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Are Developers Fully Checked Out On PS4's Architecture?

Let me remind everyone of something:

During the lead-up to the PlayStation 4 launch, one of the new system's biggest selling points was its accessible architecture.

Sony said making a console that was easier for developers to understand right out of the gate was a top priority. That's why they sought feedback from most of the industry's top teams and the result was - supposedly - a console that could produce fantastic software almost immediately. This would be in stark contrast to each of the past three PlayStation generations, when gamers had to wait several years for designers to really get a good grasp on the difficult new system.

And yet, here we sit at the end of 2014, reflecting on a lot of games that were technically unimpressive or even downright disappointing. Now, there could be lots of reasons for this, but I'm going to ask the question that involves the elephant in the room: Is the PS4 really that easy to develop for? Sure, we're seeing more multiplatform titles with slightly better numbers (in terms of max resolution and frames per second) on Sony's machine, but that's hardly enough. The bottom line is we've seen plenty of games that needed more time to cook, and could be indicative of development teams that are still trying to figure out a new console.

It really seems like any other PlayStation generation, in truth. Actually, the PS2 generation was much better because its first full year (2001) will be remembered as one of the greatest years in the industry's history, while in stark contrast, 2014 might go down as one of the most disappointing years ever.

Tags: ps4, playstation 4, next gen consoles, next generation

12/15/2014 9:53:14 PM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (31 posts)

Monday, December 15, 2014 @ 10:23:46 PM

Games can be really huge and complex these days. Games of years ago were far far simpler from a design standpoint. So while we've grown with massive strides in technical implementations, it does place more emphasis on good software engineering principles.

And of course, adapting a team to lots of new tools, new rendering engines, and hardware is challenging no matter what. There's always a learning curve.

The 360 was supposedly "easy to program for" but just check the difference between say Perfect Dark and Halo 4 or Rage.

I'm amazed to see games like AC Unity so soon.
Going from AC1 or AC2 to Unity is massive and definitely fits the bill of "generational"

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 9:58:29 PM

From all its problems, I gotta hand to Driveclub because the weather system and lighting in that game is amazing. Just wow. I'd consider it "generational," in your terms.

Feel free to Add me for competition guys, and future racing games especially gt.

Anyway I think here there's a huge misconception in general that easy directly translates to quality in months, without taking into account the complexity and new problems that come with more advanced games. Or perhaps a lot of gamers have become too impatient.

Like the Rome analogy below, those guys probably understood the engineering that goes behind its structures but it doesn't mean it was built in a day. We have to especially take into account labor. There's a reason why teams are much larger now. Unless technology provides Devs to make games just by thinking and eliminating bugs without testing, there's still hand made labor thats required.

Last edited by daus26 on 12/16/2014 10:00:39 PM

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 1:57:33 AM

It's a slow burn, 2014 has been a very underwhelming year, admittedly it has improved in the fall but still there is nothing particularly memorable. However I have huge hopes for 2015 with The Order 1886, Final Fantasy: Type-0 HD, The Division, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and who knows what else. Let's just hope by the end of 2015 we're not still chanting Greatness Awaits at the Playstation hut.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 2:29:20 AM

And I believe they DID understand the console.
The thing is, excellent games are not developed in few months or even one year. You need time for that. I don't think even 2015 - although it will be very good for games we are all waiting for - will be the year of the "true" greatness.
Patience my young padawan, Rome wasn't built in a day.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 4:08:09 AM

AAA games today can't be compared to games in 2001. If anything, they can be compared with the indie games of today.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 11:19:01 AM

That's not really the point. Ease of development on a system is the point and I'm not seeing how the PS4 is just SO easy to develop for right now.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 9:19:32 PM

Well ben, games takes much more time in general nowadays. Taking more time doesn't necessarily mean harder in the gaming world. With games becoming more advance, things are now dynamic. Physics, lighting, and 3D modeling that boasts tens and tens of times more than early ps2 games. CArs for example went from 1k polygons to over 200k, so time alone on modeling cars is already taking a lot of time. That goes to character modeling and environmental surroundings as well.

Then there are things like motion capture, lighting, and Physics. AAA games resort to this now. Lighting on ps2 games were simply baked, brightened pixels. Nowadays they are trying to be dynamic. Lights actually have a source that emits actual light. In car games you can see how brake lights emit on the environments and in adventure games, flashlights emitting dark rooms.

