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Sony Programming PlayStation (Games) IT Technology

Sony Says Nobody Will Ever Use All the Power of a PS3 581

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the they-never-heard-of-the-robsort-algorithm dept.
Tighthead Prop writes "Sony executive Phil Harrison has made some brash comments about the Cell processor and the PlayStation 3. Harrison says that the current PS3 game lineup is using less than half of the machines power, adding that 'nobody will ever use 100 percent of its capacity.' Is he right? 'The major reason Harrison wants to hype up the "unlimited" potential of the PS3's architecture is to downplay comparisons between games running on Sony's console and Microsoft's Xbox 360. The two systems are not completely dissimilar: they both contain a PowerPC core running at 3.2 GHz, both have similarly-clocked GPUs, and both come with 512 MB of RAM.'"
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Sony Says Nobody Will Ever Use All the Power of a PS3

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  • by Electrode (255874) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:01AM (#17312480) Homepage
    Something about 640k of RAM...
    • by Otis2222222 (581406) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:05AM (#17312532) Homepage
      Good point, except this time the guy is actually on record as saying it. Bill Gates never said that infamous quote that is often attributed to him.
      • by bigman2003 (671309) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:24AM (#17312862) Homepage
        This is a really safe bet though-

        Will anyone use 100% of the CPU(s)?
        AND 100% of the GPU?
        AND 100% of the RAM?

        If not, Sony can always say they aren't using 100% of the system- so they game didn't live up to its potential.

        Show me a game on any system that uses 100% of the resources, and I'll show you a game that hangs like mad and runs like crap.

        Once again Sony comes out with an idiotic statement that they think will impress the public.

        (Admittedly, the article was /.ed so I couldn't read it...so maybe he said something else...if so, sorry!)
        • by SCPRedMage (838040) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:36AM (#17313016)
          And yet, if they DO use 100% CPU time, GPU time, and memory, then that means the game is bottlenecked on something and frame rates will suffer, so the game will never live up to it's full potential...

          Guess that means it's impossible for a game to "live up to it's full potential"...
          • by rmadmin (532701) <rmalek@ho m e code.org> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:53PM (#17314052) Homepage
            It would be nice if Square-Enix would come out and say: "Since Sony is so confident in their machine, we upped the graphics on FF XIII. We found that the PS3 cannot handle the that level of graphics, so we had to turn them down. Sorry Sony, try again."

          • FYI (Score:5, Informative)

            by Retric (704075) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:15PM (#17314336)
            From a modern hardware perspective you never use ALL of a systems power at the same time but that does not mean you can replace any one component without lowering overall performance. All systems have at least one bottleneck, but most games encounter more than one, so you may be limited by the CPU, System bus, and then GPU. Which means beefing up any one component would not be worth it without beefing up several.

            Think of it this way replacing 4mb L2 cash with 4 GB L2 cache would speed up most games, however spending that money on several components would be a better use for that same cash. The PS3 is designed to be flexible so you can use the cell to speed up rendering or AI as needed But that flexibility comes at the price of complexity, thus first gen games are using ~50% of the systems capabilities. However games will probably never use more than 80-90% of the systems resources at the same time so the graphics will get better they will not become twice as good.

            PS: 3 games may all use 90% of the systems capabilities, but they will probably not use the same 90%.
        • by Shemmie (909181) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:59AM (#17313346)
          Quick, someone port the Aero GUI.
        • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:33PM (#17313766)
          (Admittedly, the article was /.ed so I couldn't read it...so maybe he said something else...if so, sorry!)


          That's okay. Nobody else commenting here read it either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        To be fair, Bill Gates denied saying it, and nobody has come up with an original cite or witness to the quote. That doesn't mean that he didn't say something "wrong or stupid" (which he admits to doing [wired.com] on other occasions). Not like he hasn't been wrong in the recent past (SPAM predictions [bbc.co.uk], for example - it's been two years, Bill, and it's getting [theregister.co.uk] worse [net-security.org].
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by s20451 (410424)
      I say, make it calculate the last digit of pi. Of course, that would only work if the PS3 had been taken over by an evil force that was feeding off the fear of the crew.
    • Well duh! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xtracto (837672)
      As long as they make available the Next-next generation PS4 available soon enough...

