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Why Is It So Difficult To Allow Cross-Platform Play?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.

PlayStation (Games) 389

cookiej writes "I just got the most recent version of the Madden franchise ('10) for the PS3. Can somebody explain to me why EA has separate networks for the different platforms, only allowing players to compete with people using the same console? Back in the day, there were large discrepancies between the consoles, but these days it seems like the Xbox and the PS3 are at least near the same level. After so many releases for this franchise, they've got to have a fairly standardized protocol for networking; it seems arbitrary not to let them compete. Or am I just missing something obvious? Is it just a matter of Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network not working together?"

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Why would they... (2, Insightful)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227025)

... sell you one copy of a game when they can potentially sell you two or three?

Re:Why would they... (2, Interesting)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227031)

Ignore the fact that you'd have to get Sony, Nintendo and MS to cooperate with their matchmaking systems and such first.

Re:Why would they... (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227583)

... sell you one copy of a game when they can potentially sell you two or three?

Except they did and they still wouldn't talk (then ps2 vs xbox), I had a copy of the game (star wars battlefront) for each platform and they would not f*!k^%g talk to each other on my local network. v.annoying and v.lame!

I also had the game on a pc and was about to experiment to see if the pc could host the game and the xbox and playstation join in. I even asked at the games store and they said 'they use a different network protocol', I just sighed and left.

Makes you wonder if open sourced games would have the same restrictions if hosted on the consoles.

vendor lock in (5, Insightful)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227035)

That was most likely the decision of MS and Sony respectively. EA is evil, but you can't blame them for everything!

Panties STINK! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227067)

Panties Stink!
They really, really stink!
Sometimes they're red, sometimes they're green,
Sometimes they're white or black or pink
Sometimes they're satin, sometimes they're lace
Sometimes they're cotton and soak up stains
But at the end of the day, it really makes you think
Wooooooo-wheeeee! Panties stink!

Sometimes they're on the bathroom floor
Your girlfriend- what a whore!
Sometimes they're warm and wet and raw
From beneath the skirt of your mother-in-law
Brownish stains from daily wear
A gusset full of pubic hair
Just make sure your nose is ready
For the tang of a sweat-soaked wedgie
In your hand a pair of drawers
With a funky feminine discharge
Give your nose a rest, fix yourself a drink
cause wooooooo-wheeeeeee! panties stink!

Re:vendor lock in (3, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227489)

I don't think you can blame anybody. It does not make sense for those two networks to allow people to play with each other. If I was making a purchasing decision, and most of my friends were playing some game on XBL, I would be more inclined to purchase the XBOX360 to play with my friends on XBL. Now, if the the PSN and XBL were linked, I could buy the PS3 instead.

Same logic works the other way to Microsoft's advantage.

So why would either of those two companies want to make it easier to buy the competitor's product?

Re:vendor lock in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227605)

I don't think you can blame anybody. It does not make sense for those two networks to allow people to play with each other. If I was making a purchasing decision, and most of my friends were playing some game on XBL, I would be more inclined to purchase the XBOX360 to play with my friends on XBL. Now, if the the PSN and XBL were linked, I could buy the PS3 instead.

Same logic works the other way to Microsoft's advantage.

So why would either of those two companies want to make it easier to buy the competitor's product?

Well, if you analyse my post, you'll see that I never said you *could* blame Sony or MS, only that you *couldn't* blame EA.

That said, I find your definition of blame specious. By the same line of reasoning, you couldn't blame the bankers who sold bad mortgages for the financial crisis, because it was in their best interests to make as much money as they could, while they could (remember, I'm not talking about the banks themselves, but the individuals who made the decisions).

Re:vendor lock in (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227611)

I don't think you can blame anybody. It does not make sense for those two networks to allow people to play with each other. If I was making a purchasing decision, and most of my friends were playing some game on XBL, I would be more inclined to purchase the XBOX360 to play with my friends on XBL. Now, if the the PSN and XBL were linked, I could buy the PS3 instead.

Same logic works the other way to Microsoft's advantage.