So no, we can't compare ps2 to ps4. The ps4 is highly more than likely to be easier than ps2 to develop for. Games nowadays just have to take into account a hoard of new technical achievements to worry about.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 9:44:04 PM

Indie games of today is actually something to look into. By that I mean we've been seeing lots of Indies new and ported from PC that seems to be a flawless effort, that would probably be harder to do early on compared to past generations. The real problems lie in the AAA games, and rightfully so.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 6:55:01 AM

thats exactly the problem.
they SHOULD be, but, well, ACU, FC4,DAI...... there obviously not!
this from the console which was in developers hands FAR earlier than every other, and from a normal conventional architecture.
f*ck, id hate to see what state we would be in if $ony stuck to cell, or heaven forbid created another exuberant massively complex architecture!
simplifying development means games take longer to make, and end up riddled with bugs and a technological mess!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 5:06:10 PM

I can't believe you are still on this site. It's been years since I last visited. Wow.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 9:39:39 PM

The problem shouldn't be the architecture now. Developers have pretty much got a good grasp of the cell so not much will change if Sony stuck to that. New generation means a leap in technology, which can also mean a leap in complexity, which can mean new problems to worry about. Developers are now taking into consider details, that games of past generations didn't have to worry about. It's like elementary school and college. There's always something new to learn about and explore.

I mean seriously developers themselves have a huge part in the development of the ps4s architecture. It doesn't get any easier than that. But that doesn't mean high quality games will be made in months. It just means that games that would usually take 5 years in foreign architecture to make can be done in 3. Like gt5 took about 5 for ps3, but maybe gt PS4 in only two years since start of development. But that also depends how advance the game is. If they make it without much change from GT6, then it would simple take months, a la hd port. Advance Games built from ground up will simply take a long time, no matter how easy the console. If we're talking about Indies, then they're quick, hence all the ones we've been seeing plenty.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014 @ 7:21:18 AM

and where did i say there made in months?
you do realise that developers started getting dev kits over THREE YEARS ago!
just because developers are familiar with cell does not mean switching to x86 did not speed up development time.
fact of the matter is with consoles in developers hands FAR earlier than normal, and this being the first time developers do not need to learn a whole new alien architecture, hell most developers are not even bothering to create new game engines!
we should be sitting on allot more big names by now, and we should also know about a lot of future ones as well!

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 7:03:06 AM

Whether or not they are makes little difference, I think. My time away from gaming has made me less appreciative of the technical quality of games and more on the creative quality. Yes, the technical allows the creative to shine through better, but technology isn't a determinant of ambition. Call me out of the loop, if you will, but most of what has come in 2014 has been nothing that isn't a faint rejiggering of what has come before. A new generation should mean generational leaps in what is possible in any given genre, but aside from a more holistic SP/MP fusion, where is the fundamental change in Destiny? What about Thief and Watch Dogs is supposed to wow us and make us believe that they're next level projects? Or Advanced Warfare, or Unity?

As an outsider, I see very, very little to make me believe that the inception of a new generation has brought sweeping changes to the ideas of what is possible in gaming. It was one of the reasons that I was down on the generational shift before it happened: developers would have to cut their teeth on "basic", iterative projects to get an idea of what they can ultimately do before being able to actually test the limits. And that's what I'm seeing. There's no real wow factor yet, and I firmly believe that we're still another year from that, at least.

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Deleted User
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 8:42:28 AM

Missed your sensibility, man. I admire your view of gaming.And I agree. We have not seen a leap in gameplay that says we are in a new generation as we have before. So far, just better looking scenery. This gen seems like a .5, adding that extra garnish of immersion graphically for games to feel truly complete.

Last edited by n/a on 12/16/2014 8:43:31 AM

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 11:03:03 AM

"next-gen" or "generational" has become like today's term for "HD."

It's an arbitrary term that has different meaning to different people.

For example, Gamespot gave Shadow of Mordor their PS4 GotY because they believed the "nemesis" system was generational. So it was best suited for PS4's GotY.

I can play Drive Club or AC Unity and feel it to be "generational."
Another guy can look at it and think it's just "prettier."

