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!

Comments are closed.

431 Comments

  • Doom

    you used the wrong name man. I never said that. that was maytrix or whatthegeek, not sure which.

  • actually loading times on the ps3 are a bit faster than some xobox games, compare oblivion for example, it loads about 3-5 secconds faster =\. Or is that becasue the 360 version dosent store some of the games data on the HDD? whatthegeek pls comment

  • Well, I’m no developer so I won’t sit here talking about how this is some kind of corporate spin. What I will say is this blog makes a whole lotta’ sense. I keep hearing about how being harder to develop games for is a huge downfall for the PS3, which is just silly for one thing.

    But I do know having too many choices can slow down the process of creating something but also makes it much better in the end. So sure developers may have to do a little more work to push the PS3 to it’s full potential but who are they to complain? Part of working with code is having an extreme amount of patience and the more we move into the future the more coders will have to be patient.

    So, there’s no need to complain, because the future is now. If any console has brought us here it’s the PS3. It’s a very highly technological machine and if developers have to work a little longer to make games for it, so be it. But remember, just because it takes more time, doesn’t mean it’s harder, that just means more time and effort is being put into it.

  • I’m still skeptical about this PS3 is more powerful than the 360 idea. It seems to me that Sony needs to prove why all the information contrary to their claims is false. I’ll be happy to see developers prove the system’s superior capabilities though.

  • “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.”

    i like this part. you guys are honest, i hope that you guys catch up fast

  • My apologies for the ram statement – it seems both systems do infact have equal share when it comes to memory.

    From gamespot
    “From a memory standpoint, both systems are roughly equal with about 512MB of memory dedicated to system and graphics. The Xbox 360 has Unified Memory Architecture that lets the CPU and GPU share the system’s 512MB of memory. The PlayStation 3 on the other had has 256MB of XDR memory and 256MB of GDDR3 memory dedicated to graphics. We still have to take a closer look at the memory bandwidth differences, but game developers will be happy with the graphics bandwidth and memory space available for both systems.”

    You can take my point about hardware differences, and apply it to my statement on blu ray vs DVD9 a few comments back.

  • devin,

    what information? Try doing your OWN research. Team Ninja, Carmack, Cliffy B, Mark Rein, 2k Sports, UBI soft have ALL said PS3 is a more powerful machine. Again research, research, research. The information is out there, you just have to look for it.

  • Devin1498 the ps3 overall i more powerfull than the 360, now all the devs have to do is make the normal games believe that. That can be done with quality titles such as MGS 4 and killzone 3

  • Although there is an extra degree of difficulty than other platforms, PS3 is certainly much easier than PS2 development was.

    Where’s the talent gone? I thought we worked in an industry full of programmers that thrive on the kind of inellectual challenges of the PS3, but maybe its a dying breed :(.

  • cruisx,

    Actually to the best of my understanding, that’s due to changes made during development of the PS3 version. Said changes are rumored to be coming to the 360 version in the form of an auto update.

  • A good honest blog post. I like that.

  • mustaphadamus,

    I believe I’ve seen some of the quotes you’re talking about, but why don’t you provide links fo rthe rest of us?

  • Wrong another fable what is told by microsoft and all the xboxfans believe it …if you were capable to read Dutch if wrote an article on my site than that what you are saying is completly wrong.

    In sort the data from the blu-ray disk is read with a constant speed from the beginning till the end..not so on a DVD is goes slowly in the beginning and faster near the middle of the disk. So the reading speed is almost the same in total

    Also the data is puting closer together on a Blu -ray disk…had you even heard of the term streaming…if not,…. do also you homework… The loading times of Oblivion are far more shorter on the PS3 than on the 360…an there are less loading times in the PS32 version of the game, And the PS3 version is on Blu-ray. …there goes your theory…….

  • Wouldnt worry too much about lost planet its okay not great.

