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snowmanZOMG

Sony and the PS4, I'm Impressed. Your Thoughts?

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After having seen the Sony PlayStation conference today, I'm pretty impressed.  Not necessarily with the system or the actual showing at the conference, but with the overall attitude Sony has this time around.  Note, that I am not a console developer and never have been.  I've never had access to dev kits and I've barely even been making games, but I'm currently trying to make one right now...

 

The biggest thing is it seems like Sony is dropping the hubris from the PS3 and now they're back on earth and really trying to get developers on their side.  Do you guys remember those ridiculous demos from the PS3 unveiling?  Didn't quite seem obvious at the time, but they were literally just doing massive smoke and mirrors and those entire conferences screamed "Hey, we're the best and there ain't nothing you can do about it."  Mark Cerny leading the PS4 design?  Seems like a fantastic choice.  From what I've read about him, he seems like the real deal; someone who has been in the trenches to build games and helped a ton of people in/around Sony with building their games.

 

Maybe Sony has learned how important it is to get developers on your side this time around.  The system is exciting to me from a technical perspective, at least, from the memory bandwidth perspective.  Some of the connectivity services seem like they will get a lot more attention than the PS3 did.

 

Not a very coherent post, but when I was done watching the event, I was just really impressed by the way Sony handled the whole thing.  Pretty well focused and it seemed very developer centric.  Sort of a "Hey, we know we tortured you guys the last time around, but this time, we're going to do it right."  I feel like the ball is totally in Microsoft's court now.  Very excited to see what happens in the coming months from Microsoft.

 

What about you guys?  Agree?  Disagree?  Impressed?  Underwhelmed?

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Impressed.

 

Though I wonder if there is any drawback for having GDDR5 for all the memory. As far as I understand, GDDR was designed with graphics in mind, but I don't know how different it is with normal "general usage" DDR.

 

I only know it means massive bandwidth though. Nobody confirmed bus width right?

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Hm... While 176Gb/s isn't on the bleeding edge (Titan's 288 Gb/s anyone? :D) it still way faster than desktop PC's bandwidth.

 

Anyway, yeah, I thought they would roll out a POWER7 4-8 core CPU with 4 threads per core.

 

Though no wonder why Kojima Productions suddenly wanted to roll out their multi platform Metal Gear Solid :P

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I think the whole unvailing was a bit meh...  The graphics don't really tell you much since at previous Sony launches they have been running at 4 or 5 fps and then speeded up. 
The campaign by console manufaturers to clamp down on second hand games is a turn off.   I think big budget consoles have lost a lot of their glitz this generation I don't think there is as much hype as their used to be.  Sure there are a few die hard gamers going on line to watch it but it isn't the same as the PS3, 360, Wii launch where every person in the street knew everything about it.

On the plus side the hardware should be really simple to develop for unlike previous machines which had wierd power pc or mips which were a little wierd to develop for.  At least with this configuration even if you have to hand code in Assembley it wouldnt be too difficult because its an architecture everybody is familar with.
 

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On the plus side the hardware should be really simple to develop for unlike previous machines which had wierd power pc or mips which were a little wierd to develop for.  At least with this configuration even if you have to hand code in Assembley it wouldnt be too difficult because its an architecture everybody is familar with.

Eh, at this point with the X360 and PS3 having been around for years thye people in the positions where they would be doing that work are already pretty well versed in the PowerPC and SPU assembly.

To me going to x64 just means I suddenly have no registers to play with sad.png
(Infact of the archs I've been exposed to x86/x64 is my least favorite; I still miss the MC68000 CPU and the SPU instruction set was nice to play with to.)


Personally, CPU hardware wise, I would have liked to have seen an Uber-Cell; 4 normal hardware threads + 14+ SPU paired with a GPU - cover all the based for workloads.
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x86, UMA, with a AMD GPU?

Interesting. Although the big question on everyone's lips has yet to be answered:

 

'will it be running windows 8?' ph34r.png

 

Hope it goes well for them though, it's a shame to see Sony bleeding money at the moment.

Edited by lawnjelly
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I am glad to see the end of the aweful SPU and non unified memory, now to see how much the MS console differs from this though. Also has anyone seen that they actually took the X360 controller as a base for the new Dual shock.

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Eh, at this point with the X360 and PS3 having been around for years thye people in the positions where they would be doing that work are already pretty well versed in the PowerPC and SPU assembly.