      That is what had happened after the SNES-Genesis-etc days (From the N64 onwards), the "next gen" iteration life span has became shorter and shorter so developers just start to get familiar with the system when the Next-gen system gets out.

      I will sound like the old-grandpa but I liked more when the game generations lasted longer, you could see really nice things done with the technology and the hardware had more "value" (see
      • Re:Well duh! (Score:5, Informative)

        by debrisslider (442639) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:29AM (#17312910)
        The PS2-PS3 generation was six years (Oct 2000 - Nov 2006). If you count the Dreamcast, the last-gen started in Sept 99 and ended in Nov 05 with the 360 - still six years. The NES came out in October of 85, the SNES in August of 91 - less than six years. The N64 came out Sep 96, the Game Cube in Nov. 01 - a little over five years, and five years again until the Wii. The console generations are as long as they've ever been. There's more games available for the PS and PS2 than any other console. And if you're wary about buying crappy accessories, those have always been around. ROB the Robot, Super Scope Six, The SNES mouse, the N64 and Dreamcast Microphones (at least they came with the game), the Dreamcast's fishing controller, DDR mats, Guitar Hero, etc. Nothing is different, except now with the Wii game developers will move gimmick development over to the system that has all those capabilities built in so less money is wasted on 1-game peripherals.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Chosen Reject (842143)
          That's amazing really. I agree with your sentiment, but it's amazing how you went from using the release of a console from one manufacturer to the release of a console from a different manufacturer then compared that timeframe to the release times of consoles from the same manufacturer.

          Dreamcast doesn't count here because they will never have a next generation console. Playstation 1 came out in September of 95 (in America) and the Playstation 2 came out in October of 2000 (also in America). That's onl
      • by JayBlalock (635935)
        I would suggest that the REAL reason that so few games take advantage of the processing power of the system anymore is that, back in the "good old days," no one really knew what was coming "next."

        Remember, when the NES came out, the video game market was just recovering from a horrendous crash. (that, for a couple years, prevented Nintendo from gaining ground in America) No one knew how long the console would "last," so there was no reason not to try to squeeze everything out of it possible. (resulting

    • by eln (21727) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:22AM (#17312802) Homepage
      You're misinterpreting his comment. What he means is game developers will abandon the platform well before they can put anything out that will utilize the system's full potential.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "nothing to see here, please move along."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:03AM (#17312498)
    There's not going to be that many games coming out?
  • Architecture (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aadvancedGIR (959466)
    It's natural law, all the available power of any machine will ultimately be used. The only real reason the PS3 full power may not be used will probably be linked to the 9 cores architecture and the inherent diffulty to use them all at once effciently.
    Conclusion: they are trying to present a bad news as a good one, business as usual...
    • Re:Architecture (Score:5, Insightful)

      by webrunner (108849) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:12AM (#17312652) Homepage Journal
      of course it's also presented as -different- bad news, if you think about it. It means they could have made it less powerful, cheaper, and easier to program for and there wouldn't be a difference because nobody will ever use the extra power
      • Re:Architecture (Score:4, Interesting)

        by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:18AM (#17312746)
        Or there is another reason, far less flamebait than my GP post: since the PS3 and the 360 are somehow similar, game developpers will be tempted to build their games on the common ground between those tho systems, therefore, even with a superior PS3, the game will be exactly as it is on the 360.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by thatguywhoiam (524290)

          Or there is another reason, far less flamebait than my GP post: since the PS3 and the 360 are somehow similar, game developpers will be tempted to build their games on the common ground between those tho systems, therefore, even with a superior PS3, the game will be exactly as it is on the 360.

