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snowmanZOMG

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

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Another thing I expect out of this generation is the return to a shorter life-cycle.

Everyone says this, goes on about how it's been a 'long cycle' but I'm not really convinced this is the case.

Playstation released: Dec '94 in Japan, Sept 95 US/EU
Playstation 2 rel : March 2000
- Time between; 5 years 2 months Japan, 4 years 5 months EU/US

Playstation 3 rel; Nov 2006
- Time between; 6 years 6 months

At this point we are 6 years 3 months into the PS3's life cycle, so depending on the release date it'll come out at a little over 7 years between consoles and considering the world's economy kinda tanked mid-cycle I would have said this was 'on time' for a Playstation release.

I think between the short Xbox cycle and various other products being thrown out every year (WHY HELLO APPLE/SAMSUNG/ETC!) the impression is this hardware has been around 'forever' when in reality the timing is about right based on previous iterations.

(Also, if it had been released say 2 years ago...well, look at the state of the hardware then. NV was power hungry and AMD were still VLIW GPUs so the choice would have been hot or 'soon to become slow'. Both would have been gimped compute workload wise.. and as for CPUs... so about now we'd hear cries of 'the consoles are holding back PC games!' and 'released too soon! look what they could have used if they had waited!' ringing out as well... while you can always count on something better coming along now is a pretty good point to draw a line in the sand I think.)
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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?
 

 

Well, we get to know a lot about a console by seeing it physically. What's the video output? Just HDMI, or will there be component cables as well? How big is the thing? Is it big enough to even fit under my TV at all? And, most importantly, is there a disc drive on the thing? That's a very important question that no one is sure of yet. We would know this without being told if we could just look at the thing. Although I'm not discounting physical design in the least.

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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?

I'm sure the new systems will support virtual memory -- the alternative is that game devs would do it anyways and then have to deal with what happens when the disk is full -- but its not particularly exceptionial that it would, so I doubt he was calling it out specifically. I suspect, if anything more than "we've got a big hard drive", he was more-likely to mean that the HDD will be used for content caching or title installation, since HDD read speeds are 3-5x faster than the optical drive, and SSD would be another 3-5x faster than that, if they release such an SKU.

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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.

I see. but how will latency affect branch prediction? By worsening the miss prediction hit by having to wait more for instruction fetches?

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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.

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

The thing that was both awful and amazing (depending on your point of view) about the SPU (actually, the SPE, which contains a SPU) is that it did away with the transparent cache hierarchy and made memory explicit. If you're interested, you can download all the specs and programming guides from the IBM website.
 
On normal CPUs -
When we're programming in high level languages, we act as if there is only RAM and that we can modify it directly. If we're programming in assembly, we act as if there are registers and RAM, and that we can modify registers, and can copy values between registers and RAM.
However, in reality, there are multiple layers of complex caching hardware between registers and RAM, and there's very little that you can do to program these -- they're fixed function hardware. When they make the right guesses (i.e. we've written code that is friendly to their fixed algorithms) then RAM seems much faster than it really is. When they don't work (i.e. we've written cache-unfriendly code), then we realize just how slow RAM really is.
 
With the SPE -
They made the giant leap of throwing out the cache altogether, and instead each SPU core is paired with 256KiB of it's own RAM called the local-store. This is physically close enough that it's as fast as a L1 cache usually is, instead of being horribly slow like RAM usually is. Also, each SPE has a little memory controller that lets you conduct DMA requests (think: asynchronous memcpy calls) in the background. To move data between the local-store and RAM, you've got to explicitly write these asynch memcpy calls instead of relying on the invisible automatic cache hardware like a regular CPU.
With this architecture, you can download 128KiB of data into a SPE's local-store, then operate on it without having to worry about cache-misses or memory bandwidth or any of the stuff that is the main-freaking-bottleneck in computing nowadays, while simultaneously in the background you're downloading the next 128KiB packet of work and/or uploading the results from the previous packet back to some RAM location. This means that (if programmed right) you can be continuously doing a ton of compute work (3GHz clock dual issuing instructions for 128-bit SIMD registers) without memory latency (cache misses) being an issue.

