In an exclusive interview with wired, Mark Cerny, chief architect for the PS4 shared some of his insights on what the next-generation PlayStation (definitely not named PS5 for convention) could potentially turn out to be.
Of course, as with all tech pieces, I will also give my insights as to what this could mean in the larger scope of gaming and tech in general.
From what I could extrapolate from the interview, Mark Cerny has these to say:
More than a technological improvement
“The key question is whether the console adds another layer to the sorts of experiences you already have access to, or if it allows for fundamental changes in what a game can be.”Mark Cerny, PS4 Chief Architect
I think this is a clear parallel to what Sony is trying to shift back into; giving developers access into fundamental, first-in-class technology that will change the way developers shape the mechanics of their games.
From the very first PlayStation with its CD format for faster read/write access speeds, to the PS2 with the “Emotion Engine” chipset that allowed hardware-based alpha particle rendering (bringing us the most technically capable title of the 6th generation, Silent Hill 2), to the PS3 with the “Cell” CPU that was the most capable CPU of its time for better physics and AI.
However, with the release of the PS4, we saw a shift to a more traditional, steadfast console with nothing ground-breaking on release; bar the release of the PSVR, we never really had a technological showpiece for this generation.
I think he is hinting that this will change in the next generation console.
Next generation CPU/GPU details; Ray-tracing confirmed
“The CPU is based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line and contains eight cores of the company’s new 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture. The GPU, a custom variant of Radeon’s Navi family, will support ray tracing, a technique that models the travel of light to simulate complex interactions in 3D environments.”Wired Article
“If you wanted to run tests to see if the player can hear certain audio sources or if the enemies can hear the players’ footsteps, ray tracing is useful for that. It’s all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment.”Mark Cerny, PS4 Chief Architect
Well hey would you look at that! The assumption that I made during the Computex article turned out to be pretty accurate after all! Not only does this confirm that AMD will be powering at least one of the machines in the next-generation console, ray-tracing will also make a showing on the device.
Although interestingly, this does bring up a possibility that we might not be seeing hardware accelerated ray-tracing of any sorts coming to the desktop versions of Navi if the “custom” wording is to be implied.
New 3D audio chipset
“As a gamer, it’s been a little bit of a frustration that audio did not change too much between PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With the next console the dream is to show how dramatically different the audio experience can be when we apply significant amounts of hardware horsepower to it.”Mark Cerny, PS4 Chief Architect
Now this is really interesting. In both quotes you could see Mark Cerny talking up about how important sound design in games is. While it by no way means that their own definition of next-generation audio would blow your socks off, this might have a more profound implication on the level of immersion one could get with the use of PSVR.
Current PSVR to work with next-gen console; No details on next-gen VR
“I won’t go into the details of our VR strategy today […] beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console.”Mark Cerny, PS4 Chief Architect
We know that Sony had a large push for VR this generation. Perhaps in the next-gen consoles we might see history repeating itself on this front.
His unwillingness to talk about the VR front plus backward compatibility and the hyping of next-gen audio is all the confirmation I need to know that next generation VR is definitely coming. Hopefully in a higher resolution and framerate this time because 90 fps just will not cut it for people prone to motion sickness or even just for immersion purposes (do it right, Sony!).
My hope is that we will at least see a 1080p render in each eye while maintaining at least 180 fps for a particular scene.
Next generation to come with SSD storage
“No matter how powered up you get as Spider-Man, you can never go any faster than this […] because that’s simply how fast we can get the data off the hard drive.”Mark Cerny, PS4 Chief Architect
“The raw read speed is important, but so are the details of the I/O [input-output] mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them. I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and then I put in a SSD that cost as much as the PlayStation 4 Pro—it might be one-third faster.”Mark Cerny, PS4 Chief Architect
I think this is a pretty clear indication that they would be using some sort of SSD technology in their next-generation console. What is interesting to point out is that Mark Cerny has made an important note about the implications of software and the i/o method used for accessing storage.
This basically screams to me that that they are not going to use really expensive Intel Optane or SLC technology for their SSD storage. They will instead, opt for cheaper options such as TLC or QLC technology but it will be used in conjunction with software optimizations and “closer to the metal” I/O s that will hopefully make up for the difference in pure bandwidth to deliver a similar experience.
Least anyone forgets, Sony is duty-bound as a company to not repeat the PS3 announcement disaster from E3 2006 when then-president Kaz Hirai famously announced the meme worthy price of “Five ninety-nine US dollars” to the shock of the gaming press as the then large capacity of 60Gb was expensive to manufacture.
Expect the use of cheaper technology to lower the initial price of the console to be more in line with Sony’s ideals.
Of course, you can check out Wired’s actual coverage here. Don’t worry. It will one day be us in Sony’s headquarters!