Archive for playstation 3

X360 vs PS3

Posted in Tech, Video Games with tags , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2007 by Saquib

Looking back at 2005 to mid 2006, Sony had all of us convinced that Playstation 3 will be the future of entertainment in every aspect for gamers around the world. In fact, they even declared PS3 as “This is Living”. Previews, speculations and assumptions from people all around the world was so big, that it didn’t even feel necessary to compare other next-gen consoles to it. But, that was then, and now time has come when Next-Gen has become Current-Generation of consoles, and things have pretty much summed up enough for us to reach conclusions. The fact that is most concerning is PS3 was probably over-hyped than what it actually was. But Sony was smart enough to show the market how much technically advancement they had, which we all went crazy over.

Things changed since I played XBOX360 and Playstation 3 side by side the first time at my friend’s place. The graphics were not only exactly the same but in fact in many cases XBOX360 did look better. I thought it was only because PS3 games needed more development time – but I was wrong. I checked online, and some truly unbiased reviews and figured out X360 was not really anything less in true sense than the Playstation itself: Microsoft really didn’t boast their hardware features to extremes as was with Playstation 3. The hardware debate between PS3 and X360 is very deep and here are some easy to understand facts. First of all, The Xbox 360 processor was designed to give game developers the power that they actually need, in an easy to use form. The Cell processor has impressive streaming floating-point power that is of limited use for games try to see this, the Cell processor in PS3 has 7 SPUs (Synergistic Processing Unit) which is NOT like 7 different cores of CPU (like you get 2 cores of CPU in a Dual Core CPU) but are more like 7 DSPs with only 1 Core. Xbox 360 has three general purpose CPU cores compared to just one from PS3. Those SPUs from Cell have no cache, no direct access to memory, no branch predictor, and a different instruction set from the PS3’s main CPU. They are not designed for or efficient at general purpose computing. DSPs are not appropriate for game programming. Therefore, if you compare the numbers “seven” vs. “three”, you’ll be seriously misguided. Of course Cell’s SPUs have advantages, but they are leveled up because of more efficient processing capability of X360’s triple core CPU. In fact, game development is very difficult and expensive for PS3 only because of its Cell processor. Game programmers do not want to spread their code over eight processors, especially when seven of the processors are poorly suited for general purpose programming. Evenly distributing game code across eight processors is extremely difficult, while limits a developers freedom in optimum designing according to needs. On paper, the PS3 is more powerful. In reality, it’s quite inferior to the 360. Without getting into too many details, the three general-purpose CPU’s the xbox360 has are currently FAR easier to take advantage of than the SPU’s on the PS3. Another important thing that Sony can’t deny, is X360’s Graphics Processor Unit is much more stronger than PS3’s. X360’s GPU (called “Xenos”) was developed by ATI with very high speeds, and best of all a “Unified Shader” model design. This features PC gamers will only see in DirectX 10 based cards from PC (infact the newest 8 series cards from nVidia doesn’t yet support Unified Shader). In easy words this means instead of having a defined number of pipeline for different graphical tasks, Unified Shader gives developers the opportunity to fully use the pipelines as they need for a very effective graphical power use. X360 has total of 512MB of RAM which can ne adjusted between main & video memory, PS3 has defined 256 + 256 MB – again less chance for scalability according to designers prospective. Xenos has more pipelines than the RSX designed by nVidia. This RSX is actually very much comparable to the 7800GTX from nVidia, while Xenos is comparable to the upcoming DX10 based card from ATI. In terms of bandwidth, The PS3 has 22.4 GB/s of GDDR3 bandwidth and 25.6 GB/s of RDRAM bandwidth for a total system bandwidth of 48 GB/s where Xbox 360 has 22.4 GB/s of GDDR3 bandwidth and a 256 GB/s of EDRAM bandwidth for a total of 278.4 GB/s total system bandwidth. The 360 also has a innovative new way rendering high definition anti aliased back buffers – this was probably an idea taken from Microsoft’s DirectX10. Of course, ATI’s GPU wont directly support DX10, but through some passive way games CAN be made to look lvery close to DX10 based games, thanks to MS+ATI partnerships. To accomplish the same effect on PS3 is prohibitively expensive in terms of hardware resources. Many games will have no choice but to run in low resolutions on the PS3 version, use a lower quality anti aliasing technique, or do back buffer up scaling, which ultimately will result in sacrifice in image quality for performance (something you might have seen in PC graphics cards settings). Also to be noted now both X360 and PS3 supports 1080p resolutions, thanks to the November update patch to X360. In addition it’s predicted in 2007, Microsoft will lunch X360 with HDMI ports for those reach gamers who don’t mind paying an additional 4-5 lakhs taka on a TV just to pay High Resolution games. I have tried to keep things as simple as possible, for detailed review and side by side comparison you can go to this site that clearly explains everything:

