17 Sep 2005 11:20 | Webmaster | Playstation 3
PS3Today.com | Read & Add Comments (92) | Link to this article
The Japanese tech site PC Watch has just posted an interview with Masayuki Chatani, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.’s Chief Technology Officer. What makes this interview so interesting is his vision on how PS3 games will really set themselves apart from the games we play today by utilizing the true power of the CELL for generating truly dynamic game characters and game worlds. As I wrote in my article, The Future of Gaming”, imagine a game where all character animations are calculated in real-time, instead of pre-recorded sequences that are used in today’s games. How would this change games? Well, just imagine a version of Tekken where you would never see two identical punches. The power, performance, and speed of the punch would all be calculated in real-time. You can read the full interview below, however it is translated through Babelfish so there will be some strange sentences and typos.
Q. You must have a good reason to add 2 HDMI transmitters, what usage do you expect for dual HDMI?
A. It’s purely because we wanted to add them. Since multi display expands gaming like a horizontally wide dual display or an extended game screen, we’ve wanted to add it at any cost. You don’t have to connect 2 HDTVs, a small sub-display is enough.
Q. Does HDMI contain S/PDIFx6?
A. Yes it’s totally compliant to the HDMI spec and audio output is assigned to it.
Q. This is related to the OS too, when you have a communication tool (such as IM) in the firmware and play games talking with your buddies by the same tool, can you use a sub-display even in games that don’t support dual display?
A. Yes. A communication tool is embedded in the firmware of course. You want to communicate while gaming, don’t you? You can popup a chat window in the main screen or in the sub screen.
You know PSP has much more functions in the OS than PS2 does. Likewise, the PS3 system will be extended and evolved one, in which a communication tool via internet is included.
Q. Judging from the message that you recommend PS3 as a digital media center, it’s very natural, in a sense, that it has an SD card slot. But as a default feature, in a Sony-branded product? It’s unprecedent, isn’t it?
A. To begin with we expect use with a digital camera as you can see from the fact that it has a CF slot too. Also, SD card is in many devices including mobile phones. Users will be annoyed if media have to be converted except for memsticks. Of course you want to put save data in all media types, don’t you?
Q. I can see you need those 3 slots to support digital cameras, but is it possible to put music purchased via EMD onto an SD card by this SD slot?
A. It’s dependent on DRM rather than on the slot types. If you need Magic Gate, you have to use a memstick. All media types including memstick are equivalent except for such aspects.
Q. In the spec sheet it has remote-control via IP network, what kind of usage is expected?
A. Controlling a game via IP, or controlling PS3 via an IP-based remote controller.
Q. It’s supposed to play BD-ROM video format, is it implemented on sale?
A. Yes of course. The video application format is not finalized but almost done and HD video decoding is very easy for us. Interactive functions will also be implemented in software, just after it’s finalized.
Q. The published PS3 diagram doesn’t contain a sound chip.
A. This time it has no sound chip because Cell can generate all sounds. In the leaf demo in the event we create sound data by running a code to simulate sound of a leaf in a wind then assign it to 5.1 channels to synthesize surround sound. CELL has abundant processing power and can do sound processing with ease so it doesn’t need a dedicated chip to create a sound wave in the DSP style.
Q. Gigabit Ethernet connectors are listed as In x 1 + Out x 2, what does it mean? Does it have router function and are they for WAN/LAN? Or do you use a special connection to connect multiple PS3s together?
A. It has no router function. It’s supposed to be a switching hub internally, but I don’t know about the meaning of In/Out frankly so will answer about it at the next opportunity. Of course you can connect PS3s together. After it’s on sale, some will make a supercomputer by connecting many PS3s. Apparently Sony Picture Entertainment is considering to use PS3 in a rendering farm for movies.
Q. For the connectors or the design, it looks very AV-oriented. It’s based on the PS2 design and just rounded, but when put horizontally it has the atmosphere of B&O (Bang & Olufsen) in the top-loading era. Is it strongly meant as one of AV products?