That said, if you program in this same style (of having very large contiguous blocks of data) then it turns out that regular CPUs perform very, very well too happy.png 
 

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?

This architecture lets you write code that is an order of magnitude faster than other CPU designs, but it requires a different style of programming. Typical shared-state mutable-object systems with code-flow obfuscated by virutal callbacks doesn't run well. You need to have all of your data in large, contiguous blocks, and then be able to feed them through a kernel to produce other large contiguous blocks of output. In this way, it is amenable to GPGPU type workloads.

However, there definitely hasn't been so much love for the system's development tools.

Yeah, Sony are no Microsoft when it comes to development tools... However, I was quite impressed with the free indie/hobbyist toolchain that they released for the Vita, so here's hoping the PS4 has received some love in that department too.

Edited by Hodgman
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I see. but how will latency affect branch prediction? By worsening the miss prediction hit by having to wait more for instruction fetches?

 

All depends on whether the alternate branch is in the cache -- In the case of small branches (if/else, switch, loops), the alternative branch is already in the cache, so there ought to be no discernable effect compared to a "normal" memory system. Rumors say the 8 CPUs are divided into two groups of four, with 2megs shared cache (L3, I guess, maybe L2) between each four cores, so there's plenty of room for code and data, especially considering that most of the "big-data" tasks will be offloaded to GPU in many cases, and so won't compete for space.

 

That said, there definately will be higher latencies to memory, its just that code that's efficient otherwise is going to amortize that initial latency pretty well I think. If you're jumping around in code or data willy-nilly, you'll probably feel it, but you'll just do your best to avoid that. In any event, it remains to be seen what the impact or "reasonalbe" code might be.

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I like the fact they've not gone high-risk... keep the wonderful dual-shock but add in Kinect-like system and movement stuff... don't make it online only, etc.

 

PS3 is already our main TV media platform for Netflix + DVD so hopefully we will look at upgrading once the first rush has gone through.

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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?
 

 

Well, we get to know a lot about a console by seeing it physically. What's the video output? Just HDMI, or will there be component cables as well? How big is the thing? Is it big enough to even fit under my TV at all? And, most importantly, is there a disc drive on the thing? That's a very important question that no one is sure of yet. We would know this without being told if we could just look at the thing. Although I'm not discounting physical design in the least.

 

The video outputs and disc drive are on the official spec sheet.

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It sounds like a turn around for Sony where they are using common sense this time instead of getting too big for their boots.  A simple system with good power and coming clean on why there will be no backwards compatibility with the previous generation is a good start.  Even though a lack of BC will hurt its sales its a step to earning back customer trust.

 

There are now two factors Sony MUST get right:  Price and a VERY strong launch line up.  If its over £350 on release and they have a weak line up similar to that of the PS2 and PS3 it will bomb.  Without any previous generation BC and the hype of "Its a powerful BR player for a cheap price!" its got a long and hard road ahead of it.

 

Speaking personally, if it plays PS1 and PS2 disks and is about £300, then I'm game for it.  I do have a PS3 with a small collection of games, but I won't lose sleep over such lack of BC. But it will depend on what games are avaliable for it...

Edited by Anri
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I wonder if they'll support PS1, PS2, AND PS3 games through software emulation. I'm sure they can software emulate PS1 and PS2, but I'd surprised if they can do SE for the PS3.

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I wonder if they'll support PS1, PS2, AND PS3 games through software emulation. I'm sure they can software emulate PS1 and PS2, but I'd surprised if they can do SE for the PS3.

There was a rumor they'd use Gaikai to do it. I don't think they said anything at the launch announcement though so who knows.

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Wikipedia implies that they'll use their Gaikai service (an OnLive competitor they bought last year) to stream PS3, PS2, and PS1 games (and possibly even PS4 games), citing these two articles. Gaikai has also been buying domain names like "playstation-cloud.com".

