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Let's talk about Evolutionary Consoles

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So it was 1am. I was tired. I didn't know what else to do. So I wrote a 5,000 word article on "evolutionary consoles" and why Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will all be coming out with these iterative consoles in the next couple of years. 

It's quite a long post so I don't want to copy it all here like I normally do for threads like these. Instead I'll just give you the link.

I'm sure I must have left some stuff out and repeated myself like 1000x times but I'm hoping we can have an open discussion on evolutionary consoles, what people think about them and also try to understand why the platform holders are going down this route-

 

ARTICLE- https://zhugeex.com/2016/04/the-future-of-games-consoles-is-evolutionary/



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I can't help but feel that we'll still be getting new baselines despite "evolutionary consoles" since a new platform helps selling new software over time ...



Well, technology is developing slower and slower every day, especially CPUs are pretty much stagnating. On top of that you have to deal with diminishing returns. It just takes way longer today to see a really big upgrade from new hardware than it was 10 or 20 years ago. So there are really just two options. Either the console lifecycles get way way longer, like 10 - 15 years, or you get small upgrades every now and then.



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OdinHades said:
Well, technology is developing slower and slower every day, especially CPUs are pretty much stagnating. On top of that you have to deal with diminishing returns. It just takes way longer today to see a really big upgrade from new hardware than it was 10 or 20 years ago. So there are really just two options. Either the console lifecycles get way way longer, like 10 - 15 years, or you get small upgrades every now and then.

Actually there is a third option.Pull out a Wii/DS, where the novelty more than makes up for the lack of extra power to make the console atractive.The new big novelty we know to expect in the future is the VR.Now if it will live up to its promise, its another story



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First of all this is not the first time this is happening. The steam box or incremental console model was already tried by MS in 1983 with the MSX platform. Although MSX 2 was fully BC I don't think it was forwards compatible. However you could choose to spend as much as you wanted on a MSX computer, made by different companies with different features, even Sony made them. However the market chose a specialized console instead and MSX 3 never launched.

The risk is the same now. A specialized console can outperform a more general platform both in price and ease of development. The question is, will this really help tie your user base to you. When it comes time to upgrade, for wanting something new since it's all getting a bit stale, wouldn't it be much more enticing to try out a different platform with real differences instead of an incremental upgrade? I know I would be leaning towards an XBox or NX instead of Neo.2.

Another problem is that you're effectively creating an anchor with forced forwards compatibility. How long should the base model be supported? Instead of a ps5 in 2020 where developers can decide what features they still want to port back to the past gen, they'll be stuck with no option but to only have better graphics, while everything else is still tied to 5GB ram and the slow Jaguar processor from the base model.
As we moved further away from last gen you saw that cross gen games on ps3 and 360 got less features and started running worse. Just compare the features of FH2 or Shadow of Mordor. With this incremental model there would be no car tuning, drivatars etc or Nemesis system.

And how much can you realistically let 3 versions diverge. AAA PC games don't support 9 year old hardware, definitely aren't tied to having to run with 256mb video memory, 1GB system memory. It's always easy to say that we have plenty of memory now. 8GB seemed crazy 5 years ago, heck the ps4 almost launched with 4GB. Now the 5GB available is already cramped again. Not a good idea to stick with that until 2025 (NEO has the same memory, slightly faster speed) Nor the 8 core Jaguar at 2.1 Ghz.

Tech is slowing down is used a lot as an excuse. While that's true for processor speed, for parallel processing we're still in the early stages. GPU techology is still moving on, transitioning to finFET or 3D transistors which allows to go down to 14nm GPUs with more CUDA cores. 16 core CPUs are already here and AMD is also planning to use finFET for their 32 core Zen processor.  Anchoring to only being able to use 6 Jaguar cores is going to look really stupid in 2025.

Imo enforced forwards compatiility will slow progress down. Yet if you just want the same games in a higher resolution, I guess the incremental model works for you. I hope Sony makes it clear what their plans are at E3 going beyond the NEO.



I couldn't agree more. And I've been saying this for over a year now (probably).

