Jeff Yates gets technical about next-gen consoles and PhysX PCs

From Gamasutra:
"Tool creator Havok has been at the forefront of physics engine development for some time now (as seen in games like Half-Life 2, Dead Rising, MotorStorm), and has recently has branched out to include products like Havok FX for special effects and HydraCore for multi-threaded optimizationan. They've also released animation SDK and tool (Behavior) which, as demonstrated to Gamasutra, uses intelligent and rather intuitive scripting and naming trees to create a very clean interface for animators, and also has a very simple system for blends.

On the occasion of this tool's unveiling, we spoke with Jeff Yates, director of product management for Havok, and discussed the company's plans for the future. Yates also provided a host of information useful for both developers and consumers interested in what goes on in the bowels of the industry, including a comparison of the respective strengths of the current crop of consoles, and a breakdown of a number of points of popular confusion, such as the necessity of a hard drive for data storage, or the difficulty of porting games from the 360 to the PS3, from the technical side of the game industry..."

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VirtualGamer4256d ago

GS: How much are the next-gen consoles changing that memory usage?

JY: It's changing for sure. I think the PS3 has great potential, but it's a very different kind of architecture. If people build their games with an understanding of what their challenges are going to be with porting between consoles, we can do a lot. In some cases, though, we're seeing people start with a 360 SKU and defer thinking about the PS3 port later. That can have some pretty dire consequences for how you process your art. We try to advise people that if they're thinking about moving to PS3 eventually, that they need to talk to us at the start so we can get things sorted out. I think that's going to be a very big challenge for everybody for awhile, because this idea of many, many cores with smaller local memories will present a lot of challenges in many different directions.

GS: At this stage, I've heard some people say that when starting with an Xbox 360 version, they have trouble getting the PS3 version to look as good later on. It's interesting, because the PS3 is potentially more powerful.

JY: I think a lot of it has to do with slicing and dicing the task and moving it to each of the smaller processors. Those processors are really powerful, but you have to plan for it. We've spent the last two years re-architecturing our software so that you can have one interface that, when used appropriately, can get maximum use out of the SPUs. You do need to plan for that, and if you have one massive world presented as one object, it's a little more challenging. It takes preparation.

GS: Do you have any existing support to split things across those SPUs?

JY: Yes. We can take that stuff and automatically split it. But as with anything, there are pathological cases where if everything is piled all together all in one place at the same time, you can get performance spikes. Most of the gameplay situations we see feature lots of activity spread out over a variety of quadrants. Those situations efficiently use up the cycles that are there.

GS: It's interesting to see how things are progressing, since people aren't even maximizing the usage of the Xbox 360's cores yet.

JY: Yeah, and I'm hoping that just means that there will be more cycles for us once people start plugging stuff in the right way. There might be lots of cycles we could suck up, which would be cool.

GS: What troubles specifically have people had with moving from 360 to PS3?

JY: There are certain things that are proprietary and need to be walked around carefully, but I would say that you don't have to go back, for example, and redo the art, but you may need to re-export or reprocess the art to chunk it up differently. For our stuff, it may be to store the right amount of information locally, so that when information is passed around the system, it has everything it needs to do its job.

GS: I suppose it's because you can use bigger chunks on 360, whereas on PS3, you have to chop it up a lot more?

JY: Yeah, you have a more unified memory architecture on 360 and PC in general. I think that there are merits to both, though. If you can move the world over to many processors and structure the game so that you can dice stuff up, there's a lot of leading-edge technology out there that seems to be going in that direction. That might just be one of those paradigm shifts that the software development component of the game industry goes through over the next five or ten years.

power of Green 4256d ago

These little opinion peices are cool i guess.

I'm glad it was pointed out that the use of more than one core in the 360 eairly in its life doesn't mean the one or more core(s) was used to their fullest!, I'v been in many heated fights over that. (Fanboys use to use this against ignorant 360 fans, they used to bring up the fact the 360 has had more than one core used and its at aready maxed out etc.[Geo/wars etc]).

VirtualGamer4256d ago (Edited 4256d ago )

Both the PS3 and 360 have a ways to go before we see them maxed. Good news for gamers! Thats the beauty of consoles over PC's they allow developers to get more and more optimization out of the systems as time goes on. Information is good, it stops exaggerations from both sides.

power of Green 4256d ago

Not anything new really that hasn't alread been said. Will it change what really is going on in realality? probably not.

Extra Guy4256d ago

It was nice to hear somebody who actually knows what they are talking about for once. You're right that it doesn't change anything much but at least people (like myself) can hear what some of the devs think.