News: More hUMA than hUMA

PlayStation 4 Controller Prototype SLIDER
While it is never advisable to buy wholeheartedly into unproven ‘special sauce’ technologies, this may at least prove useful to GPGPU processing.

[Rumour]: PS4 To Have a Good Sense of hUMA

As another week draws to a close, the PS4’s technical lead over the Xbone looks to have have widened even further. AMD’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, Marc Diana, has this week confirmed to Germany’s second-most widely read IT publication, C’t, that Sony’s PS4 will support AMD’s forthcoming hUMA [heterogeneous unified memory architecture] memory management technology, while Microsoft’s Xbone will not.

The way that a gaming device’s CPU and GPU have traditionally used RAM is to either utilise separate pools of RAM for each processor, or to utilise a unified pool of RAM which is separately partitioned for use by these components. The latter method is far more efficient for communication between the CPU and GPU, yet both methods incur a degree of latency as the information present in one area of memory must be copied over to the other. AMD’s hUMA technology allows for both the CPU and GPU to have concurrent access to an entire pool of unified RAM, eliminating the need for information to be copied from one location to the other – something that is likely to greatly assist GPGPU functions, as both processors are able to see the same information.

It would make a lot of sense that this were the case, given both console’s different memory architectures. The Xbone would likely be effectively incompatible with hUMA given its complex memory architecture, as the 32mb of ESRAM embedded in its GPU effectively means that system RAM, while mostly residing in one common pool, is not truly unified. Basically, most of what enters and exits the Xbone GPU is thought to travel through that embedded ESRAM. The PS4 on the other hand does not make use of embedded RAM besides that located in processor caches, which can be easily bypassed. Moreover, Sony has joined the AMD co-founded HSA [Heterogeneous System Architecture] foundation, while Microsoft has not.

Following Diana’s initial comments, some significant doubt was placed upon their accuracy, as AMD released the following statement:

“During a recent Gamescom 2013 interview, an AMD spokesperson made inaccurate statements regarding the details of our semi-custom APU architectures. AMD will not comment on the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PS4 memory architectures and will not speak for Microsoft, Sony or other AMD customers.

While this looked to pour cold water onto excited conjecture, AMD later confirmed that they were actually full of shit. The above official comment led one publication running the story that Sony’s PS4 would not support hUMA technology, which led to AMD contacting the author in order to undermine their previous assertions:

AMD contacted me again to make another comment. Essentially, they said that the correction statement to the original statement claiming hUMA was part PS4 was “inaccurrate” but that this correction does NOT mean the opposite claim is true. Even when pressed for a more specific and debate-ending comment, AMD wouldn’t give us any more information.

What this all amounts to is that the PS4 probably supports AMD’s hUMA technology – that said, this may not ultimately manifest itself in any meaningful way outside of Sony first party titles, as the PS4 already has the raw power advantage to brute force its way past the Xbone without utilisation of emerging memory management technologies. On the other hand, if hUMA takes off on the PC as GPGPU best practice, then it is still possible that we might see its widespread use on the PS4.

Ouya Savior
Ouya is the sound one makes when they vomit.

Ewwwwwwwwwwwya

The ailing Ouya console has once again made headlines for entirely the wrong reasons. Ouya management [in their infinite wisdom] decided this week to upload to the official Ouya Youtube account an advert full of violence, horror, and revulsion. The advert in question features a slob gamer replete with stained Y-fronts, weeping at his decision to purchase a game for $60. The gamer then proceeds to vomit until he is wading in the stuff up to his knees, after which he grabs his tongue and yanks out his spinal cord which he uses to club himself unto a bloody pulp.

Disgust aside, the irony of the advert is that it invites gamers to contrast the $60 game console business model directly with the Ouya – a comparison which the Ouya still ends up losing despite all of its games having a free trial mode. Only 27 percent of Ouya owners have even bothered to purchase a game, which is really all the indication one needs as to the quality of the Ouya’s library.

Beyond this, it is quite perplexing as to who Ouya thinks it is going to attract by using such base stereotypes as gamers being greasy, hairy, troglodytes who spend their days on glued to the couch wallowing and snorting in their Y-fronts – that is the sort of stereotyping which confirms the depiction of the typical Ouya owner [and management] as fart-sniffing elitist fucks who are green with envy at other consoles having games.