There are a lot that don't like how this sounds. or just cant think outside the box enough to understand why it's gonna be the case, but then again that's why we have people that are just consumers and people that are creators.

The current business model as it is, just can't continue for ever. Bit just from a hardware point, but also from a content perspective too.

Hardware innovation is slowing to a crawl, and not just talking about chip architecture, but talking about fabrication too. It took us about 6yrs to go from 90nm to 28nm, then they were stuck there for over 5yrs and only now are we beginning to see signs of 14nm processors. CPU clocks rocketed from 200mhz all the way up to 4+GHz in less than 5yrs, and now we have been stuck there for over 10yrs. If all that doesn't scream that hardware innovation is stalling I don't know what else will.

Then look at the content. We are at a point where IQ quality has basically bokled down to resolution, texture resolution and framerate. And this is so insignificant that telling apart games running on a $4000 rig and those running on a $400 system isn't even as night and day as some may expect.

And what was their solution, parallel processing. But even that stalled cause while you may have lots of cores running simultaneously, writing code to take advantage of all those codes is an outright nightmare. and makes trouble shooting super difficult.

There are no doubt caveats with everything tho, even an iterative console system. But the simple truth is that it's benefits outweigh it cons. On the current system you upgrade every 5-7yrs. and that's it. start again. With an iterative system, you can still choose to upgrade every 5-7yrs if you want. Or choose to do so every 3-4yrs. And yes, one day... that console you bought would be so antiquated that it wouldn't support the new games anymore, but at that time that very box would have had over 8-10yrs of life. It's still the same thing, the lines have just been blurred.



SvennoJ said:


And how much can you realistically let 3 versions diverge. AAA PC games don't support 9 year old hardware, definitely aren't tied to having to run with 256mb video memory, 1GB system memory. It's always easy to say that we have plenty of memory now. 8GB seemed crazy 5 years ago, heck the ps4 almost launched with 4GB. Now the 5GB available is already cramped again. Not a good idea to stick with that until 2025 (NEO has the same memory, slightly faster speed) Nor the 8 core Jaguar at 2.1 Ghz.

Tech is slowing down is used a lot as an excuse. While that's true for processor speed, for parallel processing we're still in the early stages. GPU techology is still moving on, transitioning to finFET or 3D transistors which allows to go down to 14nm GPUs with more CUDA cores. 16 core CPUs are already here and AMD is also planning to use finFET for their 32 core Zen processor.  Anchoring to only being able to use 6 Jaguar cores is going to look really stupid in 2025.

Imo enforced forwards compatiility will slow progress down. Yet if you just want the same games in a higher resolution, I guess the incremental model works for you. I hope Sony makes it clear what their plans are at E3 going beyond the NEO.

I think the problem with you and this thing is that you don't really understand or are allowing yourself understand how this works. You keep talking about support for older hardware as if everything else but the console lives in a vacuum. Pls take your time and try and look at this. And not just start reading it with nothing but a quick comeback in your head. 

 

PS4. (2013) Designed to run games at 900p/1080p@30/60fps. 8GB/8CPU cores/18cu GPU is sufficient for this task. 

PS4k  (2016) Designed to run games at 1080p@30/60fps but hardware upscale them to support 4k rez. 8GB RAM/ 8 CPU cores/ 36cu GPU is sufficient for this task. 

PS5.  (2019) Designed to run games at 4k(native)@30/60fps. xxGB RAM/xxCPU/xxGPU is sufficient for this task. 

PS5k. (2022) Designed to run games at 4k@30/60fps but hardware upscale to 8k......etc. 

 

if in 2021 a game is released, and all you have is a 1080p TV, then you need not worry if you have a PS4/PS4k. Cause those consoles are all you need to run that game.at 1080p. If you happen to have a PS5 tho, then that game will run natively at 4k on your 4k TV. 

That is how a system like this works. Unless you feel that game design requires leaps in hardware like what we saw betwen the PS2>PS3>PS4. Where memory goes from 32>512>5GB. so basically for your idea of next gen we should be having at least 50GB of RAM consoles. It just doesn't work that way anymore. 

