SCEA President Kaz Hirai gives us his thoughts on the PS3's November launch.
The PlayStation 3 will have a 3.2GHz Cell processor that consists of a single PowerPC-based core with seven synergistic processing units. The Cell is the result of a joint effort between IBM, Sony, and Toshiba. The primary PowerPC core has a 512KB L2 cache, and each SPE has 256KB of its own memory to work with. The CPU has an eighth SPE for "redundancy," which means that each Cell chip only needs seven working SPEs to pass muster for the PS3.The Cell processor will be powerful enough to drive a new class of gameplay physics impossible to run on older console hardware, including cloth and fluid simulations, as well as large-scale rigid-body interactions with hundreds and thousands of objects colliding onscreen. Today's PCs in comparison will need a physics add-on card or find a way to tap the GPU for physics processing to run PS3-level physics effects. Additionally, developers will be able to use the Cell's SPEs to give games new audio effects previously only available on the PC with dedicated audio processing.
The industry-wide shift to multicore processing platforms will have a major impact on developers in the coming years. A lot of the burden will fall upon the hardware manufacturers themselves to design systems and provide tools that will make it easier for programmers to write games. Sony has announced that the PS3 will use Open GL/ES, a specialized API closely related to Open GL, and programmers will be able to access the Cell's SPEs using C or C++ tools, instead of having to program on the assembly level as they did with the PS2.
Sony will pair the Cell with a very powerful graphics processor based on advanced Nvidia technology. You may remember that Nvidia did the graphics for the first Xbox system, but with reports of contract disputes between Nvidia and Microsoft, few were surprised when both companies chose to change dance partners for the next console cycle. Microsoft went with ATI for the Xbox 360, and Nvidia hooked up with Sony on the PlayStation 3. The end result of that collaboration is the PlayStation 3 RSX "Reality Synthesizer" graphics-processing unit, a massive 550MHz, 300-million-transistor graphics chip based on GeForce 7800 GTX graphics technology.
The PlayStation 3 has 256MBs of Rambus XDR memory and 256MBs of GDDR3 memory dedicated to graphics. Nvidia claims that the RSX can take advantage of the combined 512MBs of memory, since it is capable of writing directly to system memory. The increased graphics-memory bandwidth and storage space will let developers use high-resolution textures and enable antialiasing to provide detailed, jaggy-free graphics. The RSX's programmable shader capabilities greatly increase graphics efficiency and will let game developers use advanced effects such as subsurface scattering to simulate human skin.
Wireless Sixaxis Controllers
The new PS3 controller heavily resembles the traditional Dual Shock gamepad design. The L2 and R2 shoulder buttons located on the top of the controller have been enlarged, with increased depth in stroke for more subtle game control. Sony has also enlarged the tilting angle of the analog joysticks to enable more delicate manipulation and a wider range of motion. Whereas the analog sticks on the Dual Shock controller for the PlayStation 2 had 8-bit sensitivity, the new controller will have 10-bit motion detection.
The new controller has two analog sticks, the usual four-button complement on the right side, and four top-side trigger buttons. However, the new PlayStation 3 controller will also have six-axis motion-sensing capabilities. The controller is capable of sensing motion in six degrees: up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. The new six-axis movement control will let players use body English to help control a game. For example, tilting the controller upward in the jet fighter game Warhawk will point the aircraft's nose in the air and shifting the sides of the controller up and down will cause the aircraft to tilt in a similar manner. The controller will weigh no more than the wired Dual Shock controller, even with the added six-axis functionality, but that might be due to the loss of force feedback support.
Like the Xbox 360 controller, the new PlayStation 3 controller will be wireless, but it'll get its freedom from Bluetooth rather than the traditional 2.4GHz RF. Devices operating with Bluetooth generally have a range of around nine meters, but Sony has stated that the PS3 controller will have a 20-meter wireless range. The controller will have a 30-hour battery life, a figure that seems to be in line with other Bluetooth devices but far short of the 300-hour 2.4GHz models available for current consoles. You will be able to recharge the controller by connecting it to the PlayStation 3 with a USB cable. The controller will be functional while tethered to the system and will also be hot pluggable, which means you can plug and unplug controllers while the system is on.
However, you won't be able to replace the controller battery. If the rechargeable battery ever dies, you'll have to buy a new controller or send the dead one back to Sony for replacement. We're guessing it'll take several years before the battery dies, so let's hope we've all moved on to the PlayStation 4 by then. Sixaxis wireless PS3 controllers will sell for $50.Do you think the PlayStation 3 has the right mix of hardware, games, media capabilities, and online support? Are you planning on buying a system at launch on November 17?
PlayStation 3: Inside and Out
Sony has released tons of information on the upcoming PlayStation 3. This special feature sums up and analyzes what's important.
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