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Inside the PlayStation 4 With Mark Cerny

April 24, 2013 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next
 

This article is being highlighted as one of Gamasutra's top stories of 2013.

The PlayStation 4 is due out this fall, and its technical specifications have been largely under wraps -- till now. While the company gave a presentation at GDC, the system's lead architect, Mark Cerny, hasn't talked publicly in any great depth about the platform since its unveiling this February.

Cerny approached Gamasutra in the hope of delivering a "no holds barred PlayStation 4 hardware expose," he said, during the interview that resulted in this story. "That certainly is what we're here to do," said Cerny, before speaking to Gamasutra for well over an hour.

What follows is a total breakdown of the hardware from a developer's perspective: the chips on the board, and what they're capable of.

Questions on the UI and OS were off the table. What was up for discussion is what the system is capable of, and the thinking that lead Cerny and his team to make the decisions they made about the components they chose and how they function together.

To get to the heart of this deeply technical discussion, Gamasutra was assisted by someone with an intimate knowledge of how console hardware really works: Mark DeLoura, THQ's former VP of tech and now senior adviser for digital media at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Beginnings

"For me, this all started in late 2007," said Cerny, remembering how he embarked on the road to becoming lead architect of the PlayStation 4. "Because we'd been doing postmortems on the PlayStation 3 -- a very broad group of people across the Sony Computer Entertainment team were evaluating how well that had gone."

That lead, naturally, to thoughts about what to do next. Musing on the architecture of Sony's next system, Cerny spent his Thanksgiving holiday reading up on the history of the X86 architecture -- realizing that not only had it evolved dramatically over the years, but that by the time the PlayStation 4 shipped, it would be powerful enough for Sony's needs.

It had evolved into something "that looked broadly usable by even the sort of extreme programmers we find in the games business," he said.

Realizing how passionate he was about the PlayStation 4 project, after Thanksgiving, Cerny went to Sony's then-execs Phil Harrison and Masa Chatani, "and asked if I could lead the next generation effort. And to my great surprise, they said yes."

"The Biggest Thing" About the PlayStation 4

Cerny approached the design of the PlayStation 4 with one important mandate above all else: "The biggest thing is we didn't want the hardware to be a puzzle that programmers would be needing to solve in order to make quality titles."

The PlayStation 3 was very powerful, but its unfamiliar CELL processor stymied developers. "There was huge performance there, but in order to unlock that performance, you really needed to study it and learn unique ways of using the hardware," said Cerny.

That situation led directly to the PS4's design philosophy: "The hope with PlayStation 4 was to have a powerful architecture, but also an architecture that would be a very familiar architecture in many ways."

In fact, this is something Cerny returned to again and again during the conversation. "We want to make sure that the hardware is easy to use. And so having the familiar CPU and the familiar GPU definitely makes it easier to use," he said.

Later, when asked about whether Sony considers the fact that many third party developers will also have to create versions of their games for the next Xbox, his response was, "when I say that our goal is not to create puzzles that the developers have to solve, that is how we do well in a multi-platform world."

But ease-of-use is far from Cerny's only goal. As a 31-year veteran of the industry, he well knows that the PC will march onward even as the PlayStation 4 stays frozen in time.

"Ultimately, we are trying to strike a balance between features which you can use day one, and features which will allow the system to evolve over the years, as gaming itself evolves," said Cerny. The "supercharged PC architecture," that the team has come up with -- to use Cerny's term -- is designed to offer significant gains the PC can't, while still offering a familiar technological environment for engineers.

To design the PlayStation 4, Cerny didn't just rely on research, or postmortems of the PlayStation 3. He also toured development teams and spoke to middleware partners to find out precisely what they wanted to see in a next generation console. The result? You'll read about it below.

What Does 'Supercharged' Mean, Anyway?

The PlayStation 4's architecture looks very familiar, at first blush -- and it is. But Cerny maintains that his team's work on it extends it far beyond its basic capabilities.

For example, this is his take on its GPU: "It's ATI Radeon. Getting into specific numbers probably doesn't help clarify the situation much, except we took their most current technology, and performed a large number of modifications to it."