And that talk about 32 core processors..... you have been whining about how hard it would be for devs to support multiple skus of the same platform. yet you think it's easy writing code as complicated as game code to take advantage of a 32 core cpu?????? Ridiculous. Just look at how much of a nightmare it was programming for the PS3. 



Intrinsic said:
 

I think the problem with you and this thing is that you don't really understand or are allowing yourself understand how this works. You keep talking about support for older hardware as if everything else but the console lives in a vacuum. Pls take your time and try and look at this. And not just start reading it with nothing but a quick comeback in your head. 

 

PS4. (2013) Designed to run games at 900p/1080p@30/60fps. 8GB/8CPU cores/18cu GPU is sufficient for this task. 

PS4k  (2016) Designed to run games at 1080p@30/60fps but hardware upscale them to support 4k rez. 8GB RAM/ 8 CPU cores/ 36cu GPU is sufficient for this task. 

PS5.  (2019) Designed to run games at 4k(native)@30/60fps. xxGB RAM/xxCPU/xxGPU is sufficient for this task. 

PS5k. (2022) Designed to run games at 4k@30/60fps but hardware upscale to 8k......etc. 

 

if in 2021 a game is released, and all you have is a 1080p TV, then you need not worry if you have a PS4/PS4k. Cause those consoles are all you need to run that game.at 1080p. If you happen to have a PS5 tho, then that game will run natively at 4k on your 4k TV. 

That is how a system like this works. Unless you feel that game design requires leaps in hardware like what we saw betwen the PS2>PS3>PS4. Where memory goes from 32>512>5GB. so basically for your idea of next gen we should be having at least 50GB of RAM consoles. It just doesn't work that way anymore. 

And that talk about 32 core processors..... you have been whining about how hard it would be for devs to support multiple skus of the same platform. yet you think it's easy writing code as complicated as game code to take advantage of a 32 core cpu?????? Ridiculous. Just look at how much of a nightmare it was programming for the PS3. 

I think the problem with you is that you lack imagination, or think that we've reached the end of gameplay innovations. That we're forever stuck with hard scripted games and dialogue wheels. That we're forever consigned to interacting with a static world primarily through the use of bullets. Things like procedural generation of both the world and story lines involving all the characters, natural language processing, changing and evolving worlds, world wide destructable or alterable terrain, all require lots of memory and cpu time. Crackdown 3 gave a sneak peak of what you can accomplish with parallel processing. Yet all you talk about is higher resolution for the future.

Ofcourse it's hard to take advantage of more cores, yet tools will come to make this easier and hopefully we'll see more advances beyond shinier graphics, so every game that tries something more like Minecraft and No man's sky doesn't automatically get put in the just an indie pile.

So yes, I do think game design requires big leaps. A nice overhead at the start of a gen to try out new things while starting with a clean slate. Maybe not 50GB and 32 cores, yet definately much more than 5GB and 6 cores. PS3 was a nightmare since it was 1 power pc core with 8 spe's with very specific functionality. However tools still came to take advantage of them.

Anyway if you're saying that ps5 is a new gen and games do not require support of ps4.5, then that's a big relief on my part. It's still a small burden on games development, yet at least it won't stop progress. So not an evolutionary console then? Rather a mid cycle graphics output patch.



I think we're reaching a point where a system akin to the PS4 can pretty much produce any type of video game experience in a 2D or 3D space imaginable at a fairly high level visual fidelity at that.

The only thing you gain really from going higher is a prettier looking game at this point, but the higher end graphics of today are still very pretty and in some cases beginning to approach photo-realism.

If you go further than this level (other than just boosting the resolution/frame rate/adding some lighting/shader effects) the issue that you come into is budget.

Sure you can make a 25 Teraflop console with 32GB of HBM2 RAM one day for example .... but who's going to invest $100 million dollars per game to get the level of visuals necessary to push such hardware? Even the biggest publishers will start to balk once one or two of their games underperforms or flops.