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Is the PS3 Really Harder to Develop for?

Dave Karraker's Avatar + Posted by Dave Karraker on Jun 13, 2007 // Sr. Director, Corporate Communications

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!

//Add Your Own

431 Comments

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1

+ HanSolo on June 13th, 2007 at 5:28 pm said:

its not that the ps3 is hard to develop for, its a totally different way than what devs are used to, and since most devs..like ubi port..and activision are lazy and just want to squeeze the most out of their games $$$ they just do a fast/rush job port
its not hard, its different, will they take their time to learn??? yes…sure, only when the ps3 has millions of units in peoples homes, regardless, if i was sony, i would put a standard quality assurance for games, that all games must pass, and dont let the abortions…like fear…or splinter cell.. get released on the ps3, its an insult to gamers


2

+ TyranX on June 13th, 2007 at 5:29 pm said:

*headache*
Thanks for the post, it was a good read!! ^_^


3

+ Antaeus on June 13th, 2007 at 5:30 pm said:

awesome, I have no doubt in my mind that in 1-2 years the PS3 version of games will look even better then that of competitors


4

+ ZaqVendar on June 13th, 2007 at 5:30 pm said:

Ive very suprised the blog is being constantly updated, and sony are answering our commonly asked questions and speculation. it makes me happy to see this. Now if we could get an announcement on what is on the next firmware update, or plans for the future it would be very nice indeed.


5

+ ziggyd24 on June 13th, 2007 at 5:37 pm said:

The technology is there and once the developers capture it the results wilbe amazing. PS I love the blog!


6

+ Korlithiel on June 13th, 2007 at 5:38 pm said:

This website is starting to seem less like real blogs and more like corporate spin. Well I suppose at least now we have a unified website to get our half-truth filled news.


7

+ maytrix on June 13th, 2007 at 5:40 pm said:

I agree with Korlithiel – This is total corporate spin BS.

Without reading the article, it really seems like the quotes come from a developer who works on both. When the fact is its the blog poster who made the comments .

Wow.. someone working for Sony is going to say it only takes more time and effort to program for it because its more powerful than the 360.

What a joke!


8

+ DragonKnight_22 on June 13th, 2007 at 5:41 pm said:

What I’d like to see is developers use the Cell in tandem with the RSX. Since the Cell is so powerful, it could mean a significant boost in the visual quality of the games, to match up with the sound and physics quality of the games.

If Sony works in tandem with the developers, making their jobs easier and possibly cheaper, we’ll see some excellent games come sooner.

Let’s hope the lazy a** developers like Activision decide to get their acts together, or they’ll have to apologize to Sony for making crappy games.


9

+ LongTimePlaystationDev on June 13th, 2007 at 5:42 pm said:

Not the way you want to get your message out.

You don’t combat a negative image/meme by including that very same image/meme in your counter argument.

PR 101. Come on guys!


10

+ Herby on June 13th, 2007 at 5:45 pm said:

Wow, great read.
Very candid especially item # 3.
Keep it up.


11

+ bobeotm on June 13th, 2007 at 5:49 pm said:

I was wondering when exactly would the trolls emerge, and as expected they have. But anyway…

It’s nice to hear sony at least concede to their competitor currently beating them in the online space. I think in this day and age where development costs are higher and people want a return on investment by going multiplatform, developers often want to treat the two the same. Yet by doing so, you end up having to make pegs (games) fit both square and round holes (PS3 and 360 processing architectures). That means shaving off some corners.

Even in the last generation, I personally felt multiplaform releases often felt bland or watered down, because they were designed to function across so many, that they didnt fit any one platform perfectly.


12

+ cruisx on June 13th, 2007 at 5:49 pm said:

maytrix are you saying that the ps3 is less powerful than the xbox?.


13

+ Rask on June 13th, 2007 at 5:51 pm said:

With this post, this blog has just gained a HUGE amount of credibility in the books of this 360 owner.

Please keep up the good work and this high quality content!


14

+ Thomaticus on June 13th, 2007 at 5:51 pm said:

Developers want to see millions of copies of games, but they don’t want to put the work in. Look at the Wii how many ‘real’ Wii games do they have. Most of the game that they have, are basically Gamecube games, and upgraded DS games. Thank goodness the system is dirt cheap. Look at this month and last month’s released for the Wii… nothing but old ports w/ new controls. There are some companies that aren’t affraid to put in work on the PS3… primary example… Tecmo. I can’t wait to experience the finished Ninja Gaiden Sigma, cause its a game that they could have skimped on, but instead they put in the work and the game is beautiful. Tecmo could have called it Ninja Gaiden 2, add some new text and it would have been a decent sequel. I’ve read now that developers see that its better to develop for the ps3 first and then port down to the 360 and wii.