To understand the PS4, you have to take what you know about Cerny's vision for it (easy to use, but powerful in the long term) and marry that to what the company has chosen for its architecture (familiar, but cleverly modified.) That's what he means by "supercharged."

"The 'supercharged' part, a lot of that comes from the use of the single unified pool of high-speed memory," said Cerny. The PS4 packs 8GB of GDDR5 RAM that's easily and fully addressable by both the CPU and GPU.

If you look at a PC, said Cerny, "if it had 8 gigabytes of memory on it, the CPU or GPU could only share about 1 percent of that memory on any given frame. That's simply a limit imposed by the speed of the PCIe. So, yes, there is substantial benefit to having a unified architecture on PS4, and it’s a very straightforward benefit that you get even on your first day of coding with the system. The growth in the system in later years will come more from having the enhanced PC GPU. And I guess that conversation gets into everything we did to enhance it."

The CPU and GPU are on a "very large single custom chip" created by AMD for Sony. "The eight Jaguar cores, the GPU and a large number of other units are all on the same die," said Cerny. The memory is not on the chip, however. Via a 256-bit bus, it communicates with the shared pool of ram at 176 GB per second.

"One thing we could have done is drop it down to 128-bit bus, which would drop the bandwidth to 88 gigabytes per second, and then have eDRAM on chip to bring the performance back up again," said Cerny. While that solution initially looked appealing to the team due to its ease of manufacturability, it was abandoned thanks to the complexity it would add for developers. "We did not want to create some kind of puzzle that the development community would have to solve in order to create their games. And so we stayed true to the philosophy of unified memory."

In fact, said Cerny, when he toured development studios asking what they wanted from the PlayStation 4, the "largest piece of feedback that we got is they wanted unified memory."

"I think you can appreciate how large our commitment to having a developer friendly architecture is in light of the fact that we could have made hardware with as much as a terabyte [Editor's note: 1000 gigabytes] of bandwidth to a small internal RAM, and still did not adopt that strategy," said Cerny. "I think that really shows our thinking the most clearly of anything."


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Comments


Sunny Ren
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Spoken like a true system architect ! Ps4 is a game changer it is going to be spectacular

Mark Verrey
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I think calling it a game changer is a bit of an exaggeration. The things he describes are very nice, but engine code is a relatively small piece of the entire game development picture. For developers already in the Sony ecosystem, the ease of development should be greatly improved, and hopefully this should result in more polished, more stable games.

However, there's an indie game revolution going on, and those games tend not to push the limits of the hardware so much as the licensing model. Sony seems to be playing their cards right on this as well, but it remains to be seen where the tiny developers end up, whether it be PC, Steambox, Ouya, PS4 or Xbox.

Installed user base will be a huge factor in deciding where the indies end up, and most of that will come down to price and the strength of their launch library. The things described in this article won't get a chance to play out unless the PS4 does well through the first couple of years.

Ronn Coleman
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He's talking about the PS4 architecture, you're talking about business models...in any case, five or so years from now indies are going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place thanks to oversaturating the market.

Chris Nash
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Well, it *is* a game changer. Much like Cell powered Little Big Planet, this very tight and forward-thinking architecture will enable Minecraft-type games but with breathtaking visuals, massive dynamism in physics, powerful control of the world yet with super-simple and intelligent controls.

TC Weidner
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sounds nice, but it still is all gonna come down to price.

Michael Pianta
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Agreed. I won't go over $400 myself, and even at that price they better have some killer apps.

Ben Lewis
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Dario: I don't think they've announced whether the camera will come bundled with every PS4, so there may be a SKU with just the console. We'll probably know more at E3.

Mark Verrey
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Since the bulk of the price of the PS3 came from the brand new Blu-Ray drive, I don't really imagine a repeat of that fiasco. I guess it depends on how much 8GB of DDR5 costs.

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Chris Rossby
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Whatever they do the standard SKU should include all the essencial peripherals. There is a very good reason for that.

PS move and EYE may look silly at times now, but it sure is more responsive and reliable than it's competitors by miles. IF you don't include one of the cardinal pieces, such as the EYE camera, they will have to be sold with games.

Less of these games are sold and and the publishers don't have a lot of incentive.

This is a big problem because, gaming will always stay the same way in terms of interactivity. I for one DO NOT want that.

