During an interview with Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, he waxed on about the power of the PlayStation 5, which is coming this fall at the same time that Microsoft is launching the Xbox Series X. But throughout the interview, Sweeney never mentioned the Microsoft console.
I asked Sweeney, whose company makes Fortnite and the Unreal Engine game development engine, why he was focused on Sony’s machine, which ran the demo of his new Unreal Engine 5 platform coming next year.
“We’ve been working super closely with Sony for quite a long time on the storage architecture and other elements. It’s been our primary focus. But Unreal Engine 5 will be on all next-generation platforms, and so will Fortnite,” he said.
He added, “Sony has done an awesome job of architecting a great system here. It’s not just a great GPU, and they didn’t just take the latest PC hardware and upgrade to it, following the path of least resistance. The storage architecture in PlayStation 5 is far ahead of anything that you can buy in any PC for any amount of money right now. It’s great to see that sort of innovation. It’s going to help drive future PCs. They’ll see this thing ship and realize, ‘Wow, with two SSDs, we’ll have to catch up.’”
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The demo shows some pretty astounding visuals, and it confirms what Mark Cerny, architect of the PS5, said earlier this year that the key to this was adding a fast solid-state storage device (SSD) to the PS5.
Epic’s Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time so developers don’t have to worry about polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets. They don’t need to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs (level of detail), and they have no loss in quality. To support vastly larger and more detailed scenes than previous generations, the PlayStation 5 provides a dramatic increase in storage bandwidth. And that’s what you get from the PS5’s architecture, Sweeney said.
I don’t know if this means anything, as Epic’s strategy is to spread out on all platforms and not favor a single platform. But it was very interesting to hear the love for Sony. Maybe Sweeney is a geek at heart and he’s in love with some very cool technology. But if I were Microsoft, I might be a little worried about this.
“If you look at previous generations, you had to deal with magnetic disks, the lowest common denominator,” Sweeney said. “You couldn’t count on a lot of bandwidth supporting scenes like this. You had a beautiful scene and a long loading time, and then another beautiful scene. That disrupted the game experience. Our aim for the next generation is nothing but seamless, continuous worlds, and to enable all developers to achieve that. You can have this degree of fidelity going on for as many kilometers and gigabytes as you want.”