Sonys Chief Technology Officer Talks PS3
Outside of the Revolutionís controller, this is the most interesting thing by far that Iíve seen from the Tokyo Game Show.
PC Watch has managed to pin down Masayuki Chatani, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.ís Chief Technology Officer, and in the process conducted a pretty [good] interview about the PS3. I say that because Chatani, for the first time in a long time, actually talks about how heís sees the power of the PS3 will changing games. In my opinion what he talks about could be every bit as ďrevolutionaryĒ to video games as Nintendoís Revolution controller. (click below for the interview)
In short, instead of games having predetermined animations (think motion capturing), the PS3 will in effect open up character models so that nothing is set hard and fast. For example in a football game, a reciever could be instructed by the Cell to catch a ball, but the PS3 would then calcuate exactly how he needs move his arms, hands, and fingers in order to reach and catch the ball. The reciever would no longer ďcatchĒ the ball because certain parameters are met, he would quite literally have to catch the ball in the same physical way an NFL reciever would.
Imagine that; Doing away with preset animations, making the whole world ďaliveĒ. Every catch, tackle, dive, and throw would become unique and calculated in real-time. More so than fancy graphics or new methods of control, that sort of physics is what excites me about the next-generation of video games. Do you get what Iím saying? Do you see the implications?
Anyways, hereís a rough but certainly readable Babelfish translation of the interview:
Q. You must have a good reason to add 2 HDMI transmitters, what usage do you expect for dual HDMI?
A. Itís purely because we wanted to add them. Since multi display expands gaming like a horizontally wide dual display or an extended game screen, weíve wanted to add it at any cost. You donít have to connect 2 HDTVs, a small sub-display is enough.
Q. Does HDMI contain S/PDIFx6?
A. Yes itís 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 donít support dual display?
A. Yes. A communication tool is embedded in the firmware of course. You want to communicate while gaming, donít 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, itís very natural, in a sense, that it has an SD card slot. But as a default feature, in a Sony-branded product? Itís unprecedent, isnít 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, donít 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. Itís 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. Itís 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 itís finalized.
Q. The published PS3 diagram doesnít 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 doesnít 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. Itís supposed to be a switching hub internally, but I donít 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 itís 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. Itís 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 itís not compared with PS2 yet, Iíd 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 itís 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 itís felt when it animates with a strange manner thatís not experienced in a real life. For example itís very uncomfortable if skin contours donít change naturally when facial expression is changed in rendering a face through which even cutaneous sensasion is conveyed.
Itís 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 itís just an assistant. How easy will it be for developers to use physics simulation as a tool?
A. Of course thereíll 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 doesnít 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 itíd 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, weíve heard no such feedback that itís difficult to develop on it. Naturally itís different from single-core programming, but it doesnít 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, itís 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.
Well, damn. That's going to be cool... The cell is definately about as next-gen as you can get...