This is part one of a two-part article. In this part, I talk about the features that were announced for the PlayStation 4.
Well-well, wasn’t last night just exciting? I don’t know how hyped you are, but honestly, I’m pretty darn hyped. Last night (Wednesday 20th) was Sony’s big night to announcement the long-awaited PlayStation 4, and the whole event live-streamed globally from a New York press conference in all time zones.
Not wanting to miss one bit of the reveal (and to the jot down the proceedings), I decided it would be kind of fun to live-tweet the whole thing, and later aggregate those tweets into one article. With a big hand to CVG, allow me to tell you the story of my first next-gen console announcement experience.
The event opened up with a montage in homage to the PlayStation consoles’ life and history, and all the fun times that were enjoyed with them. Loud, flashy, and pounding – “this is going to be good!” I remember thinking. Once the montage was finished, Andrew House (Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment) took the stage.
House starting building up the crowd by first talking about connectivity to mobile platforms specifically the PS Vita and PS Mobile, and how next-gen hardware and software will change the of gaming. Eventually, he finally got to announcing their “genesis”: the PlayStation 4, which – in retrospect – was nothing more than the consoles initials on the bug screen. House then said that the PlayStation 4 will be a “leading authority, and will surpass gamers’ wildest expectations,” to paraphrase.
Thanks to CVG, I’m now able to bring more of what happened during the live-stream, where I couldn’t tweet, watch, and listen at the same time.
The exec said Sony’s “most powerful platform ever” will allow “worlds to come alive with greater fidelity and intensity than ever before”.
House also noted that “ease of access regardless of location or device has been a priority” in the system’s development”.
“Our vision for the future is consumer centric and developer inspired,” he added, stressing that Sony is keen to enable developers to utilise “new business models that enable more flexibility including episodic and free-to-play”.
Once House was fished with his share of the spotlight, he called Mark Cerny (PS4’s lead system architect) to the stage. Once there, Cerny began outlining the PS4’s internal hardware. The PlayStation 4 boasts a whopping 8Gigs of unified system memory (that’s 8Gb of system-shared RAM), which will increase the richness of content of the console, and in next-gen games by extension. It will also make it easier on developers creating said games.
Along with that, the PS4 contains within itself a “highly enhanced” PC GPU, which contains an array of 18 computing units (which collectively generates 1.84 TeraFLOPS of graphical processing power), and a processing chip that carries eight cores. Both components are curtsey of AMD.
Boasting 8GB of unified system memory, PS4 houses a “highly enhanced” PC GPU “containing a unified array of 18 compute units, which collectively generate 1.84 Teraflops of processing power that can freely be applied to graphics, simulation tasks, or some mixture of the two”.
It is also “centred around a powerful custom chip that contains eight x86-64 cores and a state of the art graphics processor”.
I’ll try add some perspective: to quote Wikipedia, “most microprocessors today can do 4 FLOPs per clock cycle. Therefore a single-core 2.5-GHz processor has a theoretical performance of 10 billion FLOPS = 10 GFLOPS.”
With that statistic in mind, the PlayStation 4’s GPU can process 1.84 trillion floating-point operations a second – 1.84 TFLOPS, which is just over half of what an Nvidia GTX 680 can process (which is about the same as a GTX 660, if I’ve done the math correctly). Considering the PlayStation 3 has a theoretical maximum of 230.4 GFLOPS (closer to a GeForce GT 530) from a single floating-point operation point of view, that’s just over 7.5x greater graphical rendering power, regarding G3D Mark benchmarking. Of course, all this is assuming I did the math correctly. If I have, then dayum! That’s quite a performance jump.
After talking about the innards of the PS4, Cerny proceeded to bring out a physical prototype of the PlayStation 4’s controller, “DualShock 4”, and good Lord does it look interesting, if a little unsightly. Then again, it is just a prototype, and may – may – change over the course of the year, so I’ll refrain from fully judging it at the moment.
The DualShock 4 will feature improvements compared to its predecessor (naturally), as well as additions I honestly never would’ve thought of, nor anticipated. As well as enhanced rumbling and reduced latency, the controller now has a touchscreen, a headphone jack, a Share button, and a curious accessory called Light Bar. The Share button will allow you to share recorded video and screenshots of your gaming shenanigans instantly.
