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PS4 lead architect explains changes

by William Schwartz

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The PlayStation 3 was well-known for housing complicated hardware that made development of the simplest things a challenge, especially for third party developers. In a recent presentation, Mark Cerny, lead system architect on the PS4, explained that the issues that accompanied PS3 were due to Sony’s primary focus on hardware advancement. Cerny compared development on the CELL to a “Rubix Cube,” which made even “the most basic tasks” difficult for developers to perform.

While Sony offered unparalleled power with the CELL, according to Cerny “PS3 hardware was now close to reality but the game teams lacked many of the tools necessary to create their titles. The entire development environment was in a very primitive state.” He continued to explain that even first-party studios “needed basically an entire year to create usable graphics engines” for the PlayStation 3, and that “the game titles could only be met through clever use of SPUs, but both the unique nature of CELL and the primitive state of the development environment meant that game creation on PlayStation 3 was more time-consuming than any previous platform.”

Despite the flaws of the overly ambitious PS3, Sony went to third-party developers when drafting the PS4 and built something they wanted to work on. Whens sitting with developers, Cerny recalls hearing that “if there was a GPU out there that could do real-time ray-tracing they did not want it in the PS4.” Developers “didn’t want exotica” this time around. Cerny explained, “the teams said that if we can afford to give them 1,000 times the performance of the PS3 then go ahead, do it.” They wanted more easy and controllable power, but less complex technology.

Sony may have not been able to address all of the problems that plagued their 3rd console, but Cerny hopes that with the changes made, this 4th generation PlayStation will be different. Sony gave developers all the components that they wanted to see in their ideal console this time around, making the PS4 “more powerful and practical than any other console” according to sources. Cerny is hoping to avoid the third-party disasters of the past, and is more confident in the current lineup than the one in 2005.

The PS4 is set to release Holiday season 2013.

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