March 28, 2013, 8:30 AM —
Another post about Sony at the Game Developer's Conference. Where is Microsoft this week? Probably in meetings with developers being held behind closed doors in order to protect their NDA. Still, it's good exposure for Sony.
Now again, this is the Game Developer's Conference so Sony is working to sell developers, not end-users, on their new system, the Playstation 4. But we gamers can still pick up a few crumbs of info here and there. Sony Senior Staff Engineer Chris Norden gave a talk yesterday and shared a lot of technical details that won't be of too much interest to most of my readers, but if you're a real hardware aficionado I'll direct you to Ars Technica where you can learn details like "The eight cores are capable of running eight hardware threads, with each core using a 32KiB L1 I-cache and D-cache, and each four-core group sharing 2MiB of L2 Cache."
I'm going to focus on the higher level stuff, like the controller. Sony brought mock-ups to GDC and while it isn't the final design, here're some details that were shared:
The face buttons and the L1 and R1 bumpers are now digital rather than analog. On the PS3 all these buttons are analog but very, very few games ever made use of this feature. Sony says by making them digital they can reduce latency. I'm guessing they can also reduce cost, which is good for everyone involved. The R2 and L2 triggers will still be analog and I'm sure will still be used for things like acceleration and braking in driving games.
The analog sticks now have a smaller 'dead zone' which is going to be really important for any Xbox owners who happen to jump ship. After using an Xbox 360 controller for a while, the PS3 controllers feel almost hopelessly 'loose' due to the fairly large dead zone. A nice change, in my opinion.
The light bar glows a different color to identify different players. It also blinks while the controller is charging, which strikes me as something that's going to be really annoying. I'm trying to watch a movie and my controller is flashing it's light to let me know its charging? Let's hope we can turn that off. Speaking of turning things off, you can charge the controllers while the PS4 is in 'standby mode.'
The little touchpad on the controller has a 1920x900 resolution, supports 2 points of contact, and can be 'clicked' by pushing it down. It's unclear if clicking and tapping will serve as two separate inputs.
Every PS4 will come with a mono headset that attaches to the controller, very much like the current Xbox 360 setup. The new Playstation Eye camera actually has 2 cameras inside it, as well as four microphones which can be used to aid in determining where a sound is coming from.
Sony will launch a Playstation App for mobile devices that will let you browse the Playstation Store, purchase content and have it start downloading to your PS4 back home, even if it is in standby mode. The app will be available for iOS and Android.
The PS4 will support both handles and real names. You can control who you share your real name with. If you meet someone new, both of you have to agree to turn on real names before they'll be displayed. You can link your PS4 account to Facebook and search for your friends (and be searched for) via real names that way. There's also a real name search feature in the Playstation Network but it seems like you'll be able to opt in or out of that. That's not confirmed yet.
The PS4 UI will be completely new and will feature a "digest" screen that shows what your friends are playing at the moment, which of your installed games have new DLC or patches available, and things of that nature. You can also see comments about a game from other players, which reminds me somewhat of the Nintendo Wii U's Mii Plaza.
Buzz seems to be building nicely for the Playstation 4 so far, but then Sony has yet to face Microsoft in this 'next gen' battle. And the PS4 launch is still a long ways off. I'm hoping Sony can maintain its momentum all the way to Fall.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.