Hardware Analysis: PlayStation 4

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Foreword

The Launch of a new generation of consoles is always an exciting time. Executives will give presentations at E3 showing off the feature set, hardware power and launch titles in an attempt to talk up their console as the undisputed victor of the new generation. The gaming industry has been around long enough with its eight generations for us to have seen everything. There was a point in time, years ago now, where consoles were individually unique and each had their own advantages and quirks which would not only make the purchasing decision a difficult one for consumers but would also seemingly endow the systems with their own personalities.

Today that’s not so true. Of the three one could only argue that the WiiU has it’s own personality and niche. While it’s sales haven’t been stellar there is something to be said for going your own way popular trends be damned. As for the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One the lines become more blurred. I’m not sure when exactly the homogenization of consoles became a thing but I think it had its roots in the Dreamcast, the first really modern console and especially the first Xbox with its use of modified off the shelf consumer hardware.

 

PlayStation 4

Sony’s 4th console release builds on a the same set of core design themes that have carried all PlayStations to commercial success. The biggest of which is a focus on multimedia functionality and making the PlayStation more than just a console.

Background

Sony’s 4th console is less of a revolution like it’s ancestor and more of what we saw with the PS2 and PS3, a deliberate evolution and refinement over previous models with the goal of keeping what made the PlayStation great and just improving on that. To continue accomplish this goal we see the return of a lot of core features such as the familiar Dual Shock type controller and an emphasis on not just being a gaming console but being an all around entertainment device for the living room.

Sony began development of the PS4 only two years after the release of the PS3 in 2008 in order to prevent the delays that plagued the PS3 from afflicting the PS4. By 2012 early  dev units were being sent out to developers and the console was officially announced at E3 2013 with the first markets releasing units that November.

During the development phase Sony worked closely with AMD to develop an x86 based APU to power the PS4 in order to improve the ease of game development. Something the PS3 suffered from early on due to its complicated cell architecture. Sony also worked with Bungie to work on updates to the dual shock controller family to make it better suited to FPS titles, another area that the PS3 had been weak in compared to the Xbox 360.

The end result gave Sony a much cheaper platform to manufacture with a straightforward architecture, much like the original PlayStation, that avoids many of the mistakes of the PS3.

Design

Sony’s console design approach has always been a consistent effort to make the PlayStation resemble its intended use as a multimedia device. From the very beginning, the PlayStation has resembled contemporary home theater appliances while also having a distinct and modern look. The PlayStation 4 continues this theme with a hybrid gloss/matte black finish and sharp angled lines. I think it Looks nice.

It's hard to deny the PS4 looks good

It’s hard to deny the PS4 looks good

 

Hardware

While the PS4’s industrial design is consistent with it’s lineage, under the hood is a different matter entirely. Gone is the expensive and complicated PowerPC Cell processor of the PS3. Now we have a much more conservative and conventional approach using an AMD sourced APU (Accelerated Processing Unit).

CPU

At the heart of the APU is an AMD Jaguar architecture CPU, or rather two of them. Jaguar is AMD’s current low-end/low-power architecture and has been on sale since mid-2013. Jaguar processors are at the most quad core devices and here Sony has taken the design a step further, instead of one quad core processor we have two arranged in a similar fashion to Intel’s early Core 2 Quad desktop CPUs with two separate cores on the same processor die.

APUs provide a distinct advantage to earlier solutions that involve discrete physical processors and chips. By taking these seperate components and placing them on the same die you can greatly reduce heat and power consumption but also connect the elements on their own internal bus that frees up the main system bus for other duties and reduces overall system latency.

A diagram of a single Jaguar compute unit (CU)

A diagram of a single Jaguar compute unit (CU)

Each Quad core processor is broken into a “compute unit” (CU) which consists of the individual cores as well as the L2 cache and interface. The 4 cores share a 2MiB level 2 cache and each have 32KiB of instruction cache and 32KiB of data cache. Jaguar cores, like all modern processors are full superscalar, feature out-of-order and speculative execution in order to increase parallelization and improve overall performance.

