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The Next Gen consoles


Major Britten
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The PS4 will probably be called Orbis, RJ. 'PS4' means 'death' in Japanese when said phonetically or written down or something like that (sorry, my google-fu is failing but I'm sure I read that somewhere). Anyway, I can't wait to play Gears Of War UHD edition (internally rendered at 720p)

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Games do not work the way you think they work.

Could someone kindly explain why consoles struggle to be or aren't backwards compatible or what causes the issue for consoles to not play older gen games?

This is definitely something i've never been able to get my head around as I would always have assumed it was software rather than hardware that caused the issue?

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It's hardware related, the only reason you can play old PC games on a modern PC these days is if somebody ports the code or you effectively use a software emulator, so no different to what consoles face, except the emulation is way more robust on the PC, it also explains why Windows is a sprawling mess of code.

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The PS4 will probably be called Orbis, RJ. 'PS4' means 'death' in Japanese when said phonetically or written down or something like that (sorry, my google-fu is failing but I'm sure I read that somewhere). Anyway, I can't wait to play Gears Of War UHD edition (internally rendered at 720p)

You're confusing the number 4 sounding like "death", but it's a daft superstition thing that's completely overstated in importance, just like how there's apparently a western thing about the number thirteen being unlucky and hotels numbering their floors 12A, but you can't actually find anyone who honestly believes in it or actually hotels that do it. Likewise, there are plenty of games in Japan that have number 4 in their titles.

These things are basically memes at this point.

Playstation is still a strong brand name, and you're mental if you think they'd give it up because of that. At worst it would be Playstation Orbis, like Playstation Vita, and then probably only in Japan, but really I doubt it'll be changed at all.

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interesting interview on engadget with the guy in charge of Sony TV's.

if you buy a 4K set now Sony give you a hard drive full of 4K content. Its a temp solution and Sony are promising they will have a way of being able to download 4k video content by the end of this year.

sound like PS4 and new media service, anyone?

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Could someone kindly explain why consoles struggle to be or aren't backwards compatible or what causes the issue for consoles to not play older gen games?

This is definitely something i've never been able to get my head around as I would always have assumed it was software rather than hardware that caused the issue?

Software runs on hardware. Different hardware speaks different languages or do things in different ways. Basically software written for a certain architecture won't work on anything else, unless there are loads of translators put between the code and the hardware. This is very complex and power-intensive stuff.

It's a bit like giving a Russian instruction manual to a Frenchman without a dictionary.

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Playstation is still a strong brand name, and you're mental if you think they'd give it up because of that. At worst it would be Playstation Orbis, like Playstation Vita, and then probably only in Japan, but really I doubt it'll be changed at all.

Well of course, no-one is suggesting they'll drop the Playstation bit, surely?
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You're confusing the number 4 sounding like "death", but it's a daft superstition thing that's completely overstated in importance, just like how there's apparently a western thing about the number thirteen being unlucky and hotels numbering their floors 12A, but you can't actually find anyone who honestly believes in it or actually hotels that do it.

Bit of a sidetrack, but lots of buildings don't have 13th floors - the one I work in goes straight from 12 to 14 (unless there's a secret black ops floor I don't know about), and all of the big buildings I've been to round here (Canary Wharf) don't have 13th floors either.

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RED have been going on about their 4K media format for several years now, it might actually come out this year! If you've got a spare $1500 to drop on it anyway, makes console pricing look like chump change :)

The quality of image on a 4K Ultra HD TV is quite astounding in person. If you have ever noted the difference between a Retina and non-Retina display on an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook Pro, you can think of 4K as "Retina for TV." Images show a surprising level of detail—you can see every hair on the back of someone's neck, or every slat of the blinds in apartment building windows. Many of the demos on the CES show floor are jaw-dropping.

I can't help but want one.

But the massive Ultra HD resolution—which nearly matches the 4K digital cinema you might see at a newer, well-equipped movie theater—is a waste without native content. TV makers are hawking the quality of upscaling circuitry for existing 1080p content like Blu-ray. It's impressive enough, but certainly not what will drive adoption of the new standard.

Instead, owners are going to want full 3840×2160 resolution content to really make an Ultra HD TV shine. And RED says it can deliver that with its REDRAY 4K Cinema Player. The device was first announced in 2008, and we discussed how it could eventually bring 4K digital cinema technology to the home theater in 2009. In the meantime, RED's engineers have continually improved the product, building it around a 1TB hard drive instead of using discs.

"All those companies that make their bones making shiny plastic discs have realized it's the end of the road for shiny plastic discs," RED's top marketing honcho Ted Schilowitz told Ars.

Toshiba partnered with RED to use a REDRAY player with its Ultra HD TVs in its booth at CES, so we got to see a working one under glass. The $1,450 device is available for preorder now and will ship within a couple months, according to Shilowitz.