Last gen we came very far. So far technologically that many devs could achieve their design vision without much sacrifice. This gen all limits have been virtually removed to all but the games of the largest scale and complexity. Devs can no longer rely on a boost of hardware to clearly improve their game.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/16/2014 11:11:28 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 11:19:50 AM

Lawless: Agree 100 percent with all of that.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 11:48:45 AM

Btw lawless, destiny, watch dogs, and cod aw are all made with a last gen footprint.

I wouldn't be so quick to add unity to your list of examples, especially if you haven't played much of it.

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Lawless SXE
Wednesday, December 17, 2014 @ 6:40:45 AM


I can actually see why the nemesis system could be considered a massive improvement. It allows emergent storytelling in a way that has never been done before, and with a real impact on the end user's experience. It is a much larger step than Bethesda's vaunted Radiant Story AI. Yes, it also ran on last-gen hardware, and so was limited, but it actually seems like some really cool programming to me. But it can still be taken so much further than it was.

I also get what you're saying by listing out the cross-gen examples in the games that I listed. They are still limited by the technology of the older systems, and so they aren't the best examples to look at, even though Destiny and Watch Dogs, at least, were touted as primarily next-gen titles.

But as I said, I'm out of the loop right now, so I won't argue further. :)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 9:41:51 AM

Man reading articles like this make want to hold out on the PS4 for a "down the road" purchase, but they also reassure me that a near future purchase won't be a waste of my hard earned cash.

But I ask (and this question has been proposed before), what constitutes "next gen"? I personally can't think of anyway they can make games play better besides making the presentation look more organic, character interaction with surrounding environments more symbiotic and visually photo realistic. And of course the storytelling in games that rely on it presence to drive to overall game.

And in this day and age where everyone (including myself) is a critic, it's hard to be truly impressed my any new effort unless its presentation is stunning. Everything is a rehash and everything reaches that point where the "meh" factor kicks in. This is due to non-stop flow of new entertainment of course and it's not stopping soon. I mean look at Avatar, that movie was full of cliches, but most people people including myself were blown away by the movie due to its presentation. Now games and movies are two different mediums, but the points can only move forward visually really in my opinion, but mechanically, what can you really do with the controls to make it perform better. I don't know.

EIther way, can't wait to play Bloodborne, the new Batman, Unity and Dragon gen emphasis be damned lol

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 9:44:58 AM

I think it's fair to say we're in next gen because games are already noticeably smoother and crisper than than most, if not all, PS3/360 games. I just think the leap isn't what people expected.

In talking with my wife's cousin, though, (he's an electrical engineer and theoretical physicist) it sounds like silicon is basically peaking. I can't remember exactly how he described it, but it sounds like they can add more power by increasing quantity of course, but in terms of making the same leaps we had in the past, he doesn't seem to think that's possible on any level, let alone gaming.

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 10:41:16 AM

There's one simple word that sums up what I think "next gen" should embody: verbs. Sure, you can make visuals better, but that's ultimately just a lick of paint. Making games look better doesn't have the same effect of sparking creativity and new ideas as the advent of sound, colour, and (to a much lesser extent) 3D did to cinema. It's not necessarily about making them perform better, although better controls are always beneficial.

What I mean by verbs is what you are actually capable of while remaining fully in control. I'm talking about things like the section in Uncharted 2 where you have to support the wounded cameraman. Yeah, it's built into the linear set-up of the game, but what if it wasn't? What if it was some random NPC that you found injured and decided to support en route to the hospital? What if an FPS featured more to reloading than pressing a single button in the heat of the moment. Or how about if a game managed to make you an active participant in what has traditionally been considered cutscenes in a more engaging way than simply giving you freedom of movement or QTEs. If injuries sustained by the player avatar had a real effect in the moment-to-moment gameplay, rather than only when it is necessitated by the story?

These are small things, but the smallest of things can make or break an experience. Maybe I'm delusional and raving, though.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 10:46:11 AM

I agree with Underdog. I kept my PS3 because of games like Borderlands The Pre-Sequel. However going from PS4 back to PS3 this past year one thing was noticeable: games are a lot smoother and more appealing on the PS4. When playing the PS3 games feel clunky now, like they just don't run like they should... However when it's all we had it was impressive.