Jaguar features many improvements over AMD's previous Bulldozer architecture

Jaguar features many improvements over AMD’s previous Bulldozer architecture

Both CU’s run at a base 1.6Ghz and can throttle to an undisclosed higher clockspeed although there has been speculation it goes up as high as 2.5Ghz and as low as 1.9Ghz.

 

GPU

The GPU is as expected based on the Radeon GCN architecture that is found in consumer Jaguar APUs. Codenammed Liverpool, the GPU features 1152 Unified Shaders at a clock speed of 800Mhz. Being based on the GCN family Liverpool shares many features with AMD’s current 2xx line of consumer GPUs such as the HSA “zero-copy” Unified memory plan and support for AMD’s Mantle API.

Specs Shortlist:

  • 1152 Unified Shaders
  • 72 Texture Mapping Units
  • 32 Render Output Units
  • 800Mhz Core Clock Speed
  • 1.84 TeraFLOPS peak theoretical power
  • 25.6 GP/s maximum pixel fillrate
  • 57.6 GT/s maximum texture fillrate
  • 256bit wide GDDR5 bus with 176 GB/s bandwidth*
*note the PS4 uses a unified 8GiB of GDDR5 for both the CPU and GPU

In terms of overall performance Liverpool compares closest to the AMD 265 which is an updated Radeon 7850. The 265 also has a peak processing power of 1.84 TeraFLOPS and has similar texture and pixel fillrate as well as 179.s GB/s memory bandwidth.

 Conclusion

The PS4 is form Sony’s perspective a great improvement over the PS3. It’s cheaper to manufacture, didn’t have hardware delays, is easy to develop for and naturally continues the theme of newer consoles being more powerful and having more features but that doesn’t tell the whole story. it actually took me awhile to finish this article. Not because information was hard to find or anything like that, but because it was hard to motivate myself to write about such a boring topic. The Ps4’s spec sheet reads more like a cheap pc build on PcPartPicker.com then a dedicated  gaming machine. Both the PS4 and Xbox One suffer from this, they just aren’t interesting to talk about. Not to mention that relative to when they came out they aren’t nearly as impressive as the previous consoles were. The Ps3 and 360 were actually fairly powerful even by PC standards when they came out, I can not say the same for this generation. But the biggest problem by far, and this is outside the scope of this article and not just limited to the PS4, is there aren’t enough good games available for these consoles. 2014 was a parade of over hyped games that either didn’t deliver (Destiny) or games that didn’t work at all (Watchdogs, Assassin’s Creed Unity).

 

Microsoft Leaks Details On Controller Redesign

xbox one controller Via Microsoft’s main website, new details of a Xbox One controller redesign have surfaced. Many members of the press have speculated that this new controller design will be announced formally at this upcoming E3 (2015).  The new controller does not exhibit substantial changes in terms of form factor, but the controller’s schematic does indicate the presence of a 3.5mm jack. Judging by where the line is pointing to in the diagram, this jack is located horizontally at the base of the peripheral just below the directional pad. xbox one controller schematic According to this information provided there are no other significant changes to the standard pad. This new peripheral is to be made available after June of this year. However, new information from the gaming retail site Libro has also shown that the tweaked pad is to debut on June 8, 2015.  There are questions about the new controller being able to recharge through USB natively without having to purchase a separate plug and charge kit; this will still be a necessity.

Prepare Your Wallet, Steam’s Summer Sale Dates Leaked

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Posted on a Russian social network site, VK, Steam’s official page says it’s always anticipated Summer Sale will be beginning on June 11th. In this post a “Special Encore” is also mentioned; however no details have been made available as of yet.

Steam Sale starts June 11 at 20:00 Moscow time .

June 20 will begin ” Sale Encore ,” which will involve all the companies that participated in the Summer Sale .

The very sale ends June 22 at 20:00 Moscow time.

The events and other details so far unknown.

Also we advise to read our guidance on sales , not to spend all the money in one day.