If this is the case, then why PS3 costs so much? It’s because of other things that you can have with PS3 (which you really don’t require for gaming). The most expensive part of PS3 probably is the Blu-Ray Disc support. Of course if you look into paper, it gives you 50GB of storage, compared to little over 9GB for DVDs. But looking at all the games it seems DVD-Rom is still good enough media for games, and to add to that, what Microsoft said was, it can simply provided Multi Disc games if required, which we are all familiar with. Well what’s the pain of using multiple DVDs if really needed? Another point is, content takes a long time to load from Blu-Ray discs, that increases the loading time, and sometimes might have to load too often from the disc: This issue was faced while developing Oblivion for PS3. Todd Howard notes: “Drive speed matters more to me [than capacity], and Blu-ray is slower”, revealing that “the PS3 Oblivion team compensated for the slower drive by duplicating data across the Blu-ray disc, making it faster to find and load.” [More on this URL: ]. As much as High Definition movies are concerned (I wouldn’t use such an expensive console to view movies, especially when we all know watching movies decreases the lifetime of the lens!) you can always get the external HD-DVD ROM for X360 that’ll satisfy your needs. By the way, don’t get scared that games might be switching to HD-DVDs for X360, as Microsoft assured that it will not be allowing X360’s games being published on HD-DVDs to stay loyal to all of its customers. Other factors include PS3 having a 60GB hard drive, compared to X360’s 20GB. But when a game requires around 250kB of storage space, this really is enough to store save files and some HD movies and couple of hundred MP3s. If you really wanted to store so much on a game console (I’ll rather use a PC, Duh!) then you can add you USB thumb drives of USB hard drives to your X360 too. Besides Microsoft will also be releasing additional 120GB X360 hard drives for all those storage crazy console owners. PS3 has a multi format card reader – I don’t know how it effects gaming or can benefit anyone, but as long as card readers are concerned, they can be bought cheap and used via USB for X360 too – all though this really doesn’t seem to be necessary for gaming, instead only addition to development cost. Surely PS3 looks better than X360, and I’m sure that gloss paint did cost Sony more than Microsoft – but looks is not really important to me when buying a game console. The physical size pf PS3 is bigger than X360, so in a equal sized transportation Microsoft can fit in more X360s than PS3s, add that extra shipping charge to your wallet as well.

Xbox 360 undoubtedly has a better and more stable online community. Sony’s recently announced “HOME” online community for PS3 is more like a stolen idea from Second Life. Similarly motion sensitive idea was probably taken from Nintendo, but the vibration feature in X360 is good enough. If you really are a motion sensing controller crazy person, then Wii is simply the best choice for you! Developers will have additional benefits from X360. Not only games are easy to make, but also easy to port to Windows platform. In fact soon new games will merge PC gamers (wing Windows) and X360 gamers on the same multiplayer arena for an awesome experience. The Xbox 360 also already have a great database for games, and is increasing at a high rate. Many f the PS3’s unique games have now been announced for Xbox 360 as well. These include games like Devil May Cry 4 is coming to X360. The news is in line with a growing trend–many companies are choosing to go multiplatform rather than limit profits with a single-format game. Previous titles that were once platform-exclusive include Virtua Fighter 5, Assassin’s Creed, Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War, Fatal Inertia (all previously on the PS3 only) are now being developed for X60 as well. In fact X360’s own games like Gears of War, Halo 3, Crackdown – is proving that this time Microsoft is serious about game play, not just development of consoles. If visuals of current Xbox 360 games have blown your mind, then you have no clue to what limit Microsoft is pushing its development, as games with even better graphics and game play is on their way. And for those like me who simply things buying a HD TV for games is simply silly and too much out of your budget, then just pick up the Xbox 360 High Definition VGA cable that fit’s directly to you X360 to provide HD quality video to you PC monitors! So you can add a high resolution monitor or even have fun with your current monitor by enjoying games in great resolutions. Don’t think this is some kind of conversion from the composite output video cables; this gets directly digitally connected to you X360 and you can set up resolutions, aspect ratio and everything to your needs.