 

 

Not neccesarily most of the developers this generation are now redundant (including at least 3 of Sonys own studios) and when the PS4 is launched they will expect an entire new generation of developers to start making up the numbers  (that is if the PS4 takes off at all).

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Most excited that they made the controller at least a little ergonomic. Not sure how I feel about the touch pad. Seems like it would be annoying more than anything where it's currently placed.

It seems fine otherwise. Nothing really blew me away, but I wasn't expecting to be blown away.  I'm really curious what it's going to cost/look like.

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Not neccesarily most of the developers this generation are now redundant (including at least 3 of Sonys own studios) and when the PS4 is launched they will expect an entire new generation of developers to start making up the numbers  (that is if the PS4 takes off at all).

Erm... wut?

Yes, a lot of people lost their jobs and a fraction of those might well have left the industry for good but the rest either formed their own studios or joined existing ones in senior positions - their knowledge didn't suddenly evaporate over night.

Also just because there is a new console it doesn't mean that suddenly you staff your company with juniors and try to push out a title... hell if you did that you deserve all the fail that comes your way.

The key people doing the key optimisations are still going to be experianced/senior guys and NOT newbies. Newbies will continue to join the industry and continue to write bad code regardless of the underlaying ISA and these will not be the people doing performance fixes and the like.
(The only difference compared to last gen is that you now have an OoO CPU hiding all the bad code sins... *sigh*)

TLDR; you are wrong.
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GDDR5 as main memory. LOVE.

Jaguar cores? I though they were supposed to be the power saving cores from AMD, I'm quite surprised! 

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1. They refused to show the actual console, so, knowing Sony and their shadiness, I'm more than confident that the PS4 is going to be a big fat monster.

 

2. I didn't see the whole event (not interested in big executives talking in 100% buzz words), but the games I did see didn't exactly scream "Next gen." I guess that's to be expected though. Look at the first games that came out for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Most of them were previous gen games with better graphics. Still, very disappointed in the games department.

 

3. They refused to mention a price, which means (since it's Sony) this thing is gonna be around $500. I'm betting the cheap one that makes no sense to get will be like $450, and the actual real package that everyone will want will be $550. But that's optimism for you.

 

4. I've been hearing too much about Sony and Microsoft working on ways to prohibit used games from being played on their console. Just because Sony didn't mention anything about it doesn't mean it's not true, yet. I'm not getting a console that restricts me to new purchases only (meaning I can't borrow games either).

 

I'm not necessarily someone who hates Sony, but I'm used to their garbage. I think they don't know what they're doing, and they're always behind the curve. The PSP was a failure. The PSP Go emphasized Sony's misunderstanding of, well, anything, and I still don't see a reason to get a PS Vita. Not to mention the PSN hacking debacle. Sony's just... well, I'll be waiting quite a while before I buy anything they put out. Not to say that I think Microsoft is any better at this, mind you. I'll be wary of the "720" too.

Edited by Shaquil
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I'm impressed with Destiny. The PS4 is what I would expect from a next-gen console. However --and I'm not a industry game dev-- I wonder why Sony didn't go with the Cell architecture. The devs have had 6 to 7 years to be familiar with it. I figure a more powerful Cell (and more SPUs) would be in this new console.
 
And LOL @ Sony still trying to make the Vita relevant. But who knows, they may actually succeed.

 

 

I am glad to see the end of the aweful SPU and non unified memory, now to see how much the MS console differs from this though. Also has anyone seen that they actually took the X360 controller as a base for the new Dual shock.

 

Could there be such a thing as SPU and unified memory? What was so awful about it?

Edited by Alpha_ProgDes
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Without having worked on any of the consoles but hearing stories of development experiences, I really feel like Sony is pushing for a system that is much easier to get started on but still has a place where really good programmers who know what they're doing can show off what they can do.  With the PS3 and the Cell, I've heard from many programmers who love working on it precisely because the system is this strange architecture where you really need to work very closely with the hardware to make it scream.  However, there definitely hasn't been so much love for the system's development tools.  I've read and heard about so many stories where a team who is a cross platform developer will never debug an issue on the PS3 if they have the option since debugging on the PS3 is so much more difficult.

