With the anniversary of Sony's PlayStation 3 nearing what you are hearing isn't a cacophony of praise from the development community regarding the PlayStation 3, in stead it's harsh criticism.
Initially, this type of criticism was coming from high-profile developers and studio heads credited with developing titles for Microsoft's XBox 360 and Windows. However, quiet dissent is beginning to echo from long-time PlayStation developers offering very specific details regarding the issues and fundamental flaws of the PS3.
One developer, Jason Booth, decided to offer his insight into issues that he encountered in his Blog of Booth: PS3 Misconceptions and Spin (NOTE: This blog contains strong adult language and subject matter due to responses from some individuals)
. Would it not be for the vociferous outcry from Sony PlayStation fans, Jason's blog may never have caught the attention it has. Even as such, the remarkable event isn't his post to his blog, but it's the number of credible posts from purported developers that offer even more specific insight into what Jason is saying (in some cases correcting him) and defending his statement.
While Jason's post covers several topics one of the issues he brought up resonated with other developers, that of the graphics capabilities on the PlayStation 3.
Originally Posted by Jason Booth
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.
While the validity of this statement has been argued by individuals like "Marco Salvi", others such as "JackDu" have in their own research or experience identified what is being said.
There are two main issues creating technical issues for developers on the PlayStation 3. First, low bandwidth creates a limitation within the RSX graphics chip to perform 4xAnti-Aliasing. Second, poor Vertex Shading performance.
Anyone who has worked with graphics knows what anti-aliasing (AA) is. Without AA the effort to blend and smooth the edges of two graphic elements together would take hours if not days to complete for just a simple static image. The process of AA looks at the palette in use and lightens, darkens, and even mixes colors to provide a soft, smooth transition from one graphic element to the next (such as a background to a foreground item). A great example of AA is in the text I'm writing here. Without AA the letters would be jaggy and blocky.
In a static graphic AA it's a simple, one-time event, however in a game AA must be performed constantly for every pixel the player moves. In most situations, we don't even notice AA, however when it isn't there it's obvious. Enter the PlayStation 3.
While based on technical specifications, the RSX graphics chip of the PlayStation 3 should appear to offer better performance than the XBox 360's Xenos graphics chip, the real-world experience is that it doesn't.
True, at no-AA and 2xAA, the RSX GPU provides marginally better or similar performance. However, because of the difference in architecture, DDR memory with a 128-bit bus on the PlayStation 3 and eDRAM on the XBox 360's, the RSX chip suffers significant bandwidth limitations when attempting to perform 4xAA.
Where this was recently made evident was with images that Capcom released from Lost Planet on the PS3. While some have pointed out texture detail issues
, the most glaring issue is with the AA
. If you look at the fins on the mech, you'll notice the jaggy edges.
Most people could probably live with the jaggy edges. It isn't what most would consider Next-Gen quality, nevertheless it generally doesn't impact game play. Vertex shading does, however.
To understand the importance of Vertex shading, you need to understand what it is and the differences between the PS3 and the XBox 360 in regards to shading.
The textures you see on your console, the dimples on a face, the movement of the lips, those result from Vertex shading. The images on the screen are made up of multiple triangles, the verticies of those triangles are what textures and colors get applied to.
In the XBox 360, the Xenos GPU uses a unified shader (performing both pixel and vertex shading), the RSX GPU has two separate shaders, a Pixel shader and a Vertex shader. The difference is that the Xenos GPU can read 4 attributes each cycle and allocate resources from pixel to vertex shading on the fly, where as the RSX GPU can only read one each cycle and is limited by the hardware performance.
Why Jason brought this topic up is probably more important than what he said. Sony, by act of omission is allowing it's gamer community to trash it's developer community, when and where the issue isn't the ability of developers to learn and understand new technology but that the technology doesn't work as advertised.
While some games built specifically for the PS3 have turned out to be fairly reasonable games, even they still run into performance issues based on the limitations of the GPU described here. These are the same performance issues ports like Madden NFL 2008, Lost Planet, and others have been encountering.
In the end, is the point of this to trash the PlayStation 3 and it's sub-components? No. The issue is that developers have recently been taking it on the chin by the PlayStation community because of delays for PlayStation 3 games, as well as ports of games looking or playing worse than the XBox 360, attributing this to lazy developers when the reality is, the PlayStation 3's technical limitations are becoming obvious.
The amazing thing about this blog was the fact that developers are starting to speak out. Not simply studio heads, but real developers with real experience. It'll be interesting to see what the long-term fallout of this is, not simply for Jason but in terms of the industry itself.
Image Credit [ENDEAVORS MAGAZINE