Is the PS3 Really Harder to Develop for?

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Our friends over at GamePro.com have written an interesting article on a topic I get asked about all the time — Is the PS3 harder to develop for than other systems? I gave them some feedback on this and the reporter, Blake Snow, does a nice job of presenting a well-rounded story. For this piece, I spoke to our PD group and asked them for input on this question and thought you might be interested in reading their full reply:

This is an interesting question and hidden within the question is an enormously complex subject! If the game starts life on PS3, then man-hours per feature or costs related to asset production are comparable with industry norms. For that, you can include Xbox 360 and high-end PC games, and exclude PS2 and Wii. However, since PS3’s Cell processor allows MORE features – better physics, more complex graphical processing, lighting or sound, etc. — there is inevitably going to be more cost in supporting those extra features. It’s not that PS3 is harder to write for, it’s just that you can do more with it.

Middleware tools like Havok and other specialist graphics tools are now customized to exploit Cell’s SPUs. These mean that developers don’t have to reinvent those particular wheels themselves. Also, PlayStation Edge does some very difficult and performance-critical aspects of the graphics pipeline on the SPUs: geometry processing, animation, compression – delivering performance unachievable on other systems. This is available for free to all developers from SCE. So, given that PS3 can draw more on screen, the assets required to fill that capacity go up, too. This can, but not always, require more people – however depending on the game, much of that extra content can be produced automatically – procedurally in software, not by hand. Compared to PS2, the SPUs are much easier to code for. In PS2 we had some custom chips called VU0 and VU1 which were powerful, but tricky to write for. The SPUs use a more standard programming language.

Now, it’s not without challenges:
1) SPUs are not ‘normal’ processors like the PPU. There is a trade-off between performance and versatility. A Ferrari is not the best car for a visit to Home Depot…

2) If you are porting:
If your game starts on Xbox 360 you will have to re-engineer aspects of the game to run properly on PS3. This means additional effort. Some developers have been complaining about this but I don’t believe we can solve that. Xbox 360 is a different machine with good, but lower powered hardware in a different architecture. Developers have to view them as two different machines not as a common platform.

3) If your game has heavy online use:
XBL provides more and better standard libraries for online gaming to developers. For the same features on PS3, developers have to do some extra work. We’re catching up, but there is a difference.

BTW: Glad you guys and gals are enjoying the new blog!

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431 Comments

  • COOOOOLLLLLLL!!!!!!!

  • Korlithiel and maytrix, defenetly xboxtrolls.
    Go to Major nelsons blog, that is the site where you can finish off the PS3. If read commends on that “blog” and a great bunch of 360 owners just like you two… pitiful. All you trolls can do on that Nelson blog is to finish off the PS3. This entry in this blog is the truth, take it ore leave it,

    The first 360 games where not that great, the first PS3 games can stand up against a system what is out in the market for 1 1/2 years and you hardly can see the deference, excluding some bat ports…
    If never seen a game like Motorstorm on the 360 with that kind of beautiful, detailed graphics, with that kind off physics made from a firts party dev. The only game what stand out is GOW….but that is not a game from a Microsoft studio.

    Epic will show with the special developed UR3 PS3 engine what the PS3 is cappable to do. The PS3 will deliver…

    Now is is so that the 360 has sold the most consoles…but what happens over two years?? When the PS3 takes the lead the coin will flip?? And there are developers out there that are saying that porting a game made for the PS3 to the 360 is easier to do.

    Ther are also steatments from developers that the power of the PS3 is the cooperation of the RSX and the Cell.The Cell can do graphical tasks…something that the CPU off the 360 is not not able to do.

    Its the combination of the hardware of the PS3; RSX, Cell, bandwith and Blu-ray what makes the PS3 the better and stronger console.

  • The games I’ve played look worse graphically than the 360 and I own both systems, that is just my opinion. Maybe as people get used to working with the PS3 the graphics will improve, but right now they aren’t better.