But, I agree SONY does have to be reasonable and then some.

Eric Pobirs
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@Mark Verrey

That is simply untrue. The Blu-ray drive mechanism was expensive at the time compared to a DVD-ROM unit but it was well established production line with low defect levels.

The bulk of the PS3's cost at launch was the silicon. Yields on the CELL were horrible, which is why the original multiple CELLs doing everything design was scrapped and a dedicated GPU was added late in the process. This wasn't the first time Sony had very expensive silicon at launch. The PS2 was intended to launch with the EE and GS produced .18 micron. The existing .25 micron chips were only for engineering samples and early developer kits. But Sony couldn't get a .18 micron production line going in time. (Intel was only starting to ship .18 micron parts at the time.) So the PS3 launch in Japan used BIG .25 micron chips that made those units very expensive for Sony. But not more expensive than it would have been to delay launching for several months and give Sega time to draw more consumers to the Dreamcast.

Blu-ray drives cost a lot less now but by far the biggest cost reduction for Sony on the PS3 is shrinking and integrating the chip set. This meant better yields, lower cost per unit aside from yield levels, and subsequently lesser power and cooling needs, which in turn allowed for more cost reduction in the later models.

Jake Skinner
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Sony previously said they learned from their PS3 launch and announced that the PS4 price point will be around $400. AMD chips are cheap right now, so that's certainly a reality.

I'm personally interested in how different their chip architecture will be from the new xbox, and whether the technical bells and whistles of the PS4 will attract developers to make exclusive titles for Sony.

Ben Lewis
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Do you have a link to the $400 announcement? Sounds like big news that would've been reported on by now. I certainly hope it's true!

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Chris Rossby
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From what we know so far, [With absolutely NO factual basis at all]

XBOX may go with 32MB embedded eDRAM within the APU to compensate future shader bottlenecks, when it comes to graphic commands. The APU will use 8GB or more DDR3 SDRAM. PS4 also has 18 CUs where as XBOX NG is supposed to have only 12CUs. cost of the APUs may be pretty much the same.

Benefits in this approach would be two-fold.

1. Memory is abundant and cheap, box will cost considerably less

2. Windows kernels are already designed to use DDR3 addressing system.

Leaving Microsoft to make up for it by means of their strong software features and truly next gen Kinect.

As a consumer I couldn't be happier.

Rajiv Ashrafi
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That was a very enlightening read. I was worried that PC would overtake PS4 (and the next Xbox) soon, but it seems Sony has taken a very different take on processing power and computing.

The hardware sounds great and powerful. It's up to the developers to exploit that potential. Unfortunately, the popularity of the console will come down to price. The PS4 will be extremely popular if it's competitively priced and not overpriced like the PS3 was at launch.

[User Banned]
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Dave Long
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@ Dan - I personally prefer my gaming on console (and the PS4 sounds excellent), but there are a relatively (compared with the console install base) small hard core of PC users that aren't going anywhere soon.

TC Weidner
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Dan is that snark? People have been saying this for 20 years.

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John Flush
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Once I got a corded X360 controller for the PC I saw no reason to touch my consoles anymore, other than exclusives, or the newest game that wouldn't run on my PC.

Also the Windows 8 numbers are just that, Windows 8. You don't need a new desktop or OS to do PC gaming. I think a lot of people are looking too much into this. There is probably more correlation in that people don't "need" a computer every 3 years as to why the numbers are really low with every other version of Windows...

TC Weidner
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@Dan in the early 90s there were all types of new and exciting gaming options coming out. SNES, Genesis, TurboGraphx, to mention but a few, and yes people called pc and pc gaming dead back then as well. I was in this industry back then.
People have been wrong for 20 years, and continue to be about the PC. With a 1 to 2 billion person installed user base, PC 's and pc gaming isnt going anywhere anytime soon.

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Chris Melby
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@Dan,

The PC( Personal Computer ) is not going anywhere, and I'll be quite happy to say I've told you so down the line.

The PC may not exist in the same form we use today -- which is a given, my Mac as an example is way differen than the TI99 I had in the eighties, or anything I worked on in the nineties -- but even if it's a tablet I have plugged into an external monitor and keyboard/mouse( Whatever input, I use a Wacom. ) down the line, it's still a PC.

