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Former Harmonix developer shoots down PS3 tech in rant

A former developer at Harmonix, the team behind the hotly anticipated Rock Band, had some choice words against Sony's PS3 in his personal blog. His outrage comes as the most recent in many public outcries against Sony's next generation machine. He tackles so-called "misconceptions" that PS3 fans seem to have. Firstly, he says that the graphics capabilities of the machine have been misconstrued. "Fill rate is one of the primary ways to measure graphics performance - in essence, it's a number describing how many pixel operations you can perform. The fill rate on the PS3 is significantly slower than on the 360, meaning that games either have to run at lower resolution or use simpler shader effects to achieve the same performance ... And I'm not talking about small differences here, we're talking roughly half the pixel pushing power."

In regards to Blu-ray, the developer criticized the lower read speeds of the medium. "Great for watching movies, but not so great for games. Getting data off the Blu-ray drive takes about twice as long as it does to get the same data off the 360's DVD drive. That translates into longer load times."

The challenges that developers face when coding for the PS3 have inevitably led to "sloppier" ports, where the PS3 versions of games on Xbox 360 run more sluggishly. Jason Booth postulates that "Getting equivalent performance out of the PS3 requires a lot of work unique to the platform, and in many cases, even with all these tricks, you still won't see equivalent performance. Thus, many PS3 games have simplified shaders and run at lower native resolutions than the 360 versions. On top of this, there is shrinking incentive to do this work; the PS3 isn't selling."

[Via NeoGAF]
[Update: Added "former" to description of employee.]

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Reader Comments

(Page 2)

21. blindrocket,

Rock Band and Guitar Hero were his only projects. So, you're right. Not the top end of graphics. And he clearly didn't know about other project going on. This is why he has put his foot in his mouth by talking about fill-rates, disc speeds (forgetting about the HDD), and the 360's inability to do full 720p games recently (Halo 3).

This is what happens when you have amateur devs that only do things one way and aren't unable to think out of the box.

Posted at 11:18AM on Oct 26th 2007 by GL

22. H-V-H: That is a theoretical maximum. In practice, both would be much lower.

Let's put it this way. A 720p screen is 1280x720 pixels. That is 921600 pixels.

If these chips were really capable of 4,000,000,000 pixels per second on a complex scene, they would be spitting out 4,000,000,000pixels per second / 921600 pixels per screen = 4340 frames per second.

Theoretical maximums really mean absolutely nothing. Maybe the Xenos has a better scheduler that enables better efficiency in the chip. Maybe there is some limiting bottleneck in the RSX.

Posted at 11:18AM on Oct 26th 2007 by Pete

23. @17: Yes, Uncharted and UT3 look good. I don't have an interest in R&C.. for some reason, that series' appeal didn't catch on with me. I had UYA for PS2 and I didn't enjoy it. But that's just me. From a personal standpoint, there are still no titles worth owning on PS3. Uncharted definitely looks like it could be a contender to finally break into my wallet. But I don't like throwing around my money on games I won't play through. I just don't have the time anymore.

Posted at 11:27AM on Oct 26th 2007 by wei

24. Pete :

I'll take your word for it cause i don't know a damn thing about pixels and all that junk.

Posted at 11:28AM on Oct 26th 2007 by H-V-H

25. Hmm... thats always been a Playstation complaint. I remember developers complained about the Playstation 2. Thing is, the Playstation family has never been set up like a PC, so they are harder to program for, if you are used to PC's. But Ratchet and Clank looks great. I think users that are experienced with older Playstation's have an advantage. But those just starting have more work to do. Gabe Newell and this guy must be more used to PC's, so they prefer the 360.

I haven't gotten any of the new consoles yet, and I have no idea how to program, though. Maybe the PS3 has some issues. But I like the exclusives that are coming for it. I guess I just care about the games. I don't really like Sony. But they have Insomniac and Level 5, so I'll be getting one.

