Mark Cerny is one of the most knowledgable people in the industry when it comes to PlayStation hardware, especially the PS4 given his instrumental input into the hardware design for Sony’s next gen games console. He’s had a massive hand in creating many of the PlayStation brands biggest titles, with everything from Killzone to God of War, Spyro and Crash Bandicoot to his name!
Marc recently sat down with Gamasutra for an interview where he discussed many of the development aspects of Sony’s upcoming console, where he detailed why Sony had made a switch to using dedicated hardware units on the console for many of the systems basic functions.
“The reason we use dedicated units is it means the overhead as far as games are concerned is very low. It also establishes a baseline that we can use in our user experience.” Said Cerny
“For example, by having the hardware dedicated unit for audio, that means we can support audio chat without the games needing to dedicate any significant resources to them. The same thing for compression and decompression of video.” The audio unit also handles decompression of “a very large number” of MP3 streams for in-game audio” he continued.
Basically meaning that extra hardware is in place to deal with many of the systems basic OS features, rather than the software systems that are in place on current gen consoles.
PlayGo is a feature that allows you to download part of your game purchase and start playing before the download has completed, much like can be done with titles such as Diablo III on the PC. Combined with some new data compression techniques that have been applied to the blu-ray drive and storage media, Sony aim to make next-gen games load quicker not to mention spend less time waiting to play your games and actually just get on and play them!
“So, what we do as the game accesses the Blu-ray disc, is we take any data that was accessed and we put it on the hard drive. And if then if there is idle time, we go ahead and copy the remaining data to the hard drive. And what that means is after an hour or two, the game is on the hard drive, and you have access, you have dramatically quicker loading… And you have the ability to do some truly high-speed streaming.”
Another big benefit that Cerny spoke about was the addition of a low powered custom chip, designed to operate in low power states that can run the important functions of the base hardware, allowing for downloads and updates while the hardware is essentially in sleep mode, essentially allowing you to not only update your games on the fly, but also turn your console off mid-game and return to it later much like you can on many Android and iOS titles with a “save state” function.
“When I pitched Sony originally on the idea that I would be lead system architect in late 2007, I had the idea that I’d be mostly doing hardware but still keep doing a bit of software at the time, and then I got busy with the hardware.” I ended up having a conversation with Akira Sato, who was the chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment for many years. And his strong advice was, ‘Don’t give up the software, because your value is so much higher to the process, whatever it is — whether it’s hardware design, the development environment, or the tool chain as long as you’re making a game.'”
PlayStation 4 is due to launch this year, most likely in November and love it or hate it there is no doubt that this is a big product launch for both the gaming and technology industries, either way its clear to me that Mark Cerny has put his hearts and soul into the development of the console and given his history in the industry, that can only mean good things.
You can read the full interview between Mark and Gamasutra here.