15

+ LongTimePlaystationDev on June 13th, 2007 at 5:52 pm said:

Dave,

Sony desperately needs its own developer site like this one. Almost every console fan is forced to get their console hardware and development news from x86 pc sites like beyond3d.com’s forums.

There is no legitimate place on the Net for console gamers to listen to and learn from Sony and it’s first party developers about PS3 technology and game creation.

You need to allow your first party engineers to write articles talking about the PS3 hardware, and provide a forum for all those PS3 owners who have installed Linux to do PS3 programming on their own or who are just interested to discuss the hardware.

Right now your product is being defined in the eyes of console gamers by pc gamers and developers who despise Sony and its console. And who relentlessly label anything that is not x86/Visual Studio/Windows/etc as ‘hard to program’.

Free your first party developers to speak freely to gamers and you won’t have to do this type of damage control.


16

+ maytrix on June 13th, 2007 at 5:52 pm said:

cruisx, no I’m not.

I think they are both pretty equally powerful and different to program for.

All I’m saying is that simply because Sony says PS3 is more powerful and not any more difficult to program for, doesn’t make it so.

For those that like the above snippets – READ the whole article.. this is a bit of a warped view.


17

+ bobeotm on June 13th, 2007 at 5:52 pm said:

I thought it has widely regarded, even among multiplatform developers, that the PS3 has slightly more power than the 360, but just takes more effort to squeak that extra out.


18

+ SonicTHP on June 13th, 2007 at 5:53 pm said:

Hopefully the online content thing will pan out soon, because it can be frustrating when content is available for on XBL and not on PSN for no apparent reason (ie: Marvel Ultimate Alliance downloadable characters).

To be honest as the owner of a PS3 and not an Xbox 360, it feels as if the biggest thing holding back the PS3 is that games are bing made for Xbox 360 and ported to PS3, often with the PS3 versions of games having strange frame rates or other issues. This is the main reason I look forward to games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII. Those games are likely being built from the ground up for the PS3 and I think the differences of doing so will become far more apparent once those games are released.


19

+ Al2x on June 13th, 2007 at 5:53 pm said:

If games like LittleBigPlanet can be developed so easily, so can other games! Keep it up with the constant blog posts, (bah-dah-bah-pah-bah) I’m loving it!


20

+ TristanMike on June 13th, 2007 at 5:55 pm said:

Nice read. Thank you for your time.


21

+ kypdurron5 on June 13th, 2007 at 6:02 pm said:

Great points, but this also reveals another flaw in Sony’s vision. We must accept the fact that more and more games are being cross developed, and we now have fewer exclusives than ever before. With this in mind, developers have very little incentive to reinvent their games to take advantage of the superior hardware. It makes far more sense to develop for the the 360, then port to the PS3 since the 360 is the lowest common denominator. The problem with this is that it means a $600 PS3 is completely unjustified when you can get (almost) all the same games with the same graphical prowess on a console that costs half as much (and has a better online infrastructure). [I am netural- don't own either console....yet]


22

+ HanSolo on June 13th, 2007 at 6:08 pm said:

ms trolls…. getting worried about the ps3/sony features/progress/updates we get every week, they know its just a matter of time… the 360 days are numbered… even peter moore admitted that the 360 will not pass the 25 million consoles sales…worldwide, i say it will even be less than that, anyway…these trolls have realized it…..too late


23

+ Shifty15 on June 13th, 2007 at 6:08 pm said:

lol Al2x :D
i really agree with LongTimePlaystationDev tbh
we need devs speaking on here and give them the option of blogging on Developer’s Corner, plz. thanks
this post was great, especially when Sony has admitted that their service isnt better than Live atm, but they are working hard to keep up.


24

+ Violentp69 on June 13th, 2007 at 6:09 pm said:

I prefer complexity over simplicity.


25

+ cruisx on June 13th, 2007 at 6:09 pm said:

actually graphical prowes of the ps3 and 360 are not the dame, they are very different. Just compare the 2008 ps3 games commeing out with current 360 games.

Also about the online, i think overall sony will have a better infrastructure by 2008


26

+ Tanod on June 13th, 2007 at 6:11 pm said:

#3 – WOW! That was the most frank admission of an area you guys need to work on. I’ve ever read. Respect + 10


27

+ sectionz on June 13th, 2007 at 6:11 pm said:

I sent this over to ps3fanboy.com this morning and I am SO glad to see you guys following up on it.