Perhaps the silliest aspect of the entire advert however, is Ouya’s implicit claim that game developers do not deserve to be paid for their work. That may be an apt message considering that 99.9 percent of their customers have bought an Ouya in order to emulate SNES games, but it will do absolutely nothing to attract gamemakers to Ouya.

Ouya later tried to contend that their video was just an experiment:

We are experimenting with animated content and posted this video briefly to get feedback from our community. Stay tuned for our official video!

But given that any official video is only ever likely to be uploaded to their official Youtube account anyway, no one seems to be particularly inclined to believe their feeble lies. This advert just goes to show that the only people likely to be vomiting with sorrow and regret are the unhappy dupes who donated to Ouya’s Kickstarter campaign.

PlayStation 4 Game Sharing
Sony at their absolute best.

Microsoft Takes the Bait

If one were pressed for an answer as to the single most enjoyable aspect of the impending next generation console cycle, it would have to be the emergence of Sony’s A-grade trolling abilities as they attempt to go about selling a console purely on the strength of their not being Microsoft. From their brutal onstage dismemberment of Microsoft at E3 2013 to their instructional video on how to share PS4 games – everything has been exceptional, and Sony’s snide antics this week were no exception. Sony’s Andrew House made a very pointed reference to Microsoft’s recent backflips and turmoil in his Gamescom speech, when he bluntly stated:

While others have shifted their message and changed their story, we were consistent in maintaining a message that is fair and in tune with consumer desires.

Fortunately for Sony Microsoft decided to bite, with Phil Spencer accusing Sony of trying to portray their backflips as “a bad thing“. He then went on to spout some rambling nonsense about how listening to users was one of Microsoft’s key strengths [with a straight face no less].

The thing I love about the space we’re in is you’re always going to get feedback, whether it’s on your Twitter feed, whether it’s in NeoGAF, whether it’s in Eurogamer, people are going to tell you in comment threads how they feel about decisions.

The two-way conversation we have with our customers is a strength. Certain people have tried to turn that into something that’s a bad thing about what we’re trying to do, and I just disagree.

We built a platform for gamers. Gamers invest their time and their money in the things they want to play, and they’re going to invest their time in telling us what they love about the platform, and they’re giving us feedback on areas where they have more critical feedback.

That two-way conversation with gamers has to be core to who we are as a platform. And if we don’t have the capability of listening and reacting to what people are saying about our platform, then we’re being too disconnected from customers who make investments in our platform and the games we build.

The two-way conversation that we have with gamers is critical, if we weren’t able to listen then I don’t think we’re really creating the ecosystem that means people want to come into the platform.

Other people will do and say what they’re going to say. Fine. We’re running our program. That’s a strength of who we are.

If Microsoft listened to gamers then they never would have opted to unveil the Xbone in the way they elected to, whereas when gamers reached out to key Sony staff to request a DRM-free PS4, Sony listened without need for a Mulligan. Phil Spencer talking about the importance of listening to consumers is only apt to remind people of this piece of recent history. At any rate, Sony have once again forced Microsoft onto the back foot as they attempt to justify the missteps which saw Don Mattrick exit the company – this can only speak ill of the Xbone’s prospects just months out from launch.

4 comments

  1. This will be the first generation when I don’t know when I’ll get any of the consoles on offer. If we allow ourselves to say the generation is begining this holiday season, and if we’re charitable enough to include the WiiU (despite a lot), then I must say I have no clue when I’m getting any new hardware. I FEEL like I’ll end up buying a PS4 and WiiU, but I just don’t know when. PC gaming has gone a long way in making me generation-indifferent.

  2. The ONLY reason that I’ll be getting a PS4 is to be able to stream console games to my Vita, otherwise I wouldn’t even think about it until the release of FFXV, and then only if it’s good.

  3. I’d like to think that if Sony starts using the hUMA technology sometime during the life of the PS4, the improvement in game quality that we always see near the end of the generation will be more dramatic than in previous generations.

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