          For publishers like EA, this is absolutely true, and has been for some time (see: Call of Duty). But for the first-party stuff, they will still be leveraging whatever strengths the console has (Gears or War for Xbox

  • by Zetta Matrix (245803) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:04AM (#17312520)
    I'm not sure this is something I would want to brag about. If you made the system so complex that it was impossible to use to its fullest potential, then why did you make it so complex and/or powerful? Sounds like admitting to a lot of wasted effort.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrXym (126579)
      Why do people say the PS3 is complex? It has a GNU toolchain and supports a ton of 3rd party APIs (Unreal Engine, OpenGL, Collada, PhysX, Havok, etc.). If you can program a computer then you can program the PS3. Even if you want to get your hands dirty with SPU programming, it doesn't look that hard. If the libspe API in the Cell SDK is anything to go by, then SPU development is pretty straightforward and very familiar to anyone who has had to spawn a thread before.

      The hardest thing would be figure out wh

  • by datajack (17285) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:04AM (#17312522)
    Well, if it's not possible to use all the power in the PS3, there's no point in making a more powerful console in a few years time, right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aadvancedGIR (959466)
      Ferrari is still making more powerfull cars, and yet they are already far too powerfull for regular roads. The thing is they don't expect to sell as many as GM does, so maybe Sony was fed up with the success of the very technically limited PS2 and want the PS3 to be the next NeoGeo.
  • Woh! Business model! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Stormx2 (1003260)
    Hold on. Why sell a product with something the consumer will never use? Unless this is a rallying cry, why make consumers pay hundreds of dollars for something they aren't going to use?!
  • Linux Performance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:05AM (#17312536) Journal
    Harrison says that the current PS3 game lineup is using less than half of the machines power, adding that 'nobody will ever use 100 percent of its capacity.'
    Well, perhaps this statement will be true for games. I'm not sure. But I have been hearing rumors of the PS3--while running Linux--is not too impressive because it lacks beasty memory. Remember, I'm no expert but I read of a study done running Fedora Core Five versus a Mac G5 running FC5 [geekpatrol.ca] and also a German study claiming the PS3 is little better than a Pentium III 800Mhz when it comes to Linux [google.com].

    But Harrison could be correct depending on how he defines 'capacity.' In the world of computer science, one must be careful with the absolute of "never ever" but he hasn't defined capacity sufficiently. Now if he means there will never be a PS3 game capable of using it to the full capacity then he's probably right.
  • Kind of funny. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Viewsonic (584922) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:05AM (#17312542)
    Ubisoft says Assassins Creed will have more intelligent AI in the 360 version simply because the three dedicated cores offer more raw horsepower that the PS3 doesn't have. You can also tell that the PS3 has run into some issues regarding the limit of 256MB of texture memory compared to the 360, most textures are all blurry and low res compared to their 360 counterparts. It's the PS2 hype all over again.
    • Re:Kind of funny. (Score:4, Informative)

      by kai.chan (795863) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:51AM (#17313220)
      How the parent got modded so high is baffling. Ubisoft has NEVER said the AI in the 360 will be more intelligent than the PS3. Jade Raymond said that the XBox360 has "improved threading" during X06, but no where did she say what it was compared to. It was clearly FUD that Microsoft got Ubisoft to spread.

      And how such a false statement of saying the PS3 will be limited to 256MB of video RAM has been modded as Interesting on Slashdot is absurd. Look at the top level diagram [impress.co.jp]. The RSX can access an additional 256MB of XDR through the Cell. The RSX was designed to work with the Cell, that is why it is different than the conventional console hardware setup.

      It's hype all over again, for sure. Every company does it, but it looks like you are being lead into believing the Microsoft FUD-hype instead.
  • i thought they had all the hardware of a ps2 inside as well. so if you play a ps2 game - you use that half. if you play a ps3 game - you use the other half. interestingly enough both halves will consume all of your bank account.
    • by PingSpike (947548)
      I was under the impression that the PS3 uses a new architecture, and only supports PS2 titles in the same way that the 360 supports xbox1 titles: Through some kind of emulation/porting.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Yes and no. The PS3 does use a new architecture, but there is literally a PS2 emotion engine chip in every PS3 to "emulate" PS2 functionality. I'm not sure we can really call it emulation when it's the original chip just doing the same thing it did before.
  • seismic (Score:2, Funny)

    by hitchhacker (122525) *

    I'm pretty sure I could saturate the CPU and all 6 available SPE's with seismic data. Though it probably depends on the FSB and cache.. considering all the SPE's share the same 512k cache.