So why would either of those two companies want to make it easier to buy the competitor's product?

I don't know if I agree with your definition of blame.. By the same logic you can't blame the bankers who ruined the world economy because it was in their best interests to make as much money as they could while they could. It's a slippery slope.

Re:vendor lock in (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227707)

That's a pretty harsh characterization. I don't think that logic applies. There is a difference between greed to the point you don't care who you are hurting and not deliberately creating an equal opportunity environment.

Do you think it is a right for XBL users to interact with PSN users? I don't think you are entitled to it. You bringing up totally unrelated issues and demonizing them for what is really not an issue.

Microsoft and Sony deserve a LOT of criticism, but not for locking in their customers to their respective networks.

P.S - You would be forcing Microsoft and Sony to create a pretty complex system. Additional costs in merging those networks and deciding just how much of the financial responsibility lies with whom. It won't be a fifty/fifty deal. It's hard to justify forcing them to do that.

Re:vendor lock in (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227727)

If it works both ways then it seems like the companies are just as likely to be losing customers as they are to be gaining them.

OTOH, if the games were all compatible customer frustration over not being able to play with their friends will go down which could translate into more sales and a win for both customers and vendors alike.

Re:vendor lock in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227741)

because it's what the customer wants.

Re:vendor lock in (-1, Troll)

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My prediction (0)

Starlon (1492461) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227041)

I foresee one platform out-performing the other platform on a game-play basis. One may be more comfortable, decreasing the cognitive dissonance associated with translating mental (re)actions to hand actions.

I'm thinking.,.. (1, Insightful)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227049)

No. They just want to make more money.

Re:I'm thinking.,.. (5, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227347)

No. The different consoles have different requirements for online play, and they aren't necessarily compatible. XBox live requires play through MS's servers and a live account. Sony requires companies to host their own. Nintendo has friend code requirements. It's not nearly as simple as the summary makes out.

Re:I'm thinking.,.. (5, Insightful)

BigDXLT (1218924) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227507)

The point is, it should be simple, but it's been made difficult for asinine reasons.

Re:My prediction (1)

qwertysledge (1341637) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227113)

Cognitive load and HCI inconsistencies are often the downfall of comparing two human factors experiments. This seems like a reasonable concern.

Re:My prediction (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227143)

Except the major differences in hand actions are the dpad/left stick swap and the ps3 controllers can have a motion sensor. Other than that the buttons are renamed and the triggers are different.

Re:My prediction (5, Informative)

oneplus999 (907816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227191)

One may be more comfortable, decreasing the cognitive dissonance associated with translating mental (re)actions to hand actions.

That's not what cognitive dissonance is. Cognitive dissonance is when you take an action that contradicts or is not explained by your beliefs about how you should have acted, and you change your beliefs after the fact in order to explain the action you took. It is not just when you have some kind of mental uncomfortableness. I'm sure wikipedia has examples.

Console != PC (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227045)

Why would you want to allow your competitor console to play with yours. If one claims their network is superior to the others, that's a selling point and by allowing the other consoles to connect makes your "superior" network play a moot point.

same as the PC (3, Insightful)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227061)

For the same reason console players can't play against PC players.

If they allowed a direct comparison between different platforms, people would realize more rapidly which is better and which is worse.

I'd love to see a match of TF2 between a bunch of console players vs. PC players. It'd be such a joke. :)

Re:same as the PC (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227225)

There is cross-platform available between Xbox 360 and Games for Windows. It's just that no-one really bothers to implement it. I only know of one game that did support it.

You can't cross-platform play between PS3 and Xbox 360 simply because they use their own matchmaking services.

Re:same as the PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227309)

I'd love to see a match of TF2 between a bunch of console players vs. PC players. It'd be such a joke. :)

You do realize there are plenty of console players that also play PC fps games, right?

Re:same as the PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227339)

You do realize that controllers (mouse+keyboard), more customizable settings, and more processing power all would still slant it towards the people playing on the pc, right?

you have it all wrong (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227657)

You do realize that controllers (mouse+keyboard), more customizable settings, and more processing power all would still slant it towards the people playing on the pc, right?

