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Sony says: Cell can handle "branching" for AI better than the rest

When Sony introduced the new EDGE toolkit for developers, people began to listen in on the power of the PlayStation 3 and the Cell processor. While still difficult to program for, the toolkit is meant to alleviate some of the more confusing aspects of the new console. Sony also decided to sit down and chat with developers regarding the Cell and this new toolkit.

A developer claimed that there was no way to get interaction between the different SPUs of the Cell. This heralded Sony to come in and teach a miniature lesson about what does and doesn't work with the Cell's SPUs. The interesting tidbit spoken about was branching AI on the Cell. We'll use a quote here so we don't mess up the interpretation: "Branching is a common technique...where a program randomly chooses a few samples from a larger set of options, and then tests each to see which is the best...Most developers have claimed that the SPUs would be absolutely terrible for branching. As Sony put it however, branching is absolutely terrible for ALL processors. In their experience, they said, it is less terrible for the SPUs however. In the upcoming game Heavenly Sword, they said that moving the branching AI off of the Power Processor Unit (PPU) increased the performance of that particular process. In other words, the same branching ran better on the SPUs."

Since Sony has had success creating AI superior to that available on other consoles relying on different setups (triple-core PPC, etc), they've included ways for developers to have similar success with the EDGE kit. One more thing, too, was added into EDGE: "Sony said that much of their success with the Cell has come from the development of a tool they call the SPURS Kernel, a small program which sits on each SPU and enables it to better perform the tasks that programmers use it for. This SPURS Kernel was included in the EDGE suite of tools."

So what do you guys think? With this stuff, will more developers give the PS3 a more interested look? We really believe that saying all this stuff is good and all, but developers and consumers alike will need something tangible to prove these claims. Heavenly Sword was cited as an example of success regarding SPU AI branching... so, let's see it! We need something solid instead of words, as much as we'd love to take your word on this, Sony.

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1. I think this is definitely good news - Sony recognized the bashing their hardware was receiving and decided to do something about it, and not merely just say "nuh-un!". Actually sitting developers down and saying "Look! Here's how you write code for the Cell." is a big step in the right direction. When the PS2 was all new and fresh, developers were saying the exact same things about it, and then later generation games like God of War and MGS were pretty much on par with Xbox quality graphics, which is worth noting as the xbox was significantly more powerful.

Side note: Isn't Heavenly Sword basically a God of War-type title? Seems like a terrible example to use for the purposes of demonstrating AI... behaviours can't really be any more complicated than "rush player now" and "strike player now"...

Posted at 1:07PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Stef Geiger

2. "demonstrating AI... behaviours can't really be any more complicated than "rush player now" and "strike player now"..."

When you're fighting an entire army of thousands of enemies, as some videos suggest, the parallel processing could be heavy enough.

Posted at 1:11PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Bored

3. Huh uh...some guy I don't know said that it couldn't be done better than on 360. /sarcasm

Just thought that I would get that out before the real idiots started saying it for real.

Anybody w/2 brain cells knows that Sony is the king of smoke and mirrors and that they're not trustworthy, but this is definately a step in the right direction. Good for them.

Posted at 1:22PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Virtua Fanboy

4. I think you'd have to get into armies of literally THOUSANDS before being able to actually tax any processor with such simple routines. Say what you will, I really doubt Heavenly Sword will feature enemy numbers even in the hundreds.

Posted at 1:46PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Stef Geiger

5. i dont a inline dsp stripped down processor has the deep branching of a true out of order exacution unit in a real cpu

fact 1 ppe is inferier to ppc cpus by ibm

fact 2 inline processors are weaker and harder to programme than out of order exacution units

fact 3 basic dsp threads are weak and hard to code

fact 4 cell dea
ls with why more work load than broadway as ps3 has to deal with 1080p and cpu based sound engines wii has no true hd and a dedicated sound processor

fact 5 braodway is a true out of order deep branching deep regestors true desk top cpu with gamecentric and media optermizations

fact 6 both 360s and ps3s cpus aret accually trying to be great cpus there weak low end ppe cores by ibm with the clock spedsramped up so hd and sound processing can all be done INEFFICANTLY I MAY ADD on one cpu

no im not saying that braodway magicly is more powerfull than cell what im saying HONESTLY not fanboyingly is that broadway is far more powerfull and a lot closer top cell than your being told

THINK ABOUT IT NO HD NO SOUND PROCESSING BUT LOADS OF REGESTERS AND BRANCH PREDICTION I.E PERFECT FOR A.I PHYSICS AND GAMEING CODE

