Amazing PS3 Details
Thanks to reader Aaron for pointing this out to me. The people at Kikizo games has a preview of the PS3. It’s taking forever to load, so I assume that’s because everyone is hitting the site. Also, of course, you have to take all this with a grain of salt. Who knows if this is even real, but it does seem to be. Here are the hilights:
Interestingly, developers don’t think that everything Sony promised will fit inside the PS3 mockups being shown by Sony:
“I think to fit everything that Sony wants in there AND leave space for a 2.5 inch hard drive,” explains one senior developer working on a final kit, who will be our guide for much of this report, “the machine would have to grow. The models they’re showing off are way too small for what they want.”
Perhaps the biggest bombshell we’ve learned in the world of PS3 development right now is that many (if not most) games are simply running in 720p – not the ambitious, bleeding edge 1080p “Full HD” standard that Sony had us so excited about. And certainly, not two of them stuck together for a ludicrous 32:9 double-1080p.
Nvidia was on the money with its President’s comments last May: resolution is indeed the enemy of graphics. Our insider explains: “Sony wanted 1080p, but we’re working at 720p and 1080i, same as on the Xbox 360. Even with [final hardware] in mind, reaching good frame rates at 1080p with next-gen graphics is almost impossible. Instead many developers, ourselves included, are reworking so they run at 720p. PS3’s output takes care of upscaling it – so no native 1080p, but it still looks killer.” Perhaps there was always a specific reason why Sony felt it should say “up to 1080p”?
So is 1080p doable at all?
It’s hard to say for sure, but the developer suggests some games will still support it. “I think native 1080p games will be in the minority. Getting the best effects and performance is easier at lower resolution, so we can offer the gamers more thrills. I don’t think this situation will change much.”
How do games look?
Particularly from a first-person or camera-only explorative view, everything from looking at natural, detailed, muddy floor to being in the shade of a tree, feels a bit closer to the being-there experience gamers dream of. A peaceful early morning sunlight scatters through leaves and floods over the darkened branches, softly rendered shadow traces all the way down to a canvas where grains of earth are visible, while dynamic range lets our eyes see it all in accurate contrast together – it’s beautiful, almost like they promised this sort of scene would be – and it seems those 100 billion programmable shaders per second are being put to good use. It really is all about dynamic range and surfaces when it comes to realistic game images.
How does the PS3 fare next to the 360?
We’re talking about a machine barely superior to Xbox 360 – not by any significant margin. It’s certainly obvious this machine is not “twice” as powerful as 360, let alone a generational leap ahead. But the gap could become bigger: “Realistically, as libraries and experience with both machines grow, I think the PS3 will start showing things the 360 will choke at,” offers the source. “But Sony will have to make available to us libraries and new routines for that to happen – something they’ve been severely lacking at so far.”
What is developing games for the PS3 like?
Sure, there’s still some framerate optimisation to go in this particular game build, but generally, framerate shouldn’t be an issue for long. SCEI’s Masa Chatani describes PS3 architecture as elegantly simple with outstanding performance, and developers say they love the streamlined Open GL environment. But our guide adds: “Cell is weird and difficult to work with… coding has progressed with high speeds and paper specs in mind, it’s one of the reasons framerate specs aren’t met yet. We’ve been anti-aliasing through software which also means a performance hit, although the 720p upscaling minimises that problem a bit.”
What do PS3 games really look like in real time?
One memorable point in another game build altogether observed some intense character based interactivity. Finally being able to control on a PS3 the sort of visual quality we realistically expect, with convincing and varied human facial expression, did feel like a moment of relief – this stuff is realtime after all. We had lighting effects and specular highlights used to great effect, shadows forming realistically on wrinkles of skin, precise colours, ultra-detailed rippling materials (though the ripple needed some work) – and that’s not even talking about the surrounding environment, which had its own moving objects and particle elements. As far as “emotionally believable” experiences go, this moment was more solid than we’ve experienced in a past generation title. It was nothing we couldn’t imagine running to the same sort of effect on Xbox 360, but it was reassuring to see it in genuine realtime and with some developer perseverance, a few required improvements seem within reach.
In hindsight, there was some stuff that looked decidedly more like what we’ve been playing now – UbiSoft’s Killing Day seeming like it was a good, honest estimate. Rewatch that below, and consider this is comparable to the technical visual quality of what we’ve played, and you’ll likely conclude that this is, for now at least, really same-generation stuff next to Xbox 360.
So no Killzone type graphics. More like Killing Day.
Finally, what about the PS3’s release date?
Based on this evidence, things aren’t exactly rocketing ahead, and we wouldn’t be the first to question the potential of some kind of delays. Our developer is first to chip in: “We think that in Japan it will most likely release during Summer, Q4 in the US, and Europe in Winter or Spring 2007 – these are our internal projections.” And right now, it seems most observers would agree.
But Spring could mean as late as late June, which is pretty much Summer. Some, including the folks at next-gen.biz, have pondered whether Sony’s recently appointed British CEO might change traditional strategy and focus an initial launch in America, where it’s argued that the most vital battle PS3 will be fought – BluRay’s battle. But the other school of thought suggests that Howard Stringer would need to have been running the show a bit longer to reasonably affect significant plans for the company’s most important project, relatively late in the day. But then, nobody seems to know for sure yet.
Thanks Aaron for the link. This sure made for some interesting reading.