    Even then, I still wouldn't be touching the GPU since it seems to be off limits from linux for a while

    -metric
  • Or maybe the PS3 is too difficult to develop games for, if no one can ever use all of its power? Has he considered that angle?
  • Why make it then? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by onion2k (203094) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:06AM (#17312576) Homepage
    Should have made it a bit less powerful and consequently cheaper then I suppose. They'd have sold more and make more money that way.
  • by zen611 (903428) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:08AM (#17312602)
    I think he meant "Nobody will use all the power to improve the storyline..."
  • If the PS3 dies the crib death it deserves
  • There's a very real chance that we'll never see the PS3 used to its fullest capacity.

    Case Study: Sega Dreamcast.

  • It's kind of funny, Nintendo got lots of coverage when they renamed the Revolution to the Wii. Many saw it as a stupid/silly decision. But in the end, it seems to have worked out.

    Sony seems to be getting similar press for stupid/silly decisions, but uh.. they don't seem to be working out. I do agree that the hardware is impressive, and the ability to run linux is great. Hopefully they won't kill it by too many boneheaded PR/Marketing/Business decisions.
  • Ah, it's technology. It'll be maxed out in just a couple years if not sooner. Of course no current game is using more than 50% of it's power. It can take a couple years to develop a game. Those game companies get a dev. kit late in the game and have to push the game out on launch of the PS3. There's no chance to play with the system to find out what tricks will pull out the power of the PS3.

    It's not until companies can spend time playing with the system and finding 'tricks' of squeezing power out of

  • Cue the "640k RAM" jokes...oh no, I'm too late, they've already begun.

    Anyway, it seems to me that Sony are betting on the mystique of the Cell Processor to get people all excited about it and give it an edge over the 360. I don't think it'll work because people who know about the hardware aren't going to buy into the hype, and people that don't will make decisions based on how the games look, not the promised potential of how the games COULD look.

    Because if I'm the average consumer the "Reality Synth
  • by Jon Luckey (7563) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:17AM (#17312736)
    I'm sure an PS/3 is so fast it can execute an infinite loop in less than a second
  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by jlawson382 (1018528) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:23AM (#17312832)
    I for one welcome our new, vastly inefficient, overpriced, Linux-running overlords.


    (Sorry. I couldn't help it.)
  • Not News (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:45AM (#17313138)
    Nobody uses 100% of the power of their desktop computer either - and nobody complains about it. It would take a very, very tricky program to simultaneously max out the processors, graphics, memory, and disk bandwidth.

    Nobody every uses 100% of the power of their car, either. Sure, you LIKE to have the 250 HP engine, but you only use it for 3 seconds on the on-ramp. And hopefully nobody uses the full power of their 800 watt home theatre system. The excess power is there for the momentary condition - not to use all of the time.
  • by hAckz0r (989977) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:45AM (#17313140)
    Not being able to utilize 100% of the computing power is inherent in the design of the Cell processor. Don't get me wrong, its a powerful chip, but its like any multi/distributed/multithreaded-processor. With the Cell it takes time to set up and tear down the configuration between the processors, and if there is no data to work on this very nanosecond then that processor is starved and is essentially spinning and waiting for something to do. The cell has some unique capabilities to configure its processor units in parallel or in a serial data flow through shared memory, but if the task can not be broken down into appropriate computational algorithms that keep every processor unit busy then you are simply not running at 100%.
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:51AM (#17313218)
    First off, this is a famous Sony marketdroid and you should pay him as much heed as you would any other marketdroid from any big corporation. He's just ignorant enought to make boneheaded statements such as this.

    Having said that, for such a nerd-oriented site, I can't believe some of the parsing going on here, and it must come down at least partially to latent Sony-hate (for whatever reason).

    Let's just put the word 'Sony' aside, for ONE second. Just bear with me here.

