The Real Reason the PS4's Guts Blow the PS3 Away

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The hardware inside the PlayStation 4 is quite obviously more powerful than that of its eight-year-old predecessor. But Sony's newest console owes more to its success than just specs. As Wired found in an in-depth look at how the PS4 was designed, it has the creator of Marble Madness to thank.

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Mark Cerny, as Wired points out, was an unusual choice for Sony to lead its PS4 team. He's a software guy, the person who helped usher Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet and Clank, and dozens of other top-tier games into existence during his tenure at Sony. But it's what he noticed in helping developers work through the overly complex PS3 architecture that made him the perfect man for the job. As Cerny explained to Wired:

“When PlayStation 3 wrapped, we all started to do post-mortems. It was pretty brutal, frankly,” Cerny remembers, saying it was “very, very difficult” for software designers to build games for the console.

The result? A PS4 design process that focused less on pure power than on functionality. An industry-standard x86 processor instead of the PS3's labyrinthine Cell chip. A dedication to massive RAM—8GB of GDDR5, to be precise—and an eagerness to involve developers from day one.

The real question—how the PS4 stacks up to the Xbox One—won't be answered until the consoles are actually in the hands of reviewers and gamers, and probably not even then. It takes time for developers to take full advantage of a new console, especially ones with as much horsepower as these two are flexing. But the PS4's origin story certainly gives the impression that if nothing else, it'll be a platform people will want to make games for.

Head on over here for Wired's full profile of Cerny; it's worth a read even just for tracing the arc of video game history through his fascinating career. [Wired]

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DISCUSSION

By
commonperson

That's been clear since day one and Sony has even admitted such since the first launch event. The 360 was the "superior" console for developers during the current generation because compared to the PS3 it had a far easier API for developers to work with, the byzantine architecture, the unusual requirements, and the strange hardware limitations (like no native group chat due to memory limitations) made the PS3 more difficult to develop for and you see that in that the only games that truly took advantage of the platform in any meaningful way were first party developers like Naughty Dog who didn't work on any other platform.

This will be more hazy with the next generation, there are minor differences in memory architecture and processors but they are close to identical, out of the gate the PS4 has a bit of a horsepower advantage but the API for the XBO is similar to the 360 so there's not going to be much of a learning curve there. The addition of cloud computing to reduce local load may cut either way (it depends on how developers want to implement it if they do at all) but the developer first approach that both platforms appear to be adopting is a good step towards creating more powerful environments for application design.