You completely forget about the cheating.

It is incredibly easy to cheat on a PC. I have written my own cheats, and find it very easy to do so for each new game that comes out. I started to do it because I was curious about how programs used memory. I don't go exploit it that much, in fact, I rarely play. But I do like beating the system. And from what I have observed while watching other people play, there are definitely a ton of cheaters out there. Some cover their gameplay to make it harder to see, but most do not. As long as you don't make your hack public, you can probably go undetected for years... as I have done with every PC game I have been interested in.

Re:same as the PC (1, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227367)

I don't think that's true. One platform might be at an advantage over the other, but that is an entirely different matter than being better. For instance, it's quite obvious a mouse has a competitive advantage over a gamepad in a FPS... but that doesn't mean a mouse/keyboard is necessarily a better input device. A gamepad is more ergonomic and can be played more easily from the couch, for instance.

A FPS designed for a console is best played on a console. One designed for a pc is best played on a pc. One designed for BOTH is probably equally bad on either.

Re:same as the PC (2, Informative)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227421)

Umm, FPS games are by definition, not typically "Designed" for consoles.

Nobody said mice are better, but they are much better at controlling first person shooters for obvious reasons.

For a racing game when you don't have a joystick/wheel, or a fighter, I'd much rather a controller than a keyboard+mouse. It's very simple, called "use the right tool for the job".

Round hole, round peg. Easy comparison to your own: ever tried playing quake on a g1 or an iphone? It's kind of, you know, pretty hard to do. some interfaces work for certain things.

Likewise, a VR interface (helmet, gloves, etc) even if it had FPS controls, is pretty horrible for most FPS games.

Re:same as the PC (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227545)

Umm, FPS games are by definition, not typically "Designed" for consoles.

Obviously not true. There are FPS games, successful ones, that have never been ported to the pc.

Nobody said mice are better, but they are much better at controlling first person shooters for obvious reasons.

I would dispute this, also. Mice are more accurate at controlling first person shooters. Better is something different, entirely.

For a racing game when you don't have a joystick/wheel, or a fighter, I'd much rather a controller than a keyboard+mouse. It's very simple, called "use the right tool for the job".

I somewhat agree with this; but you have to realize, that when a FPS is designed from the ground up to USE a certain control scheme, that control scheme IS the right tool for the job. Playing the DOOM mods that allow mouse input SUCKS compared to the original keyboard scheme.

Round hole, round peg. Easy comparison to your own: ever tried playing quake on a g1 or an iphone? It's kind of, you know, pretty hard to do. some interfaces work for certain things.

Quake wasn't designed for an iPhone. That's a square peg and round hole, using a touch screen fake a mouse + wasd scheme. I think a FPS built specifically FOR an iPhone could control perfectly well.

Re:same as the PC (2, Insightful)

Phydeaux314 (866996) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227645)

Some interfaces are inherently better for some tasks than others. That's why we use different interface devices, instead of having one "standard" one that has been proven to be the best possible choice. If we're restricted with regards to our input device, as we are with consoles, we work very hard on the game to make the input work with it.

Mice are best for FPS games because they allow for a nearly direct mapping of mouse location to screen location. It's fast, accurate, and refining accuracy from a general location is easy. Joysticks are best for flight tasks, because it offers a default state - the deadzone neutral - that mice do not offer, and constant directional input. To use a car analogy, trying to play a true FPS game on a console is like rigging up a knob on your dash that controls the speed of a motor turning your wheel.

Thumbsticks on consoles are handy because they work passably for a great number of game types with some developer effort. Fighting games are excellent with thumbsticks, driving and RPG games work decently enough, and FPS games can be kludged in if people don't mind dumbing down gameplay.

Re:same as the PC (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227619)

Putting the cross hair on someone's head doesn't have to be the point of an FPS. The game can be based on strategy, teamwork and experience indpendent of accuracy.

In fact I would argue that an FPS with no aim what so ever that was purely random would be equally as fun as one which involves twitch aiming.