  • Well, I don’t necessarily want to spam this comment thread with support issues about gravatars. It still doesn’t seem to be working, and I assigned it to my email when I signed up in the first place. But anyway, despite the fact I feel absolutely plebeian without having one, I’ll just deal for the time being.

    *restores order in the universe by allowing this comment thread to resume as usual*

  • @G8CRA5H3R | June 13th, 2007 at 7:05 pm
    Graphics for the ports only lok bad due to lazy Devs its got nothing to do with the ps3 there two completely different machines and certain company’s are just to lazy to recode properly you want to see good looking games just wait to see what Squreenix does with the ps3

  • Yeah, there is a bit of a plug for their product but it’s their blog so there’s nothing wrong with it. It would be odd if they didn’t plug anything, lack of confidence is not good but neither is too much. I believe there is a lot of truth to it anyway, the PS3 is the most powerful console right now, it just takes a little know how. We’ve heard this many times, where’s the evidence you say?

    Well, not just fanboys are saying this, David Doak (everyone loved GoldenEye, he must be telling the truth!) of Free Radical Design believes it is and judging from videos and images of HAZE, it sure looks that way. Team Ninja’s Yosuke Hayashi has even stated the same idea, and TN is known for pushing a console past expectations. You can’t go wrong with 1080p60 in NG:Sigma. Not to mention Uncharted matches anything I’ve seen on consoles and is still being worked on too.

    Of course, power is not everything but it is definitely better when matched with great gameplay. This is what the PS3 needs, varied (not just mainstream) games that take advantage of both, not necessarily just power. If everything was just graphics, you might as well watch a movie, no fuss.

  • It is a marketing nightmare. How can you woo developers into believing that their games will prosper on PS3? People feel its so difficult to program for. I think after this Fall you will start to get better buzz, if everything promised comes true.

  • If someone’s listening – get Wipeout on the PS3 and you’ve got a guaranteed sale. I’ll even put up with the SIXAXIS. *cough*

  • I don’t know if you’ll even have time to read my one small post (I mean geez, I stay away for only a couple hours and there’s already 55 comments. I can’t imagine how you guys keep up with it), but if you do I hope you take my “criticism” to heart. When I go to gamepro.com, I expect stuff that sounds like PR and I actually look for that material. However, when I look at this blog I’m hoping that while I will get the same information here that I get there that I will hear it in your words, not the way it sounds after it’s been through the PR department. In short, I would appreciate it if you didn’t quote word for word the same stuff that gamepro has in their article. If you want this blog to get to us gamers on a personal level, you need to be more casual, even if you’re saying the same stuff. We just like to know you guys aren’t robots that are programmed to say the same stuff over and over ;)

  • Dave, I am glad to see you posting on here, and reading and responding to peoples comments, regardless of how childish some of them can be.

    I hope that this blog does not turn into a place for angry gamers to just sit and hate on things, when they have been given an opportunity to voice their opinions for the better of all gamers. The PS3 is a complex system, that is undeniable, but the way it is percieved through the eyes of non-programmers is what makes this whole thing such a moot idea. I do stand to say that the PS3 games I have played with so far are surpassing my expectations as far as quality goes, minus the exceptions of Tony Hawk’s Project 8, and Spider-Man 3, both of which were pushed by Activision who has been getting reamed because of their blatent laziness with QA.

    The 360 has some impressive games, but for the most part their “next-gen” quota to me seems to come up short. While in the same period of development, the PS3 is pushing far more advanced software. While sparse, the games are turning heads, but the price point is still one huge step for most gamers. We know you can’t do anything about that, most of us have read the posts on how much money you lose per console, and from a business perspective, I completely respect that. You guys take risks, unlike Microsoft or Nintendo, you push the hardware to the next level so that we, the gamers, see a pure difference every generation. The argument of Xbox/Gamecube 1.5 has been justified many a time as of late, but no one has gripes with the jump the PS3 made. It is the definition of a next gen console, as it is completely made up of next gen components and tech.