If you are new to Steam or aren’t very familiar with how everything works during the sale they have a pretty good guide to explain just what goes on during this deep discount event. On Steamdb.info the discounts are tracked. Giving percentage discounts, price, end times, and rating.

Twitch Clarifies Ban On AO Rated Game Content

Twitch-logo

Quite a few questions were raised concerning recent changes made to Twitch‘s terms of use policies pertaining to the broadcasting of games rated AO (Adults Only). Examples of games that would be affected by said changes include titles like Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The confusion arose because of the fact that Twitch has users from around the globe and content rating standards differ between the various game distribution territories. These regions also have their own individual rating organizations like the ESRB for North America and PEGI for Europe. To lessen the confusion, Twitch has made a statement has a more conclusive specificity in regards to US AO rated titles:

if the game is AO in the US, then it is not allowed. If the game is not AO in the US, but has a different rating abroad, like The Witcher 3, it is permitted… If a game’s US version is rated Adults Only by the ESRB, you should not broadcast that game on Twitch. However, ESRB rated Mature versions of Adults Only titles are permitted for streaming, such as Mature versions of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy.”

Hopefully this helps live stream broadcasters understand the changes made for better or worse as this format of video game exhibition grows ever popular.

Solid State Romcast: The 5-16-15 Show

On this Romcast Jon and Matt begin with a little about the little vertical scrolling shooter the could called Hyper Vanguard Force IV and how we have a full review of it! After all that praise, the Romcast crew dives into the cute and charming independently developed game called Yooka-Laylee. This game has captured Jon’s attention because it is being made by the folks who made DK64 and the Banjo games. Neverwinter is doing quite well one Xbox One and Phil Spencer welcomes this entry. Will he cast Magic Missile at the darkness? Lastly, Mat and Leo from Gaming Bolt have their way and talk about emergent technologies and how they will change the gaming landscape. Enjoy!


Solid State Romcast 5-16-15 Show

 

Solid State Romcast Crew:

Jon “San Juan” Rivera – Host

Matt “Off” White – Cohost

Leonid “Leo” Melikhov from Gaming Bolt – Special Guest (video game journalist)

 

Music Credit:

Introduction Theme – Car Jack [2011 version] by Electric Children

Interlude No. 1 – Unknown Track A by ???

Interlude No. 2 – Unknown Track B by ???

Roundtable Theme – Pumped by RoccoW

Resolution Theme – Skip Sandwich DX By Electric Children

Xbox One’s first free MMO already sees successes

neverwinter

PerfectWorld Entertainent only released Neverwinter for the Xbox One on the 31st of March, yet already they’ve seen 1.6 million player create over 2.3 million characters. As well as releasing a plethora of other player statistics. Including 92,000 characters reaching the level 60 player cap.
With this early success Perfectworld Entertainment is announcing there will be much more to come.

As for the five free expansions, Perfect World isn’t saying much about them yet, confirming only that they will be based on the Tyranny of Dragons and Elemental Evil storylines from within the overall Dungeons & Dragons lore. All five will debut later this year, though specific release dates have not been announced.

Phil Spencer the head of Xbox has expressed excitement for the popularity of this release stating:

“We’re thrilled gamers have embraced this unique free-to-play MMORPG on Xbox One.”

However, Neverwinter won’t be able to enjoy it’s unique status for long. Elder Scrolls Online will be released for the Xbox One and PS4 on the 9th of June.

Neverwinter has already held a following since it’s release on PC in 2013, PerfectWorld seems to be in a perfect position to take advantage of this growth with much more content coming and all available for free.

Solid State Romcast: The 5-7-15 Show

On this Romcast, people are getting banned for using mods on Grand Theft Auto V for PC. Will Nathan VanDyke be able to use his total conversion mod for GTA V? Probably not. Sega will not be at E3 this year. Find out why the guys are not at all surprised to hear this news. Lastly, Matt vents his frustration and hatred toward keyboard and mouse Star Citizen players and their use of the ‘boating’ strategy. Should light fighters be able to use adjustable turret weapons? Let us know what you think.


