in any major way.
1) Running: The game is loaded in memory and is fully running. The game has full access to the reserved system resources, which are six CPU cores, 90 percent of GPU processing power, and 5 GB of memory. The game is rendering full-screen and the user can interact with it.
2) Constrained: The game is loaded in memory and is still running, but it has limited access to the system resources. The game is not rendering full screen in this state; it either is rendering to a reduced area of the screen or is not visible at all. The user cannot interact with the game in this state. System resource limits in this state are four CPUs, 5 GB of memory, and 45 percent of GPU power if the game is rendering to a reduced area of the screen, or 10 percent of GPU power if the game is not visible.
3) Suspended: The game is loaded in memory but is not running, meaning that the system has stopped scheduling all threads in the game process. The game has no access to CPUs or to the GPU processing power, but it still has the same 5 GB of memory reserved.
4) NotRunning: The game is not loaded in memory and is not running, and the system has no game-history information about the previous execution of the game. A game would be in NotRunning state in any of these three scenarios:
-The game has not been run since the console started.
-The game crashed during the last execution.
-The game did not properly handle the suspend process during the last execution and was forced to exit by the system.
5) Terminated: The game is not loaded in memory and is not running, which is identical to the NotRunning state in terms of system resource usage. Terminated state, however, indicates that during the last execution of the game, the game process was successfully suspended and then terminated by the system. This means that the game had a chance to save its state as it was suspended; the next time the game is activated, it can load this previous state data and continue the user experience from the same position. A game, for example, can start from the same level and position in the player’s last session without showing any front-end menu.
Got all that? Suddenly, saving and pausing games seems so pedestrian, doesn't it?
The next question is: how much happier will I be if/when I play a Dark Souls on a PS4 and Xbox One and can actually suspend my progress in the game and walk away? That's what we're talking about here, right? If so, this is the gaming generation for me and, I'm sure, for many other busy people. [UPDATE: Dark Souls does in fact already have auto-save; but I'm looking for games that let me cleanly suspend, turn off the system, turn it back on and be where I left off, something that appears to be more broadly supported in Xbox One.] Let the tyranny of save points be ended! Ok, ok, except when it makes the game more nerve-racking. Maybe some games can have their equivalent of Animal Crossing's Mr. Resetti, but trained to scold people for suspending the game. Just spitballing...