 

The way I see it, the x86 architecture makes the CPU more familiar to a larger pool of developers.  But giving the CPU and GPU access to the same 8 GB of memory of GDDR5 makes me believe they want to keep some of the crazy PPU-SPU coprocessing style programming without as much of the hassle.  My only question is, how is GPGPU going to be like on this system?  I've heard from many students while I was at school who didn't really like OpenCL.  Some liked CUDA much better, but most agreed that these GPGPU implementations were pretty bad at least in terms of the language features and general ease of software development.  Is SPU programming at all similar to some of these GPGPU implementations?  I feel like SPUs are at least much more general and GPUs are tasked to solve very specific problems and architected in such a way that trying to get them to solve anything other than something that looks like graphics would make it very hard to use for general purpose.  Am I wrong here?  Would anyone who has experience on the PS3 like to elaborate on Cell programming (or programming on the PS3 as a whole) and give their thoughts on what little we've gathered about the PS4 architecture?

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I'm very suspicious about the PS4. x86 CPU, comfortable familiar GPU, plenty of memory with monster bandwidth. It all sounds ... sane. Where is the magical Sony touch? There should be a solid undercurrent of "crazy" and I'm not seeing it. They did hint that there was some special custom work on compute, which was extremely vague and I'd like to know what they did.

 

That aside, I was generally impressed. The continuous video recording and social stuff is an odd tack to take, but I'm not opposed to it. Just curious to see if it catches on. Also glad to see that Move hasn't entirely died (although MM's sculpting thing was just weird). Generally it was a very solid presentation, though I don't think they said anything on pricing or availability... I'm waiting to see Microsoft's sales pitch but it'll need to be a strong one.

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1. They refused to show the actual console, so, knowing Sony and their shadiness, I'm more than confident that the PS4 is going to be a big fat monster.


I'm continually surprised by the people making a big deal over not seeing an empty plastic box on the stage. In this day in age  there's so many aspects to a console: the online ecosystem, the user experience, the developer platforms, the hardware specs, the games itself...is the look console itself really so important compared to those things?
 

Edited by MJP
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Though I wonder if there is any drawback for having GDDR5 for all the memory. As far as I understand, GDDR was designed with graphics in mind, but I don't know how different it is with normal "general usage" DDR.

GDDR favours bandwidth over latency, while DDR doesn't make that compromise.
GPUs are able to hide the latency, which is why gddr it works so well for them.

I suspect one of the reasons they made that choice (besides simplicity, i.e. "the radeon already uses that tech and we want UMA") is that ps3 developers are already used to branchless code and dealing with LHS (load hit store).

I wonder how OoOE, branch prediction & high latency memory will mix though. May be they'll strip the OoOEs and branch predictors, since they're expensive and power hungry. Edited by Matias Goldberg
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Indeed.  Some pdf going around from Sony seems to suggest that it's an AMD Jaguar.  But I wonder if that's "We're taking AMD Jaguar as is" or "We took AMD Jaguar and made some of our own modifications".  The Jaguar already seems pretty low power, though.

 

Outside of technical things, one of the things I've thought about during the Sony conference:

 

1.  Very heavily internet driven system.  I wonder if it will be hampered at all by the (generally) poor climate with regards to internet bandwidth usage and infrastructure in the United States.

2.  Seems like Sony wants to deal directly with consumers more.  If I were a brick and mortar store, I wouldn't be nearly as thrilled about the PS4...

 

BestBuy's PC section is basically just Blizzard, The Sims, and a bunch of subscription cards.  Does Sony have some sort of plan to help those guys (retail) out this generation?  Everything about the conference seems to ignore them.  Me, personally, I'm on the internet.  I don't watch TV anymore.  I prefer to avoid using my phone; instead, I use the internet.  I play games.  On the internet.  If I could never step into another BestBuy in my life, then I would do it and not miss it, so I'm not exactly unhappy about Sony not having mentioned anything really with regard to retail.  The closer we can get to Steam on a console, the better I think.

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The Jaguar CPUs are essentially the next generation of AMD's netbook processors. The PS4 and rumored Xbox Next specs are basically spot-on what I've been predicting for 4-5 years, with the exception of the CPUs -- I had expected 4 beefier cores (a-la, i5) rather than 8 "thinner" ones. On the other hand, I'd wager they get better aggregate performance from these 8, than from 4 "fat" cores at the same power draw, and they're probably cheaper to boot. It's just up to devs to spread work across 8 cores efficiently, rather than 4. The Jaguar cores are Out-of-Order, and can decode and put-in-flight two instructions from everything I've heard. Not terribly wide at all, but a far-cry ahead of the in-order PPC cores of the last generation. Pipeline should be fairly short as well, so less penalty for branch misprediction compared to a fast, fat core like an i5.

