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AMD Businesses PlayStation (Games) Sony Games

Sony Ditching Cell Architecture For Next PlayStation? 276

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-trick-pony dept.
RogueyWon writes "According to reports in Kotaku and Forbes, Sony is planning to ditch the Cell processor that powered the PlayStation 3 and may be planning to power the console's successor using a more conventional PC-like architecture provided by AMD. In the PS3's early years, Sony was keen to promote the benefits of its Cell processor, but the console's complicated architecture led to many studios complaining that it was difficult to develop for."
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Sony Ditching Cell Architecture For Next PlayStation?

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  • Re:Or (Score:4, Informative)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:05PM (#39211459) Journal

    Game developers too stupid to deal with complex systems.

    Sorry, but 'it's complex hardware' excuse pissed me off.

    Right. Because parallel programming on a processor with completely manual cache management is just so easy. The supercomputer people find it tricky too.

    I guess you're just so much smarter then everyone else.

  • Re:Why not PC + 360? (Score:5, Informative)

    by uigrad_2000 (398500) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:08PM (#39211537) Homepage Journal

    As a game developer who has made a game for the 360 and PS3, I can tell you that my biggest complaints about the ps3 were the memory limitations (cpu and gpu memory is separated), the horrible software for the devkits, and the devkits themselves, which suck so much power that they require you to run air conditioning even in the winter.

    The main difference that you hit when making a cross-platform title is DirectX (d3d) versus OpenGL ES. Those libraries need to understand the lowlying architecture, but they pretty much take care of everything for the developer.

  • Cell Failed (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:09PM (#39211551) Journal
    Remember the launch? IBM, Sony and Toshiba were going to put Cell processors in everything from cheap consumer electronics to number crunching supercomputers. In reality, IBM sold a few Cell blades, Sony put one in each PS3 and that's about it.
  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Informative)

    by courteaudotbiz (1191083) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:13PM (#39211609) Homepage
    And you know what? The public have spoken: People buy less from Sony, and Sony is losing money. [reuters.com]
  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:3, Informative)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:16PM (#39211683)

    I have always thought Sony as a high-quality brand, but frankly the company has quite a lot on its shoulders already. From the top of my head:

    - exploding laptop batteries
    - hard-to-service laptops which require bunch of proprietary little drivers
    - rootkit music CDs
    - disabling "other OS" in PS3
    - screwing with PSN customers
    - cranking up prices of Whitney Houston's music after the girl died

    I personally have not established any boycott campaign against them, I just hear these things. After all, Sony has jumped the shark already in terms of cutting-edge hardware - Korea is the new Japan, with Samsung and LG making all the cool stuff.

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:18PM (#39211725)

    > Not being a game developer I wonder what game devs would prefer,

    You are asking two questions:

    What do game devs prefer for software?
    What do game devs prefer for hardware?

    When I used to work with PS3 developers -- they almost _always_ lead their development on the XBox 360. It was _very_ rare was it to see a studio lead on the PS3 -- but those that did -- tended to have a better engine for load-balancing at the end of the day (it is easier to scale down, then scale up.)

    Easier: Multi-Core --> Few-Core (PS3 --> Xbox360)
    Harder: Few-Core --> Multi-Core (XBox 360 --> PS3)

    Microsoft is a software company,
    Sony is a hardware company.

    The tools MS provided were _perceived_ as being easier and better. (I can and will not comment on the reality.)

    WRT hardware, game devs appreciated the power the PS3 + SPUs even if it involved the crap load of work to get it running 100% load-balancing. Having to worry about LHS (Load-Hit-Stores) was a total PITA for PS3 developers -- memory access was pretty much ignored on the XBox 360. The bigger problem was Sony using a 64-bit OS (all pointers were 64-bits !!) when the dam console only has 512 MB address space?!?! This kind of "Sony ignorance/arrogance" being out of touch with developers was not uncommon.

    PC + Xbox Developers tend to want a AMD/Intel approach to hardware for _ease of _use. Sony / Nintendo developers tend to prefer multi-core / dedicated CPUs for everything for _performance_.

    One or the other isn't wrong -- just a different focus.

  • Re:Why not PC + 360? (Score:5, Informative)

    by frinsore (153020) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @02:56PM (#39212323)

    While fitting the game into the local and main memory is a pain it can usually be mitigated by proper planning. Developing your memory footprint for PS3 can immediately be translated to the 360's unified memory but going the other way is a special hell. While it's true that some engines are main memory intensive that you have to resort to crazy tricks (like streaming your audio from local memory to main) in general it's not too bad as there aren't two different implementations.

    But going from 3 ppu cores to 2 ppu cores and 6 spus does cause a problem if you're anywhere near utilizing the CPUs. Generally it's easier to optimize the game until as much as possible runs on 2 ppu cores and specific tasks run on the spus (as the 360 gains the benefit from the optimizations too).