In a game like TF2, unless you're sniping, most of the game is pretty accuracy independent. That being said.... the 360 version of TF2 is unplayable.

Re:same as the PC (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227615)

"One designed for BOTH is probably equally bad on either."

There was Shadowrun, which was designed for both PC and 360, and for cross-platform competitive play. As far as multiplayer shooters go, it was a good pickup if you got it for $20. No single-player mode.

But what's interesting is the balancing that went into Shadowrun. In playtesting, 360 players were getting massacred by PC players because their control over their aiming was so vastly superior.

So on top of handicapping PC players by giving 360 players some auto-aim and smaller hit boxes, the designers went back and tried to make terrain more valuable than aim.

If you really got into the game, you were able to either close up quickly or ambush people at short range pretty well. In close combat, the advantages narrow off quite a bit.

Re:same as the PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227719)

Lets imagine for a minute that monopolistic practices are not happening and that interoperability is happening.

It really doesn't mater which is actually better ... Only that once the console manufacturers start competing on more equal footing that players will start comparing them.

When players start noticing that they are losing positions on "ranked leader boards" they will choose the console of the dominant players.
Fanboy-ism ensues and the rest is pc_mag/ecm/psm/whatever/ history.....

Re:same as the PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227399)

By your definition, the Wii has the worst controls for nearly every game because standard controllers and mice are far more precise.

"Better" is in the eye of the beholder. /Wii sucks ass

Re:same as the PC (1)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227561)

actually, the wii is the only console that allows direct pointing.

Re:same as the PC (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227623)

Yeah, the Wii controllers are far more precise for aiming and shooting than a standard gamepad. Not necessarily better; but they're the closest thing a console has to a mouse. The Wii should be the console of choice for FPS; I think it isn't, mainly because FPS fans tend to be absolute graphic whores.

Re:same as the PC (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227625)

I'd love to see a match of TF2 between a bunch of console players vs. PC players. It'd be such a joke. :)

Just wait until the scripters and hackers get at them. I met a spy that gets ~80% hits with his revolver - most headshots. It was plainly obvious he was a hacker, because round after round, he'd run into crowds of people(Pyros, medics, heavies, etc.), owning them all.

Or he'd just shoot you from across the map.

I've also met genuinely great spies, like Jening. They're fun to play with, if you don't mind getting your ass handed to you over and over. Console players vs Jening... I wonder how many dozens he'd kill before they got him down.

Re:same as the PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227643)

"Quake III Arena was released for the Sega Dreamcast ... in 2000 and featured 4 player online play versus Dreamcast and PC gamers." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quake_III_Arena#Dreamcast

Re:same as the PC (1)

Rocketship Underpant (804162) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227653)

I've heard that differing CPU architectures is a significant difficulty in cross-platform play and something that hampered Mac-PC online play before Macs switched to Intel. Online multiplayer games rely on players' own machines to perform practically all in-game calculations, and the game assumes that each machine is getting identical results from these calculations and passing those results into the next operation. But due to the nature of floating point arithmetic, the last few digits of a floating point operation will vary according to processor architecture, so cross-platform play requires code and bandwidth overhead to synchronize all those game variables.

FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227069)

In deterministic simulations (like most RTS games), floating point errors are different on each architecture, which knocks any network game out of synch.

It costs money to care about such mundane details, so it's cheaper to not care.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (4, Insightful)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227159)

For the two systems mentioned (Xbox 360 and PS3), they're both using variants on the PowerPC architecture. While I can't be sure, I believe both chips use IEEE floating point numbers (outside of Crays, most chips nowadays at least have the option of using IEEE floating point), so the errors should be identical. I think the bigger problem is that the networking protocol for these games is usually licensed from the console maker, using the console maker's servers for matchmaking and the like, and it's considered to be less of a hassle to program against two different APIs than it is to write a single network protocol from scratch and maintain the servers required to support it.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227189)

The x86 PC uses IEEE floating point as well... but while that defines the internal results, it doesn't mean you'll get the same results at a macro level.
Depending on how long a variable stays at 80-bit precision before being truncated back to 32-bit, you're going to get different amounts of error creeping in. The length of this duration is often decided by the compiler, which differs between all consoles and the PC.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (1)