    I own all 3 next gen consoles and believe its way too early to write of the PS3, I bought my 360 (on my 4th due to bad build quality!!!!) at launch and for the first 8 months there was hardly anything of great note. It took 16 months for GoW and it will be nearly 2 years for Halo 3. There is a solid catalog of games now but it has taken TIME! Yes PS3 is playing catch up and I doubt the PSN will catch Live anytime soon, but the hardware is good and as with PSX and PS2 the games will get better in time. I have a feeling that in 18 months I will be spending more time on the PS3 than my 360.

  • Great post and a good read, also love the blog site it’s very easy on the eyes.

  • mustaphadamus,

    I’m providing references for my statements, and taking a neutral stance on the matter – BOTH machines have good and bad qualities imo. You however, haven’t actually responded directly to my statements, and when asked for references to back up your statements, your short sweet answer is http://www.google.com. Back it up, or back off.

    BTW, the link from joystiq I posted addresses both the Oblivion issue, and the Blu ray issue.

  • Great post. Although I was thinking some of the same myself (like porting a game from 360 to PS3) and about online requiring more work on PS3, I’m somewhat glad to hear that I was telling the truth to those who felt PS3 should be able to do everything exactly the same way. Once better online tools are there and PS3 becomes the lead platform more often, I expect some really good looking PS3 games that surpass the competition.

    I want to thank you Dave for explaining this, because now I have a better understanding how it’s like working on the cell.

  • whatthegeek thx for the linnk ^_^. Anyway i dont mind load times on a conceal game as long as the game dosent load every bloody seccond lol. I think if a game is really good ppl tend to ignore the load times becasue they are haveing to much fun. But on the other hand i think that load times in RPGs reduces the fun for most ppl, in an RPG u want to do more thing and if the story is rlly good ppl want to keep advancing in the game without haveing to wait 4-5 secconds between a battle. So loading times (for me) in some game dont rlly bother me but in RPGs they sometimes do.

  • cruisx,

    I couldn’t agree more – I’ve been a big RPG gamer for a long time now, and the one thing that has irritated me is the load times. Between random battles, between rooms, between cut scenes – it breaks up the flow of the game, regardless of what platform that game may be on.

  • whatthegeek ,

    As always for every problem there is a solution specific to each platform.

    In the case of the PS3 & Blu-ray disc read speed, you have to attack the problem in a PS3 way.

    1st, every console has a HDD. so cacheing commonly used data to it is great. Reading from a HDD will be much faster than any Blu-ray or DVD. This is something that can’t be done on the 360, since the 360 doesn’t have a standard HDD.

    2nd, using the specific abilities of the PS3 it is possible to decrypt data on the fly using the Cell processor. Again something that you couldn’t practically do with the 360 since it doesn’t have the raw CPU power and large data bandwidth of Cell.

    It may be a little more pain in the butt than the easy straight line approach, but it can also lead to much better performance than the straight line approach can ever give.

  • First off, great blog and post. I love that Sony has finally made something like this so we can talk directly to you guys and tell us what’s on our mind.

    Secondly, I just wanted to say that I am really looking forward to some of the things that you are doing. I own all 3 of the new consoles and I have to say that the one I believe is looking to have the most potential is the PS3. (Oh and I know my name would suggest I am a Nintendo fanboy but I really do just like the name….. honest….)

  • Consider this Dave Karraker, If Sony doesn’t start getting developers to develope for the PS3 exclusivly its going to be a situation of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” …..

    Because with no exclusive games, you get no buyers, and with no buyers you get no developers to make exclusive games…. As a loyal Playstation customer, and a PS3 owner, I can not stress how heartbreaking it is to hear “Xbox 360 Exclusive” on a majority of games. Makes me start to question my $600 dollar investment.

    Case in point UBISOFT…. They are purposly holding back games because as they stated “The install base of the PS3 is small.” Well are they too stupid to see that if nobody releases any great games, the system will not sell? So in all reality THEY are causing the problem of a small install base themselves.

    Another point that needs to be brought up to developers is the fact that so many are leaving out features when they port games over to the PS3. The number one feature being left out is VOICE CHAT. PLEASE MAKE VOICE CHAT A MANDATORY INCLUSION ON ALL GAMES THAT ARE ONLINE.

    If you can adress they points the PS3 will skyrocket.