This probably means games will need to be repurchased, and that only games Sony can license will be available. Interestingly, it seems Sony wants it to "work with PS4, PS3, Vita and some smartphones and tablets." (according to IGN), and ofcourse, Sony had mentioned Gaikai integrated into their smart TVs back when they bought Gaikai (and Gaikai's website mentions Samsung in conjunction to Tablets and smart TVs). It may be that you won't even need a PS4 to play PS4 games! laugh.png

 

Supposedly, Sony is "highly recommending" that PS4 games that are downloadable on the console itself, will allow instant play via Gaikai while the local digital-copy of the game continues to download in the background, and that gamers will be able to sample games before deciding to buy them (which was one of the original reasons Gaikai was created).

 

I wonder if the PS4 has an specialized video stream de-compression chip integrated into its hardware to cut down on the feed delay? That's something OnLive was playing around with.

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So basically now I'll be getting Sony OnLive for Christmas? LOL. Why am I buying a PS4 again? (note: I understand that what you two mentioned is all speculation.)

 

What that said, Maybe Next Xbox (that's the name now right?) will stream Xbox and Xbox 360 games. **crosses fingers for Steel Battalion controllers**

Edited by Alpha_ProgDes
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As someone who's owned a lot of consoles and computers throughout his life (BBC Micro, Spectrum, Atari ST, Amiga, Dreamcast, Gamecube, PS, Xbox etc.), I was thoroughly impressed. I was happy that Sony chose to keep the Bluray drive in place (as well as Move controller) and expand on using an x86 chip in a new way. Obviously the active Net connection helps. I think the instant-system-start idea is also great and a very ingenius use of adapting current available tech. Does this mean the new PS4 hard drive might have flash built in? Sounds like it.

 

One thing I certainly felt that Sony's system brings is a new dimension in game-making, in that ironically because of the PS4s involvement, it would probably start to also help improve the quality of PC games also because for once the PC's specs are 'set'. I've always felt PC games never really got the attention they deserved because unlike consoles the system specs were always a moving target. Now that the limit is set, perhaps PC games may also improve? But it certainly seems with the idea of instant-on-gaming, TV-diversion, more social functions and partner-character sharing, playing on a PS4 seems the more enticing idea.


I think in the long run, with the integration of the Vita's functions and Gaikai - and if Vita really takes off with the new 33% off discount pricing it has just announced - Sony is probably going to have a new winning platform, maybe more so than a new Xbox Durango. After all what if any, portable devices does/will Xbox have that works with Durango? At least the Wii U has the Wii U Pad.


 

And if the PS multi-platform gaming idea really does take off on the PS4 with Gaikai, Microsoft, Ninty and Apple really need to sit up and watch out I feel...

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I think the PS4's question is whether or not it can result in an innovative gaming experience. I am impressed by the tech specs, but....I really don't know beyond that...

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I think the PS4's question is whether or not it can result in an innovative gaming experience. I am impressed by the tech specs, but....I really don't know beyond that...

 

At this point, I think innovation is with whatever new peripheral Sony and 3rd parties decide to support. IMO, Wii U missed the boat on that one. But we'll see if Sony incorporates the Move with the neuro-headsets I've been reading about. Or even the VR helmets now being made.

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I like what I know about the hardware so far, but there aren't enough details for me to really get excited about anything.  For me, the whole way Sony presented itself was just totally cool.  Strong message, more or less humble, and just plain pragmatic about things.  The PS2 and PS3 were so different in style, especially the PS3 which is what I remember the most.  One of my biggest worries, though, was that Sony would pull off some shenanigans like Microsoft has been doing lately with E3.  Some sort of celebrity charged media event, like WTF?  Sony did not disappoint me.

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Not impressed at all. I never owned a PS3 so the BC is a serious issue for me; now it all depends on how many PS3 games they bring over. The games are what matter really, I won't get one if it ends up like the Vita with few outstanding titles and the PSP games I most want aren't on PSN. The specs sure are nice, but PCs are even better and there's already a ton of games on and coming to PC.

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It is certainly a change from the "the next generation doesn't start until we say it does" I guess the PS2 made them feel like gods and Microsoft got them back down to Earth :P

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It is certainly a change from the "the next generation doesn't start until we say it does" I guess the PS2 made them feel like gods and Microsoft got them back down to Earth tongue.png

That's the biggest thing I took away from the conference. Sony was damaged a lot by their attitude early on. The change in that will benefit everyone.