    The PS3's 3.2 GHz Cell processor, developed jointly by Sony, Toshiba and IBM ("STI"), is an implementation to dynamically assign physical processor cores to do different types of work independently. It has a PowerPC-based "Power Processing Element" (PPE) and six accessible 3.2 GHz Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs), a seventh runs in a special mode and is dedicated to OS security, and an eighth disabled to improve production yields. The PPE, SPE's and other elements ("units") are connected via an Element Interconnect Bus which serves to connect all of the units in a ring-style bus. The PPE has a 512 KiB level 2 cache and one VMX vector unit. Each SPE is a RISC processor with 128 128-bit SIMD GPRs and superscalar functions. Each SPE contains 256 KiB of non-cached memory (local storage, "LS") that is shared by program code and work data. SPEs may access more data in the main memory using DMA. The floating point performance of the whole system (CPU + GPU) is reported to be 2 TFLOPS[74]. PlayStation 3's Cell CPU achieves 204 GFLOPS single precision float and 15 GFLOPS double precision. The PS3 will ship with 256 MiB of Rambus XDR DRAM, clocked at CPU die speed.

    That is one deeply weird hunk of hardware. And its pretty fucking cool. Or at least, IBM seems to think so.

    Someone has tried to dumb down an explanation like this to our boy Phil and he shat out this 'will never use the full potential' idiocy, which in turn riles all the nerds because its just such a lame thing to say, you can poke holes in it all day (such as, 'why build such a complicated beast if we will never be able to program it - equally idiotic).

    So the statement is 100% true, and 100% meaningless.

    Like the hamburger truck at the end of my street that claims Greatest Burgers in the Universe.

  • by Xest (935314) * on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:59AM (#17313340)
    Cell just isn't that suited to gaming.

    With the GPU doing graphics, one core doing AI/Gameplay, another doing Physics, another doing Audio/Networking/Input you've pretty much got all the processing power you need. If you start spreading a game out across too many cores it's going to negatively effect the speed of the game due to the fact you're going to spend all your time trying to keep threads in sync. I'd argue that this is why Sony has it wrong and MS has it right. The GPU can handle graphics, then the 3 cores can be used as mentioned above - this seems the optimal division of work in a game engine. I'm convinced that 4 physical processing units at 4ghz would be better than 8 physical processing units at 3.2ghz so perhaps that would've been a better route for Sony if they really felt the need to beat the 360 on performance.

    To me the Cell seems more suited to number crunching type applications, the sort where you can offload large amounts of data to each cell and let them go on their merry way processing these chunks without having to worry about whether every few bytes of data is in sync.

    I honestly wonder if Sony management just assumed that the Playstation 3 would cell like the PS2 and PS1 and hence just insisted they use it as the tool to bring down the prices of Cell and BluRay regardless of whether they were fit for purpose or not.
  • Oh really? (Score:3, Funny)

    by MrSteveSD (801820) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:27PM (#17316030)
    Perhaps you would like to purchase the PS3 game I have just written. It's called "Factorial of one million". It's not as much fun as Doom 3 but it will use the CPU quite heavily.
  • Truth Be Told (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jekler (626699) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:05AM (#17322032)

    We still haven't even used the full capability of a 300mhz processor and 32mb video card. The bottleneck is not hardware, it's software. Inefficient code, outdated methodologies, and improper application of libraries is a much greater bottleneck than the hardware in any system.

    More cycles and more memory doesn't mean that developers are capable of using better graphics and logic, it means they can be lazier in their optimization. Games which take up 5gb of hard drive space do so because they can, not because they must. Developers know the user has 100+ gigabytes available on their hard drive, so no further optimization is necessary. They know that the video card has 256mb or more memory, so they don't optimize the game anymore than they need to. We only need 3ghz processors because developers can throw away as many cycles as they want. On a needs basis, the actual logic and graphics of the most powerful game available probably would require a 300mhz processor and 32mb of video memory. All the rest is a buffer for waste.

    This isn't a sleight against coders, I'm a professional developer too. I've seen a lot of applications that could be optimized further but other tasks are much higher up the priority tree because even though the program could be more efficient, it doesn't need to be.

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