“Our goal is to make the sharing of video on PS4 as popular as the sharing of screenshots is today,” he said.
So, when Cerny was done with talking about the DualShock 4, he went on to demonstrate how the console’s GPU will take stress off of the CPU by showing a tech demo of the Unreal Engine 4 being rendered in real-time, which was pretty impressive and smooth. He also wanted to show off the PS4’s graphical capabilities by presenting a next-gen title that he’s directing: Knack. A charming looking game, I will say.
After Knack’s trailer, things swiftly went back to the features of the PlayStation 4, specifically the social interface. Which, in itself, looks pretty darn nifty. Socializing on the PS4 will be near enough like a social network, with each player having their own profile their full name and all. Of course, usernames and pseudonyms will still be used, but Sony want the socializing aspect of the PS4 to be much like that in real life (where everyone gets called by their first name, I suppose then).
Simplicity was next on the agenda, specifically a suspend/resume feature described as the PlayStation 4 being able to store saved gameplay data to RAM, and pick up where left off in the exact same spot when saved – making game boot-up instantaneous.
Sony also said PS4 radically reduces the lag time between players and their content. The system utilises a “suspend mode” which keeps the console in a low power state while preserving game sessions. “The time it takes today to boot a console and load a saved game will be a thing of the past,” according to the platform holder.
Personalisation was also brought to the big screen, being explained that you can customize your PS4 homescreen with your favorite tags, making sure that you don’t lose touch with the things you follow.
This kind of social interactivity can extend beyond the homescreen and into gameplay, too, where players can ask their friends to help them out if they’re stuck on a certain level or puzzle, and have their comments and such appear live on the screen. If the player allows it, their friends can also virtually take control of their game and complete the part the player couldn’t. Which is something that creeps me out, a little. However, it’s only if the player wants to, so don’t worry about your friends hijacking your game session.
Talk was then shifted to the topic of remote play. Remote play is a feature that has been built into the PS4’s architecture, and Sony has said that the PS Vita, as well as Android and iDevices, will be capable of being second screens. Vita users will be able to take PS4 games from the console and play them on the portable device via WiFi (much like the principle of the Wii U pad), and a PlayStation app will be brought out on supporting devices so players may use the extra screen space for things like maps or inventory.
Sony also said that Vita, along with iOS and Android devices, will be capable of acting as second screens for PS4. The new system will allow Vita users to “seamlessly pull PS4 titles from their living room TVs” and play them on the portable over Wi-Fi, while a PlayStation app will enable players to supplement their console gaming experience by – for example – displaying maps or inventory screens on supporting devices.
Another interesting feature is the PS4’s cloud service. Dave Perry, founder of cloud gaming platform Gaikai, talked about a system where players will be able to instantly play games from his service right on the get-go. Players won’t have to download a demo anymore in order to try out the games they would like to play. Well, not technically, you’d still have to download the stream of the game from the cloud to the console. On that note, however, as soon as the downloading starts, players will be able to play the game without having to wait X amount of time, and try the game out instantly.
Perry believes that players should get an immediate experience in anything they want, and that when it comes to it, we will be able to “try for free, and pay only for games you fall in love with“, which sounds quite generous.
Perry also described a system which will allow players to instantly play almost any PS4 game they’re interested in, without having to pre-download a ‘demo’ to their hard drive.
While browsing the new PlayStation Store, he said, players will apparently be able to simply ‘hit X’ and instantly try out a game.
Perry said he believes players should be allowed to “instantly experience anything that you want”, and “try for free, and pay only for games you fall in love with”.
“What we’re creating is the fastest, most powerful gaming network in the world,” said Perry.
Sony’s PlayStation cloud’s end goal is to bring players games from all over the PlayStation spectrum, including games from PS1, PS2; PS3; and PS Mobile, which all hints towards digital backwards compatibility. As a related tangent, second hand games will be able to play on the PlayStation 4.
That’s it for the features that picked during the live-stream. Stay tuned for part two, when I talk about the various tech demos and game demos that were revealed. If you haven’t yet watched the live-stream, you cam watch a comedic summary of it here.