Top Developer Confirms Nobody is Using PS3 to Full Capacity
I am aware I am likely to get flamed for this as due to an NDA (non disclosure order) I am unable to name the developer or the game he was working on, but I still think it is worth discussing.
Recently I travelled to see the preview demo of a hugely anticipated game coming out later this year. Once we had viewed the demo (which was interestingly given on Xbox, usually developers choose PC) we were allowed some one on one time with the technical guy to talk about the development of the game.
I am not claiming to be a tech head in any way but I was interested in what I had been reading about developers not using the PS3 to it's full capacity. As these guys had just developed an all new engine it seemed a fair question to ask him. My question was put like this:
"A lot of people say that game developers are not using the total capacity of the PS3. What have you guys done, if anything, to try to use the full potential of the machine in this new engine design and in this game"
His answer, transcribed from my dictaphone was this:
"I do not think we will use the full potential of the PS3, no other developer has done so far. It is new technology and a different structure than we are used to working with. But I think we have used the PS3 very well. We have used SPU's, the small processors, effectively."
My follow up question was:
"So hand on heart, you would not rather play the game on Xbox 360 than PS3?"
Answer, "No, they are basically the same."
Now we all know there could be a world of difference in that basically, but I did get the feeling he was being sincere. On a show round of the studio we had we got a chance to see the game being played side by side by game testers looking for bugs and they did, graphically at least, look very similar.
On the one hand you could see this as points in the PS3's favor. On far less than its full capacity the PS3 is able to compete rather well with the Xbox 360. A grand claim to be able to make and Sony executives always sound a little smug when they discuss this.
But my question is, if developers are never going to use the PS3's full capacity as we all know has been indicated by Sony's President of Worldwide Studios Phil Harrison, then what does the the theoretical full capacity count for?
Surely, it is a bit like an athlete who always runs fourth claiming that his body has the best potential to win gold if only there were more hours in the day for him to train?
Then again, perhaps we are asking ourselves the wrong question. Maybe it does not matter if the PS3 ever uses its full potential so long as it does get to the point where gameplay takes a substantial leap forward.
There are claims for example that once utilized properly the PS3 will allow a huge sand box style world to actually age, have permanent damage, and dead bodies will never disappear.
Can the tech heads put us straight, is a substantial leap forward in gameplay imminent from this much lauded system? Are we ever going to see the PS3 leave the mark people say it is capable of or is all this famed potential to be wasted?
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I don't think it's a matter of potential, after all the Ps2 still has potential for better games but since it's old technology we won't see any more of it. It's mainly a matter of developers really trying new things and pushing further and further to make a better game and use the actual capacity of the consoles.
Multiplatform games are never going to do so because it would be admiting that one console is better than the other so, we will keep seeing multiplatform games that are only marginaly better in one console than the other. Where consoles start to shine is in their exclusive games because those developers don't have to worry about the limitations of one console or the other and they can concentrate on making the best game they can with their current knowledge.
As we approach the end of this console cycle, and if MS doesn't jump the gun again and releases the next xbox effectively giving the finger to all of their current supporters (like they did with the original xbox), we will really beging to see which of the two consoles really struggles as more amazing games come out.
Yeah, exclusive games should continue to develop substantially. The problem is that multiplatform games and engines that have to handle multiple different systems can't be particularly great on any one of them. Because the PS3 has a very different development model than most others, it suffers a bit. Strategies that work well on the PC and 360 don't always fit well with the PS3's structure.
Games written specifically for the PS3 can play to the console's strengths, however, and people are still learning how best to exploit them. Look at how far the PS2's graphics came from launch to current games - and the PS2 was another oddball in the architecture department.
Even in the worst case, the improving understanding of how to program for the PS3 will allow it to keep pace graphically for longer, possibly even somewhat into the following generation.
Since IBM developed the processor for both systems. Sony payed for the R&D as there one was first in the mix. Microsoft have gotten a cheaper chip with fewer cores granted but alot of power none the less.
Now a developer is lazy and doesnt want to have to do the same job twice, so in order to explain to people why the Sony one looks the same as the Xbox you will hear the answer that it is harder to develop for, when the true reason is that it would take more time to make an amazing looking game for the PS3 then downgrade for the XBOX.
While there is a learning curve for the PS3 the true reason is time and resouces, bang out the same game on as many platforms and keep costs down.