I have a good friend who used to work with EA but has sinced renounced evil .. no no he just wanted to sleep ;) so he left .. but seriously .. years ago his first comments had been how hard it was to manage something blah blah .. last time I spoke with him his comments are now .. oh yeah used to be but now its only terrible if your porting from an xbox 360 game since you had to go from your what everyone is used to programming for to something a little out of the box yet maintain everything thus porting. He also said that most developers that are not the creative type are resistant to change ( which i translate to lazy ).

It would seem to me that the problem here is not the ps3 but porting .. why would Team Ninja and Kojima come out and say that after you get used to it … whatever they said (i sucked at debate club).

It has to be HELL right now to be a developer doing multi-platform (at least for the person in charge of integration or the port team on the recieving end) .. i hope eventually teams will hit thier strides …


28

+ maytrix on June 13th, 2007 at 6:20 pm said:

Han,

Its not trolling. Its stating a fact. The article doesn’t tell us anything. I was actually interested up until the point I realized all the comments saying its not more difficult to program for, rather it just takes more time due to it being more powerful came from a Sony employee.

Its like reading an article about how the PS3 IS more advanced and has more potential and then seeing that the quotes are from Peter Moore.

I was hoping this would be a good place for PS3 news, but I see its going to be used as a PR machine. Typical $ony.


29

+ jaydogg691 on June 13th, 2007 at 6:21 pm said:

This is a nice read.

If the developers put time into their projects, you will see some great results. I was just looking at some in game footage of HAZE for the PS3 and the game looks great. I also read about what the developers are going to do with online support and they are planning for 4 player co-op online. It all depends on the developers if they want to satisfy the gamers and you can tell from what they put into their games.


30

+ Thiassi on June 13th, 2007 at 6:22 pm said:

“ms trolls…. getting worried about the ps3/sony features/progress/updates we get every week, they know its just a matter of time… the 360 days are numbered… even peter moore admitted that the 360 will not pass the 25 million consoles sales…worldwide, i say it will even be less than that, anyway…these trolls have realized it…..too late”

Congrats. You just learnt the art of irony but, by the sounds of it. somewhat unintentionally.

Good blog here btw. Yeah there is the norm spin, understandably really, much like mn.com for MS but at least there’s now a human face to Sony which can never be a bad thing.


31

+ HanSolo on June 13th, 2007 at 6:22 pm said:

maytrix, the ps3 is more advanced, that is a fact


32

+ SDkngsht on June 13th, 2007 at 6:23 pm said:

it’s called progress and evolution. the PS3 is not a more powerful Xbox360 it’s a completely different system.

so…it’s called man up, stop whining, and learn to execute on the new hardware. if i was a developer i’d be excited to be the first (or one of cause Insomniac and Naughty Dog are kicking @ss on the PS3 hardware) group to show what this machine can do.

or they could do what the developers of HAZE are doing…build on the PS3 then port to the 360.

but either way…you’re computer programmers. you think the NEXT GEN is gonna have LAST GEN programming? wtf? that’s just bass ackwards.


33

+ Grym on June 13th, 2007 at 6:26 pm said:

It’s really too bad that ports between the 360 and PS3 will be so hard this generation.. It’s like you have to do a different game for each. At least if your main platform is the 360.


34

+ SDkngsht on June 13th, 2007 at 6:28 pm said:

and maytrix…what are you talking about PR machine? true it’s Sony’s blog so there are going to be some advertising aspects to it. i mean it’s another direct outlet to get news and upcoming products out there but it’s also what…3 days old??

and they’re reading and responding candidly.

they even admit XBL is a better online system at the moment. that’s PR? c’mon now. they answered the question. but since you obviously missed it i’ll summarize…

“No…the PS3 is NOT too complex. Yes, it is new and may require more work to take full advantage of the hardware’s additional potential. But No, it’s not too complex to program for.”


35

+ DaveKarraker on June 13th, 2007 at 6:28 pm said:

Glad to see you guys are checking out this post. To answer the criticisms of Korlithiel and Maytrix, everything in this post after the first three sentences came from the PD team in the UK who are busy working on games for E3, but were cool enough to throw some info at me. LongTimePlayStationDev — love that idea and completely agree with you. Will be sure to pass along your comments to our dev group. Everyone keep the great ideas coming.


36

+ SDkngsht on June 13th, 2007 at 6:30 pm said:

sidenote…to the people who have avatars on here. how did you get those?


37

+ Thiassi on June 13th, 2007 at 6:31 pm said:

“maytrix, the ps3 is more advanced, that is a fact”

You make a good arguement.

One small problem – you use the word “fact” but provide no evidence to back this fact up.

Links?