 

The GPU sounds nice, and there's plenty of RAM and bandwidth to feed it. In general, I think its always going to be preferable to use a cutting-edge GPU in a console, even if that means paring it down further (in total number of compute units) than you might have had to do with one that's a generation or two old. That said, it seems like they didn't cut it down a great deal compare to current high-end PC GPUs, it sounds roughly equivilent to a Radeon 7830. Acount for the fact that a console is only going to be doing 1080p/60 w/3D at the very most, and the more-direct hardware access, and I suspect visuals will be comparable to what PC gamers expect out of their super-high-res (2560x1440+) or triple-head setups.

 

I don't think that the GDDR bandwidth/latency compromise will be seen as a poor decision -- The type of code (following Data-Oriented-Design) that will make the compute and graphics hardware sing is friendly to that sort of tradeoff. It'll take a hit on code that's more random-access in nature, but that's fast becoming a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. On the flip side, while game devs are onboard with DoD, general app developers and nimble/indie developers may not be, so there's probably going to be a bit of a learning curve for them, and the first cut at these kind of apps might end up looking a little sluggish, given the hardware, until everyone's onboard.

 

If either platform prevents used game sales or makes it unreasonably burdensome/restrictive I'll probably end up not jumping into the new consoles. I don't even really buy used games for the most part -- its almost exclusively pre-order or first-week grabs for me -- I just don't feel its worth it to buy a $60 or $70 game without the ability to sell it if I wanted, even though I don't really do that either. On the other hand, if they threw out a big bone, like dropping new, AAA game MSRP to $40-$50, it might be inticing enough to compensate.

 

I probably won't care much for the always-on video encoding, but I do think its a smart feature that's going to appeal to many people, and the social sharing that will result will probably help sales along -- its basically gonna be free marketting for sony when all your facebook friends are posting videos of their cool play sessions.

 

Another thing I expect out of this generation is the return to a shorter life-cycle. The uniqueness of previous generations of hardware has always meant that consoles aged more-gracefully than similarly-aged PC hardware, because new things were always being discovered about how to make the hardware sing, but with an architecture that is so close to the PC, there's going to be less unknown territory to discover and exploit.

Edited by Ravyne
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Me, personally, I'm on the internet. I don't watch TV anymore. I prefer to avoid using my phone; instead, I use the internet. I play games. On the internet. If I could never step into another BestBuy in my life, then I would do it and not miss it, so I'm not exactly unhappy about Sony not having mentioned anything really with regard to retail. The closer we can get to Steam on a console, the better I think.

I think this sums up my feelings on the PS4 in general: excited about its integration with the 'net.  The PSN has been very nice to have (minus the hack issue) because I've always been able to play with my friends whenever we want: if we both bought the game, we can play it online.  I'm already "always-on" with regards to net presence and home connectivity; we watch all our favorite shows and movies through netflix and amazon on the PS3.  I'm used to seeing popups on my laptop when friends hop into Steam games.  I like buying things from the comfort of my living room.

 

Games playable as the rest of the title downloads?  Thank god.

Large hard drive for all the software-only purchases?  Yes please!

 

I could care less about the video streaming, maybe it'll come in handy once or twice if a buddy has a title I'm curious about but haven't dropped money on yet, but I can already use services like twitch.tv for that.  And I don't really foresee the desire to "share a video of some awesome sequence" since I expect most titles will lean towards Destiny's mentality: you're probably going to be playing along with your friends already.  Or there will at least be other players around to witness when something happens that would give you the "I wish I had recorded that" feeling.

 

The share button is pointless to me.  I'm bad at a lot of web 2.0, I don't tweet, instagram, or tumbl; I barely share on facebook (though I consume it), I'm a forum poster.  I feel no need to share what I'm up to in real time with the internet.  I like the asynchronous measuring-up you can do with PS3's trophy collections, but I don't need people to know the minute I've done something in a game.  Maybe I'm missing something there, but it feels like a late grab at interfacing with social media in the wrong direction.  I think many games would benefit from being reachable FROM any platform (like app integration, for example: mini-windows into the persistent game world's data).  But pushing information out proactively from the source is just spam in my eyes.

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I was just rewatching the conference to catch some of the bits I missed early on, but one thing I just noticed Mark Cerny say: "this system memory is backed by the massive local storage that only a hard drive can provide." (www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiNGZMx2vhY&t=16m26s).  Do you think he's implying the existence of a virtual memory system?  Does it matter that the console has or does not have a virtual memory system?

Edited by snowmanZOMG
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