    It sounds like you haven't worked on the PS3 in a while. Sony has actually stepped up the game and the ps3 sdk actually surpasses the xdk in some regards. Most of the complaints I hear about the ps3 sdk are more related to windows oriented people not understanding the unix mindset. And the ps3 dev kits are now tiny and sleek and not the 2U heater units of old.

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Informative)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:06PM (#39212499)

    It's in my link.

    In Summer 2007, Dr. Gaurav Khanna, a professor in the Physics Department of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth independently built a message-passing based cluster using 8 PS3s running Fedora Linux. This cluster was built with support from Sony Computer Entertainment and was the first such cluster that generated published scientific results. Dubbed as the "PS3 Gravity Grid", this PS3 cluster performs astrophysical simulations of large supermassive black holes capturing smaller compact objects

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:3, Informative)

    by fizzer06 (1500649) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @03:20PM (#39212721)
    Don't forget Sony's audio (music) CDs that had rootkits, just in case you played it in a Windows PC. They got spanked on that one.
  • Re:POWER7 baby. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:04PM (#39213367)

    Dunno where you're getting your infomation, but Nintendo have full hardware backwards compatiblity between the Wii and gamecube, that's not no-one. The 360 has a list of about 400 Xbox games it can run from the original discs; that functionality is available on any 360 with a hard drive and internet connection (so it can download the emulator profile). It's not hardware compatability, but it's still able to run the titles.

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:06PM (#39213385)

    Actually, IMO it's been a while since they were really a high-quality brand in many ways.

    Their BD players are mostly crap - slow, clunky UI and takes FOREVER to boot and load a disc.
    Their digital cameras are mediocre (never could compete with Canon or Nikon) and until recently required a proprietary expensive flash card.
    Their TVs use LCD panels manufactured by Samsung and Sharp, with little value added (and a lot of cost added).
    Their stereos and home theater receivers are now all basically mass market crap as well - anyone who does their research would go with Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo, etc instead.

  • Re:Cell Failed (Score:4, Informative)

    by DigitalDreg (206095) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:07PM (#39213407)

    I don't remember hearing about low yield problems. Sony took delivery of quite a few chips ...

    No, to be quite blunt a big part of the problem was a lack of vision. Without a roadmap nobody was going to use to product. IBM stumbled when it did not backup the roadmap with real dollars to fund the new chips and programming tools.

  • A thing of beauty (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bram Stolk (24781) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @04:21PM (#39213599) Homepage

    I used to program SPUs for a living for a game studio. (Worked on SOCOM Confrontation and some unannounced titles).
    I disagree with all this bitching from devs: the CELL SPU is a thing of beauty.

    If an engineer is worth his salt, and knows his trade well, what he can do with it is amazing.
    I was blown away with how incredibly fast this SPU is, once properly used.

    But only if you know how to do branchless code, and you know the difference between structures-of-arrays and arrays-of-structures.
    Once the data is lined up properly, and you eliminated those nasty branches, carefully crafted code (intrinsics, not vanilla C++) will make that thing fly like nothing else. Insanely fast, think GPU-fast, but with a more generic programming model.

    I regret the death of the Cell architecture.

  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Informative)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @06:31PM (#39215073) Journal

    You really think it has nothing to do with Sony?

    Apple don't seem to have a problem with making money.

    The trouble is that Sony have a hate-hate relationship with their customers. They have a long history of producing excellent hardware then utterly screwing over the customer with the software. That annyos people and they stop paying for that stuff.

    Some examples off the top of my head:

    They hobbled the computer version of minidiscs because of "copy protection".

    Sony used to produce nice music players. Of course they used a proprietary format (ATRAC3) and the upload program was appalingly badly written and only ran on a specific version of Windows 98 because of "copy protection", giving it a rather short service life.

    The Sony-BMG rootkit. A differnet branch of sony screwing their paying customers for "copy protection".

    Leaking a massive bunch of credit cards then lying about it rather than trying to help their customers ASAP. No copy protection excuse there.

    UMD, because of "copy protection".

  • by Bram Stolk (24781) on Friday March 02, 2012 @07:55PM (#39227103) Homepage

    What are 'all the low level details' you refer to?
    The main difference is the separate address space of the small local memory of the SPU.

    I believe linux on Cell has made some nice abstractions.
    It's been ages since I ran ps3linux, but from what I heard you can execute filter like objects on the SPU from the OS level.
    Thus:
    $ cat intput.txt | ./a.out | ./b.out | ./c.out > output.txt
    This would put 3 SPUs to work, and do the DMAing for you.
    You would need to lookup the status of OS-level support for SPU on linux to get more info on this.

    Personally, I did the DMA stuff manually.

    What you cannot abstract away, is the data-oriented programming that you should be doing.
    As Noel Llopis puts it so eloquently: You need to program your entire game as if it was a particle system.
    http://gamesfromwithin.com/data-oriented-design [gamesfromwithin.com]

    e.g. for 1024 particles, you do:

    float x[ 1024 ];
    float y[ 1024 ];
    float z[ 1024 ];

    and NOT:

    struct
    {
        float x,y,z
    } particles[ 1024 ];

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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