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Sony Had "Completely The Wrong Attitude" To Third Parties During Pre-PS3 Era

"It was hard to do the most basic tasks on the hardware" says Mark Cerny.

Mark Cerny, speaking at Gamelab in Barcelona, has spoken out about the road to the PlayStation 4. In a live presentation the PS4’s system architect talked about the complexity of developing for the PlayStation 2, saying there was a “loss of flexibility” in game design because of the “low level graphics programming” required to get the most out of the console.

Cerny worked on graphics engines during that period, one of which resulted in Jax and Daxter.

In 2003, Yoshida talked to Cerny about his “concerns”, many of which were about costs of development – the “typical team had tripled”. Yoshida was talking about the next platform transistion, and would SCE be “up to the challenge of PS3″ – could they use a “common engine” between development teams, and grow the tech team (known as the ICE Team) to share knowledge and expertise.

Yoshida planned for “inter-team collaboration”, and even though at the time Cerny knew nothing about the PS3, the team studied hard on new technologies, like shaders. In the early days the hardware teams didn’t communicate with the game teams, but with the PS3 the ICE team would be integrated with the hardware teams, and Cerny would be central to this collaboration, not least because of his Japanese language skills.

Kutaragi’s Cell chip has already developed at this stage, and was passed to Cerny to see “what he could do with it”. He explains that developing for the new CPU “required huge effort” and was highly complicated. Cerny worked on a formal presentation, making “quite good process” on the Cell’s SPUs, but explains he was “focused on the task at hand” rather than thinking of practical applications for the chip – like games.

“It was hard to do the most basic tasks on the hardware,” he admits. It took a year or so to “crack the puzzle” and “there was now potential” with some great first party titles. Sony were happy they’d got “a tremendous lead over all the third parties on the system” – yes, really. “This was completely the wrong attitude, but we just didn’t know any better” he says.

Less than two years before the PS3’s launch, Cerny shifted to working on launch titles. At that time focus was “99% hardware, 1% software”. There was no debugging, no profiling, no graphics driver – it was all “in a primitive state” – and the third parties like EA and Ubisoft were “having an easily more difficult time.”

Engine development on PS1 took 1 month, on PS2 3 months, and on PS3 up to a year, Cerny added.

Of course, that all changed, and after the machine shipped Sony looked at “what worked and what hadn’t”, in order to look at what to change for PlayStation 4. This process was “inclusive and collaborative” for the first time, Cerny said. PS4 was originally going to use Cell again, at least it was an option to enhance it, but there were “other options”.

“Choosing a CPU would be a very big deal”, he admitted. “Timeline, business structure, development cost”. Cerny mentioned PowerPC and X86, the latter was apparently claimed to be “unusable in games consoles”. Cerny disagreed, saying he “spent his holiday in 2007 researching the X86″ and added that progressive enhancements changed conventional thinking.

Cerny went to Yoshida, pitching his skills as a lead architect on the PS4. He’d have to “leave WorldWide Studios” and work for SCE, although he wasn’t actually a company employee. In 2008 the development of PS4 began “in ernest” and began conversations with game developers, and started on the hardware.

“We wanted their input on the design” he said, referring to third parties, but said their solution was to make a questionnaire and present that to the developers and studios. Some questions were about GPU types, bandwidths, and so on, but more importantly Sony asked third parties about “the flavours of next-generation consoles”.

“Everyone we sat down with knew we were asking for feedback of PS4″, he admitted. “The number one piece of feedback was that the system had to be unified, one pool, and that if we had the money to spend we should invest it in an expensive GPU.”

They didn’t want an “exotic” GPU, though. Ray tracing, for example, would be a waste.

Cerny concentrated on some “rich features” for year one, and more “speculative” features for further down the line. Sony concentrated on ensuring the architecture was easy to use, but with powerful tech – GDDR5 memory, for example. The “Time To Triangle” for PS4 is back to 1-2 months, a huge contract to the 6-12 months that it was on PS3.

“Titles are much easier to bring to PlayStation 4″, Cerny claims. The GPU can be used for raycasting for audio, physics, collision detection, decompression, and so on, for example. “As developers learn to use these techniques later on”, he adds, “we’ll see richer and even more interactive worlds.”

It seems like lots of things were run by first and third parties during the development of the PS4 console. Cerny mentions Rockstar, Ubisoft, EA and Activision, and large-scale technical presentations that went well, and some that “let them know when they’re on the wrong track”.

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20 Comments
  1. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    The bit about how third parties were almost a year before they could have a usable engine on the system to use was heartbreaking. So much time lost! :-\

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 12:03.
  2. Fruitbat1919
    Member
    Since: Feb 2013

    I like the new honesty from Sony. They made mistakes. Admitted to making mistakes and are trying not to make them again.

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 12:12.
  3. JBoo
    Banned
    Since: Oct 2011

    This comment is hidden.

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 12:12.
    • Alex C
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      Sony were pretty shitty with the PS3. This is Sony admitting to that, and explaining that they’ve moved on from the self-centred attitude that resulted in most multi-format games looking like crap for years on PS3.

      PS4 development actually seems like they’ve fixed their mistakes. A negative? Hardly.

      Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 12:15.
      • Fartinabag
        Member
        Since: Feb 2013

        Seems Alex C has also fallen for the Microsoft fuelled PS3 hate.

        You realise 99% of it was made up right? That OtherOS thing was a storm in a teacup. I would bet money almost everyone crying about it never actually booted a copy of YDL, as if they had, they would know that it really wasn’t anything to write home about…

        Comment posted on 29/06/2013 at 14:38.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009
  4. KeRaSh
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    Damnit, I just missed the live stream. Hopefully the clip is up on youtube soon.

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 13:04.
  5. DividSmythe
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    So this really is the 1st real 100% admission they really did f*ck up the Ps3. I like your honesty Sony. Now give me a Ps4 :D

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 13:05.
    • Fartinabag
      Member
      Since: Feb 2013

      There is no differerence in strategy between PS1, PS2, PS3 and now PS4, Sony didn’t get anything wrong with he PS3.

      Whilst the media were all crying about the price, forcing them to lower the price by removing PS2 compatability and such, the reality is, they got a bang on.

      It’s a shame they pandered to the press which-hunt about PS2 compatibility, otherwise it would still be here.

      Comment posted on 29/06/2013 at 15:41.
  6. XisTG
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    I really liked the presentation.
    If a huge asteroid would be about to collide with Earth and wipe us out, Mark Cerny should do the announcement so that we would all remain calm :)

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 13:28.
  7. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Honesty is the best policy.

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 13:56.
  8. double-o-dave
    Member
    Since: Nov 2008

    Interesting, Sounds like Rockstar have been involved in the PS4 degvelopment for quite a while then…

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 14:01.
  9. Broonba
    Member
    Since: Mar 2009

    I’ve said it more than once, but I’m loving the ‘new’ Sony. They’ve obviously had a lot ‘hidden’ for a few years as the ‘new’ Sony actually began back when PS4 development began.

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 14:36.
  10. Awayze
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    I still don’t know who this guy is and no one cares how hard it was to developer for PS3 when you ended up with games like Uncharted and Gran Turismo

    Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 14:53.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Awesomely uninformed reply. Watch the video and learn, fella. He’s worth your time. :-/

      Comment posted on 27/06/2013 at 14:55.

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