Solid State Romcast: The 5-7-15 Show

Solid State Romcast Crew:

Jon “San Juan” Rivera – Host

Matt “Off” White – Cohost

Music Credit:

Introduction Theme – Car Jack [2011 version] by Electric Children

Interlude No. 1 – Unknown Track A by ???

Interlude No. 2 – Unknown Track B by ???

Roundtable Theme – Pumped by RoccoW

Resolution Theme – Skip Sandwich DX By Electric Children

Game Review: Hyper Vanguard Force IV (WEB)

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Game Title: Hyper Vanguard Force IV
Developer: Dave Richard and Christine Marsh
Publisher: Turbulent (via RSI official site)
Platform: (WEB) [Unity]
Genre: Top down vertical scrolling space shooter
Release Date: 2015

 

(Editor’s Note: This game covered playing the free web based title Hyper Vanguard Force IV using a PC and the latest version of Mozilla Firefox owned by the reviewer.)

 

With Chris Roberts’ return to the game industry, there has a great deal of attention devoted to his latest effort known as Star Citizen. A love note to the space faring combat games of old, Star Citizen is slowly developing its own unique universe in a way that is quite believable. Ships not only have names, but also belong to various companies that have their own style and personality. This attention to detail with commercials, brands, and logos are created to ground Star Citizen in some sense of reality. One of the best instances of this effort is actually not an official product of Cloud Imperium Games (the developer behind Star Citizen). This is a web based fan made vertically scrolling shoot ’em up title called Hyper Vanguard Force IV that uses the ship designs from the upcoming space flight title to make a faux retro style game. Even though Hyper Vanguard Force IV is a woefully short game, it is one that is filled to the brim with addicting game play and a flare that pays homage to the PC and arcade shooter games of yesteryear.

The story of this game is simply heaping pile of campy B movie cheese. In the Verse, space pirates run rampant and do what they will with no consequence. Star pilots no longer fly in fear of the pirates and simply make trinkets that replicate the crafts they once piloted. You play as Meredith who is a Vanguard pilot. All is well until the evil space pirate captain Balthazar steals your prized Vanguard model miniature that once populated your dashboard. Since nobody steals from a Vanguard pilot, you give chase to Balthazar across three systems to get it back at any cost. It is such a shallow and cornball premise for a game that sounds like something out of the old classic Mega Man or Castlevania titles. It is silly, which at least shows that this is a title that does not take itself seriously. That is perfectly fine because the most enjoyable bits have to do with the overall game play and visual presentation.

The game play and control of Hyper Vanguard Force IV are simple enough. The player maneuvers the space craft by simply dragging the cursor about the screen. Something that will take a bit of acclimation is the fact that your ship does not move one-to-one with your mouse cursor. there is a bit of delay between the movement of said cursor and how the ship is moving. This may seem as being a control flaw at first, but this choice makes maneuvering your craft feel smooth and natural; not abrupt and jerky like most of the web based shooters powered by Flash back in the early to mid aughts. Instead, this game implements elegant movement alla Raptor: Call of the Shadows (DOS). Clicking and holding the button down fires all the Vanguards weapons at once. This includes your primary gun, side weapons and missiles.

Like most scrolling shooters, destroying enemies yields collectibles in the form of fire rate upgrades and currency. The fire rate increases remain with you only for the duration of the stage. Win or lose, you retain the currency, which is essential for purchasing weapon and shield upgrades in the menu before starting a level. Some stages will be insanely difficult at first, but with unlocking upgrades you will eventually tackle these challenges to fight for a high score. With the online integration you can compete with the best players from across the globe.

