Sony hasn’t released much in the way of new details about the PlayStation 4 since its launch eventlast month. But at the Game Developer Conference this week Chris Norden, senior staff engineer at Sony, finally went into some more detail about the underlying hardware.
The PS4 sees Sony move to a 64-bit x86 chip architecture, which will be music to the ears of developers, especially those used to working on PC games. The good news doesn’t stop there, though. Developers will be able to take advantage of Microsoft’s latest industry standard DirectX API — DirectX 11.1, but Sony has taken the time to improve upon it, pushing the feature set beyond what is available for PC games development.
Those improvements include better shader pipeline access, improved debugging support features out the box, and much lower level access to the system hardware enabling developers to do “more cool things.” That’s achieved not only through an modified DirectX 11.1 API, but also a secondary low-level API specifically for the PS4 hardware.
As well as having more control over the hardware, Norden explained that developers get complete control over the CPU, GPU, and RAM. That means the GPU isn’t just limited to handling graphics on the system, it can run arbitrary code. Developers also get to decide how to use/split the 8GB RAM between different tasks. There’s no predefined limits meaning there’s more headroom to experiment.
One area of the console that is sure to please gamers is the Blu-ray drive the PS4 will ship with. Not only does that ensure the console can double as a Blu-ray player just like the PS3 did, it’s also a 3x faster drive than in the PS3, which should help with install and game load times.
You may also remember Sony mentioned live streaming of games and recording of key gaming moments was a major feature of the PS4. Norden explained that was due to an extra chip being included in the system that will always contain the last few minutes of play. By doing that, Sony can handle live streaming automatically without impacting system performance, and gamers don’t have to remember to start recording when they think something memorable will happen. They instead just have to remember to save what the PS4 already recorded automatically.