"All these companies with 4K panels are really interested in this, because most of them are driving their demos with these exotic server-like boxes," Shilowitz said. "There's no real consumer device to deliver native 4K content. But the REDRAY player is a very modern machine; it just connects using a single HDMI 1.4 cable and delivers full 4K resolution at data rates lower than Blu-ray."

http://arstechnica.c...k-ultra-hd-tvs/

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Software runs on hardware. Different hardware speaks different languages or do things in different ways. Basically software written for a certain architecture won't work on anything else, unless there are loads of translators put between the code and the hardware. This is very complex and power-intensive stuff.

It's a bit like giving a Russian instruction manual to a Frenchman without a dictionary.

It's hardware related, the only reason you can play old PC games on a modern PC these days is if somebody ports the code or you effectively use a software emulator, so no different to what consoles face, except the emulation is way more robust on the PC, it also explains why Windows is a sprawling mess of code.

Makes a lot more sense now as to why it would be difficult to make happen ! Thanks

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You're confusing the number 4 sounding like "death", but it's a daft superstition thing that's completely overstated in importance, just like how there's apparently a western thing about the number thirteen being unlucky and hotels numbering their floors 12A, but you can't actually find anyone who honestly believes in it or actually hotels that do it. Likewise, there are plenty of games in Japan that have number 4 in their titles.

These things are basically memes at this point.

Playstation is still a strong brand name, and you're mental if you think they'd give it up because of that. At worst it would be Playstation Orbis, like Playstation Vita, and then probably only in Japan, but really I doubt it'll be changed at all.

I lived in Asia for 3 years at the beginning of the last decade and there were plenty of buildings that would either have 3B as the fourth floor or straight to 5.

Also rents/selling prices for fourth floor flats tend to be lower.

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Could someone kindly explain why consoles struggle to be or aren't backwards compatible or what causes the issue for consoles to not play older gen games?

This is definitely something i've never been able to get my head around as I would always have assumed it was software rather than hardware that caused the issue?

What Mushashi said. Basically your average PC game isn't very tightly bound to the hardware- you refer to it through standardised API calls that call drivers that tell the hardware what to do. As OSes progress and change the APIs and drivers change and tend to break stuff, so you wind up moving towards emulation (where you run the game in a simulated OS, which calls the appropriate APIs on the host system).

On consoles you're not calling standardised APIs for the really shiny stuff- you're calling very platform-specific ones, that may not exist on other platforms. You get away with making assumptions about how the APIs operate because it's consistent across all machines, and optimise your code to run well based on the particular machine you're developing for. Maybe you even write some machine-specific assembly language functions that directly address the hardware. That way you can wring a quart of performance out of a pint machine.

Then you go onto a new console, and the APIs have changed drastically, and the hardware maybe doesn't support certain functions and these need to be emulated on the CPU, which is maybe (always, always) slower. Or because of assumptions you made, certain bits of code won't compile for your new system, or will behave differently. None of your assembly code compiles, or when it does it runs 400X slower, because of how the new CPU deals with certain obscure operations.

The PS2 to PS3 was a big issue because the PS2's GPU was absolute ass, but it was ass with an extremely wide data pipe, so you could wang data about really, really quickly. The PS3's GPU is much better, but pretty much all the graphics code your wrote for your PS2 game relies on a wide pipe that the PS3 GPU doesn't have, so you've got to rewrite your graphics engine.

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Yeah, and look what happened when they tried this generation, Microsoft went from a x86/Nvidia PC-in-a-Box to a PowerPC/AMD something, software emulation was rather hit-or-miss and they gave up after a while.

I'd honestly be happy with partial software XBLA porting and no retail porting, like that.

I keep all my old consoles, so it's not an issue not having BC, but whereas I'd be prepared to dig out disks if the mood strikes, a big benefit of the download stuff is it's right there, y'know? A lot of it is designed for quick bursts and so on, and having to go back to an old console would make it suffer.

(Having watched Awesome Games Done Quick this week, I did actually dig out the Gamecube for Monkey Ball and a bit of Metroid and Master Quest out of nostalgia, and to try some of their tricks).

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And then arbitrarily drop support with the next hardware revision. Problem caused. :(

But that has always been the beauty of consoles, a new stripped down box laser focused on doing one thing very well, not held back by the need to do legacy stuff, unlike the PC.

All past BC attempts were a happy byproduct of hardware reuse for some other purpose, not something they designed hardware around, otherwise Nintendo are going to be potentially going up the wrong creek when it comes to building their next box.

