Programming for the PS3's Cell is hard

Apparently, it takes a lot more than just a bright programmer with a sunny disposition to fully exploit multi-core CPUs. Epic's Time Sweeney chatted a bit at the CEDEC Premium event at TGS about how hard it's been for them to take full advantage of the PS3s Cell CPU.

But he did comment specifically on how difficult it is to program for multi-core processors and the even more complex Cell chip used in the PlayStation 3. He noted that it "takes about twice the effort and development cost to develop for a multi-threaded CPU", compared to a single-core CPU. Even more than that, according to Epic's analysis, fully exploiting the PS3 Cell chip "required about 5 times as much cost and development time than single-core."

What will possibly make this easier is the fact that middleware that takes specific advantage of multi-core CPUs will be more readily available in the future. Sweeney specifically mentions the Ageia's PhysX licenses they bought which have helped but still, that's a lot of money for developers who want to develop for the PS3.

Sweeney does go on to give Sony kudos for giving them the functionality that would allow PS3 gamers to create Unreal Tournament mods on their PC that they could turn around and download to and distribute from their PS3 console. That you cannot do current through the tightlipped Xbox Live service.

He notes that the mod community was "an essential part of [Epic's] success", and commented: "We would love to transfer this mod community over to the console platforms." Of course you'll need a PC to create levels for the upcoming UT2007 for PS3/PC, but Sweeney believes that everything will be in place so that modders can make new levels on the PC, "download them to the PlayStation 3, and distribute them online."

In fact, he was very positive on Sony's open attitude to networked content compared to the Xbox 360 - he commented of Microsoft's platform: "Unfortunately it's more of a closed platform", and even noted that Microsoft seems to be "quite negative toward user-created content" under certain circumstances Epic has encountered.

[more of the interview here]


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