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PS3 Developers and Multi-core Processors |

CellOne of the big things about the PS3 (and Xbox 360 for that matter) is that it has a multicore processor. One main PowerPC core, and 7 Synergistic Processor Elements (or SPEs). An SPE is basically just another core that’s geared more towards a certain kind of computation. So the Cell chip has 8 cores.

And, well, you know, this means the end of all time as we know it.

You’ve read the doomsayers as well as I have. Game programmers won’t be able to take advantage of all those cores. Those extra cores should be tossed in the trash just like apple cores. The first generation of next generation games will all just use the main core and ignore the others. Programming has gotten much too complicated. Blah blah blah. If you’ve been reading this website and others, you’ve seen it.

And while we read all this and think about how terrible this next-gen mess has turned out to be, Apple introduces a computer with to processors each of which has two cores. That’s four cores total. Of course, for an application to really scream in this scenario it has to be multithreaded up the apple core. But do you see huge protests? Big hot shots in the Apple development community complaining about how terrible this is and that the sky is falling? Any of that? No. It’s just the next step. A little more work. Great benefits, if you choose to do the work. Not if not.

So PS3 (and Xbox 360) game developers will have to learn how to write multithreaded applications. Deadlocks, mutexes, condition variables, semaphores. You know the drill. Programmers have been doing this for literally decades. It’s tricky, granted. But I think those game developers are smart folks. They’ll do it, and we’ll reap the rewards.

Macworld – Dual-core chips: Twice as nice?

  • This has always been the problem with video games on the Macintosh. Games that were developed for the Macintosh or with the Macintosh in mind ran great but big titles like the latest PC shooter always ran like crap when ported because the code was made to run one thread fast instead of loads of threads at the same time. And now with all these new consoles, developers will have to write code that could be more easily ported to the Macintosh but Apple at the same time is moving to Intel.

  • I didn’t know that, but it makes sense. Though it’s not an Intel vs PowerPC thing. It’s just more common that Apple computers have more than one core/CPU. Also, some would argue that Apple’s OS X is also better at multithreading than Windows NT. So put these two things together, and it explains why developers write multithreaded games for Apple computers. Once Apple switches to Intel, the trend will probably continue.