There's plenty of room for mobile devices and PCs to exist. Both platforms compliment one another at the momemnt and even if and when a convergence happens, it's only because other devices have become more like PCs.

If a day comes where the PC does go away, and you're right, it won't be because we've replaced them, it will be because the "P" in PC has been eliminated. That will be a sad day when people no longer own their device( computer ), let alone their information, as they're tied into and completely reliant on some CLOUD service with a monthly subscription; only a fool would welcome this.

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Chris Melby
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@Dan,

Yes, when you account for less variables and live only in the now, things can be simpler and clearer.

And laptops are part of the wave of the future? Here's some semantics, this isn't the eighties, notebooks have been the now for a long time -- at least from my perspective; and even though there's crossovers, notebooks are more closely related to a desktop PC, than a tablet/smartphone; in my case, they are my primary desktop comp.

Your thinking isn't remotely new, it's only more relevant, since the technology is finally reaching a point that PCs can exist in more forms and fill in more niches, but they're still PCs. Unless whatever is trendy can truly live up to the task required, it will not replace; and mobile OSs are by no means a replacement as of yet; and locked down OSs will never be a replacement.

Anyways, good luck predicting the future with your tEh DOOM outlook on desktop PCs. Maybe generalization is they key?

[User Banned]
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Benjamin Quintero
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If PC goes away then I guess we will all be modeling and coding and writing design docs on touch screens... Sounds productive... I may go back to pen and paper.

Eyal Teler
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I love these "platform of the future" arguments, so I'll chip in.

If anything is going to be threatened by mobile devices it's consoles. A few years from now people will think: "sure these consoles can do some nifty stuff, but why should I pay extra for that when my phone can already hook to the TV and let me play full HD 3D games?"

I think that for now PC is relatively safe thanks to being the content creation platform. Once that changes, PC users will need to worry. (The PC will possibly move to hardware more like the PS4 though.)

William Barnes
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@Dan,

Windows 8 numbers are Windows 8 numbers. Windows Vista sucked in the eyes of many when it came out (so did its sales), and when Windows 7 rolled around, sales bounced back. Windows 8 sucks in the eyes of many people today (WHO wants to cripple the desktop with touchscreen controls that can't be used except at a very premium price? Who wants to use Metro on their desktop? Who wants another potential walled garden? Who wants to have to replace most of their expensive software libraries?), and in fact offers severe incompatibilities with some older software, especially development software. Windows 8 numbers reflect that the marketplace doesn't buy Windows 8 as a good platform and they're sticking with 7, and even XP in some cases.

Thomas Happ
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I like it. I can't wait to hear what kind of indie support this thing is gonna have.

Joel Bennett
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Same. Here's to hoping that they can do their own take on XNA - something C# based, with a nice clean API. I know, I can dream, right?

Kale Menges
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I feel rather optimistic about the PS4 hardware, but ultimately it will come down to developers being able to deliver experiences that really distinguish the next gen from the current gen games.

Tyler Shogren
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Can I install linux and call it a steambox? Cause at close to the same price (presumably) an actual computer is about 100x more valuable to me than a console.

Alan Rimkeit
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No and no. If you want a PC then go get one.

Jimmy Albright
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For the price of a steambox (presumably) I can build my own PC, dual-boot and not have to deal with steam.

Different strokes for different folks, but for me consoles provide an experience that my PC doesn't quite live up to at times.

Dave Long
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The only rumoured Steambox so far is the Xi3 piston, at (an estimated) double the price - I'm not sure how you'd get the kind of performance that we're likely to see from PS4 from a $500 machine.

Alan Rimkeit
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The fact that the main system architect actually used the hardware to make a game with it impresses me so much. He knows it all from the inside out.

Keith Thomson
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It doesn't surprise me at all though. Cerny's been working on some of my favorite games for decades. When he came out on stage in the reveal and said he was the system architect, it turned it into a must buy system for me.

Jonnathan Hilliard
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Hopefully a nice open indy program, with affordable Unity3D PS4 pricing would be awesome too.