38

+ pickassoreborn on June 13th, 2007 at 6:32 pm said:

This is interesting because with the PlayStation 2, the porting was to Xbox so there was a trade-off with low resolution textures and the like. The Xbox 360 is the primary platform for development for a lot of developers these days, so they’ve had to port any games from 360 to PS3. PS3 is a difficult beast to develop for but so was the PS2 and the results from that have been pretty promising during its so-called last years of “life” although there’s a lot more potential left in there. I do agree that it’s not a case of which platform is more powerful as they are two completely different beasts which will need to be handled in different ways to get the best out of them.

This recent blog posting does seem to reek of some kind of pro-PS3 hyperbole, which is understandable as it’s a Sony blog. I’d like to see a bit more honesty and a bit less pimping of the PS3 as “ohmygodsbestconsolever!11on1one”. Sony have done themselve no favours with PR in recent times and the blog is a step in the right direction. Let us not forget the last blog from Sony was the infamous “All I Want For Xmas Is A PSP” fake blog and that didn’t go down too well.

Good luck with the blog though. I’m glad that Sony have made a good decision with this, although it is early days yet. Make sure that the PR gimps don’t mess around with it and it should repair some of the damage caused.


39

+ The Hedon on June 13th, 2007 at 6:32 pm said:

The only problem I have with this posting is that the PD should have prefaced the “more powerful hardware, more feature hardware” with “in our opinion”. They are stating it as fact, which it is clearly not.


40

+ Noname on June 13th, 2007 at 6:36 pm said:

When are you guys going to make another Legend of Dragoon? That was a quality RPG. IF you can get the original or another quality team to work on another iteration of that series that would be a potentially great piece of software to the PlayStation library.


41

+ bobeotm on June 13th, 2007 at 6:38 pm said:

I love how maytrix says he is not a troll, and in the same post use the term “$ony”.

Classic.

Good job there convincing people.


42

+ mustaphadamus on June 13th, 2007 at 6:38 pm said:

matrix,

I read both articles and have no idea where you are getting your conclusions from. It was clearly stated that they asked INTERNAL Sony developers for this blog post.

“For this piece, I spoke to our PD group and asked them for input on this question”

notice this word OUR.

What was said here is the same stuff said in the articles. Not to mention they even admitted their online is not as robust as xbox live which to me took guts to admit.


43

+ DaveKarraker on June 13th, 2007 at 6:38 pm said:

*SDkngsht… You need to get a universal avatar linked to your email account. Anytime you post using this email, it will populate with that avatar on any site. You can find this at http://www.gravatar.com


44

+ Thiassi on June 13th, 2007 at 6:42 pm said:

“I love how maytrix says he is not a troll, and in the same post use the term “$ony”.

Classic.

Good job there convincing people.”

Doesn’t really say too much since there are plenty of 360 fan boys who refer to Microsoft as M$.


45

+ Blazer82 on June 13th, 2007 at 6:47 pm said:

I appreciate your honesty as well as not taking cheap shots at the competition by simply stating facts. The cell is certainly a unique beast. As a company you thrived with the ps2 and the implementation of the emotion engine when the cards were stacked against you im sure the ps3 will follow a similar fate.
Your network architecture is not at the level of xbl yet but the psn is still relatively new and I think overall you guys are on the right track. Home has me more excited than anything online related in recent memory. Ive never been a huge fan of multiplayer (partially due to the fact that online play started after my habbits as a gamer were already formed). I have a feeling however that Home might change that for people in my age group (Late 20′s for the record).
Anyhow development on a new console is never easy but SCE has the best relationship with 3rd party developers (IMHO), and the right technology to back all that up.


46

+ bobeotm on June 13th, 2007 at 6:49 pm said:

I have signed up with gravatar, yet I still dont see my avatar attached to my posts. Is there a waiting period of some sort? I went to their help page, but it is nonexistant.


47

+ KatanaKing on June 13th, 2007 at 6:49 pm said:

Glad to see constant updates, i must admit i’m refreshing this page like mad to see new stuff each day….keep up the good work. Its a shame that some dev’s don’t want to put in that extra effort to create for the PS3, i think in the long run they will all change there tune when the real AAA titles come into effect.


48

+ Herby on June 13th, 2007 at 6:55 pm said:

@bobeotm
You actually have to select the avatar once you upload it. On the main profile page for Gravatar.com under you name you will see you avatar select it and it will populate into the top square and then you should see it here.

The same thing happened to me. They should make it a little more clear and update the Help page. Hope this helps.


49

+ sectionz on June 13th, 2007 at 6:59 pm said:

this is easy guys .. how many folding@home teraflops does the meager amount of ps3 cells put out ;)

oh you blinked … you know how muched happened in that time your eyes were shut?


50

+ southwoodS on June 13th, 2007 at 7:01 pm said:

I knew it.


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