Monday, April 2, 2007

Blu-Ray - Genuine Advantages to Gaming?

Sony has been pushing Blu-Ray's storage capacity as the big thing that will make the Playstation 3 'future proof' however has left out performance from the equation. It almost seems like some of Sony's most loyal third party developers are rushing to justify the mandatory Blu-Ray format for all games as if it were not only a good thing but the only way to go.

Insomniac's Brian Hastings recently causing quite a stir defending the Playstation 3, he would too, Insomniac is one of Sony's biggest third party developers. While Hastings claims he isn't biased because Insomniac is a third party developer he neglects to mention that Sony has invested $20 million in Insomniac to develop Resistence: Fall of Man and the technology that would push later games Insomniac will be releasing on the Playstation 3.

Hastings reasons that since storage is vital that in the coming months DVD's will not be able to hold all the data necessary for next generation games. He also mentions that 'Gears of War' looks better than 'Resistance: Fall of Man' because Gears uses texture streaming wherein Fall of Man doesn't. He continues further elaborating that texture streaming will increase the size of games severel folds and is speculating at seeing games where each individual level will be approximately one gigabyte. He implies that given DVD's small storage space textures will be coming at a premium hence texture streaming won't ever be utilized to its fullest.

Of course he neglects to mention one key flaw in his texture streaming theory, that is, the DVD drive in the Xbox 360 has a higher transfer rate than the Blu-Ray drive in the Playstation 3. While the Xbox 360 sports 16x DVD which has a transfer rate of 16mb per second the Playstation 3's Blu-Ray is at 2x which translates to 9mb per second transfer rates.

If textures are to be streamed from the optical media the higher the transfer rate the more efficient the streaming will be, it's as simple as that. The matter of storage is almost null and void, one game can have several DVD's but the Playstation 3's Blu-Ray drive will never be beyond 2x, at least it won't be such that a developer can comfortably develop for anything above that.

While all these are legitimate concerns I think within two years it will be a moot point. Things are moving away from optical media to hard drive storage. I think that eventually Xbox 360 'core' owners are going to be pressured into buying a hard drive to play games. It may sound bad now but in that two years the 20gigabyte Xbox 360 hard drive will probably cost less than a game and run just as well.

16 comments:

Maurice said...

You are forgetting that once you sue a DL-DVD (dual layer) the read speed is halved. And even then the 16Mb is off because the read speed for the 360 is not constant. You have a higer read speed at the begining of the disk.

For Blu-ray this doesn't apply. It has got 9Mb constant read speed whether your using DL-Blu-Ray or single layer.

R.Bunk said...

Also you are neglecting the fact that items requiring a higher read-rate, they can be offloaded onto the HD which is standard in the PS3.

Ahmed said...

@Maurice

I agree, which is why developers will be putting textures on the beginning of a disk to make the most of the read times, it is a tried and true technique when working with DVD media.

Blu-Ray is once again stumped by its own fundamental limitation that doesn't give it any flexibility for a bit of raw power.


@R.Bunk

From the article,

"While all these are legitimate concerns I think within two years it will be a moot point. Things are moving away from optical media to hard drive storage. I think that eventually Xbox 360 'core' owners are going to be pressured into buying a hard drive to play games. It may sound bad now but in that two years the 20gigabyte Xbox 360 hard drive will probably cost less than a game and run just as well."

Maurice said...

@ahmed
no flexibility? How about 50gigs of flexibility?

It's very simple: Bluray drive is just as fast as DL-DVD in the 360. The only difference is that it's bigger. Much bigger.

How the hell can this be a bad thing for games? You can have more content, Higher res textures, extra video (in HD), better sound quality.

Everything can be done better because there is more room on Blu ray. Very simple. Things that need extra fast read times can be offloaded to the HD.

Anonymous said...

that's the only thing i hate about bluray, the speed. For movies people won't miss a beat, but for games, that's different.



___________
http://www.howtogetfreewiipoints.com

Ahmed said...

@Maurice

Thats not the flexibility I'm talking about, if Blu-Ray is faster then why do multiplatform games load quicker on the 360? Tony Hawk Project 8 is a fine example here. Don't shift the blame to the developers either, that doesn't change facts.

I never said extra space was bad for games, I said a lower transfer speed is terrible for them, you keep bringing up the old 'more this, more that' argument yet you seem to forget you can have more than one disk for any given game, as such unlike the ps3's blu-ray drives slower transfer rate can easily be overcome.

Anonymous said...

@Ahmed
"as such unlike the ps3's blu-ray drives slower transfer rate can easily be overcome."

PS3 have an inbuilt hard drive in every SKU and thus the use of hard drives will easily bypass such a problem. Honestly, I'm not really sure how much of a difference the speed will show but I do know Blu-Ray trumps DVD. Sure it may have some (perceived) flaws but weigh the good with the bad. More capacity and lower read speed versus same old limited capacity causing a ton of games to go multi disc with a non consistent speed.