  • Kratos,

    I don’t think you and I are looking at things so differently. The PS3 has it’s own set of problems, each with a PS3 solution. The same can be said for the 360. They’ve taken two different approaches to this console cycle, and only time will tell who the clear winner is (if there’s a CLEAR winner at all).

    Remember this: the original Xbox had beefier hardware than the PS2, but that didn’t stop Sony from clobbering MS last time around. While hardware is important, it’s not the only factor. Hell, the Wii is dominating MS and Sony right now on a month to month basis, and it’s (speaking strictly from a technical standpoint) inferior to both the 360 and the PS3.

  • First of all, Love the new site. Hope it continues to be updated daily and it not forgotten like it usually happens with these things.
    Regarding the article, we saw some of this when it came to the PS2 and Xbox, every time a game was developed multi-platform it usually worked better on the PS2 if it was originally developed for the PS2. Same thing is happening here. However, we hope you guys get on the ball and have games designed for the PS3 even if it is multi-platform.
    Also, regarding the firmware update in which we’ll be able to access the XMB from any game listen to our MP3s while playing etc., when is it coming????!

  • RPG should be like Dungeon Siege (Sorry Sony)

    There was no delay at all.

    You could start the game and never stop to load anything. It was loading the next stage in background.

    That was the first one since it was a line game. You could easily which stage you need to load, but when the worlds get bigger, you are going to have some load times between battles.

    And, the one who said that the BD is slower because he saw the 2X in the PS3 box, is kind of wrong.

    BD at 2X is practically the same as a 8X DVD. So I wouldn’t worry that much about that.

  • well i am out for today guys, its getting late see ya guys tomrro

  • blizzard182,

    On blu ray:

    “Admittedly, Blu-Ray looks dicey from several non-capacity angles. Blu-Ray movies require a 1.5x Blu-Ray drive, or 54Mbits/second. Sony announced that PS3 uses a 2x BD drive, which is 72Mbits/second or 9MB/second. The Xbox360 uses a 12x DVD, which should give it about 16MB/second. That is significantly faster for games and will result in shorter load times. And that 12x DVD drive should be a whole lot cheaper. (Note that the PS3 drive will do 8x DVD, and even that is faster than 2x BD.)”

    A quote from Mark Deloura (former head of Sony Developer Relations)

  • HanSolo,

    from the article you posted yourself

    While the “Knights of the Nine” side-quest will be preloaded on the PS3 disc, the rest of the downloadable content available to Xbox 360 and PC players will not be available, though the content packs “may find their way to the PlayStation Store at some point in time in the future.”

    As I keep saying, both the PS3 and the 360 have strenghts, and weaknesses.

    PS: it’s been rumored that Oblivion (on the 360) will get a patch that includes some of the performance upgrades given to the game during it’s PS3 development.

  • Howdy all,

    I have both a ps/3 and a 360. Love them both. I suspect that in totality, both systems are basically on par… each having its strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, their is a ton more things to do on the 360 at this time… and disappointingly not very many things to do on the ps/3. I suspect that the ps/3 drought will start to fade towards the holiday season. Now, it is natural for each side to get all big chested and tout how their respective machines are better than the competition, fair enough. I would expect nothing less. However, I have yet to see anything on my ps/3 (game or BR movie) that the 360 doesn’t do as well or better (game or HD). I keep waiting for that one title that will be the definitive showpiece to beat on the ps/3. Why is there not at least some tech demo that we can download and oooh and aahhh over (and I don’t mean some pre-rendered movie clip either) that would really show off the power/graphics capability of the system?
    Come on Sony, show us the love! You must have something exceptionally cool for us to show off!

  • whathegeek… from the same article…

    IGN got some hands-on time with the long-awaited PS3 port of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and came away with some quite favorable comparisons to the Xbox 360 version. Load times that were seven to ten seconds on the 360 have been reduced to three to five seconds on the PS3, according to IGN. What’s more, the frame rate drops that accompanied entrances to detailed areas have been eliminated, and the graphics have been improved with higher resolution textures, improved shading and an increased draw distance (to minimize far off object popping up suddenly).