CEL IS A MIXTURE OF DSPS=CRAP AND A BASIC VERSION OF A PPC CORE WITCH IS INFACT A WEAK PPE CORE

IN TERMS OF GENERAL CPU WORK BRANCH PREDICTION MULTI TASKING AND TRUE CPU OUT OF ORDER EXACUTION BROADWAY CLEARLY KILLS CELL CLOCK FOR CLOCK ADD THE SOUND PROCESSOR AND AMASING EFICANCIE PRESTO LOADS OF GAMING HOUSE POWER

REMEMBER CELL IS INEFFICANT AND HARD TO PROGRAMME IT ALLSO HAS ALL THE CRAP BACKGROUND SHIT IT HAS TO PROCES

SOUND ENGINES PS3 OPERATING SYSTEM HD RENDERING BEFORE WI EVEN START WITH A.I PHYSICS ETC

THE CELL HAS MANY THREADS YES BUT THERE BASIC AND INEFICANT AND YOU LOOSE 3/4 OF THEM ON OP SYSTEM AND SOUND WORK SO THERE USLESS FOR ANYTHING ELSE


NO ONE CAN TRY AND BRAINWASH MII TO BELIEVE A DSP INLINE NUMBER CRUNCHER IN TERMS OF DESIGN AND PER CLOCK PERFORMANCE CAN COME CLOSE TO BROADWAY OR ANY MODDEN DAY TRUE CPU

its just not commonsence to try and say it is

ITS A LIE


P.S UBISOFT ALREADY CONFIRMED THE COMPLEAT OPERSITE CELL IS NOT SUITED TO A.I ETC SO WHOS LYING

Posted at 2:11PM on Mar 9th 2007 by wiibouy101uk

6. *bewildered*

Posted at 2:16PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Frosty

7. @5

Fact 1 : we are seeing amazing games coming out and upcoming for PS3.

Fact 2: Gamers dont care how "it gets done" as long as "it gets done".

Fact 3: You may be a "genius" for pointing out all these things BUT i think the hundreds of people who made the damn thing are probably smarter than you (thats what they get paid for figuring this out).

Fact 4: Individual developers comments dont count... and just because they cant do it doesnt mean others cant -its just that they need better programmers.

Posted at 2:18PM on Mar 9th 2007 by shase

8. wiibouy101uk - I tried to read your comment but realized you're a moron. No way, no how can anyone serious about low level software development argue that a single processor is faster than multiple processors in doing the same amount of work. That's why we don't have the P4 anymore, we have the Core 2 Duo.

As for branching, I can say that AI is never an "easy" operation. Telling a monster to attack someone is easy, but calculating the pathfinding is insanely difficult, particularly with A* or in some cases, memory-bound A*. Branching would definitely be sped up by adding more cores to handle the work, there's no doubt about it. Even if you're playing a simple Connect 4 game with a Min-Max algorithm, the computation for 4 steps into the future is very difficult. I would be able to believe that multiple cores available for AI processing would increase performance of the algorithm, if done properly.

Posted at 2:35PM on Mar 9th 2007 by James

9. mass effect/bioshock look amazing on the xbox360... heavenly sword and motorstorm look amazing on the ps3...get what im saying nobody cares graphics are great anyway on either system

The main waste of processing power is inefficient coding or difficult to code programs this is much more important than any chip being 5% better at logic branching or some other feature

Posted at 2:58PM on Mar 9th 2007 by mike

10. I'm sorry, but wiibouy101uk could tell me that the sky is blue and I'd still call him a moron. It boggles my mind that people (fanboys, really) can get SO passionate about an issue they don't ACTUALLY know that much about, and type up an essay on it that's so full of typos and grammatical errors that it's a wonder anyone can decode the meaning, let alone feel the author deserves any credit. If you give a sh*t, proofread. If you are proofreading, and you still generate garbage that would be shameful for a second grader to write, then please go post your dribble elsewhere, lest you sap our intelligence.

Posted at 3:04PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Stef Geiger

11. a facts a fact im not here to argue i deal in fact only aruing invovles opinions im above such weak thinking i deal in fact iv posted a list of said facts lets leave it at that..............

all 3 wil have great graphics

but only wii offers the true next level gaming experiance and gameplay THATS A FACT

and only wii can load data sop fast and stream textures so fast it can accually remove the treded loading screen

thats more than i can say of slow loading ps3

nintendo have set the balace of the system wii perfectly

ps3s more about hype and image and marketing its not about great games

out dated poor controls is infact against gaming not for it

and so are long loadtimes loadtimes and dated gameplay is a thing of the past not the future sony got it all wrong with ps3 THATS A FACT

who in there right mind wants to bash a dualshock and wait for games to load

i dont i want to play them in new and exciting ways

like i said a fact is a fact

sony fanboys mear opinion meens nothing to mii

Posted at 3:07PM on Mar 9th 2007 by wiiboy101uk

12. @wiibouy101uk

I couldn't get past the first line. I know a 10 year old who has better spelling and grammar than you. You have passed the 5th grade, right?