A. When TVs in home get HD, we recognize PS3 as the standard in the HD era. Thus we made it to be able to play all 12cm-disc formats.
Q. Considering power of CELL and GPU, the case size, and the internal power unit, it seems tough to manage heat. How is the noise?
A. Since quietness is very important, our hardware team is trying to make it as quiet as possible. Of course it has all power-saving efforts in the chip-level. Though it’s not compared with PS2 yet, I’d like to make it more quiet in the final product.
Q. The demo in the press conference suggested the possibility that physics simulation can change games. Though it has the aspect that it’s done to utilize the idiosyncrasy of CELL, I think whether PS3 can be an attractive game console or not is dependent on how it can achieve in this area.
A. In PS3, in addition to the full HD output, the rendering quality per se is very high. But the more high-def and the more real it gets, the more wierd it’s felt when it animates with a strange manner that’s not experienced in a real life. For example it’s very uncomfortable if skin contours don’t change naturally when facial expression is changed in rendering a face through which even cutaneous sensasion is conveyed.
It’s only an example, but on all occasions we have to actualize natural animation proportionally to improvement in graphics. In games it backfires if graphics improves while AI/simulation stays the same.
Q. To which part of physics simulation does parallel processing by 7 SPEs contribute?
A. So far, a simulation code in games had handled an in-game character as one rigid body. From now on more soft things such as human, plants and fluid can be represented more naturally. When you represent one character, you can generate natural animation and natural facial expression by spliting it into multiple parts and calculating them separately.
Likewise in a car-race game each part can have a different behavior calculation. For example, how a car moves when left and right wheels are on different kinds of surface can be solved by calculating behavior of each part.
Q. Physics simulation includes games such as Gran Turismo in which simulation precision per se is connected to the value of the game and games in which it’s just an assistant. How easy will it be for developers to use physics simulation as a tool?
A. Of course there’ll be a vendor that can implement and tune simulation code. It always surprises us, entertainment software developers have very high skill. No matter how difficult some processing seems, they come up with a very fast code. One point is to supply a tuning tool to make use of their skill.
The other point is, since there are middlewares for physics simulation, it can be easily implemented with them. In the case of PS2 it had taken some time until they got usable, but this time Havok and others are already in. For example, automatic generation of natural terrain or cloth simulation code are supplied.
Q. Is the PS3 development environment different from that of PS2?
A. Basically it doesn’t change very much. The target hardware, the regular development environment, and tools. The difference is Cg compiler and tools, OpenGL/ES support by the change to nVIDIA.
Q. Is it the same kind of approach in performance tuning?
A. Since we have performance analyzer tools for cache usage and bus usage that game developers have evaluated so far, we extend them further. We concentrate on tools to extract programmers power. Also, CELL has the function to emit processor usage statistics as a log. By using this, you can know detailed usage statistics of each core in CELL.
Q. In regard to PS3, because few devkits are supplied, I hear 2 kinds of opinions. Some expect it’d be hard to extract performance and others are surprised as they can extract performance very easily in an actual development. How is it in the real development scene?
A. To be honest, since it has so much margin in performance, we’ve heard no such feedback that it’s difficult to develop on it. Naturally it’s different from single-core programming, but it doesn’t add to man hours required for game development that much. I repeat it but entertainment programmers have tremendous ability.
For example we showed the demo that renders London City, it’s not rendered in the GPU but the CELL does lighting and texture processing then outputs it to the frame buffer. Even without GPU, only CELL can create good enough 3D graphics.
Q. A few years ago it seemed you were lost for how you use CELL in augmenting entertainment factors. Have you found the answer?
A. As I told you here, physics calculation, simulation, and AI. The better graphics gets, the more often you see unnaturalness. To extract reality that matches graphics quality, programming abstract animation is not enough already. CELL exists to represent the worldview closer to nature. In future, expression in games will evolve into the different level from until now.
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