    The games may be different to develop for, or “harder” as people like to skew it, but the pure honest truth of it is that the developers who are complaining about the architecture of the system need to man up and do their jobs, as they don’t get paid to complain. They get paid to make quality titles that will make sure they stay in the business for years to come. And their ability to complain is not the reason we rely on them and throw money at them and their publishers, correct? All I’m saying is that the development for PS3 will be fine, you guys are constantly trying to make it simpler and faster for all the developers out there who are having a hard time with the learning curve, but no one ever gives you recognition for it. Hopefully, when the massive slew of original titles and what not start to hit the market, they will remember why they develop for PlayStation in the first place.

  • war02orc

    errr so they shouldn’t quote word for word what was said by the people who said it? *confused*

  • I have no doubt the cell is a powerful beast but it is only as good as the creative minds using it. It may offer “more better good stuff” but people are very visual and need to see these features to finally take in the power of the processor and it’s capabilities.

    Some of the current games look great but comparable elsewhere it’s not a convincing mind altering experience. I also think it best to stay away from the graphical comparisons for now and even then depending on what your looking for it may not matter at all. If anything has shown us even the Gamecube was able to surprise most with Zelda: TP. I had to do a double take back in the day to my system seeing where those graphics were coming from.

    I am sure this will change as time goes on and I look forward to seeing what is on the horizon. Hopefully we can get more developer diaries and looks behind the scenes. I find those are usually the most informative and inspiring PR tactics to convince me on games.

  • Heh. Anyonewho thinks the PS3 is hard to develop for should read this.

    http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=160954

    I agree. Most developers who are complaining PS3 is “too hard” to develop for sound like they’re whining.

  • All I’m saying is that the title is “Is the PS3 really harder to develop for?” and we never get an unbiased answer.

    The only answer we get comes from Sony. And they aren’t about to say “Yes, PS3 is harder to develop for”.

    I’d much rather see comments from a developer that has developed a game primarily for the 360 and another primarily for the PS3. That’s the only way we’ll then know which was easy/more difficult to develop for.

    And as far as my saying $ony, I only did it for fun – People always like to use M$ – MS wants to make money just as much as Sony.

    The problem right now is that while there may be a lot on the horizon for the PS3, the best thing it has going for it is that its the best and lowest cost blu-ray player. Only reason I’d buy one today, but it will need to come down in price first.

  • Alright…nice to know that you have to do more work to do better things…

    Now, what can you do to make the developers make the games faster and better?

    Sorry, but it did sounded like marketing stuff.

    Try to make them more simple. Like you are just writing from the bottom of your heart.

    It is nice to know how things are going and I see why the developers are taking longer to develop games…now go help them!

    Thanks!

  • Hey it’s me…the one, the only.

    What I find interesting is that the raw data we have on the PS3 specs says it is more powerfull…but when can we expect to see it? I’m not unhappy with what I have seen but it isn’t representative of the systems quoted additional capabilities.

    As it stands right now we don’t have many equaly well running ports let alone better running versions of games.

    So who is at fault here…the developers, the publishers, the programers???

    I know new tools take time to learn. I am a Design Engineer and when we get new CAD/CAM software and equipment it takes time to learn all the new features and tools…but in the manufacturing enviroment I get days and weeks, not months. My training consists of at best a week of hour long sessions but mostly it’s just thrown at me with a “you’ll figure it out”.

  • @ maytrix

    Funny, I purchased mine because of the Backwards compatability with my 50+PS1/PS2 titles, Blu-ray, free Online, awesome first party titles like God of War, Free Online ^^, HDD in every unit, HDMI output, Wifi Built in, Remote Play with PSP need I go on?

    Anyway On topic: I am not a programmer or a game maker so I dont know the inner workings of the cell or the RSX but I like to do research of the products I buy. But the thing is, I had to do this research myself and not take what other people on forums and stuff say or claim as the truth.

    My suggestion are more topics like this on this blog. You need to explain to the consumers what the PS3 can offer to them plain and simple. I have not seen one commercial about Ninja Gaiden Sigma and it hits stores in a little over 2 weeks. Flat out tell them why blu-ray is needed, show tech demos on what the cell can do. If you let the PS3 sell on hype alone not one average consumer will choke down the $600 pricetag willingly.