Duvelle Jones
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Not quite, I have yet to hear the PS4 tools include Unity. It will work with the system, and it will likely not be that difficult but that is about as far as it is.
From what Sony has announced, the Unreal engine will be bundled with the toolkit.

scott anderson
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@Duvelle: From what Sony has announced, the Unreal engine will be bundled with the toolkit.

What's your source on that? Epic announced they were supporting it and showed the Elemental demo, but I haven't seen any announcements about Unreal being bundled with the SDK.

Marius Holstad
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I hope PS4 will change the development games have had since the previous console release.
Got tired of my PS3 "movie" colection, I'd like to see some better games for a change.

Joel Bennett
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Well, 'be the change you want to see'... :P

Matt Hargett
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A couple of details I'd like filled in:
1) What are kind/spec of chip is being used for the dedicated download (and other peripheral) CPUs? PowerPC? ARM? Is this how some bits of cross-platform/backward-compatibility will be addressed?

2) Lots of use of the word async makes me ask: Will we be getting a toolchain and library set that is C++11 native? lambdas, atomic, copy elision, etc are all things that high-performance highly-concurrent state machines and simulations will need to maximize the hardware.

3) will OpenMP be supported by the toolchain for the same reasons? A GCC 4.8-based toolchain would be awesome, but I would settle for a 4.7-based one with enhancements from Google's branches. We see ~20% better raw performance from Google's 4.7 branch versus the FSF 4.7.

4) Will mono be a first-class citizen with full C# 5.0 async/concurrency suport? Again, a necessity for allowing developers to use language-native constructs for distributing work to the CPU/GPU transparently without crazy macros that can collide and whatnot. Note that I mean mono in-general, not specifically PSM or Unity.

5) The GPU can only access the main memory at 20GB/sec? out of a total of 176GB/sec bandwidth? Why?

Mike Griffin
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As for 1) The 'download assist chip' is a little ARM.
And 5) It seems that's the second bus on the GPU for smaller read/write system memory data transfers that bypass the GPU's L1/L2 to circumvent any synchronization issues. In all the documentation so far, the GPU's main bus memory transfer is listed at the 176GB/sec rate, but there's a degree of graphics/compute sharing to juggle.

Matt Hargett
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@Mike, a "little ARM"? do you have a URL to docs? Is it similar to the individual cores in the Vita, pointing to potential cross-platform execution capabilities?

I'm surprised they didn't use a scaled down PowerPC somewhere in there. Certainly SPU code can be dynamically recompiled on the fly for GPU/CPU, but PowerPC might be more difficult. Then again, if Microsoft was able to do dynamic recompilation+static patches for Xbox1->360 compatibility, I guess it's entirely possible.

Bertrand Augereau
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I don't see how lambdas or copy elisions are necessary for concurrency. Standardized atomics are nice but not necessary either.

Eric Pobirs
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Sony doesn't appear to care at all about backwards compatibility in the PS4. They've already demonstrated they strongly favor remakes over BC, with items like the Jak & Daxter and other HD remake collections. The PS3 won't be going away for several more years and Sony will point people at that for playing PS3 games.

Down the road, probably the simplest way to do an improved remake of a PS3 game that was multi-platform, would be to port from the PC version and see how much the visuals can be improved over the PS3 version without substantial investment. Actually, we might be seeing ports of a lot of PC games that never appeared on any Sony console. It could be Sony's own version of GoG.

With the above in mind, it doesn't really matter what architecture the assist chip uses. It will likely be completely reserved for the system and not accessible by app and game developers.

Dave Long
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All of the above sounds excellent - that Cerny lad really knows what he's on about it (no surprise, given his huge amount of experience), is genuinely passionate about it, and is working hard to deliver a great vision. How devs use it is up for the devs (@ Marius - very odd comment there, sounds like you're unaware of the vast majority of the PS3's game library!) which will, in turn, reflect market demand (to a degree), but the openness to indies, the willingness by Sony to lead with something like Knack (ie, not a military shooter) and the looks of things like Watch Dogs make it sound very appealing.

Johnathon Swift
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Sounds great, though really I wouldn't be surprised at a big compute power bottleneck down the road. 8 gigs was chosen off the ratio of computer power to ram needed for this generation. But minimizing ram and streaming assets has gotten really good, and will only get better, and at some point there's only so many models and textures and render targets you need to store in RAM before you run out of compute and can't do anything more with it.