IMO, your making mountains out of molehills.

Ahmed said...

@Anonymous

imo you're not reading the entire text

"While all these are legitimate concerns I think within two years it will be a moot point. Things are moving away from optical media to hard drive storage. I think that eventually Xbox 360 'core' owners are going to be pressured into buying a hard drive to play games. It may sound bad now but in that two years the 20gigabyte Xbox 360 hard drive will probably cost less than a game and run just as well."

Maurice said...

@ahmad: Well actually I am going to blame the developers considering the read speed is just as fast on the 360.

There are probably more reasons why THPS is slower on the PS3. Might have something to do with the fact that it uses the cell or that is doesn't have 1 big chunk of RAM like the 360 but 2 pieces of RAM. (not that these are downsides)

And actually in the end r.bunk is right because all the data can be offloaded to a page file on the HD.

Ahmed said...

@Maurice

Quite typical, just lay blame on everyone but the hardware, of course the CELL processor and Blu-Ray drive is the ultimate and any weaknesses it shows are obviously signs lies and the fault of the developers.

Don't you mean the Xbox 360 has unified RAM and shaders unlike the Playstation 3? That is actually quite a big advantage in my books, more power to the developers to use how they want.

In the end, just like r.bunk, you didn't read anything past the title,

"While all these are legitimate concerns I think within two years it will be a moot point. Things are moving away from optical media to hard drive storage. I think that eventually Xbox 360 'core' owners are going to be pressured into buying a hard drive to play games. It may sound bad now but in that two years the 20gigabyte Xbox 360 hard drive will probably cost less than a game and run just as well."

Anonymous said...

So everyone says "yeah blu ray is crap but it has a harddrive so thats ok" why not distribute the games on a bloody harddrive then rather than bitching about the optical drives....

Ahmed said...

@Anonymous

Cost maybe?

I look forward to the day full blown downloadable games will be made a possibility, if it ever happens... which I hope it does (like anyone else).

Maurice said...

@ahmed: clearly you haven't read my post :P
I said that there are probably more reasons to why THPS is slower and that the fact that it doesn't have unified RAM etc could have an influence on this.

I think this is more likely because THPS on the 360 uses a DL-DVD and the read speed of DL-DVD is just as fast as blu ray with the advantage of a "burst speed". (Let's call this the data that's on the beginning of the disk that can be read faster).

A whole other discussion is about unified shaders and unified memory. I also don't completely agree with you on this (how could I :P ). The Xenos can probably do a bit more shading ops per second but the difference is not that big. One VERY big advantage of the xenos is that it can do 4X AA nearly effortlessly. The eDRAM module is a work of art.

The unified memory is nice but really not that big of a plus. The XDR memory in the PS3 is faster and the RSX is allowed to write to the main RAM and to the VRAM.

The 2 big advantages of the PS3 are definitely Blu ray and the cell. Blu ray gives developers a world of extra possibilities. I am still waiting for the PS3 game that will blow me away like GoW did for the 360 but it won't take long. Lair or Heavenly Sword will maybe do it.

Btw do you have a job in the games industrie or..?

Ahmed said...

@Maurice

Gotta love the burst speed.

I think the unified shader is a testament to the design that went into the Playstation 3, some people are beginning to think Sony was crazy enough to let a more powerful Cell processor do the entire rendering but realized it just wasn't possible, hence they quickly got nVidia to draw up plans for RSX, which in effect is a GeForce 7900. reminds me of back in the Xbox days, a Geforce 3 Ti 200 was in the Xbox, same cause, same effect, lack of time.

Heavenly Sword looks pretty awesome (gameplay + graphics), as does the next-gen Ratchet and Clank, though I'm not so sure about Lair, it looks good and Factor 5 certainly has the pedigree for great graphics, but they don't have a track record for developing on the Playstation 3. I'll see when I see, hope it's good though. God help me the day God of War comes out. Me and my bank account. Gonna take some serious self control to keep me from blowing a good $800 AUD on a ps3.

I'm doing a games programming course in University.

Maurice said...

Yeah I also hears rumors that Cell would be used as GPU. glad they shot that plan But I also remember a press release back in the days of the PS2 release in EU. (Q4 2001). I read that nvidia agreed with sony to supply the new GPU for next playstation. They already referred to it with the name RSX.

About your study. Do you actually get the chance to program for a console like the 360 or the PS3?

Ahmed said...

Interesting, still, seems like the GPU was last minute, given the GPU is very much identical to a 7900.

Yes I do, though not yet, they want to put me through another year and a half of theory (and a bit of practical) work on more advanced programming concepts like multiple threads and such, too long to wait so I'm just going ahead and programming on XNA while I wait.