Game console CPUs

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Unread postby Dubhthach » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:23 am

jan-jaap wrote:
pentium wrote:(like the BETA tape changer which never took off, then again, neither did beta :lol: ).

I had a BetaMax video recorder. I learned a lesson: I'm not going to buy a HD-DVD or blueray until one of them is dead. With new technologies these days I also wait until affordable writers exist and any copy protection schemes have been broken.

Either that or i'm waiting for a player that can play both types of media, i've heard that there is at least one electronics company planning on releasing such a player in next year or so. In which case ye can play it safe.
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Unread postby nekonoko » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:41 am

I'm considering picking up the the external HD-DVD unit for XBox360 (bought a 360 last March or so). It's under $200, has a USB 2.0 interface, and word on the street is that it can be used with computers as well (Windows XP can play HD-DVDs using a beta of WinDVD and Mac OS X recognizes/can mount/play standard DVD media on it - but no native HD-DVD player application yet).
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Unread postby MooglyGuy » Sat Nov 18, 2006 4:49 pm

As someone who develops console games for a living, I feel obligated to clear up some misconceptions.

MisterDNA wrote:Nintendo got it right with the Wii. People don't need 1080p graphics to have fun.

The Wii is targeted at a different portion of gamers than the PS3 and 360, so that's sort of like comparing apples and zebras. The PS3 and 360 are targeted at gaming lifestylers - people for whom gaming plays an integral role in their home lives. The Wii, on the other hand, is targeted more at families and casual gamers who will buy something just for kicks.

Game reviewers and a large portion of gamers in their teens would disagree with you regarding graphics.

When a game comes out, as a matter of course it is compared to other recent games in the same genre - it just takes one game to set a benchmark that gamers will demand from all other games. People are screaming about how the buildings in Superman Returns: The Videogame don't look as good as, say, buildings in Gears of War. Sure, when you're rendering several thousand buildings at once you don't have the polycount to spare when rendering only ten at once, but gamers don't understand this. Gamers want something fun, to be sure, but the majority of teens - the largest demographic of game-buyers - are graphics tarts. As much as you are in denial of it, people are complaining that the Wii doesn't have the same graphical fidelity as the 360 and PS3, revolutionary controls or not.

MisterDNA wrote:Okay, wannabe gamers, we're going to standardize on a platform and get creative. The following hardware (available cheap) will make up your dev box:

And yet, no sane game console manufacturer would do something like that. In creating custom hardware, console manufacturers are buying something very important: security. Security against modders (people need to learn the hardware before they can hack it), game exclusivity (it's less likely a developer will write cross-platform games, thus cementing the purchase of their consoles), and even more important to a console manufacturer, the requirement for developers to use their devkits and dev tools. You don't honestly think that an Xbox 360 development suite costs as much as a small car because it's actually worth that much, do you? Library exclusivity plays into something later in my post, too.

MisterDNA wrote:720p is also well within easy reach of a 6600GT. 128MB RAM for the GPU is plenty. The bandwidth of the PCI-E 16x connection is enough for even the most drastic change of the contents of the GPU's RAM between frames. And it's a native PCI-E chip.

I apologize for the confrontational and ad-hominem content of the following sentence, but: You have very little of an idea what you are talking about. First, 720p is well within the reach of a 6600GT, but the graphical fidelity that lifestyle gamers expect out of games damn well isn't. I also have 10+ rendering guys where I work who would gladly inform you that they're pushing the limits of the PS3's 256MB of VRAM and the Xbox 360's potentially greater amount, not because of some inter-company statistical dickwaving contest, but because of the demands of - who else? - gamers. Believe me, even the biggest game companies have no interest in throwing away money on something that doesn't directly equate to increased sales, and the moment the inexorable push towards more realistic graphics stops becoming profitable, console manufacturers and game developers alike will stop bothering with it.

MisterDNA wrote:I'd like to see some hardcore tuning done. I miss seeing Assembly code written with more beauty and attention to detail than a classical symphony. Combine the kind of talent being put to work on "cramped" systems like the Atari 2600 with the power of new-ish hardware and you have something incredible.

And I want a pony. Do you know why you no longer see hardcore tuning done? Because it can't be done. All of the big three console manufacturers require developers to route all I/O - whether it's video, audio, storage, HID, or network-related - through their libraries, and will in fact reject a game and deny it a license for the console if the game violates this requirement. PCs have nearly the same limitations, vis-a-vis graphics chipsets. Why do you think that both ATI and NVidia only distribute pre-compiled binary kernel modules for their chipsets on Linux? It's not due to laziness, it's due to the fact that both NVidia and ATI do not want any public documentation regarding direct hardware access in order to protect trade secrets. The game industry is as much about advances in hardware-level obfuscation to outsiders (as well as developers) as it is about making gamers happy.

