Despite being nowhere near release the PS5 is definitely well on its way. Despite the long wait ahead for the next-gen console, Sony has uncharacteristically given an early lowdown on some of the features it will include.
The information was released by PS4 lead system architect, Mark Cerny. In an interview with wired, where he talked about working on the PS4’s successor. Cerny revealed that Sony has been working on the console for 4 years. And he reassured that this will be no mere upgrade to the PS4. Although fans wouldn’t be unreasonable to think this since the Xbox One and the PS4 have both had mid-cycle upgrades.
According to Cerny, the thing that separates these mid-cycle upgrades from the next generation of gaming is the answer to “the key question” “whether the console adds another layer to the sorts of experiences you already have access to, or if it allows for fundamental changes in what a game can be.” The answer to which Cerny reassures, in this case, is the latter.
Usually, a generational shift means; the console’s CPU and GPU become more powerful, the graphical capabilities increase dramatically, system memory increases allowing for more size and greater speed, in turn, meaning game files can grow to facilitate larger downloads etc. and according to Cerny the PS5 will tick all of these boxes.
As of this moment, the name of the console is still unknown but if history is anything to go by it will probably follow suit with its predecessors and be named the PlayStation 5. Throughout the interview, Cerny just kept referring to it as “the next-gen console”
The console will contain an AMD chip that has a CPU based on the third-generation Ryzen. It will have eight cores of the seven-nanometer Zen 2 microchip. The GPU is a custom version of the Radeon’s Navi family.
This graphics chip will support ray tracing. A technique that simulates the physical behaviour of light as it transverses through 3D environments. Meaning that reflections, shadows caused by blocked light and refractions are all combined to produce the final colour of the pixel. Despite being a staple of Hollywood visual effects for some time no game console has yet been able to perform this technique.
However, although this technique’s effects are largely visual, the applications go beyond just graphics. Cerny stated “If you wanted to run tests to see if the player can hear certain audio sources or if the enemies can hear the players’ footsteps, ray tracing is useful for that,” he says. “It’s all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment.” Cerny also told Wired that the next-gen console will support 8k graphics, however, at this moment in time TV’s that can support 8k are uncommon and extremely pricey so its unknown when this feature will come into play for the average gamer.
The AMD chip also possesses the ability to enable 3D audio. A feature which Cerny feels is going to redefine how sound can be used in video games. He said he felt “it’s been a little bit of a frustration that audio did not change too much between PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With the next console, the dream is to show how dramatically different the audio experience can be when we apply significant amounts of hardware horsepower to it.” This will result in a more immersive gameplay experience as the sounds can come at you from all angles. Also, this will require no external hardware the effects will be heard through TV speakers and virtual surround sound. He does, however, say that “gold standard” will be achieved through headphone audio.
Talks of this immersive sound feature naturally transitioned into the subject of VR. He talked about how the previously described 3D sound would give an enhanced VR experience. Leaving the player feeling as though they were actually existing within the simulated environment.
When asked if there will be a next-gen PSVR to go alongside this console. He exclaimed, “I won’t go into the details of our VR strategy today beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console.”
As we all know the larger the game gets the longer it takes to function. That’s why Cerny calling the new hard drive “a true game-changer,” and “The key to the generation” is music to player’s ears everywhere. Loading screens can last minutes while the game pulls data from the hard drive. This is why the implications of a solid state disc drive are so exciting.
Cerny told wired that when he first started speaking to developers about what they’d want from the next generation the most requested feature was an SSD. They have been available in laptops for over a decade but only available to consoles via external hard drives. SSD’s are known to make consoles run smoother and vastly decrease load times. He also announced that this particular SSD will be specialised for the console’s hardware.
To demonstrate the power of an SSD, Cerny loaded up Insomniac’s Spider-man on the PS4 pro and initiated a fast travel sequence which took a total of 15 seconds to load. He then loaded up the same game on the next-gen devkit (an early “low speed” version) and initiated the same fast travel sequence. With this what took 15 seconds on the pro took less than 0.8 seconds!
And this is just one effect that an SSD has. It also impacts the speed that the world can be rendered and consequently how quick a player can move through the world. Again to demonstrate this Cerny did the same test. On the new hardware, the camera moved much more quickly. Cerny also repeatedly paused the game to prove the surrounding environment remained its crisp picture quality.
Cerny went on to say “the raw read speed is important, but so are the details of the I/O [input-output] mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them. I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and then I put in an SSD that cost as much as the PlayStation 4 Pro—it might be one-third faster.”
What Else Do We Know?
Recently there have been some talks about digital only consoles. This console will not fall under that category. The PS5 is based on the architecture of the PS4. Meaning that PS4 backwards compatibility will definitely be a feature. He also said this generational transition will be a gentle one, many new games will be released for both PS4 and the next-gen console.
As you may have noticed everything discussed was completely hardware related. Cerny wasn’t ready to talk about any services or features. Usually, Sony would debut its new PlayStations at E3. This year, however, the company will not have its usual press conference. Assuming the announcement will take place this year, that leaves a few possibilities; PlayStation Experience, one of its new Nintendo Direct-like State of Play streams, or a standalone PS5 announcement event.
At this moment it’s still unclear when Sony plans to launch the PS5. In May 2018, Sony’s head of PlayStation, John Kodera, said the new PlayStation would be three years away. “We will use the next three years to prepare the next step,” he said, “to crouch down so that we can jump higher in the future.”
While Sony’s plans may remain a mystery Microsoft is set to have an E3 press conference this year. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer said that they are going to go “as big at E3 as we’ve ever been.” Microsoft confirmed that a new Xbox was in development in 2018. And judging by what Spencer said we can expect to see this next-generation console at E3 2019. We can also expect to see the previously rumoured all-digital Xbox One S will be announced even sooner. The notion of which sparked debate on whether all consoles will soon be digital only.
Which next-gen console are you most excited for? Let us know in the comment section below..