On Youtube there is a video from Gamescom and Project Spark where you can now also use Kinect to record motions for NPC characters in the games your create.
I would link it here but my job blocks youtube and many other sites.
Just to give the less technically inclined some idea of how big of a deal this could be:
A decent USB Stick (to stand in for the 8GB flash, which is almost certainly much faster than this). Sequential read speeds would be in the 50-100mb/sec+ range.
Hard Drive (WD Green, not the fastest, but prob slightly better performance than whats in the X1) - seq reads about 75mb/sec.
Look at the average random read speeds in the right-most column. This should give you some idea of how terrible hard drives are at random access. A cheap $15 USB flash stick is more than an order of magnitude faster at small random reads. That would hold even for a 10K RPM raptor. HDDs are SO TERRIBLE at random access, that even the fastest ones ever made are smoked by the cheapest USB sticks you can buy.
There's an easy way to make up for it...use some flash in tandem with the HDD. Let's look at a few scenarios with and without a bit of flash:
Loading a level:
Without flash, the HDD is forced to do all the random reads it's terrible at, which also prevents it from doing the long sequential reads that it excels at.
HDD alone - Total throughput ~20-40mb/sec...and that's probably optimistic.
With flash, since a dev would know what level is coming up next, they can preload assets onto the flash that would otherwise force the HDD to randomly read VERY slowly. This frees up the hard drive to do what it does best - sequential reads. Both are now working as efficiently as possible, and since you've got two devices, both can read into memory at the same time.
Flash at ~50MB/sec + HDD at ~75mb/sec = Total throughput ~125mb/sec
It's a night and day difference.
Swapping from one game to another:
Let's assume that a game can store another 2GB of data somewhere in a suspended state, to get it back up and running in case you want to swap.
As one game closes, it begins to write out that 2GB suspend state onto the HDD. In order for this to happen quickly, the HDD needs to do this 100% sequentially until it's done, so it can't do anything else at the same time. Only when it's finished can the new game begin to load. No matter how much memory you have, the HDD can only do one thing at a time effectively. It's going to take some time.
As one game closes, it can start to write the 2GB suspend state directly to flash. At the same time, it's reading in the new game from the HDD. This is a huge speed increase. Better yet, if there are parts of the new game already stored in the flash from a previous session, it can read that in simultaneously as well - unlike a HDD, flash has no problem doing two things at once, and it would again allow the HDD to do the sequential reads it's best at. Everything happens at the same time, as efficiently as possible, and its ridiculously faster than the HDD only scenario.
Obviously the actual numbers are going to change depending on the game, the speed of all the drives, and a multitude of other factors. But in every case, having that flash buffer there is a HUGE benefit.
Just for reference, this is what a good SSD can do:
As you can see, it destroys them with ease on paper. But in my own PC, I have both an SSD, and a HDD that's accelerated by a second SSD (intel smart response). When it comes to real world game load times, there's hardly any difference at all between pure SSD and hybrid, but pure HDD is much, much slower. And a hybrid SSD/HDD is pretty dumb - it only has in cache what's been recently read/written, so the initial load isnt any faster than just HDD. A console dev could manage the cache themselves so it'd have only exactly what it needed ahead of time, and overall performance is maximized from the start.
So yeah, it's a really big deal. It will be unfortunate for X1 owners if the PS4 doesnt have something similar though. There needs to be parity for 3rd party devs to use this correctly, otherwise they'll have to design the games to work with a HDD only scenario. Similar to how the DVD only 360 held back all games, even though every PS3 had a HDD.
Yep. It puts into the cache things that are frequently read (like your boot sequence or parts of a game you play all the time), and things that were recently read/written (like a recent game install). It will even emphasize caching small blocks that are randomly read, so its as efficient as possible. It works really, really well most of the time, I even use one in my PS3. All the magic happens in the drive itself, the PS3 has no idea its a hybrid drive. If that's all they plan to do with this, it's still a huge improvement.
What it won't help with is launching an already installed game that you havent played in a while, or loading the next level...there's no way for the drive to know what files are needed next, only the game does. That's where some intervention from the game dev can make a huge difference. They can preemptively load the assets for the next level into the cache. For something like skyrim where you can go into a town and potentially go into any of five buildings, they can preload all five options ahead of time into the cache...letting the game dev take control can ensure that every single load is accelerated, and at that point, its basically as good as SSD.