Posted at 3:12PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Rob Holiday

13. Ugh, wiibouy101uk, it's people like you that give videogamers and fanboys a bad name. Most of us are actually capable of spelling and organizing our thoughts into coherent arguments. You aren't. That's sad.

Posted at 3:48PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Stef Geiger

14. I want to see some real-world results, first. We've all seen lots of graphics, but not [practical] computational results.

Still, it's worth nothing that people are always wary of new technology. It doesn't work the traditional way, early results don't live up to expectations, and people jump to conclusions. If Sony can satifactorily show that a lack of performance is caused by bad technique, and updated toolkits will help the problem, that's great news.

Release a random AI demo, or even better, an old-school 64K demo. Show us how much power you can pack into a small amount of code and how well the architecture scales. That's what counts when making the dynamic content promised for next-gen systems.

Posted at 3:57PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Burnt Meatloaf

15. Wiiboi101uk or whatever it is. Have you ever played a PS3? If you had you would know the load times are not long at all. My guess is you live in the UK and have never even seen a PS3 in real life

Posted at 4:07PM on Mar 9th 2007 by stockstar1138

16. Please, someone unplug wiiboy101uk from the interwebs.. He's lost his privledges

Posted at 4:11PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Tyler

17. Wiiboy101uk is an embarrassment to my kind, that's for damn sure

And i suppose this statement is true, PS3's CPU is an absolute beast compared to the other guys', the only reason 360 is percieved to be better is the fact that its architecture is more nimble(due to the fact that CELL was meant to work with other CELL processors, the GPU holds it back, CELL must do the GPU's work for it, pretty much), and Wii's architecture more nimble than that (out-of-order processing, independent commands)

The three actually all have thier own advantages when it comes to AI programming

Posted at 5:12PM on Mar 9th 2007 by Mr Khan

18. Wiiboy101uk : "and so are long loadtimes loadtimes and dated gameplay is a thing of the past not the future sony got it all wrong with ps3 THATS A FACT"

There's so much wrong with that statement and the rest of your post that I'm not going to address, but let me just say: that's not a FACT, it's an OPINION.

Now shut up and go elsewhere please.

Posted at 5:47PM on Mar 9th 2007 by ck

19. Mr Khan: "...due to the fact that CELL was meant to work with other CELL processors..."

Yeah, what's the story there? Back when the PS3 was originally slated to have 3 GigE interfaces and Sony claimed GigE was fast enough to chain cell processors I could see a whole lot of potential there. Perhaps they'll go back down that road when they've got the PS3 unit price down?

Posted at 5:51PM on Mar 9th 2007 by ck

20. OoOE: Out of Order Execution.
An early prefetch unit try to change the execution order of every instruction to better fit in a multiple pipeline environment (this lead up to 2X the speed when dealing with poorly optimized code).
Neither CELL or Xenon have an OoOE unit, this is because that unit have a cost (in die size) and because the advantages are questionable (you can get the same speed improvements with a compile time instruction reorder and you'll get smaller pipelines for free).
Without OoOE instructions are exectued as they are fetched, so if the compiler was smart enough there's no penality in taking the OoOE unit away.

As for SPE units, they are designed by IBM, so IBM probably knows better than us if they are better than PPC or not, in fact a CELL is a PPC with multiple SPE's.
As for me PPC units are processor expecially designed for general purpose, multitasking environments (for this reason they are equipped with large caches, task switching facilities and so on) like x86 from the 80286 onward; on the other side SPE are batch processors, they are programmed once for a task, like 8086 (and others, when you use them in real mode under DOS), they lack multitasking but are quite fast in performing repetitive tasks (...and not only number crunching).

About sound I can tell that Xenon or CELL can use one unit for audio, this means a lot more raw power than any DSP audio chip out there (excepitons are Live!/Audigy/X-Fi, that are audio-bound CPUs) and this also means that they can add effects, environments and audio infrastructures on the fly.

At last: When dealing with really unoptimized code an OoOE CPU can get double the performance of a non-OoOE CPU (you call it "linear"), since both "Broadway" and CELL (and Xenon) use the same ISA and internals (both come from IBM) you can say that at best "Broadway" perform "up to" a 1,6GHz CELL without SPE's, that's half the actual CELL speed.

(for common knowledge, it's safe to use a x2 multiplier because what really change between executing "linear" instead of "rearranged" is that you, in the wrost case scenario, use only one pipeline instead of two, so "Broadway" at best can do x2 operations per second)

Posted at 7:55PM on Mar 9th 2007 by ConteZero

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