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I don’t think Sony has the ability to impress me after having scarred their reputation permanently via their past arrogance.

It is nice that they changed their attitude this time around but it is about 10 years too late.  They are asses who don’t belong in the game industry, period.  Rather than being nice guys they are just jumping down Microsoft’s throat (and vice-versa).

 

They had the gall to tote the PlayStation Portable as a device where you can stick pictures of your girlfriend’s naughty bits.  How is that acceptable at all anywhere?

All women: Instantly offended.

Any decent man would also be offended.  If you are a man and not offended by that, it says something about you.

 

 

That being said, the new controller feels better in my hands overall, though a bit heavier.

But it also looks 10× dorkier with the touch pad creating a big blank space over the front of it.  And the space in the back where it curves down to make room for the L/R buttons is more narrow and hurts the top of my middle fingers more than the old controller does.  I can’t see this being used for any long-term gaming.

 

 

The only good point about Sony is that 2 days ago I was leaving my office and suddenly I had to go to the bathroom and Sony headquarters was right there, so I used their bathroom.  Other than having a conveniently located bathroom, Sony has no purpose.

 

Unfortunately, all the same gripes can be said about Microsoft, except they don’t have any bathrooms where I work so they are even worse.

And, unfortunately, Nintendo is run by 7 chair members, only one of whom is young and fresh and has a clue what the hell this generation wants.  The others are old clueless grampies who all need to hurry up and die off so that Nintendo can get its act together.  The young one among them is constantly frustrated by them because he always gets outvoted.  “Processing power is not important,” the old guys say.  “I have been making games since you were in diapers.  I know what the customers want.”

 

Great gramps.  You know that games matter most.  Oh by the way, games are made by developers, and if it is too difficult to support you system along with the other 2, your system will just not get support.  Get a clue.

 

 

Of the 3, Sony and Microsoft are asses and Nintendo is clueless.  The last generation of consoles was…the last generation of consoles.

Only Sony headquarters has a convenient bathroom and it is actually faster for me to get to the station by going through their building rather than around it, so technically they save me some time getting home.  Technically that makes them the winner.

 

 

L. Spiro

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They had the gall to tote the PlayStation Portable as a device where you can stick pictures of your girlfriend’s naughty bits.  How is that acceptable at all anywhere?
All women: Instantly offended.

Offtopic: not necessarily. Some women do voluntarily (*gasp*) send naughty pictures of themselves to their boyfriends, for a multitude of reasons which I will not go into since most of them should be fairly obvious to you. I can't see said women being offended.

Any decent man would also be offended.  If you are a man and not offended by that, it says something about you.

Er, what? Again, what exactly is offensive about a woman voluntarily sending a man she trusts pictures of her body and the man keeping them? I'd say a decent man would keep said pictures hidden from others, naturally, since revealing "naughty pictures" of anyone regardless of relationship status without their permission is in my world an indecent thing to do, but I see nothing wrong with simply possessing said pictures if they were freely and voluntarily given. Activities between two consenting adults, etc. You make it out like all instances of sharing images of your own body are somehow disgusting, which has yet to be demonstrated to me.

This discussion probably belongs in its own thread, though. Edited by Oberon_Command
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That isn’t the context of their ad nor of my protests.  It doesn’t matter that the girl sent her naughty photos to her lover, which might indeed be perfectly fine and non-indicative of anything unusual between both of them.

 

Rather the ad:

#1: Objectifies women.

#2: Stereotypes men as sex-hungry dolts.

 

Think of it from the perspective of those who made the ad.  What does it indicate that they think about us?

“So let’s categorize our target audience.  Sex-hungry adolescent teens who treat women like sex objects.”

It isn’t wrong for couples to share some photos.  It is wrong to portray that in any light that is less than intimate and meaningful.  Putting her stickers on your PlayStation Portable where everyone on the trains can see them trivializes what should otherwise be an intimate and meaningful relationship.

 

Are you not offended that Sony thinks you can be driven to buy their product by sex?  Sony thinks you have nothing else on your mind.  Because we all know all men are completely focused on nothing but sex…

Sigh.

It feels dirty even to use their bathroom.

 

 

L. Spiro

Edited by L. Spiro
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