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Unread 07-27-2005, 10:20 AM   #1
Medion
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Sony adds last-minute hardware to PS3. Good move.

Source: Tom's Hardware Guide

Sony adopts Ageia's physics engine for PS3

Quote:
By Wolfgang Gruener, Senior Editor

July 21, 2005 - 14:09 EST

San Jose (CA) - Ageia has pocketed a huge deal for its physics engine that promises to make video games more realistic. Sony will integrate the technology in its upcoming game console Playstation 3 (PS3) and help to push Ageia's technology quickly into the gaming market.

The fastest graphics processor may not be enough anymore to achieve the best graphics performance in next generation video games after all. At least Sony believes that it needs to push the envelope even further in its next Playstation 3 console that is expected to be available in May of 2006.


According to an announcement made on Thursday, Sony entered a "strategic licensing agreement" with Ageia, and fabless chip developer that developed the "PhysX" SDK. PhysX is a physics chip that is designed to aid the graphics processor in darwing realistic graphics on a screen. According to its developer, the device can simulate thousands of interacting fragments, which could create a greater illusion of reality. The behavior of 40,000 to 50,000 particles can be simulated per screen allowing the display of disintegrating walls, gelatinous characters, windswept hair, loose flowing clothing, or realistic display of damage in car racing games.

The license agreement includes Ageia's PhysX SDK that previously has been adopted for example for the Unreal Engine 3 by Epic Games. According to Ageia, the PhysX chip is multithreading capable and therefore a nice fit for the PS3's multi-core Cell processor.

With the help of Sony, Ageia will be able to collect royalties for every Playstation 3 sold. This pushes the company way ahead of its marketing schedule. The chip was announced first in March of this year and market experts expected the company to need at least two to three years to gain the credibility for wide market adoption. The fact that Sony is integrating the technology into its PS3 will push Ageia's technology into millions of systems very quickly and may also convince add-in card and system builders to have a closer look at Ageia.

Market watchers also consider today's announcement as indication that Ageia could become a takeover target, for example for Nvidia or ATI. Both companies declined to comment on possible interest in Ageia technologies, but industry sources recently indicated that Ageia in fact may be up for sale - for about $2 billion.
This was a smart move by Sony. This chip will take a large load off of the Cell CPU for games that utilize it. The fact that dev tools and documentation for this chip is already outstanding means that it will be a major boon to developers, rather than a burden.

It's no secret that the Cell CPU was terrible at physics and AI calculations when compared to even one of the 3 CPUs in the X360. If used properly, this chip will further bridge the performance gap between PS3 and XBox 360, bringing them closer to being on equal footing.

This does not in anyway give the PS3 an advantage over the competition though. The same physics calls made to this chip can be used for the same royalty fee on the IMB CPU(s) found inside the X360 and the Revolution. This chip just makes it easier for the PS3 to compete in that area, without slowing down needlessy.
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Unread 07-27-2005, 12:04 PM   #2
Zelyre
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Good for Ageia, they'll make tons on licensing. When they first announced the PPU, I was intruiged, but like many first gen 3d chipsets, I was afraid they'd see red before their hardware became mainstream.

Good for Sony, from what I've read, the Cell isn't the most precise of CPUs, although the more I read about the PS3, the more it seems like Sony's going after the PC in a box paradigm. Even Sony admitted this months ago, in a conference, when asked about the Cell, the spokesperson stated that it was unfair to compare the Cell to other processors, but that Cell would stand out as a multimedia/entertainment processor. Whatever it takes to remain competitive.

But, with the price of the PS3 being as high as it is, Sony's going to have to recoup sales from software royalties. We're looking at $60 per title soon because of increased costs to develop software, not just art side, but programming side, because of the complexity of the consoles. I think many developers will find it harder to find publishers for their titles unless its another GTA, Burnout, Final Fantasy, or some other established IPO. Odd quirky games like Katamari Damacy will have an even smaller chance of coming into fruition, and we'll see a lot of developer buyouts. EA Games buying out your favorite developer only means bad things for you.