  • whatthegeek

    I agree, and I think its all about the games. The reality is, for PS3 games: “we ain’t seen nothing yet”, since the majority of ‘killer’ games are still on the waiting list.

    At first its really just going to be up to Sony 1st party, and to a few 3rd party developers who are keen to make the most of the PS3 and distinguish it.

    Those who are just doing ports with no particular interest in taking advantage of the PS3’s strengths will distinguish nothing.

  • Thanks, I am glad someone from Sony finally closed the argument.

  • HanSolo,

    See, what I was doing was citing the paragraph that proved my point – both consoles have ups and downs. I think we all know what you wanted us to take away from the article, but thank you for repeating it anyway.

    As I’ve said, I’m neutral – I don’t favor one system over the other. I’m no Xbot, nor am I a ps3 fanboy. I’m just here to show everyone both sides of the coin.

  • Great read, it brings up the nice point of how multi-platform games need be be re-engineered to run properly and also needs to be looked at a different perspectives because of each systems hardware architecture. So far I think that some developers have tried to do straight ports of the game from the Xbox 360 and have had them not turn out as great as they could have been. If these developers would have taken the time like Bethesda Softworks did on Oblivion, then these games could have looked just as good or even better then their original game on the other console.

  • whatthegeek, so far you are a troll and if people like you dont bring it up, no one cares about the other side of the coin

  • Kratos,

    All very true and valid points. I have to laugh when I see analysts call the console war as won by one company or the other. The fact is that MS, Sony, and Nintendo all have tricks upheir sleeves that we the consumers have no idea about at this point. It’s all going to come down to 1st party titles, exclusives, and online experience. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out as time goes on. All three companies have radically different strategies, and it’ll be interesting to see what works and what doesn’t.

  • HanSolo,

    I’ve been making intellegent conversation. I haven’t mouthed off to anyone, and I’ve remained neutral – as I have said, I’m no fanboy for any console. The PS3 is going to do some interesting things over the next few years, and I look forward to seeing how things unfold. You on the other hand have done your share of name calling, and you get very angry at anyone with opinions that differ from your own — so…. who’s the troll here?

  • I just don’t see how you are going to compete against the XNA toolset with Visual Studio and a developer driven company like MSFT. They everything that caters to MSFT. Good article about PS3 vs XBOX graphics: http://www.gamespot.com/features/6171831/p-1.html

    Sounds like the PS3 is finally starting to catch up!

  • Awesome Post! Keep up the great job guys!

  • brandontyler…. ms is killing its gamedivision itself, sony does not have to compete with them lol

    http://www.fool.com/investing/value/2007/06/07/microsofts-xbotch.aspx

  • brandontyler,

    I’ve done some light programing using XNA, and I have to say, it’s a fairly simple enviroment to work in. Granted, I didn’t do anything too robust, and I have no frame of reference about how it stacks up against developing on the PS3, but the XNA experience was a good one for me.

  • @arias

    DO NOT READ THIS!!!
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    gotcha! …

    If point 3 is a revese-phsycology tactic used by Sony, IMHO I consider it to be brialliant!

  • By the way, I think figuring out how to display a gravatar must be harder than programming the PS3, because I know how to program the PS3, but I can’t find any kind of account management or other link to activate a gravatar? Doh!

  • Forgive the stupid question Kratos, but have you clicked on the grey head where your gravatar should be and signed up?

  • whatthegeek,

    Yes I’ve done that, and set up a gavatar image for my email.

  • Yea, I just did that too, and I’m getting nothing either. Odd.

  • @whatthegeek

    You know, actually I couldn’t find the speed of the DVD player on the xbox360 so thanks for that.

    Nevertheless I wasn’t lying, he.

    Still, loading times don’t bother me at all at least now.

    The only bad thing is the load times in MotorStorm while the cars load when you pick them but all of the others load fast so, it depends on the game and WHERE you have the load times.

    See you tomorrow people. Going to bed.

    I’d like to see some feedback from the Sony guys remarking some of our posts! That would be sweet.

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