I had been a Playstation fan boy since the first Playstation: while many machines have shown more power on paper, but when you compare real facts and the best value for money, you can’t get wrong with Xbox 360. Sony became too expensive and too late… in fact many things that they had promised was not seen for PS3, but when Sony makes comments like “The next generation doesn’t start until we say it does” – they better know what they are doing. This time Microsoft learnt everything from its mistakes on the first Xbox, and made sure they could deliver what gamers who really need. Spending for these new systems are extremely expensive, and it’s sensible for lot of gamers like me, who are on a budget and can only afford one console that would really satisfy the needs. Don’t be misguided by simple comparisons, you can’t really go wrong with any one of these consoles, but having a Xbox 360 might be the smartest way to spend money on. If you really have little more cash to spend on, buy the VGA cable, additional controllers, a good wide screen LCD (19” or more), Dolby Digital speakers etc – those would be the extras that would complete your true next generation experience.

This is an interesting discussion I found from Jason Booth’s (a game developer) blog:

“The PS3 is more graphically advanced than the 360”
Fill rate is one of the primary ways to measure graphics performance – in essence, it’s a number describing how many pixel operations you can perform. The fill rate on the PS3 is significantly slower than on the 360, meaning that games either have to run at lower resolution or use simpler shader effects to achieve the same performance. Additionally, the shader processing on the ps3 is significantly slower than on the 360, which means that a normal map takes more fill rate to draw on the ps3 than it does on the 360. And I’m not talking about small differences here, we’re talking roughly half the pixel pushing power.

“Ok, fine, but the cell is like, super powerful”
In theory, sure, but in reality it doesn’t work out that way. Game code simply doesn’t split well across multiple processors. You can probably find a way to split a few things off fairly easily – put the audio on one processor, animation on another; but generally the breakup is always going to leave several of the SPUs idle or underutilized. On top of that, it’s usually not CPU speed that restricts the visuals in games – it’s fill rate.

“Uh, Blue Ray!”
Great for watching movies, but not so great for games. Getting data off the blue ray drive takes about twice as long as it does to get the same data off the 360’s DVD drive. That translates into longer load times, or god forbid if your streaming from disk, tighter constraints on the amount of data you can stream.

“But it’s got a lot more space than DVD”
Ok, you got me there – it does have a lot more space, and there is the potential to use that to do something cool, but thats unlikely to be realized in any useful way. There are tons of compression techniques available for data and I’d personally rather be able to get my data faster than have more of it. Most developers who use the entire Blue Ray drive are doing it to work around other problems with the ps3 such as it’s slow loading – for instance, in Resistance: Fall of Man, every art asset is stored on disk once for every level that uses it. So rather than storing one copy of a texture, you’re storing it 12 times. If you took that entire game and removed all the duplicate data, it would likely fit on a DVD without any problem. They do this to speed up load times, which, as I pointed out before, are painfully slow on the ps3. So in this case, the extra space is completely wasted.

“Once developers figure out the PS3 they’ll maximize the hardware and it will be amazing”
I suspect a small number of PS3 only developers will optimize the hardware to do something cool. However, this will be an exception to the rule, and will likely involved game designs that are specifically designed for the hardware and funded by Sony. If those will prove to be fun or not is another question.

Most of the performance centric research into the PS3 has been around making it easier for developers to get the same level of performance you get out of the 360 naturally. For instance, some developers are using those extra SPU’s on the cell to prepare data for the rendering pipeline. Basically, they take the data they would normally send to the graphics chip, send it to an SPU which optimizes it in some manner, then send it to the graphics chip. So, once again we see an ‘advantage’ in hardware being used to make up for a disadvantage in another area – a common theme with the ps3. And this introduces an extra frame of latency into the equation, making controller response slower.