If the high end titles, making the most use of the hardware anyway, all use virtualized textures, that's at max a 16k buffer maybe, maybe two if you really want to get into complex materials. If a good, cheap crack free tesselation scheme can be found, you can get models down too almost a tenth the size they are now with displacement maps. Suddenly in 2015 you have a ton of ram and you don't have anything to fill it with, because you can't compute that much that fast. I can foresee the new PS and Xbox needing their own set of hacks, caching everything possible, trying to make use of those 8 gigs, kind of the opposite of this last generations struggle to get every mb to count.

At least, I can see that as a possibility.

Karl E
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Shhh! Don't mention those fancy new techniques. They require too much thinking. The point of new consoles is to make games look better without any new complicated stuff to learn. Keep things just as before, same old trusted displacement mapping, just feed it 16x the memory, fingers crossed.

Chris Nash
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Everything is heading toward procedural compute, for textures and vertex synthesis. Which reduces memory overhead significantly.

Matt Hargett
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Being able to cache more things in memory and make load/stream delays non-existent is one way to use the RAM, obviously. Various geometry/model compression tricks are cool, but most games still do smoke screen+model replacement for destruction and particles instead of real mutable models. Once people develop these new models that can be destroyed without a distract+replace, the models will be more complex and that will also use more RAM.

(Of course, the Killzone demo we saw at the launch event did some distract+replace... not sure why, though.)

Benjamin Quintero
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Not everyone will be virtualizing and you can never have enough compute. Even if you have a low gpu profile with cheap virtualized textures you need lots of compute to decode and encode that texture. Then you can use the rest for particles, physics, AI, sound filters, buffer effects, run-time voxelation for indirect light computation. The list goes on. Trust me you can have 3 of these gpu and not render at all and still need more if you really want to push the limits of a game design.

Eric Pobirs
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I'd far rather the developers have a hardware resource they rarely find reason to fully utilize than for them to constantly struggle to get things done with a resource of inadequate capacity.

Ron Dippold
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Boy, what a change from the disastrous PS3 launch. Okay, it hasn't launched yet, but the devs I've talked to are happy, without going into NDA-violating specifics, and that sure sounds like a nice architecture for doing whatever you want to do.

In another interview, Cerny gives the credit to Kaz Hirai for recognizing that Kutaragi's EE method of 'Okay, here's some hardware we designed in a windowless tower, now you software guys do whatever you do' wasn't going to be workable any more and going developer friendly for PS4 very early on.

Nick Harris
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At least DS4 rumbles.

Lewis Pulsipher
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I've always thought of Microsoft and Sony consoles as computer wannabes, and this account reinforces it. I hope the different architecture provides some improvement for a while over PCs. The RAM size certainly isn't impressive.

No, PC gamers won't be impressed.

Alan Rimkeit
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We console gamers do not care if PC gamers are impressed. That is the whole point of console gaming. They are not PC's. Hardware matters not.

Mac's used to Motorola processor's. Yet now they use Intel procs. Are they less of a Macintosh because of the hardware change? Of course not. They still use OSX and all the other services that Apple provides.

That is what matters in the end. The OS, the programs/games, and the services that Sony and Microsoft provide for the gamers.

Mike Griffin
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The RAM -size- is perhaps less impressive than the RAM -type-.

How many PC gamers do you know with hardware that can selectively dedicate 4-6 GB of GDDR5 solely to the GPU's needs? All those PC gamers with $1000 graphics cards in 4GB DDR5 flavors? Plus add-in PCIe DDR5 RAM modules costing $400? And with those luxury cards you still won't get close to the effective PS4 memory bandwidth with PCIe bottlenecks.

While your PC tower features gigantic power-hogging add-in cards in all of its PCIe slots.

The RAM is quite impressive on the PS4. At least you can capitalize on it in every sense for a game, unlike the bloated system overhead on PC -- not to mention the fact that few PC games are even optimized for 4GB video cards at this time.

That lovely unified memory and processor architecture should give the PS4 some solid future-proofing.

Maybe the raw spec numbers of PS4 get overshadowed (already has) by higher end PC gaming hardware, but does the PC provide as efficient/elegant of an architecture yet, for games? Not yet.

