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Mark Cerny: When making consoles, we're not trying to build low-cost PCs

Screenshot-2024-06-07-042459.jpg


Cerny still does multiple things, but to the current generation of gamers, he's probably best known as the lead architect behind PlayStation 4 and 5.

We're roughly at the mid-way point in the PS5's lifecycle, and so we wanted to ask if there's anything developers have been doing with the hardware that has surprised him.

"I have been very surprised by the degree to which developers are using ray-tracing," he begins. "Putting that in, that was a big decision and actually a rather late one. I thought that this is not going to get much use initially, but if we look at generations, and a generation is seven years or so, software is created for ten years, and so later in the lifecycle we will start seeing people using that technology. But instead we had launch titles that were taking advantage of it. I guess, having worked on games for consoles that were a bit difficult to get into, like the PlayStation 3, I can be a little skittish about very deep technology like that. But in this case, my guess as to how things would go was totally wrong. And I am so happy to have seen the early adoption of the technology.

"The other thing that has been surprising is the push to 60 frames per second. Based on previous console lifecycles, I would have expected there to be a lot more games that are 30 frames per second only, just because the artwork can be so much more detailed if you have longer time to render it. Instead, the almost universal rule this time around has been the games run at 60.

"It's great from a play perspective. Gamers overwhelmingly prefer games that are higher frame rates. I just didn't expect such a departure from previous generations."

Cerny says building a console takes about four years, and nowadays that's less time than it takes to make some of the big AAA titles. There is a lot of focus right now on the time it takes to build these games, and Cerny says that, ultimately, it's the developers that have chosen this path.

"With the consoles, one thing I've been trying to do is reduce the amount of time it takes [developers] to get going with their games. I call this 'time to triangle'. All that means is that if I just want to get a triangle up on the screen, how long does it take to build the engine technology that will allow me to do that? That might not sound very difficult. The first PlayStation you could maybe do that in a month, but the consoles got so complex that by PlayStation 3 that was taking probably six months to a year. So I've been working to bring that down. PlayStation 4 and 5 are much quicker. It takes a month or two before you have those fundamental graphics technologies up and running on [those systems].

"I probably shouldn't, but I spend a lot of time on the boards. And I see people asking… if the time to triangle has been greatly reduced, why is it then taking so many years to create a game? And the answer is that is what the teams are choosing to do. They are going after these massive creations that really do need four or six years to put together."

Another shift in the development landscape is around multiplatform games. Developers are increasingly building their projects for as many platforms as possible. Even PlayStation has been bringing its games to PC (albeit a few years after the console version). The issue is that consoles often have bespoke technologies in them, and if developers use these technologies, it might hinder their ability to port the game elsewhere. Cerny admits his team is aware of this challenge, but actually it's an opportunity for them to lead.

“One of the exciting aspects of console hardware design is that we have freedom with regards to what we put in the console," Cerny begins. "Or to put that differently, we’re not trying to build a low-cost PC, and we aren’t bound by any particular standards. So if we have a brainstorm that audio can become much more immersive and dimensional if there’s a dedicated unit that’s capable of complex math, then we can do that. Or if the future feels like high-speed SSDs rather than HDDs, we can put an end-to-end system in the console – everything from the flash dies to the software interfaces that the game creators use – and get 100% adoption.

"I like to think that occasionally we’re even showing the way for the larger industry, and that our efforts end up benefiting those gaming on PC as well. It’s a tech-heavy example, but on PS4 we had very efficient GPU interfaces, and that may well have spurred DirectX to become more efficient in response. Or to look at something more consumer-focused, I believe that releasing PS5 in 2020 with a very high-performance integrated SSD put pressure on the PC world to get their corresponding DirectStorage API into the hands of their gamers.

"There’s a recent development here, which is console exclusives that were created to run on bespoke PlayStation systems are now making their way to PC. That conversion has been simpler than many thought. The main consequence is that the minimum spec for the PC version of the game gets a bit higher, perhaps more CPUs or more RAM, in order to replace the missing systems.”

Not only can gamers now play PlayStation games on PC, but they can also use PlayStation hardware, including the DualSense and PlayStation VR 2. Meanwhile, on the other end, we're increasingly seeing AAA developers getting a version of their games running on mobile. The lines between platforms seem to be blurring, but Cerny feels consoles continue to play a crucial role in the ecosystem.

He points to an amusing video by Linus Tech Tips, which attempted to 'kill' the PlayStation 5 by building a $500 gaming PC that outperformed the console.

"They had to get a used motherboard," he says. "That was the only way that they could build a PlayStation 5 equivalent for a PlayStation 5 price. And if you're using used parts… well you can get a used PlayStation 5 for eBay for $300-something.

"I think as long as we continue to create that very nice package, the future of consoles is pretty bright."

Full interview available at GIBiz - https://www.gamesindustry.biz/mark-cerny-at-60-i-the-gi-interview
 

LordOfChaos

Member
I'll be very curious to see the direction he sets for next gen. Big NPUs are a given with a lot more game AI, neural upscaling, perhaps vocal conversations being a cornerstone of next gen gaming. What else? Does he still focus on SSD performance or has it just been fine since PS5?
 
"I probably shouldn't, but I spend a lot of time on the boards. And I see people asking… if the time to triangle has been greatly reduced, why is it then taking so many years to create a game? And the answer is that is what the teams are choosing to do. They are going after these massive creations that really do need four or six years to put together."

The messiah, he is amongst us....
 

Fabieter

Member
Another shift in the development landscape is around multiplatform games. Developers are increasingly building their projects for as many platforms as possible. Even PlayStation has been bringing its games to PC (albeit a few years after the console version). The issue is that consoles often have bespoke technologies in them, and if developers use these technologies, it might hinder their ability to port the game elsewhere. Cerny admits his team is aware of this challenge, but actually it's an opportunity for them to lead.

