Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: All three at E3

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

All three at E3

So the biggest annual event in the gaming world, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) is upon us once more. E3 2005 is currently underway in Los Angeles and is sending shockwaves across the world. The big three have all unveiled their next generation consoles: Microsoft X-Box 360, Sony Playstation 3 and Nintendo Revolution have all been shown in some form.



X-Box 360 was first to show, with a pre-E3 special on MTV and the first of the official E3 press conferences. Featuring a slick silver-white concave design and total processing power of 1 teraflop (that's one trillion calculations per second), the 360 made more than a few jaws drop. It's clearly a generation ahead of the highest-end PCs (and Macs!) available on the market today. The teraflop of power comes from the combination of a custom-designed 3.2GHz three-core Power PC based IBM CPU, and the first ever Unified Shader Architecture GPU (custom-built by ATI) which can push around 500 million polygons a second. 360 comes with half a gigabyte of RAM onboard, a removable 20GB harddrive, 9GB capacity standard DVD-ROM based media, built-in Wi-Fi, limited backwards-compatibility, three USB ports and support for four 2.4GHz cordless controllers as standard. All 360 games will support interlaced hi-definition (1080i) display and surround sound. Impressive.

Next up was Sony, who showed off their silver convex design PS3. All those who were previously blown away by the X-Box 360 went into a state of numb disbelief when Sony laid out the PS3 details in their press conference. PS3's total processing power weighs in at 2 teraflops. That's twice the power of Microsoft's 360. PS3 is the first consumer electronics device to be announced that will use the amazing new Cell chip co-developed by Sony, IBM and Toshiba. As the PS3's CPU, the Cell runs at the same clockspeed as X-Box 360's CPU (3.2GHz), but due to it's ground-breaking architecture is capable of far greater computational power. NVidia designed the new GPU for PS3, which Sony have dubbed the RSX (Reality Synthesizer). Touted as being able to produce cinema quality CG in real-time (we've heard that before...), the RSX certainly does appear to be the most powerful real-time graphics hardware ever built, and is capable of some stunning shader effects. No official poly-count figures for PS3 have been announced.

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With the RSX, PS3 not only goes one better than 360 by supporting true high-definition output in progressive scan (1080p), but it actually supports dual HD output. If you happen to have two high-definition panels handy (Ha!), then the PS3 can render two different full 2K x 1K progressive scan HD signals to both screens in real-time. (If you're not that lucky, you can use a PC monitor or non-HD TV for a second screen instead.) As examples, they mentioned that you can play a game on one screen and watch a hi-def movie, or surf the net, or video chat live with other players at the same time. Alternatively, you can simply slap both hi-def widescreens side by side for a single massive panoramic game display. While there has been no talk of it whatsoever, it seems clear to me that Sony have left the doors open for a high-definition stereoscopic VR-style headset peripheral in future. You can't tell me that with dual real-time HD output, this idea hasn't crossed their minds.

PS3 has half a gig of RAM, supports seven Bluetooth wireless controllers simultaneously, uses 54GB capacity Blu-Ray disc media, and is backwards compatible with PS2. It supports most removable media types, including memory stick (standard and duo), compact flash, SD cards, 2.5" removable hard-drives and up to 6 USB devices. PS3 is designed to be an always on, always connected device, and it seems you'll be able to remotely control the PS3 wirelessly via PSP when you're away from home. Very nifty indeed. Some of the tech demos shown in Sony's 2-hour press conference (including new Eyetoy applications) have left my brain in a state of near meltdown. It's truly difficult to comprehend the full potential of Sony's PS3.

Nintendo revealed very little in their press conference regarding Revolution. They showed a prototype of their black angular console in their press conference, but as expected, have not revealed Revolution's new controllers (believed to be wireless, gyroscopic and touch sensitive), or whatever other revolutionary tricks they have up their sleeves. Revolution is rumoured to be about three times as powerful as Gamecube in terms of processing power, which leaves it way behind 360 and PS3. Nintendo have said all along that they're not taking part in the processor speed race, choosing instead to implement innovative new features to "expand gaming". Whatever they're up to on that front, they're not telling yet.

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Revolution also has half a gig of flash memory, built-in Wi-Fi, uses an undisclosed type of 12cm optical disc-based media (standard DVD-size), and features optional DVD playback as well as complete backwards compatibility. Sure to win over many retro fans, Revolution will play Gamecube, N64, SNES and even NES games. Now that's old school. Nintendo also revealed "GBA Micro" in their press conference - the smallest Gameboy Advance yet (just bigger than iPod mini), looking like a small NES pad with a backlit screen. New footage from the forthcoming Gamecube game "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" also pleased the crowd.

Nintendo's conference was rather intriguing. There were no Revolution controllers shown and there was no mention of the forthcoming GameBoy Evolution at all. Co-incidence? They seemed to be talking in riddles at times, with careful choices of words as if they were presenting a puzzle to be solved, challenging us to use our "right brain". There may be further revelations from Nintendo before E3 is over.

X- Box 360 will be launched late this year and PS3 and Revolution will debut in 2006. Games developers certainly have unprecedented power to start taking advantage of in the coming generation, and while some early trailers show promise, I think it'll be a long time before we really see it put to good use. Exciting times ahead.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mat Kelleher said...

mmm PS3.....

Congrats on little Jack.
Give me an email at mat.kelleher.nsw@studentflights.com.au
I need some info on games...

3:44 pm  
Blogger Ryan said...

I'm barely interested in PS3. The bloated features will make it very expensive. I would be interested in the Revolution if they don't do something weird with it. So far Xbox 360 is the most appealing with their online capabilities.

11:35 pm  

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