So, the common theme is this; developers must spend significantly more time and resources getting the PS3 to do what the 360 can already do easily and with a lot less code. Lets look at how this translates into practical realities for a moment:

Why the PS3 version often pails in comparison to the 360 version, and why exclusives often suck: As outlined above, getting equivalent performance out of the PS3 requires a lot of work unique to the platform, and in many cases, even with all these tricks, you still won’t see equivalent performance. Thus, many ps3 games have simplified shaders and run at lower native resolutions than the 360 versions. On top of this, there is shrinking incentive to do this work; the PS3 isn’t selling.

The code needed to make the PS3 work is most likely only useful to you on the PS3, as the types of tricks you need to do to make the thing perform are very unique to the platform and unlikely to be useful on any other architecture now or in the future. These issues all stem from unbalanced hardware design, and any future hardware that is this unbalanced will likely be unbalanced in a completely unique way.

Finally, there’s the problem of resources. Game Development is, at it’s heart, a resource management challenge. Given finite resources, do I have these five engineers work on optimizing the PS3 version to look better, or do I use them to make the game play better and fix bugs? Do I change my design to fit with what the PS3 hardware does well, or simply run the game at a slightly lower resolution on the PS3 to make up for it? Developers striving to push the PS3 hardware have often sacrificed their game in the process.

This post might come across as a lot of Sony bashing, but it’s just the reality from the trenches. Sony let their hardware be designed by a comity of business interests rather than a well thought out design that would serve the game development community. They are going to loose hard this round because of it, and I hope that in the next round they take lessons from this round and produce a more balanced and usable machine.


PlayStation 3

Posted in Tech, Video Games with tags , , on December 1, 2006 by Saquib

Last year around the same time, Sony had blown everyone’s mind, showing off the capabilities of the PlayStation3, the next generation of Sony’s game console. Ever since then, Sony had been extremely quite and almost gave up almost zero details about their final product that consumers are going to have. But as expected, Sony give almost full specification and final product details to consumer in this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Now, I’m assuming you already did my auricle about specifications of PS3, or of course by now have heard loads of comments, rumors, reviews, preview of the system. So, I’m just going to start this from the next level. most of the details given away last year has been confirmed and additional information has been added.

PS3The first thing to notice, is the RAM of PS3. The PS3 would be using 256MB of system memory. Unlike traditional memories, PS3 will be going for XDR RAM. This means exceptional high speed data transfer rates between the system components. The PS3 will be using all of its seven cores of its beast that drives it, in other words, the CPU of PS3, called the Cell. Each core running at 3.2 GHz of core clock speed, and 2 or 3 will be only used by the PS3 system, the others will be used by the games. Developers can use those cores to distribute the processing as they like. The most significant use of the extra cores, should be by the Physics Engines. These make the games “feel” more real. Dedicated hardware for game physics means serious improvement of how the game environment interacts, making more reality in the game. The PS3 will also feature additional 256MB of DDR3 RAM as video memory for the RSX (Reality Synthesizer) chip developed by nVidia for PS3. The chip is very similar to the GPU of 7800GTX, but clocked at higher speed. New details also confirm that the RSX chip can also fetch additional storage memory if required from the system’s XDR RAM that have been discussed above. The PS3 has full HD resolution of 1080p – the highest standard of High Definition video today. The PlayStation 3 will have full support for Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in all games, the sound processing will be done by one of the Cell’s cores and the sound processing would share any required memory from the system memory as well. The console would ship with a built-in Blue Ray disk drive. These disks can store around 50GB of data, giving game developers full benefit of creating high-definition supported rich game contents without limits. BlueRay disk support also means, the PS3 can playback any next generation High Definition movies via BD-ROMs. Many of the top of the line movie studios have announced their full support for BlueRay disks already. All you need to do to play those high definition movies, is just get the disks and put in your PS3.