We will see less of those in the future. They are gonna streamline 1p development.
 

rodrigolfp

Haptic Gamepads 4 Life
9b3.png


"I have been very surprised by the degree to which developers are using ray-tracing," he begins. "Putting that in, that was a big decision and actually a rather late one. I thought that this is not going to get much use initially, but if we look at generations, and a generation is seven years or so, software is created for ten years, and so later in the lifecycle we will start seeing people using that technology. But instead we had launch titles that were taking advantage of it.

Maybe because it was already "old" news on gaming, duh.
 
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Cyberpunkd

Member
I'll be very curious to see the direction he sets for next gen. Big NPUs are a given with a lot more game AI, neural upscaling, perhaps vocal conversations being a cornerstone of next gen gaming. What else? Does he still focus on SSD performance or has it just been fine since PS5?
Do you see each new generation pushing anything else than graphics? It’s going to be the same till the inevitable crash.
 

Punished Miku

Human Rights Subscription Service
The headline could also be:

We werent previously trying to build PCs but exclusives have changed more than I expected, and luckily it seems relatively easy to port
 

Killjoy-NL

Member
At least someone at PlayStation is only about the console.
Honestly, I think next gen will be way better than this one.
They all are. All execs clearly stated Playstation consoles are the core of the business.

People apparently like Cerny and are willing to only listen to him.
 

Killjoy-NL

Member
Just low cost consoles that are already underpowered at lunch and have to last 5 to 7 years, we know Mark.
Yet we had "industry veterans" like VFXVeteran claiming the real-time reveal trailers for Demon's Souls, HFW and R&C were CGI because they couldn't be possible in real-time on PS5 hardware

Same as how Infamous SS and Killzone Shadowfall reveal trailers were supposedly CGI because they couldn't be possible in real-time on the obsolete PS4 hardware.
 
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Fabieter

Member
The headline could also be:

We werent previously trying to build PCs but exclusives have changed more than I expected, and luckily it seems relatively easy to port

You can tell that games are more straightforward. We won't see miracle games going forward where we say fuck we don't know graphics like that.
 

MikeM

Member
I’ll give the guy credit- he keeps his finger on the pulse of what gamers want. I’m surprised to see he didn’t expect that many 60fps games though. Hopefully that will mean hardware for PS6 designed around 60fps+ experiences.
 

splattered

Member
It won't. Next gen would be way worse than this gen.

Development time would be hell and too long, with games targeting both systems (old and new gen).

Probably why devs/pubs are wanting to bet so hard on AI development tools in the near future... everyone trying to figure out how to speed up development time without increasing the associated costs and seeing quicker ROI.
 

Geometric-Crusher

"Nintendo games are like indies, and worth at most $19" 🤡
It's certainly a preemptive strike against Microsoft's '3DO' strategy.third party manufacturesusing reference specifications.
 

Punished Miku

Human Rights Subscription Service
You can tell that games are more straightforward. We won't see miracle games going forward where we say fuck we don't know graphics like that.
We're well into diminishing returns, but I still expect people to be wowed at times. Demon's Souls did wow me, and that's 60fps.

This also tells me that Naughty Dog is likely targeting 30 fps.
 
For those interested in future Playstation hardware, especially the Pro and PS6... we should be paying attention to his comments about developers embracing ray-tracing and 60 FPS, as this will (as we may already know with the Pro leaks) have very big design implications for the future hardware.
 

jm89

Member
He points to an amusing video by Linus Tech Tips, which attempted to 'kill' the PlayStation 5 by building a $500 gaming PC that outperformed the console.

"They had to get a used motherboard," he says. "That was the only way that they could build a PlayStation 5 equivalent for a PlayStation 5 price. And if you're using used parts… well you can get a used PlayStation 5 for eBay for $300-something.

Cerny taking linus to the cleaners

muhammad-ali-fighting.gif
 
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GymWolf

Gold Member
Yet we had "industry veterans" like VFXVeteran claiming the real-time reveal trailers for Demon's Souls, HFW and R&C were CGI because they couldn't be possible in real-time on PS5 hardware

Same as how Infamous SS and Killzone Shadowfall reveal trailers were supposedly CGI because they couldn't be possible in real-time on the obsolete PS4 hardware.
When the fuck do we started listening to vfx veteran? The same dude that said that horizon 1 on pc was about to be better looking than horizon fw?

Like cmon...

It's a fact that they have to make cheap boxes and it's a fact that they are already vastly underpowered at launch, unless you think an api with a 2070super and a downpowered ryzen 2 were top tier hardware when ps5 came out (spoiler, they were not).
 
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feynoob

Member
Is it though?

Here are the Steam stats for May 2024


Not every PC is a monster, regardless of narratives.

You didn't get his point.
Consoles don't get refreshes every year. They are stuck with what they have. And you can't change them.

In 4 years time, you will get a more powerful pc and you can modify them. That is the advantage of PC.

Think of iPhone 13 now vs iPhone 17 4 years from now.
 

feynoob

Member
Probably why devs/pubs are wanting to bet so hard on AI development tools in the near future... everyone trying to figure out how to speed up development time without increasing the associated costs and seeing quicker ROI.
You can't speed up development time due to the complexity of making video games.

Making a 2000 game is easy now. But making a 2020 game is hard, because of all the new technology and trainings that you need to do.

And what is worse is that you get new tech every 2-3 years, which increases your development time.

AI might make the development easier, but it will increase the complexity of the development as you need to track of everything and make sure it works very well.
 

Jigsaah

Gold Member
I had to re-read the first line. I thought it said "Cerny still does multiple drugs".

My brain broke for a second.
 
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