Christian Nutt
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I think PC gamers are the least of their concerns. Their concerns are: longtime performance value for DEVELOPERS, and longtime great looking games for CONSOLE GAMERS.

Bob Charone
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you can't future proof a system that will be made with the same specs 5-10 years from now in terms of hardware. if PS4 architecture proves to be very capable can't AMD creates a whole unified computer (including motherboard) using what they've learned?

Mike Griffin
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I'm sure we'll see the same architecture migrating to PC very soon, especially considering AMD's razor focus on GCN and unified ALU designs.

Even when AMD goes all in with a consolidated, unified board/chipset in the near future, I wonder if the PC parts industry will be ready to keep up with third-party motherboard variants, or third-party RAM (and would the board feature both DDR3 and DDR5 slots, or would DDR5 still be relegated to the realm of add-ins, and does PCIe bus speed dramatically improve?).

But sure, it's altogether possible that by 2015 or so this form of unified architecture could be widespread in mainstream computers, as we shrink down component sizes, get more efficient, consolidated, leaner and greener across our computing devices.

Eric Pobirs
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Wannabes? They're computers, plain and simple. They just happen to be specialized systems focused on specific types of applications.

Do you accuse the systems in a new car of being 'computer wannabes' because they're specialized and would not lend themselves to most common PC uses?

Sven Volter
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People seem to forget that this unified memory strategy already exist even on the PC side.
All CPU:s today has GPU built in and AMD's Fusion platform is many way built for the same purpose as described in the article to use the GPU to perform alot of tasks instead of the CPU like physics calculations etc.

The PC have 1 big GPU for graphics. And a smaller GPU built in the CPU with shared memory.
Of course it is not exactly the same as PS4 and a bit more complexed. But the end result would probably be the same for the gamer.

Alan Rimkeit
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Yes, that may be true, but how many consumers are going to buy these new systems? How many people will get a PS4? More than will upgrade their PC's I would imagine.

Chris Rossby
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Closed hardware environments will still have the upper hand for some time. As you can see on the second page of the article.

They added a second BUS from GPU to sytem memory and a bunch of dedicated hardware units to real benefit.

Let's not forget the main disadvantage of such PCs. Windows OS kernels are the same for every PC. It doesn't at all take into account if the SYSTEM can do this (HSA computing).

But in the future AMD may take things further and get this tech to PC, in which case AMD and SONY still benefits enormously.

Eric Pobirs
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Not remotely the same. AMD's main line of CPUs do not have IGA on board. Nor do the existing APU products have access to the same memory pool as the CPU. The BIOS carves off a piece of RAM at boot and that becomes the dedicated RAM for the GPUs operations. The CPU can write to it to feed the GPU.

What AMD is doing with the upcoming systems is creating a true unified pool of memory in which both CPU and GPU not only have access tot he entirety of RAM but also use the same addressing scheme to reference a location. This is a big, big change over how things work now and makes using the GPU far simpler.

Cristian Monterroza
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What BOOKS did he read on the history of x86? I would like to buy them. In case anyone knows of any good ones, please share.

nicholas ralabate
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Check out the first few chapters of "The Unabridged Pentium 4: IA32 Processor Genealogy" by Tom Shanley.

Glenn Sturgeon
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So maybe in the middle of next gen i wont have a pc which only cost about 20% more than a console at launch which shows this current gen up in proformance. With the great advantage of not having to shell out the full price for the system all at once or being stuck with paying top dollar for every title and its easily serviceable at home.

With all that said I really hope next gen is better than the current one has been. This gen was very pricey, unreliable (durability wise) and lacking in moderate priced software.

Eric Pobirs
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Really? Both my PS3 and Xbox 360 have worked perfectly from day one. Both are second generation models because I decided it was worth waiting for the engineering refinement, lower cost, and mature library. I still had tons of material from the preceding generation to hold me over. (Heck, I still have games from the PS1 era I haven't given proper attention yet.)

I have well over a hundred games on each machine. Nearly all were bought new and my average cost was between $10 and $20. Everything turns up cheap if you're patient and pay attention to the deals when they pop up.