If Apple dropped ARM/IMG for their next mobile devices, they'd be in a world of hurt too, so they are stuck with them, luckily, they happen to design the best hardware then (ARM/IMG I mean) :)

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All past BC attempts were a happy byproduct of hardware reuse for some other purpose

Nah, the only reason they used the "PS1 on a chip" in the PS2 was for back compatibility. There were infinitely better choices for an IO controller chip than a five-year-old games console. And the only reason they stuck the PS2 SOC in the PS3 was for back-compatibility reasons.

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By the time the nextbox is out they'll be able to knock out Xbox 360's for next to nothing, and most people who complain about BC already have an Xbox to go with their library of games. I really hope they don't bother with the fuss of BC (unless it's very easy to accomplish) and just sell a stupidly cheap 360 instead. Is it really worth the hassle when anyone who is particularly bothered can hook up both consoles? It's only an issue when they promise it and then don't deliver, so don't promise it. Probably not the most popular viewpoint here, sorry.

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What Mushashi said. Basically your average PC game isn't very tightly bound to the hardware- you refer to it through standardised API calls that call drivers that tell the hardware what to do. As OSes progress and change the APIs and drivers change and tend to break stuff, so you wind up moving towards emulation (where you run the game in a simulated OS, which calls the appropriate APIs on the host system).

On consoles you're not calling standardised APIs for the really shiny stuff- you're calling very platform-specific ones, that may not exist on other platforms. You get away with making assumptions about how the APIs operate because it's consistent across all machines, and optimise your code to run well based on the particular machine you're developing for. Maybe you even write some machine-specific assembly language functions that directly address the hardware. That way you can wring a quart of performance out of a pint machine.

Then you go onto a new console, and the APIs have changed drastically, and the hardware maybe doesn't support certain functions and these need to be emulated on the CPU, which is maybe (always, always) slower. Or because of assumptions you made, certain bits of code won't compile for your new system, or will behave differently. None of your assembly code compiles, or when it does it runs 400X slower, because of how the new CPU deals with certain obscure operations.

The PS2 to PS3 was a big issue because the PS2's GPU was absolute ass, but it was ass with an extremely wide data pipe, so you could wang data about really, really quickly. The PS3's GPU is much better, but pretty much all the graphics code your wrote for your PS2 game relies on a wide pipe that the PS3 GPU doesn't have, so you've got to rewrite your graphics engine.

Awesome explanation ! Certainly makes a lot of sense, the PS2 to PS3 issue was always the one I never understood, especially since they stopped making the 60GB backwards compatible model - was there hardware removed from the later machines or something?

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Well as it spent most of its life doing I/O in my PS2, I'd say that was it's primary purpose, it probably spent less than 2 hours acting as the CPU of an actual original PlayStation.

The MegaDrive used the Z80 for sound purposes, nobody will surely claim they added it to allow people to play Master System games!?! I never did.

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I would suggest Sony might allow BC only through Gaikai, rather than bake it in. They may only allow games purchased via the PS Store, but I guess they could also allow disc based games if it's in your drive to prove you own it?

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Backwards compatibility is a reason to get one console instead of another. If none of my downloaded 360 games can be transferred over to the New XBox, then I may as well get a PS4, especially if that comes with all the PS3 stuff I missed ready to download. However if they can be transferred then it's a simple swap.

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Awesome explanation ! Certainly makes a lot of sense, the PS2 to PS3 issue was always the one I never understood, especially since they stopped making the 60GB backwards compatible model - was there hardware removed from the later machines or something?

Yeah, they took it out for cost-saving reasons. Original Japanese launch units shipped with the PS2's GPU & CPU hardware onboard (notoriously, it had serious issues rendering PS2 games at HD resolutions, and required patching), then by the EU launch it was stripped back to the CPU only (they'd got emulating the GPU to the point it was actually workable by then), but totally dropped support later on.

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Well as it spent most of its life doing I/O in my PS2, I'd say that was it's primary purpose, it probably spent less than 2 hours acting as the CPU of an actual original PlayStation.

The MegaDrive used the Z80 for sound purposes, nobody will surely claim they added it to allow people to play Master System games!?! I never did.

There's a pretty significant difference between a PlayStation SOC and a general-purpose processor like the Z80. They could've put in a far cheaper IO controller, using console hardware was worth the additional cost because it made migrating PS1 users to the new machine easier.

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MS (and probably Sony) will want to launch with an online store with lots of content. Not just the usual meagre retail outing. Especially in the first year or so as early adopters buy anything. MS will want Trials Evolution on the store for 720 owners to download and pay for.They will want people to be able to buy Minecraft. Obviously if you already own them, then you can download them for free.

Even if some tweaking is needed, unless it is substantial I think it'll be worth their while to have a huge amount of choice on their online store. The difference between last gen and this is that with your PS2 games, people had already bought them and Sony was making no real direct cash in allowing you to play them on your system. Now they can reach new audiences with older content and create revenue.

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