    Now dont get what I said as me trying to bash you guys and the work you do, I have a great respect for this industry and Sony. But I know why the PS3 costs $600 as well as most people that have done the research I have. But the average consumer, the 15 year old that asks his parents to buy them one for Christmas does not.

    Remember this is not a rant just constructive criticisim, something we ALL need to become successful in anything we do.

    ~~~Janos~~~

  • A few points:

    Yes, the Cell processor is powerful. More powerful than the processor in the 360, however, the processor isn’t the only factor to take into account when developing software for any given platform. Look at it this way: Let’s say you have a pc w/ 256mb ram, on board graphics, and a 2ghz processor. If you replaced the processor with one that is twice as fast, but changed nothing else, you still wouldn’t be able to run most current pc games on it.

    Comparing the PS3 and the 360 in this manner is an apples to oranges comparison. They both have strengths and weaknesses. To imply otherwise declaring one system to be completely superior to the other is very much a PR spin based move. Given your work history Mr Karraker, I expect better of you and your writings on this blog. The PS3 is facing an uphill climb in it’s current state. That climb will be much harder if you spend it looking down your nose at the competition.

  • whatthegeek,

    unless your a programmer of video games or a engineer of some sort, your ascertians about what is and isn’t concerning hardware is a bit ridiculous.

  • Maytrix…[quote]the best thing it has going for it is that its the best and lowest cost blu-ray player.[/quote]

    Do you even own a PS3? Did you played Motorstorm ore RFOM, ore even Oblivion…the PS3 version is the best version of the game, because Bethesda did take advantange of the overall better features off the PS3.
    If not I take your comment not seriously.

    Did you see ingame footage of Heavenly Sword ore Lair ore even R&C and Drakes Fortune?If not dont even speak.

    Blizzard; shure there some marketing involded but thats the same thing Major Nelson is doing in his blog . But there is one difference Major Nelson is forcingly telling in his comments that the 360 is the better console…wich is not true…and the future shall profe that the PS3 is the more powefull console.

  • Regarding PSN, PLEASE, PLEASE ADD IN-GAME XMB MESSAGING ABILITY, my clan and I are playing Resistance regularly and when someone turns on his PS3 and logs into the Playstation Network, I am not able to contact him to join us in Resistance, this is a barrier to communication, the same with when someone is playing a different game, there’s no way I can pull him out of his current game and join me in my game, this will help a GREAT deal towards unifying the community with in-game XMB access which is currently not available.

  • mustaphadamus,

    While I’m not a programmer nor an engineer, I do have extensive education on both subjects. It’s a simple fact that no one piece of hardware determines the performance of a game machine or computer. Performance is determined by a the performance of the product as a whole.

    A fine example of this can be seen if you look at specs for the hardware for computers used in the late ninties. RAM was becoming more affordable, and faster. Processors were just reaching the 1ghz mark, but hard drives were still spinning as slow as ever. As a result, the overall performance of a computer was bottlenecked by the slower seek times on the hard drive. This, of course, has improved drastically since those days, but the lesson in hardware remains valid – you can not compare performance based on processor alone. I’m not arguing that the PS3 isn’t powerful, simply stating that the hardware configuration of the two machines is very different. As I’ve said before, both have strengths, and both have weaknesses.

  • @mustaphadamus

    There are more than enough articles and such by neutral writers that go over all the plusses and minuses. 360 has advantages in some areas, PS3 has advantages in others. Neither is superior to the other. Exclusive games on the 360 and PS3 will match each other.

    Also keep in mind – graphics are not everything (in either case). A great gaming experience overall is much more important (graphics, audio, gameplay, storyline, online play..etc). Too much emphasis is put on graphics. Even when PS3 has games that have slightly better graphics, they’ve never been enough to really affect the overall experience.

  • I’m glad to see that Sony finally admitted that Xbox Live’s support for online gaming is superior. However, once you acknowledge a problem, you can take the steps necessary to fix it.

