One thing I want to ask about the
PS3 SKU is that it's coming out a little after the Xbox 360 and PC SKUs.
Can you talk about how it's been to
develop the PlayStation 3 version of the game?
AI: We started to work on PlayStation 3 about a year ago. I believe the PlayStation 3 implementation went pretty smoothly. Obviously, we had to spend some time trying to understand the hardware, and figuring out all the details -- things like multithreading and SPUs, and the rendering features of the hardware. But ultimately, the PlayStation 3 SKU is going to be released only three weeks after the Xbox 360 SKU, which is, I believe, a pretty significant achievement on Saber's and Vivendi's part.
It's not easy to master the hardware. You definitely have to put a lot of resources and people on it. But it's a really, really great piece of hardware. You can do a lot with it. Right now, if you run the PlayStation 3 and the 360 version side-by-side, they will look pretty much the same.
If you look at the multiplatform
games that are coming out this fall, there are a great deal of significant
games that are running late on the PlayStation 3.
Stranglehold was about two months, and
The Orange Box isn't out yet, even though it's out on
the other platforms. There are other examples.
Why do you think that is? What do you think is holding it back?
AI: That's a really good question. I can only explain why Saber managed to put the PlayStation 3 version of the game out within this year, and all those other companies having trouble publishing the SKU, I believe stems from the fact that the Xbox 360 was around for a longer time, so people have a much better understanding of the pipelines and the architecture.
Granted, Xbox 360 architecture is a little more straightforward than the PlayStation 3's, so you have to allocate people to PlayStation 3 SKUs, and let them figure out how to take advantage of it, and make sure that it has a good framerate, and that you fit all that you have into the PlayStation 3's memory. TimeShift proves that it can be done with great quality. Like I said, if you compare the two versions, they run at similar framerates, and the quality of the picture is the same.
But you need to allocate really significant
resources. People are probably a little bit concerned about not having
enough PlayStation 3 retail units out there, and they're focused on
getting PC and Xbox 360 out first and foremost, and they just didn't
have enough resources on the PlayStation 3. That's my explanation. But
clearly it's a hardware that can run really well, but it's pretty demanding.
People do talk about the difficulty of working with the Cell processor, and they talk about the RAM situation. But there's also little things, like the OS takes up more memory on the PlayStation 3. BlackSite recently announced that they're dropping voice chat from the PlayStation 3 version. Are these things... do they all contribute? Is any one significant, or do you think it's a large number of small problems?
AI: I believe it's a large number of
small problems. I don't think there is one thing. There's nothing in
particular that can't be overcome. Obviously, things like voice, like
you mentioned, do require a significant amount of memory and CPU power,
which is even more important, but the Xbox 360 was out for two years,
and the PlayStation 3 was out one year. They're still working on tools,
and they're working out the kinks of the technology.
But our experience proves that if you put enough experienced engineers on those types of challenging technical tasks, you can definitely resolve them all. Make sure you do feed into memory, you do have good framerates, and you don't downres your textures so that it looks like shit. It just doesn't happen. But it does require a significant investment on the tech part.
If you have your own technology that allows you to fully leverage the complexities of the hardware, you can put it how you want. Whereas if you're running on somebody else's, you might have limited access to how you can configure it, and how you can optimize various aspects of the game, like loading times, feeding into memory, performance. If you have specific technologies such as [time] reversal, for example, you don't have all the control you need. Having our own tech really allows us to fully embrace this hardware.
You're right when you say it came out later, so there's less familiarity and the tools aren't as robust. Do you think that there actually are distinct advantages to the PlayStation 3's hardware, where, as time moves forward, as people come to grips with it, they'll be able to do things that actually take advantage of it? Because right now most games that are multiplatform are leading on 360 and/or PC, and essentially, you're going to buy that version, if you're the consumer and you have the choice, because maybe there's more graphical effects, faster load times, or what have you. Do you think that something is going to bring the PlayStation 3 to the forefront? Like technological advantages to that platform?
AI: I believe both systems are pretty similar in terms of what they can achieve. Things like having, for example, a [guaranteed] hard drive on the PlayStation 3 allows you to do certain things which you can't do if you don't have it on the Xbox 360, but even that is kind of obsolete. The Xbox 360 is coming out with a built-in hard drive, and they're calling those systems that don't have a hard drive obsolete.
Technically speaking, both systems are similar, and what you can do on one system you can do on another system. Granted, Microsoft had more time to work out certain things that you really don't have to worry about on the PlayStation 3. For example, voice is a major component of their Live support, as well as things like ranked and unranked matches, which you have to do because it's a TCR -- it's a technical requirement. All the things which users do care about are mandatory on the Xbox 360, and you simply can't go without them.
On the PlayStation 3, not so much so. You can have much more flexibility with what you do and don't want to put in the game, so you basically can cut corners somewhere if you really want to put the game on the market. But obviously you don't want to do it too much, because you don't want to ruin the users' experience.