It’s been a busy week for Microsoft. After revealing a game subscription program designed to rival PlayStation Now called Xbox Games Pass. The company also confirmed that Xbox One is getting mixed reality headset support and – more immediately enticing – Project Scorpio may very well show its face ahead of E3.
The real kicker right now, however, is that the Creators Update is “coming in a matter of weeks,” as Group Project Manager of Microsoft’s Xbox division Peter Orullian confirmed to us in a hands-on demonstration of the software at the 2017 Game Developers Conference (GDC).
When it launches, PC users will be graced with an optimization-savvy Game Mode while Xbox players are getting achievement tracking and smoother UI performance. That goes without mentioning Beam, a Twitch-combatting broadcasting service which Microsoft calls “interactive.”
There’s a lot of change happening all at once when the Creators Update lands, presumably later on this month, and Orullian gave us the low-down on how it all works and why gamers in particular should be excited for its swiftly approaching release.
Goodbye bloatware, hello Game Mode
As we’ve gone over time and time again, Game Mode is a major facet of the Creators Update on PC. Advertised to potential to improve frame rates across the board by turning off other processes, Game Mode can be quite nifty depending on the circumstance.
As such, Orullian detailed exactly which situations gamers would see the most benefit from Game Mode.
“The way Game Mode works isn’t saying regardless of your PC configuration and whatever game you’re running, we’re going to give you X percent performance benefit,” he said.
“Instead we’re going to look at your system and understand if you’ve got what we’ll call resource contention – like a lot of processes going at the same time – and you can benefit from prioritization and optimization of the system resources to yield performance benefits.”
More specifically, he cited bloatware as an example of these “processes,” explaining that a lot of PCs purchased off-the-shelf ship with resource-heavy software installed by the manufacturer. For gamers unfamiliar with the programs running behind the scenes, this feature could help reduce the strain their respective systems and cut down on the clutter.
Viewing it from a less technical standpoint, the way Game Mode works is fairly straightforward. On the CPU side of things, it manages and optimize the processor cores.
“What Game Mode is going to do is say, ‘Hey, I recognize you’re having resource contention on your PC, so I’m going to be active and try to help you,’” Orullian said. “It will say, ‘Hey, I see you’ve got four CPU cores. I’m going to take a bunch of those system processes that are taking up system resources and I’m going to isolate them on one core, and I’m going to take the rest of the cores and I’m going to dedicate them to the game.’”
The news Microsoft glossed over at GDC was that a gaming section is being added to the classic Windows 10 settings dashboard. Because Game Mode isn’t globally activated by default, users will find within this interface the option to toggle Game Mode on and off.
Orullian did add, however, that there are plans to team up with developers to “auto-enable” Game Mode in specific games at a later date. He mentioned interest in “popular games” such as Overwatch and League of Legends in particular, but of course, any games that are auto-enabled for Game Mode can be “un-enabled” with a simple click of the Windows + G shortcut.
Beam me up, Scotty
Another feature Microsoft is preparing to introduce with the Windows 10 Creators Update is Beam, an “interactive broadcasting platform” exhibiting three main attractions. Firstly, Redmond somehow achieved what it calls sub-second latency.
“Relative to other broadcasting platforms that will have a ten or twenty second delay, for us it’s less than a second,” Orullian noted.
The second feature is the “interactive” part of the interactive broadcasting platform that intends to convert long-time Twitch and YouTube Gaming fans. Unlike other streaming platforms, Beam’s overlay has buttons viewers can press to trigger certain behaviors in whatever game is being played. In Minecraft, for instance, the audience can use this button to deploy enemies into the game they’re watching.
“This level of interactivity is not only what we think is differentiating,” Orullian said. “But we also think it’s this open field in the future that is relatively untapped.”
Finally, the third factor that’s unique to Beam is that it’s accessible directly from the Game Bar. Again, with a simple keystroke of Windows + G, you can click the broadcast button, set your preferences if you so demand and start streaming. That’s different from how game streaming on PC works now, Orullian explains, because it bypasses a cumbersome steps.
“Today on the PC, if you wanted to broadcast, you’d download a third-party software, you’d do whatever configuration is necessary and you’d run it concurrent with your game. There are a lot of gamers out there who maybe don’t want to get through that hurdle or haven’t brought themselves to figure it out yet.”
Play anything, anywhere
The last bit of news Microsoft divulged to us was that Xbox Play Anywhere is “starting to gain traction.” Third-party publishers like Capcom with Resident Evil 7 have begun to board Microsoft’s convergence initiative with Xbox and PC while 10 games support the functionality across the board.
With 16 more Xbox Play Anywhere games on the way, Orullian was optimistic about the program’s future, drawing parallels to the likes of Xbox Live and its early response from developers.
“I was on Xbox when we were shipping games without Live and I remember after we started to get a few, it started to become a real distinguisher and, pretty soon, if you weren’t shipping with Live, you were the exception.”
It’s not clear exactly when the Windows 10 Creators Update is going to be a touchdown, but one thing’s for sure, “the Creators Update is not months [away], you should think of the Creators Update as coming in a matter of weeks.”
When it arrives, Game Mode and Beam are but a fraction of what the Creators Update will offer.