For a small three level shooter affair, Hyper Vanguard Force IV offers a great deal of replayability. Depending on how well you tackle each mission you can get medals for beating them with taking no damage and/or eliminating all foes. This is how the player fully beats Hyper Vanguard Force IV on the Normal difficulty. When that is completed, the Hyperpink difficulty is accessible on a level to level basis. This challenge mode runs each mission at faster speeds with enemy fire dealing more damage. At some points it feels like those Japanese style Bullet Hell shooters, forcing you to bob and weave through clusters of enemy projectiles moving at different speeds and from multiple directions. As far as game play is concerned, this is a challenging game that makes you fight for every accomplishment. The upgrade system incentivizes you to press on, testing how those new improvements fare against the opposition. Its fast paced nature and rewarding systems make this an addicting game that is hard to put down.

On top of the immensely satisfying game play, Hyper Vanguard Force IV sports a solid graphical presentation. Being a sprite based title, HVFIV features pixel art renditions of space crafts that are featured in Star Citizen. The sprites are so well rendered that it feels like you are playing a game that is using a creative license akin to licensed driving games that use real world cars. Even more interesting than the pixel art translation is how they move and are manipulated in the environment. rather than using multiple static frames to simulate ship rotation or just having the ships only appear vertically, HVFIV employs a heavy amount of sprite scaling and rotation that gives the game a similar feel that can be found in Super Nintendo titles that prominently use the Mode 7 technology. It is a neat little touch that adds to the old school cool nature of this space romp.

The soundtrack to this game is appropriate well composed, but is a bit on the forgettable side. The one track that will stick in your mind is the title/menu music. The whole score features sound samples and instrumentation that are reminiscent of both the Commodore 64 SID chip and the old DOS era sound cards like Soundblaster and Gravis Ultrasound. It is a solid mix that will most likely delight if you played games on C64 or DOS. However, the real meat of the audio presentation is the sound design, which makes blowing away countless enemy vessels nothing short of gratifying. When the game is running at max speed on Hyperpink difficulty it is a blissful symphony of pure unadulterated destruction.

When first dissecting Hyper Vanguard Force IV, one can see an extremely short experience with a myriad of disparate elements. However, it is cohesive arrangement and presentation of said elements that form to create a game that is entertaining in its own right, but is also a very fond trip down memory lane for anyone who started gaming back when 2D sprites and nebulous sounds dazzled their senses. It is short and may disappoint some, while the difficulty can put off others. Nonetheless, this title is a short and sweet vertical slice of scrolling shooter gaming goodness. Star Citizen fan or not, Hyper Vanguard Force IV is solid little space shooter excursion that is well worth playing. Hope to see you out there in the Verse.

 

 

 

Rating V-V

Weekly Mailbag: 5-3-15 Edition

In this SSG mailbag video, Jon presents two complete in box Sega 32X games as well as a Dreamcast and one of the rarest Sega Saturn releases of all time!!

-Shadow Squadron (32X) CIB
-Virtua Racing Deluxe (32X) CIB
-Charge N Blast (CD) Brand New Sealed
-Stellar Assualt SS (SAT) Brand New Sealed !!!

As always, thanks for watching! If you enjoyed our video, please rate and subscribe for more video features. Check out our main site for videos, podcasts, written features and more! Look us up at:

http://www.thesolidstategamer.wordpress.com

If you have and comments, suggestions or criticisms be sure to drop us a line at:

solidstateromcast@gmail.com

Solid State Romcast: The 5-1-15 Show

This time on the Romcast, the Ouya is in deep trouble and needs a buyer badly. Will Julie Uhrman be able to save this sinking platform. The guys speculate on this as well as bid a not so fond farewell to Valve’s half baked paid mods service. Did Valve do the right thing? Lastly, Jon and Matt make some confessions about their guilty pleasure games – games that they know are critically panned for being bad, but…


Solid State Romcast – Solid State Romcast: The 5-1-15 Show

 

Solid State Romcast Crew:

Jon “San Juan” Rivera – Host

Matt “Off” White – Cohost

 

Music Credit:

Introduction Theme – Car Jack [2011 version] by Electric Children

Interlude No. 1 – Unknown Track A by ???

Interlude No. 2 – Unknown Track B by ???

Roundtable Theme – Pumped by RoccoW

Resolution Theme – Skip Sandwich DX By Electric Children