I'd love to see more hardcore optimization of games, but the fact of the matter is that you'll never see anything on the order of what happened in the heyday of hardware-level documentation.

Frapazoid wrote:I mean like, I know the NeoGeo has both a 16-bit Motorola M68k and an 8-bit... Z80?

Seems like the Saturn had 3 CPUs. Two were a pair and then there was a 3rd different one. I didn't give enough a shit about the Saturn to remember specifics.


Anyway, question: How does that work? I'm 90% certain SMP wasn't used in console gaming up until the XBox360 and Wii.

As was pointed out later in the thread, the Saturn had three main CPUs and five separate ASICs/microcontrollers. The two primary CPUs were identical SH2s which, falling into that 10% of uncertainty you had, operated in perfect SMP, having access to the same areas of memory. In addition, there were hardware facilities by which one CPU could trigger an IRQ on the other and vice-versa.

In the case of the Neo Geo's Z80 and the Saturn's M68000 (the third main CPU), the lower-powered anciliary processor is used exclusively for running an audio program. The NG Z80 and the Saturn's M68000 only have access to the audio chip, and the extent of their communication with the main CPU(s) is via a latch anywhere from 8 to 32 bits in width whereby the main CPU can issue simple commands ("play track #n, play SFX #n, master reset, etc.").

Funny enough, the SNES functioned in the same way with regards to audio. Not a lot of people outside of game development and emulation know this. The 65816 does not drive the SPC700 chip directly; in fact, the SPC is a microcontroller with 64 kilobytes of dedicated RAM and its own instruction set. It typically functions in the same way as the above anciliary audio CPUs - the main CPU's audio duties are reduced to sample uploading and the simple issuing of play / stop / SFX commands.

Frapazoid wrote:(And I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with the PS3).

The PS3 uses the Cell processor, which is very well-documented on IBM's site. The Cell processor has one PPU (Primary Processing Unit) and eight SPUs (Synergistic Processing Units). The PPU is essentially a flat PowerPC core with hardware support for two independent threads with a one-cycle interleave. The PPU has full bus access. The SPUs are less general-purpose processors; they are more tailored to SIMD (vector) operations, and have 258Kbytes of dedicated RAM per SPU. The SPUs can DMA to and from main RAM with SPU packets being transmitted in a token-ring fashion.

pentium wrote:Wit the PS3 not being able to handle linux or even act as a full computer, It shows that sony might realize that a game console is not a media center and these extra instalations might come back to haunt them.

What the hell are you people talking about? The PS3 already has Linux announced for it, and it can potentially run other OSes as well. It is, quite literally, as simple as selecting the "Install Other OS" option in the system settings menu. Currently, Yellow Dog Linux has been announced, and there's the potential for other OSes to run on the PS3 with the appropriate bootloader: ... 0-17.shtml

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Unread postby Frapazoid » Sun Nov 19, 2006 8:23 am

Actually I'm not sure about the "hardcore gamers" and "teenagers" with regards to graphics and gameplay.

Basically, I'm 19, and most of my friends are within 5 years of my age going up and down, and everyone I know wants a Wii. Nobody cares about the XBox 360.

But I know one guy (17) who I might describe as a "hardcore" gamer and he just sold his 360 and bought a 64 and several games.

Since I last visited this board, I've done some research about the CPUs and the processors and Linux on PS3 and I think that actually might be the most interesting thing about it is a $600 Cell system to play with.

I'm thinking, install Yellow Dog and IBM's Cell dev kit and find out why "open source" can be so awesome. Take your softwares like MEncoder and Yafray, and grab their source code, and recode them to take advantage of the Cell's vector processor facilities. Fun, fun, fun!

It seems to me that the cell proc is an utter badass when it comes to single precision floating point vector processing. Think of the kind of rendering cluster you could put together with a few thousand dollars.

But for gaming? I want a Wii. I really really want one. I want Zelda! And also the retro games. Everything up for download! N64 games, SNES, Genesis, TurboGraphix16? You know some hardcore gaming geek was behind this when they're getting obscure little systems like the Turbographix16.

I wonder if they'll ever throw Neo Geo into the mix? That'd be orgasmic.
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