The most significant update that was confirmed by Sony since last E3, is the huge change in the controller design. As I had written in my PS3 review last year, the console was supposed to ship with a boomerang shaped controller. Many people around the globe criticized this installment to PS3. The original console developed by Sony back with PlayStation in their first generation, was simply a ground-breaking design. In fact, it was so good in terms of use and reliability, that it continued even in PS2. Now, the PS3 also would be taking the same design. the new final design for PS3’s console looks similar to the old ones. But, this is serious upgrade in terms of functionality. First of all, the console will be connected via Bluetooth to the PS3. It can also be connected trough USB wire for playing games, or charging it. A full charge gives the controller the ability to play for 24 hours. Last, but not least, the new controller is “Motion Sensitive”. Yeah, that means, you can actually control game characters or objects by just moving the controller physically to any direction up to 6 degrees. So you can now not only control stuffs in game from the buttons, analog stick, and the direction pad – but by moving the whole controller itself! The new controller also has more responsiveness than the previous one, and is also much lighter in weight. But the fact that it’s light is probably because it has no vibration functionality anymore. That’s because the vibration simply creates problem for the motion sensitivity detector to understand the original movement made by the user.

The PlayStation 3 will have online playing capabilities with loads of new addition. You not only connect your PS3 to the Internet to play against others, but also download game goodies, new levels,
new additions to your games. You will also have features like chat, VoIP, video conference, music sharing etc. But the best part of it all, is unlike X360, the online system will be free of charge! Thats a great news, and should dramatically increase the PS3 online memberships. The PS3 has both ethernet card and Wi-Fi support built in. Through Wi-Fi you can easily connect PlayStation Portable (PSP) systems to your PS3. The entire connectivity is so well designed that you can do pretty much of anything between a PS3 and PSP other than mere data transfer. To demonstrate the possibilities, a demo of a racing game was shown, where the user was playing the game on PS3 and was using the PSP as the display for the rear view mirror! How cool is that?

In the press conference, Sony also demonstrated many playable games. This means many game developers are already finishing their titles in games. Games like, Metal Gear Solid , Devil May Cry 4, Tekken 6, Gran Turismo HD, Sonic the Hedgehog, NBA Live 2007, Need for Speed, Eight Days, Final Fantasy XIII have been confirmed for the console already. Sony also officially confirmed that the PS3 is fully compatible with each and every game that was released on PlayStation and PlayStation 2 – adding one of the biggest game libraries to the next generation. The games really do look stunning, but it must be mentioned they are still not up to the best capabilities of the system. If you consider the games to the PS2, it’s a huge upgrade – however, if you are still comparing with X360’s games, honestly, you’d see very little difference between them. But, don’t underestimate the PS3 capabilities. The games you’re looking at, are first generation of PS3 titles, as game development will increase and there would be significant upgrade to game play and visual. Consider the first game titles of PS2, and game titles of PS2 today – the game developers need some time to take full advantage and to make fine tunes to their titles for a specific system. So, within 6 to 12 months of the release of PS3, games would look absolutely mind blowing. It’s beyond doubt, that PS3 is the most powerful system among all the next generation game consoles.

Alright, now to the most important part of all, when do we have PS3 and how much it’s going to cost us anyway? Well, the first news is, PS3 is coming out in November (17th -18th), 2006 – just around the holiday season. It’s heading for a “Global Launch” so, the console is coming in all regions, USA (NTSC-U/C), Japan (NTSC-J), Europe and Australia (PAL) around the same time. Many sites have said that the PS3 just like PSP will have NO region coding – this means that any game bought from any region would work on PS3. This, if true, is a fantastic decision made by Sony. This should also make developers build better games for PS3 as they would be fighting against the world markets of game developers. Also, to us, this would mean, we can buy or order games from anywhere, and never have to think of compatibility issues.

The pricing strategy for PS3 is also a noticeable change. The PS3 would have two versions: Firstly, the 599US$ Unit: With all options including: HDMI output, WiFi, Sony’s popular format memory cards support etc. Secondly, the 499US$ unit: Same as the higher priced unit, but will not have HDMI, Wi-Fi, Memory Stick support. The cheaper version would have upgrade options, as addition Wi-Fi hardware and Memory Card Reader units will be sold separately, however, the cheaper version can not be upgraded to have the HDMI output support. to the point I see, it seems reasonable to get the 600US$ version than the cheaper one. Do make sure, you get or have a HDTV to play a PS3 with its full power. There are 3 colors (Black, Silver & White) available for PS3, however which colors will be available during first launch is still unknown. Millions of PS3 will be shipped worldwide, but it’s obvious, there will be lack of console very soon prior to the release dates.