    Andrew
    PS3 Fanboy

  • Great article. Like many others have said, a big reason why we get crappy ports is because developers are starting on the 360 and porting over to the PS3, so they’re not really taking advantage of the hardware. Sure first party games will look very good, but I think you guys (Sony) should score some exclusives, or at least timed exclusives, with third party developers. That way, they’ll focus on developing for the PS3 and taking advantage of the hardware, without worrying about the limitations of another system. I think you guys are on the right track with games such as Ninja Gaiden Sigma and Haze, as well as MGS4 and FFXIII. I look forward to seeing what third party developers can do with the PS3.

    Oh and one more thing about exclusives, if you do score them, don’t be afraid to tell us. It’ll save a lot of the fanboy crap that goes on :)

  • That sounded like an honest answer.

  • @Doom

    No. I do not own a PS3 right now.

    And I’m not saying it doesn’t have some good games – Motorstorm does look cool and I’ve enjoyed playing it on kiosks (although the first thing I’d do if I did own one is turn of the motion for the controller).

    And the other titles you mention look good as well. I have a 360 and the fact right now is that as good as those games look, they aren’t going to get me to buy a PS3. Blu-ray is more likely to get me to buy it right now. I do not buy a console for any particular game and will not. I don’t mind missing out on some PS3 games as there are some great games coming out on the 360.

    So, that’s why I made that comment. For me personally, blu-ray is the #1 reason I’d consider buying a PS3. I would buy a game at the same time (probably motorstorm), but I wouldn’t be buying it for the games.

  • I must admit, although that was a total PR push, it seemed refreshingly honest while dealing with the differences between the PS3 and XBOX 360. Thanks!

  • @DooM

    Yes, I know there is always marketing in everything, is just that I thought that it breaks the line that the Blog has been having.

    Anyway, really makes me feel better and understand everything.

    The problem is that when new things come out, usually they are focus on making easier things that were hard to do in the past.

    But I believe that it is a completely new way of programming so it takes some time to adjust.

  • @maytrix

    I’m not sure what sort of answer you’re expecting from an official Playstation blog – much less one where CEO Tretton has already said that “everything communicated in any form these days has to be considered an “on-the-record statement” so as much as I’d like to, I can’t completely throw my corporate hat out the window.” Like it or not, there will be spin; and there is nothing to tell us whether their answers are biased or not. You merely take it to be so because it comes from a Sony employee – and if so why bother coming on here and flaming like a child?

    The admission of XBL’s superiority in their online tools and library was brave, and would you regard that as biased as well? A reverse-psychology tactic employed by Sony? Or do you have more conspiracy theories up your sleeve?

    And finally, as for developer feedback there’s been plenty. I think Hideo Kojima’s comments for the various consoles could be very telling; one time he compared the various consoles to various sorts of food and dining, at another time he compared them to media and movies. It’s up to you to Google for this interview and make your inferences – unless, of course, you think Kojima is biased. Maybe feedback comments on PS3 development from Major Nelson or even, you yourself, would satisfy you much more?

  • Nice article. Glad to see some honesty in your answer on the competition.

  • Hideo Kojima’s is a smart man, he knows what hes talking about and dosent speak BS like some other ppl.

  • Maytrix you forgotten a few things and that will be important in this gen…

    The PS3 is better than the 360 in doing; physics, AI because off the Cell. It hase better soudprocessing because of the Cell, Blu-ray and 7.1 DTS and HDMI 1,3, and it will have crisper and better grphics because it can output True 1080P.

    That are a few things where the PS3 will outperforme the 360, and you will see and hear it in the games to come.

  • Thanks guys, this has settled some questions I have had. Keep up the great work^^.

  • whatthegeek,

    The difference between you and I is, I am a programmer and know assembly language which is talking directly to the metal and I can assure you, your assumptions are wrong, wrong and wrong.

  • Thanks, Dave for clarifying that for us. This blog is a great idea for clearing up any misconceptions, or misinformation, that’s circulating.

