Top Ten Things We Need From The Next Console Generation News

The larger a game gets—last year’s Red Dead Redemption 2 clocked in at a horse-choking 99 gigabytes for the PS4—the longer it takes to do just about everything. Loading screens can last minutes while the game pulls what it needs to from the hard drive. Same goes for “fast travel,” when characters transport between far-flung points within a game world. Even opening a door can take over a minute, depending on what’s on the other side and how much more data the game needs to load. Starting in the fall of 2015, when Cerny first began talking to developers about what they’d want from the next generation, he heard it time and time again: I know it’s impossible, but can we have an SSD?

Solid-state drives have been available in budget laptops for more than a decade, and the Xbox One and PS4 both offer external SSDs that claim to improve load times. But not all SSDs are created alike. As Cerny points out, “I have an SSD in my laptop, and when I want to change from Excel to Word I can wait 15 seconds.” What’s built into Sony’s next-gen console is something a little more specialized.

To demonstrate, Cerny fires up a PS4 Pro playing Spider-Man, a 2018 PS4 exclusive that he worked on alongside Insomniac Games. (He’s not just an systems architect; Cerny created arcade classic Marble Madness when he was all of 19 and was heavily involved with PlayStation and PS2 franchises like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Ratchet and Clank.) On the TV, Spidey stands in a small plaza. Cerny presses a button on the controller, initiating a fast-travel interstitial screen. When Spidey reappears in a totally different spot in Manhattan, 15 seconds have elapsed. Then Cerny does the same thing on a next-gen devkit connected to a different TV. (The devkit, an early “low-speed” version, is concealed in a big silver tower, with no visible componentry.) What took 15 seconds now takes less than one: 0.8 seconds, to be exact.

That’s just one consequence of an SSD. There’s also the speed with which a world can be rendered, and thus the speed with which a character can move through that world. Cerny runs a similar two-console demonstration, this time with the camera moving up one of Midtown’s avenues. On the original PS4, the camera moves at about the speed Spidey hits while web-slinging. “No matter how powered up you get as Spider-Man, you can never go any faster than this,” Cerny says, “because that's simply how fast we can get the data off the hard drive.” On the next-gen console, the camera speeds uptown like it’s mounted to a fighter jet. Periodically, Cerny pauses the action to prove that the surrounding environment remains perfectly crisp. (While the next-gen console will support 8K graphics, TVs that deliver it are few and far between, so we’re using a 4K TV.)

What else developers will be able to do is a question Cerny can’t answer yet, because those developers are still figuring it all out—but he sees the SSD as unlocking an entirely new age, one that upends the very tropes that have become the bedrock of gaming. “We're very used to flying logos at the start of the game and graphic-heavy selection screens," he says, "even things like multiplayer lobbies and intentionally detailed loadout processes, because you don't want players just to be waiting."

At the moment, Sony won’t cop to exact details about the SSD—who makes it, whether it utilizes the new PCIe 4.0 standard—but Cerny claims that it has a raw bandwidth higher than any SSD available for PCs. That’s not all. “The raw read speed is important,“ Cerny says, “but so are the details of the I/O [input-output] mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them. I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and then I put in a SSD that cost as much as the PlayStation 4 Pro—it might be one-third faster." As opposed to 19 times faster for the next-gen console, judging from the fast-travel demo.

As you’ve noticed, this is all hardware talk. Cerny isn’t ready to chat about services or other features, let alone games and price, and neither is anyone at Sony. Nor will you hear much about the console at E3 in June—for the first time, Sony won’t be holding a keynote at the annual games show. But a few more things come out during the course of our conversation. For example, the next-gen console will still accept physical media; it won’t be a download-only machine. Because it’s based in part on the PS4’s architecture, it will also be backward-compatible with games for that console. As in many other generational transitions, this will be a gentle one, with numerous new games being released for both PS4 and the next-gen console. (Where exactly Hideo Kojima’s forthcoming title Death Stranding fits in that process is still unconfirmed. When asked, a spokesperson in the room repeated that the game would be released for PS4, but Cerny’s smile and pregnant pause invites speculation that it will in fact be a two-platform release.)

What gaming will look like in a year or two, let alone 10, is a matter of some debate. Battle-royale games have reshaped multiplayer experiences; augmented reality marries the fantastic and real in unprecedented ways. Google is leading a charge away from traditional consoles by launching a cloud-gaming service, Stadia, later this year. Microsoft’s next version of the Xbox will presumably integrate cloud gaming as well to allow people to play Xbox games on multiple devices. Sony’s plans in this regard are still unclear—it’s one of the many things Cerny is keeping mum on, saying only that “we are cloud-gaming pioneers, and our vision should become clear as we head toward launch”—but it’s hard to think there won’t be more news coming on that front.

For now, there’s the living room. It’s where the PlayStation has sat through four generations—and will continue to sit at least one generation more.

Source : https://www.wired.com/story/exclusive-sony-next-gen-console/

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