I enjoy building PCs, especially if some whizzy new stuff is involved. But I also enjoy being able to just press a button and have the thing work every time when it comes to games. It's enjoyable to read the review of the latest GPU but when it comes time to play I'm perfectly happy to use old hardware if everything just works without a hassle.

Chris Melby
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Cool, and no doubt another big step up for consoles, but the proof will be in the pudding. Sony's consoles have never lived up to their initial performance/technical hype... But on the other hand, they have plenty of hindsight now with 3 consoles under their belt, so that's only in their favor.

Ryan Christensen
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Glad he was able to get this message through and that the lead on the PS4 understands the multiplatform world we live in. Great that they are taking some of the hardware puzzles out. I always felt like the software was incomplete to use all that power, relying on each game studio to reimplement that and essentially waste game focused development time over core tech that could have been more unified and on Sony. PS4 just might be a hit with this philosophy.

wes bogdan
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I thought there were going to be 2 ps4 skus 1 @ 425ish and the other @ 525ish perhaps it's nothing more than with and withlut a plus contract. If ms can do it why not Sony...I'm not sure if gankai will be folded into plus but that would keep things from fragmenting.

Basic,no plus but gankai or gankai,no plus basic...basic would continue free online where plus and gankai get dedicated servers.

Basic would blend all online on non dedicated servers so kz and cod share servers.

No need for the cattle prod of xbl in addition to your isp when free,discounted and streaming games over dedicated servers is enough of a carrot to get people to subscribe...imho

Benjamin Quintero
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So excited that next gen is finally almost here. about time. My body is ready.

Christian Philippe Guay
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Despite the fact that I really appreciate what Cerny did with the PS4, I'm seriously wondering if the releases of both PS4 and Xbox One aren't a little bit too premature as both consoles were made when we were at the bottom and beginning of a curve, a technological leap, and now PCs are so far ahead in terms of power that they sort of make consoles irrelevant.

Right now, that difference isn't too bad, but in 2-5 years from now it could well become a big problem as we know how long this new cycle is supposed to be. Especially when I look at the powerful tools we, game developers, have right now such as Zbrush, Substance Designer, etc. Game developers (including indies) can now easily produce 3D models at an insanely high level of quality and definition in a considerably short amount of time.

And also considering how PC gaming is changing, becoming more accessible, plus all the things it offers (mods, etc.) I think the only way game consoles can survive this time is by becoming the definitive "Low End PC" that people will want to buy in order to play with others playing on PC in the future.

What I'm saying ultimately is this...

The way we perceive our current reality could be illustrated as a perfect sphere. The last generation of video games looked like something that could be illustrated as a square. Textures sometimes were low res, there were noticeable frame rate drops, maybe the image was blurry because of a lower resolution and, more importantly, the lighting just felt so fake. Video games felt like video games, right? But now with the current generation of high end PCs, we are starting to enter in a brand new generation of graphics. Before, better graphics were almost useless, because they really didn't add much to the table and gameplay should have been our priority, but what is coming next is very different and we need it. What used to be a square is starting to look more like a dodecagon or something that looks even closer to a perfect sphere. The quality of the textures won't bother anyone, the fps will run at a steady 60 fps or more, the image will always feel sharp (anti-aliasing), the post processes will look a lot more convincing and the next gen lighting techniques will really change everything. What used to feel just like video games will finally feel like "legitimate virtual experiences". And that could well be why the occulust rift is starting to gain a lot of popularity.

When nvidia will release their 800-900 series, I think we'll be there and those GPUs would become a new standard for game developers, something we didn't have before. Game engines such as Unreal Engine 4 will also become a new standard and indie games will be stronger than ever before.

Jarod Smiley
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you said it yourself though, "in 2-5" years, consoles will look really outdated. Sony seems to have gone with a very traditional architecture and added a lot of ram for ease-of-use for developers. This from my limited perspective encourages two things 1) backwards compatibility for future consoles, and 2) cost reduction coming sooner rather than later.

I don't think Sony is going to need to wait another 7 years before releasing PS5 this time. If Sony can ensure PS5 will be everything PS4 is, just better tech, I think the upgrades will feel more like a cell phone and less drastic than video games generation. I expect a PS5 as early as 2018, and again will be a lower-midrange PC at launch with a focus on graphical output.

I think it's a decent strategy tbh...


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