Posted at 11:28AM on Oct 26th 2007 by Dylan

26. @Ithilis
I don't really mind you compare 360 available games now with what PS3 has to offer now. But is the sole reason you buy a PS3 only for the graphic?! I'm not. I buy it for the great exclusives that are already in(Ratchet and Clank, Folklore(i like it despite the review), and Heavenly Sword(play it for the 3rd time now) and for those great exclusives that about to come(Uncharted, MGS4, LBP, WKS, FF13, GoW 3, SoTC sequel, etc).

Ratchet and Clank run at 1080p with those gorgeous environment(city, jungle, u name it), maybe 5 times the size of Gears or Bioshock small environment(mostly in rooms, or caves, or buildings, etc). I don't know why Heavenly Sword did not run on 1080p, maybe the developers just don't feel confident enough they could do it. But MGS4 run at 1080p 60fps(if i'm not mistaken) with a very smooth framerate-according to my friend who try at E for All.

So I don't see why PS3 is weaker than 360 or the other way around for that matter. But I buy PS3 as they promise me with the great exclusives they have in store. NOT THE BLOODY GRAPHIC!!! If I bought PS3 for the graphic, I wouldn't have bought PS2 last gen, I would have bought the failed XBOX1.

Posted at 11:28AM on Oct 26th 2007 by andiputra7

27. erm..sorry for rocking the boat here guys and dolls, but about a good that is just fun to play? 8 bit and 16bit days were fun werent they? Instead of focussing on creating imitations of life and making our eyes bleed with bloom and shaders, etc; hows about a really good original game. I'd like one person on here to name me one that has come out for any of the consoles this Gen. lets face it, developers are losing ideas and we are losing out, full stop.

Posted at 11:33AM on Oct 26th 2007 by RedRose

28. @20 IMHO it is impossible to separate out power and architecture. On paper, the PS3 has more "raw power" if you add up all the SPEs. However, it is next to impossible to actually use that power in any meaningful way. Thus, in practice, 360 has more usable power in real world scenarios. Certain functions well suited to the PS3 (e.g. [email protected]) are the one place where I think that we will see even a fraction of the PS3's processors used to their potential.

I am a part-time game developer, and I cannot even imagine how I would go about efficiently writing actual game code for the PS3's architecture. Basically, while the Cell processor is a very powerful thing, IMHO it is simply the wrong tool for the job...kind of like trying to go offroad racing in a Bugatti Veyron.

Posted at 11:35AM on Oct 26th 2007 by Bobsmith

29. One of the commenters may have made a good point about this guy's agenda. He left Harmonix in September to join another company that's building "social entertainment destinations for you and your friends."

Could he be trying to torpedo the PS3 in fear of Home putting him out of a job?

Posted at 11:35AM on Oct 26th 2007 by hammer_of_god

30. Ithilis,

Why do you post misinformation? You know damn well that Gears has 720p/1080i support. And any 1080p is scaled up based on ones TV. This is the same as some PS3 games.

Stop pretending that Gears runs natively at 1080p.

Posted at 11:36AM on Oct 26th 2007 by GL

31. To Andiputra7 -

Oh, I didn't buy it for the graphics, I bought it for Blu-Ray, MGS4, FFXIII and anything made by Team Ico.

But I was responding to a claim about the 360's graphical prowess, so I tried to keep my argument focused on that alone..

Posted at 11:37AM on Oct 26th 2007 by Ithilis

32. @RedRose
Little Big Planet? I think it's pretty original.

Or maybe Everyday Shooter? I think it's pretty original as well

Posted at 11:37AM on Oct 26th 2007 by andiputra7

33. To the people talking about Halo's graphics. Do recall that when people were talking about KZ2's graphics, the Halo 3 defenders argued back saying "these screens are just the multiplayer screens, Bungie had to cut back the detail for online. The single player campaign will look much better."

That game got too overhyped. And there're some people on gamefaqs saying R&C was as hyped as Halo 3. I sure don't see any commercials of it or hundreds of threads about it on Digg.

Posted at 11:39AM on Oct 26th 2007 by leiwei

34. I really dont understand why people put all the blame on the developers stating they are lazy and/or lying about the issues the PS3 has. Alot of developers have stated the issue, some more loudly than others. They cannot help it that Sony decided to one up itself and make a machine that is actually harder than the PS2 as far as developing goes, which was harder than usual when it first came out. Sony says they are helping, but when games still come out that arent running 100% right, one has to wonder how much Sony is really trying.