I appreciate that people want to see more creativity in gameplay however I'm not sure we should have even expected that from a new generation this time around considering how far gaming has come. I mean seriously whats next? VR? Well its coming to some degree so, what is it that people want? What we should have expected is exactly what we got. A machine or machines that allows you to boot up a game in seconds (with the exception of GTA5 because of its terrible load times), that offers exceptional quality and graphics, and user friendly features. It is a leap from last generation and it has provided me a far better gaming experience thus far. Now It's up to the developers to utilize what they have in front of them.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 11:23:17 AM

Lawless- while I think there is a place in gaming for the things you mentioned they are also things that take away from the experience in game play. You mentioned the FPS genre and you made it sound like reloading should be more than the press of a button. Problem is FPS games are built on the aspect of keeping the player engaged. When you take away that aspect, well there goes The fluidity of the gameplay.

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Lawless SXE
Wednesday, December 17, 2014 @ 6:45:28 AM

They were just some examples of the top of my head bigrailer, and I know that they aren't suited to all games. The FPS one is something that aims to be more along the lines of a simulator, so ARMA rather than CoD.
I just think that a generational leap is about making games more immersive, and it takes more than just graphics and smoother controls to do that.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 9:42:19 AM

How much further can we really push silicon, though?

Let's get those nanotubes up and running!!!

I always thought blaming the architecture was a cop-out by some devs. Especially since there were others who did a phenominal job with it. I think it's especially apparent with their inability to still optimize muliple consoles effectively and on time.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 10:18:18 AM

I'd estimate 90% of Developers/Game companies rely on already-built engines (Unreal, Frostbite, etc) and already-built tools for rag doll physics and audio.
As such, they are bound by whatever limitations the engine has when it was created. If the engine wasn't optimized for new hardware, then you won't be able to take advantage of this in your game.
I think what we're seeing in the games of 2014 were games created by unoptimized engines and relied on pure hardware horsepower (CPU&GPU) to give it that extra framerate and shine.

Expect first-party AAA titles (GoW, GT7, Uncharted, Forza, etc) to push the hardware because they don't rely on 3rd party engines.

Then, in a year or two, when the new Frostbite and/or Unreal engines come out, it will be much more optimized for the PS4/XB1 than it is now. Games all across the board will then take a leap.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 11:07:26 AM

The PS4 architecture might be easy to implement, but the engines (or lack thereof) aren't easy. With Unreal, Havoc, and CryEngine all bringing in new features and techniques to implement effects, there's a bust world of testing and debugging.

So, yes. I do believe Sony offers something easier for developing on the platform. I don't believe that's enough to make the complexity of it any less complicated. Just doesn't burden anyone by complicating it further.

The issue with developing for consoles is the bottleneck and how to overcome it. A lot of people expect top notch graphics while wanting it at an affordable price. I don't think we're there yet. Hell, top tier PC stuff isn't there yet. Consoles are far off that day and age. There's very little room for error in such a fragile balance.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 12:57:07 PM

Yeah , beside fall which have been awesome for me .Summer was painful tho , bought maybe 1 game this summer and about 5 this fall .

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 4:55:37 PM

I'd say it is - the range of games coming to the platform at this early stage is huge, and there's a big link between multiplat games coming to the platform and ease of development. No way we'd be seeing half the indies coming across if developing was tough.

That, and DriveClub - technically, it's bloody brilliant, and a _huge_ step up from anything on the previous gen (in many ways, it's more technically accomplished than any racer to date - how many other globally illuminated racers are there?)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 6:52:54 PM

it's an amazing visual feast and the physics are more advanced than other arcade racers.
Thing is, arcade racers are arcade racers. What exactly can an arcade racer do at this point other than tweaks and improvisations as it's been for over a decade? The biggest thing a non-open world racer does is improve graphics. Last gen was about arcade racer meets open world playground. Sadly this seems to have become part of the status quo (as it has for many genres). I happen to prefer linear racers with custom made tracks for racing. Sorry, but I never raced a strip of road or highway on Burnout Paradise or NFS MW that comes close to the custom crafted circuits in Drive Club.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 12/16/2014 6:55:39 PM

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 10:21:27 PM

yeah possible maybe some of them still haven't got all the optimzations down that they could and maybe it will still take a year to really get going or maybe i'm wrong and things are as good as they are gunna get

happy gaming

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