But the sad story is the version most anticipated by us (PAL units) have been delayed to March 2007. This was a shock to many PS3 fans all over Europe, Asia, Australia, Russia and Middle East; Only US and Japan would have their versions ready in November 2006; Sony really decided to let down a very large and crucial market of PS3.However, there are some promising titles getting ready to be released along with the PS3 within this year, some are listed here:

* Genji: Days of the Blade
* NBA 07
* Resistance: Fall of Man
* Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
* Call of Duty 3
* EA Sports Fight Night Round 3
* The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion
* F.E.A.R.
* Full Auto 2 Battlelines
* Marvel Ultimate Alliance
* Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire
* NBA 2K7
* Untold Legends Dark Kingdom
* Ridge Racer 7
* Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
* Sonic the Hedgehog
* Need for Speed Carbon
* Tony Hawk’s Project 8
* Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas

There are naturally some absolutely stunning games set to be released soon that will blow you away with stunning gameplay and visuals. Most of these are only on PS3, that would make us want to buy PS3 at the first place. Don’t ever neglect these titles if you get a PS3. Here are my favourites:

1. Devil May Cry 4 – Capcom
2. Final Fantasy- Square Enix
3. Formula One – SCE Studios Liverpool
4. Heavenly Sword – Ninja Theory
5. Killzone – Guerilla Games
6. Metal Gear Solid 4 – Kojima Productions / Konami
7. MotorStorm – Evolution Studios
8. Tekken PS3 – Namco
9. Vision GT (Gran Turismo HD) – Polyphony Digital / SCE
10. Warhawk – Incognito Entertainment

Although extremely powerful on technical specifications, the PS3 really has very midget difference in graphics than that of XBOX360. This is partly because initial games of any systems are not able to take full advantage of a system (consider first generation PS2 games with PS titles of today); and also partly because XBOX360 is not really that less powerful than the PS3 itself. However, PS3 not only boast graphical capabilities, but also has more features attached to it. It supports more controllers, more hard drive space, true hi definition video output (at 1080p), motion sensitive controllers, complete backward compatibility with all PS1 and PS2 titles, next generation Blu-Ray media support, compatibility with PSP and older PS2 memory cards (so that we can play our old PS2 saved games directly into PS3) and best of all no region coding on games along with absolutely free on-line gaming unlike paid service of XBOX Live. But the delay and higher prices are still of concern as X360 is increasingly getting stronger with bigger and better library of games than that of the original XBOX. Also XBOX has the ability to provide full Hi Definition output to standard PC Monitors (since they already support hi resolutions) via a separately sold adapter; this technique strongly brings down the cost of buying a HDTV which costs a huge amount of money. It’s proven that without Hi Definition, we are unable to see many of the graphical capabilities that the next generation consoles are able to furnish. I believe Sony should also take similar initiatives for PS3 to help many of the games who just don’t need an HDTV except for gaming. Sony’s new toy is also heading for competition with Nintendo’s Wii, a console destined to make changes in the gaming world. Although Sony might not really count it as a rival because of far less technical capabilities, but Wii has the potential to draw in gamers with its radical style of gameplay with top of the line motion sensitive controller that no other console has to offer. Unlike PS3, the Wii games take every advantage of the controller making games fun and fascinating at the same time. Considered that the Wii is priced less than half of the PS3 (250 USD / less than 20,000 Tk.), it has a impregnable selling point. Just like Sony, Nintendo too has many legendary platform games of its own. Sony has long been the king of consoles with its Playstation brand, but they shouldn’t take the market for granted. Playstation3 is truly the console of today, having everything that we could ask for; but i believe Sony must focus on the customer’s point of view also rather depending solely on profits. It’s highly probable that Playstation 3 is set to win the war of next generation consoles, but this time it’s also confirmed that it would be a very close competition among these rivals, and winning might not be as easy as it was with Playstation 2 and the original Playstation. Consider yourself to be really lucky, if you get a chance to get hands on one of them within this December. The true next generation of console gaming doesn’t start until PlayStation 3 is launched – the difference between dreams and reality is now only a matter of time.