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Next-Gen Audio Square-Off: PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360
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Next-Gen Audio Square-Off: PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360

October 10, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

PlayStation 3

The Xbox 360 is definitely a console to contend with. But in comes the challenger. In the blue corner, the successor to the most popular home console of all time, the PlayStation 2, comes the PlayStation 3! We chatted with Gene Semel, Audio Director of SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment of America) San Diego about its capabilities.

There is a tools team and a content development team. How do they work together and with third party developers? (First party would be a hardware manufacturer that also develops games such as Nintendo and third party would be someone that only produces games)

Gene Semel: The internal Tools and Technology groups work on proprietary tools and tech specific to the various projects. Additionally, they do help with best practices for all the internal developers however usually that is in the context of project specific discussions. As with any major publisher, we have forums that the 1st party developers communicate on. The 3rd party tools, such as Scream which are included with the PS3 SDK's are supported and updated by the Sony PlayStation Europe division.

How much has the industry changed in terms of manpower and budget compared to the previous generation?

GS: Here at Sony PlayStation, audio resources have generally expanded in relation to the content requirements similar to art, however not necessarily in equal proportion. Having said that, I have seen developers that have the same audio resources as they had allocated in previous generation titles. What seems to happen on many next-gen titles in general for all developers is that the art and level content piles up very quickly and developers have to manage that rush of content with more resources in some way.

Level art and animations alone can be such a huge amount of work and can be a killer if it comes on too fast for an audio team to keep up with and maintain a quality bar that is next-gen. The best way to handle this is for the developers to have a close communication protocol and pipeline with their audio team so that they are in the loop the entire cycle of development working with the other disciplines in parallel even working on content that isn't yet in-game. This allows for iteration outside of the build systems potentially and provides the audio teams the ability to development the content that inevitably will pile up quickly and which can appear sometimes all at once it.

Another good idea is to align (or pair up) the designers and artists with audio team members very early so that the audio team can use their virtual binoculars to see how content and gameplay will come together in the end. Ultimately, the biggest change with previous gen is the amount of effort required in communication to navigate the development process with more people, more art, more everything.

How easy would it be for someone to get hold of a PS3 test or dev kit and train for audio integration using SCREAM? Are development licenses difficult to get, or can one borrow a PS3 for educational purposes?

GS: Development licenses for external contractors aren't easy to get. It is possible, however, for a developer to loan hardware to a contractor through signed agreements. The developers would then be the conduit for the contractor providing the data and tools required.

Were there any requests from developers for changes to the PS2 audio architecture that made it into the design for the PS3?

GS: The PS2 architecture wasn't next-gen and limited and so the design of the PS3 Cell allows designers endless possibilities, albeit they need programming resources to realize their ideas, goals and dreams. The PS2 did not support Dolby Digital or DTS which is new for the PS3.

Have you ever assisted development with internal PS3 games directly with changes to SDK / APIs? Is this kept proprietary, or made available with updates?

GS: Every title has different requirements which typically make use of proprietary tools and/or functionality. Sony PlayStation has to support both internal and third-party developers so new features or tools that are built for one game may not apply across the board making chance seem slower sometimes.

What kind of effects does the PS3 use natively, and can they be tested anywhere in the basic SDK?

GS: The SPU's on the Cell processor allows for all types of effects to run natively such as chorus, distortion, general filtering, reverb, etc. The Cell processors are great for DSP and there are many different effects that come with MultiStream in the PS3 SDK.

See also this quote: "A great example of the power of the Cell processor is that MultiStream can process 50 * 2 second convolution reverbs on one SPU in realtime. MultiStream can also decode approximately 400 MP3's on a single SPU in realtime." -- Jason Page, SCEE (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe).

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