But with this news, will we ever see PPUs for the PC like everyone was speculating when Ageia announced it was making a physics chip?
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Unread 07-27-2005, 12:16 PM   #3
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Good for Sony, from what I've read, the Cell isn't the most precise of CPUs, although the more I read about the PS3, the more it seems like Sony's going after the PC in a box paradigm.
Let me just reiterate...Sony screwed up big time. The Cell was supposed to be an all-in one multimedia processor that would handle every task on the PS3. Even the designers of the Cell admitted that what Kutaragi-san wanted was not what IBM could deliver. The Cell as it is today is nowhere near what Kutargi wanted. But, with all the R&D $$$ invested, Sony wasn't going to use another processor.

So, to bridge the huge performance gap between the X360 and the PS3, Sony added the RSX at the last minute. The RSX is weak when compared to ATI's X360 solution. It's a powerful GPU, don't get me wrong, but it's current generation PC technology (it's a slightly modified GeForce 7800GTX, which was just released).

In fact, by the time the RSX was added, there wasn't enough time to move projects to it before E3. All of those E3 tech demos were done on Cell alone. Yea, they looked nice, but what consumers weren't told was that they were running at 5FPS or lower on actual hardware, and you were just seeing a recorded video. It was meant as a goal, as in "this is what we hope the games can look like." This was revealed at the recent Playstaion conference.

Now, this Ageia chip will help, but if devs don't want to use it, they have to use the Cell, which is substandard for this kind of task. Also, all of the physics calls that can be done on the Ageia chip can also be done on the X360 or Revolution, as long as the liscensing fees are paid for by the game's developer.

So, while this is a gain for Sony and the PS3, the fact remains, their hardware is still weaker than the competition, and costs a lot more to make. Keeping pace with the X360 in a pricewar would cause Sony insane losses financially. Sony's best hope is for their brandname to prevail this generation.
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Unread 07-27-2005, 02:44 PM   #4
Mesoian
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See, this is why 3rd party developers are FREAKING OUT over the Ps3. Everytime they start planning code around the alpha of a title they wanna put out for the system, a new bit of hardware is either put in or removed, thus making everyone have to start at square one.

Sony needs to pick an archetecture and stick with it. No more tampering with the RSX, no more removing gigabit ethernet slots (which was....really odd in the first place), no more putting in assistant chips for physics and agolrhythm processing (Which the cell is supposed to be able to do phenominally anyway). If you wanna be out in the spring like you say, you need to really crack the whip for developers in order to get more than 3 games out by april.
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Unread 07-28-2005, 05:15 AM   #5
Medion
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See, this is why 3rd party developers are FREAKING OUT over the Ps3.
Nah, 3rd parties have been pretty cool. Only the PC devs have been freaking out, and that's on this generation as a whole, not limited to just the PS3.

Quote:
Everytime they start planning code around the alpha of a title they wanna put out for the system, a new bit of hardware is either put in or removed, thus making everyone have to start at square one.
Nothing has been removed, and only two things have been added. As for the Ageia chip, it's optional to use and very well documented. There's no downside to adding it other than the cost Sony is incurring. Devs like it because they can use it royalty free, whereas on the X360 or Revolution, they'd have to pay a royalty fee to Ageia if they used their physics engine.

Quote:
No more tampering with the RSX,
The RSX hasn't been tampered with once. It was added too late for an E3 showing, which is why the E3 demos weren't realtime. But Nvidia has been excellent with developement tools and documention. Adding the RSX was a huge boon for the PS3.

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no more putting in assistant chips for physics and agolrhythm processing (Which the cell is supposed to be able to do phenominally anyway).
The Cell is not relatively phenomenal at that, and I'd be curious to hear where you heard that. It's certainly better in that regard when compared to the PS2 EE, but it's whipped by just one IBM PPC in the X360. The Cell's strengths lie in multimedia versatility and geometry data, of which most has been offloaded onto the RSX.

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If you wanna be out in the spring like you say, you need to really crack the whip for developers in order to get more than 3 games out by april.
Developers have the option of keeping the original developement cycle and not using the new hardware, or they can make some changes to offload tasks to the new hardware. It's not too time consuming and would greatly benefit their games.

I've heard nothing but praise regarding the inclusion of the RSX and the Ageia chip. Yes, it's still weaker and harder to develope for than the X360, but the PS3 still has a few aces up its sleave that can put the X360 to shame.
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Unread 07-28-2005, 09:16 AM   #6
Arc_The_Lad
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Interesting.


I'm still getting a Revolution, because I'm not made of money.
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