I also understand about the BluRay issue on reading speeds. While its totally worthwhile stating "well put info on the HD, its there for a reason", thats not exactly helping the problem neither. The games I own/played that do still take time to load, it just cuts it down from the absurd time it would have taken. While you can change out hard drives easily and they are cheaper than a 360 hard drive, I dont want to buy more than one just to be able to load games quicker.

I feel really let down by the PS3 thus far. Multiplatform games always get bought on my X360 and the exclusive titles the PS3 does have, most arent worth buying. BluRay was supposed to allow for epic gameplay but instead I got a beautiful game called Heavenly Sword that was the shortest game I've ever played. If MGS4 and FFXII somehow end up going multiplatform, I officially will feel like I only bought a BluRay player that can play games sometimes. That makes me a sad panda.

Posted at 11:43AM on Oct 26th 2007 by Khamikazi

35. "Now, to counter your argument, why didn't Heavenly Sword run at 1080p? What about Virtua Fighter 5, which runs at 720p on the PS3, but will support 1080p on the 360?"


You're all over the place aren't you. One sentence you are bring up Gears good points. But fail to mention the tearing and missing texture models. Then, you ask about HS but forget about long draw distances and high-level texture in that game.

Then, you bring up VF5. Did you know the Japanese PS3 version supported 1080i/1080p upscaled -- but left it out for the US version. And considering any lack of optimization ya think that maybe a Feb 2007 PS3 game might not perform as well as one that has come out later? Just wait for VF6. Want native 1080/60p now. Then, check out Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PS3.

So, stop trying to blame the PS3 hardware. It depends on the game type and developer's expertise as well.

Posted at 11:53AM on Oct 26th 2007 by GL

36. People are missing the point of this subject...

The developer is talking about porting from 360. Funny how the developers that are developing exclusively or concurrently aren't having these problems.

Also, they're probably using some kind of middleware in the porting process, so they're not really coding directly for the PS3 anyway.

Goes to show that porting from 360 is bad for both gamers and coders. The only thing it's good for is the game companies who keep labor costs down.

Also, that snarky comment at the end about user base makes the whole quote sound out of spite.

Posted at 11:53AM on Oct 26th 2007 by russ99

37. That guy is a 3D artist who just has only recently just taken up programming.

He is an authority on this subject how?

The PS3's GPU is always gonna come off worse when compared to the GPU of the 360. No-one has ever denied that. The PS3 is designed so that the Cell can work as a suplimentary graphics card, offloading many of the taxing tasks that would usually bottleneck a GPU. PS3 ports are always gonna come out worse when they are coded in the simplest manner (sending everything to the GPU).

Not saying that Sony didn't make a mistake by taking this approach, only time will tell that, but his post is full of half-truths.

Posted at 11:53AM on Oct 26th 2007 by Darren Tilley

38. @34: I completely agree with you and I'm in the same boat. The only game I wanted for PS3 was Heavenly Sword, but I can't justify playing $60 for such a short game. It's funny how fanboys who only own the PS3 defend the system so rabidly, but those who have multiple platforms have a completely different perspective. I own all three platforms. Each of them has their flaws, but the PS3 is the weakest by far. Seriously.

I really hope things get better, bc right now it looks like GT5, MGS4,and FF13 are the only hopes for the platform. At least one of them is guaranteed to be an exclusive.

Posted at 11:54AM on Oct 26th 2007 by wei

39. These developers need to see that, when properly utilized, the ps3 will be a fighting force of a machine. First year graphics already look amazing, unlike 360's first year. Its always true that there will be problems come the first few years of a consoles' life (as can be seen with every console, not just ps3). With time and patience comes the payoff; these guys just want a quick payday.

Posted at 12:02PM on Oct 26th 2007 by Anwa123

40. Oh and just for your guys information:

He is no longer at Harmonix, he founded Conduit Labs who are working on "building cool social entertainment destinations for you and your friends"

Sound familiar? Do you think this guy might have an agenda?

Posted at 12:07PM on Oct 26th 2007 by Darren Tilley

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