The live stream "Road to PS5" from Sony with the system architect Mark Cerny started today. We learn a lot about the technical leap that the upcoming PlayStation 5 will allow for game developers.
The beginning of the talk focused exclusively on the solid-state drive (SSD) of the new console, especially on the commercial 825 GB M.2 SSDs, which according to Sony have speeds of 5.5 GB input data per second and much more compressed data. What does all this mean for players and game developers? Well, Cerny says this means the PS5's input / output speed will be 100 times faster, and that will change everything from loading times to level design.
The PS5 SSD from Sony enables a 100-fold speed jump
In particular, Cerny said that the new SSD in the PS5 doesn't just make it, so you'll never have to wait on a blank screen again. Due to the architecture of the SSD, this goes without saying compared to hard disk drives, with which an SSD can search and retrieve data on the drive almost immediately. Cerny added that the SSD will completely change the way developers think about a game.
“The main reason for an ultra-fast SSD is that it gives the game designer the freedom. In other words, a hard drive can sabotage the 20 seconds it takes to load a gigabyte of the game the developer is trying to create, ”said Cerny. “Let's say we're playing an adventure game and we have two rich environments, each of which we need enough textures and models to fill the memory. You can do this as long as you have a long flight of stairs or an elevator or a windy corridor where you can drop the old assets and then take about 30 seconds to load the new assets. "
According to Cerny, most modern game developers "more realistically" chop the world into a series of smaller pieces "to avoid these extra-long elevators, but the bottom line is that you have levels with curvy passages and long, repetitive environments that are only for that purpose To take loading times into account and to avoid that the player steps on a black screen. Cerny quotes Haven City in the classic adventure game Jak 2.
“The game is 20 years old, but not much has changed since then. There are all these curvy passages for one reason. There are a number of level designs dedicated to this world, but it's still a big distraction for a team that just wants to play, ”said Cerny. "What if the SSD is so fast that when you turn the player over, you can load textures for everything behind the player in a split second?" If you imagine that turning takes half a second, you can load four gigabytes of compressed data. "
Anyone who has played a video game in the past two decades has experienced the situation that Cerny speaks of – the long elevators or the windy passages. And it is interesting to think that all of this probably deliberately helped large files to be loaded and removed from memory to make room for new ones. And for files that are just too big, like in the case of fast travel, we saw what that means: the blank screen or, as Cerny put it, the "Spider-Man who takes the subway" – Segments of PS4's exclusive Marvel's Spider-Man.
So the idea that an SSD can make such a jump is pretty exciting. This means that game developers can completely rethink the level design and all the cornerstones and compromises they have to make to ensure that the player doesn't do nothing for many seconds or even minutes. The concept of loading completely new levels in less than a second means that the next consoles that will appear this fall – Microsoft's Xbox Series X will also have an SSD – will really feel like the beginning of a new generation.