  • arias,

    I’m not normally one to step into someone else’s arguement, but I don’t believe Kojima has produced a 360 game as of yet. It’s been said a few times in these comments, and I have to agree, the only way to get a straight answer on this topic would be for a developer who’s created a different game for each platform from the ground up. I have great respect for Kojima. His works thus far have been nothing short of excellent, however, until he’s become intimately acquainted with both platforms, his words are strictly personal opinion and speculation on this topic.

  • matrix,

    ps3 has been out for under a year. Let us wait for sencond and third generation games before we start making such bold statments.

  • the guys from team ninja have worked on both platforms and they said the ps3 was more powerful. So did the guys from 2k sports, so did the guys at Ubisoft, so did carmack, so did Cliffy B and Mark Reign. But I guess some here know more than them

  • Speaking of ported game titles, is there any way that you guys at Sony can get Capcom to port Lost Planet: Extreme Condition & Gears of War? Or have them create a PS3 version in the future =D! While I do envy two Xbox 360 title (Lost Planet: Extreme Condition & Gears of War) but then again I’d never ever put my hard earned cashed on an unreliable console such as the 360.

  • ya just give the ps3 till 2008, by then the better games will start popping up and sales will go up. and also dont forget E3 ppl, who knows wat sony might surprise us with ^_^ ^_*

  • mustaphadamus,

    Who said I didn’t know assembly? All I said is that I’m not a programmer (by trade). I know a good deal about programming, and a great deal about hardware and hardware performance.

    My statements about hardware performance are facts, not assumptions. If you think me wrong, back it up. Can you personally force a current pc game to run on outdated hardware? Can you dispel my statements about the bottlenecking of PC performance in the late 90’s due to slower hard drives with longer seek times? If so, please, enlighten me.

  • mustaphadamus,

    what statement did I make that was so bold?

    No need to be so defensive… PS3 is a good console, you made a fine choice for yourself. Its just not my choice at this time.

    If HD-DVD doesn’t sway a studio from blu-ray by end of year, I’ll probably get a PS3 early in 2008.

  • Speaking of ported game titles, is there any way that you guys at Sony can get Capcom and Epic to port Lost Planet: Extreme Condition & Gears of War? Or have them create a PS3 version in the future =D! While I do envy two Xbox 360 title (Lost Planet: Extreme Condition & Gears of War) but then again I’d never ever put my hard earned cash on an unreliable console such as the 360.

  • whatthegeek

    what your talking about has nothing to do with the price of rice in china. We are talking about the PS3 and your inability to talk on something you have no practical knoweledge of.

    Maytrix,

    defensive, no. Tired of people who talk about things they have no knowledge of

  • Are there videos available that expound on the issues mentioned in your blog entry? And, maybe how they play out in a game’s schedule from beginning to end? And, would like to fund my passion to do that for you?

  • mustaphadamus,

    What I’m talking about is the fact that processing power alone is not enough to declare the PS3 the winner. The limitations of it’s RAM for example, give the 360 the advantage in certain areas of development.

    Would you have us all believe that the processor is the only piece of hardware that matters?

  • Maytrix than stop bashing the PS3 please,,,,

    You will never see an 360 game on HD dvd and that will bee a great problem for the 360 in the near future

  • mustaphadamus,What limitations of its ram?? The PS3 has 256 GDDR3 Ram and 256 XDR ram what is the fatest RAM in the market today, and both the RSX and the Cell can use both kinds of RAM if they need it, do you homework better…..

  • DooM,

    “You will never see an 360 game on HD dvd and that will bee a great problem for the 360 in the near future”

    I have to disagree with that being a problem. In fact, I’m perfectly happy with 360 games being on DVD9 discs. Why? Well, while blu ray has a higher capacity, that space comes with a price – slow read speeds. This results in slower load times throughout the game, or a waiting period in the beginning where some content is preloaded to the PS3 hard drive. Long story short, I’d rather switch discs than suffer longer load times. Blu ray is great for HD movies, however, as a storage medium, it’s not quite ready for prime time in my opinion.

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