OogleBoogleBah (683897) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227215)

360 and PS3 are both PowerPC derivatives but they're not FPU identical (esp when you add in the SPUs!), which makes cross console MP impossible for games that rely on a deterministic simulation w/ input passing (most RTS, sports, and fighting games). Client/server games are a possibility, though as the previous poster sez most games rely on native matchmaking and NAT traversal services which are definitely not cross platform. And even if all that were true, Xbox Live is a walled garden. Games need special permission if they want to reach outside of Live and talk to the real internets.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (1)

Nyall (646782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227311)

IEEE rounding is different between x86 and powerpc. x86 CPUs use an 80 bit internal representation. Those bits remain as long as the data resides in a register. Also the powerPC floating point offers a fused multiply accumulate operation (one instruction can do x+y*z) that can produce different rounding results. Knowing x86 they probably have it but its addition varies between architectures.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiply-accumulate [wikipedia.org]

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (0)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227361)

All current consoles use PowerPC. On a PC, you can use SSE if you want true single or double precision operations. But either way, the real fix is to make your game engine robust enough to tolerate minute differences due to rounding. It's not that hard. If you're comparing floating-point values for equality or relying on "dead reckoning" with no compensation to sync up online, then you're already doing it wrong.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (1)

Nyall (646782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227385)

Two replies to that post and both are discussing the gaming implications? Honestly I was explaining x86 vs powerpc, nothing more or less.

I'll agree floating point error accumulations should be easy to compensate for. But its not a problem I've ever had to work on.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227407)

You do know that an entire genre of games relies on a networking method that you're calling "wrong"?

How many thousand+ unit RTS games have you written?

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (1)

Nyall (646782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227409)

p.s. while both consoles use the powerpc the xbox has a fused dot product operation (a=b*c+d*e). Thats one floating point variance I can think of, I'm sure there are others.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227365)

Could PowerPC Macs and windows PCs share the same network with their games?

The only issue I see is that one of the two would need to do some endian swapping, but on modern CPU's that difference would be neglicable.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227557)

In these cases, you can always do with a centralized dedicated server that hosts all the calculations. This way all clients will have the exact same data.

Re:FLOATING POINT IS NOT CROSS PLATFORM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227479)

It won't matter, the server decides where objects are and how they move at each time interval, not the clients. Any slight rounding errors during the client prediction will be fixed on the next server heartbeat.

Obvious (4, Insightful)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227079)

MS and Sony (and Nintendo) want you to use their respective online frameworks. They obviously aren't compatible or interoperable (different name/nick/whatever namespaces, different friends lists, different registration procedure, etc).

You can't have cross-platform online interoperation unless EA uses an entirely custom online framework that is identical among platforms. The console manufacturers wouldn't be too happy about that, and neither would gamers (who want to register once and maintain one friends list for all games, not once for each vendor or game).

The only sane solution would require heavy cooperation between all console vendors and standardizing quite a bit of the online experience, but that's never going to happen (at least not this generation).

Re:Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227185)

I disagree. The question is why doesn't EA treat its software like any other game maker who puts out a PC title. They dont care what GPU or CPU it has. How fast the L2 cache is. But I can still get on WOW or battle.net and play the same game title with everyone across the world despite the fact that we all share vastly different hardware.

The consoles should be no different. (least for the games that include some sort of multilayer)

Re:Obvious (1)

non0score (890022) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227241)

They dont care what GPU or CPU it has. How fast the L2 cache is. But I can still get on WOW or battle.net and play the same game title with everyone across the world despite the fact that we all share vastly different hardware.

And this is exactly why a lot of PC game developers have no idea why their games run at 1fps on consoles. This is EXACTLY the type of stuff that a console game developer has to take into account to make sure they get the most out of their hardware. And the trade-off that Blizzard had to make to get WoW running on so many different hardware configurations is a general loss of performance (>50%) compared to optimized console games.

Re:Obvious (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227387)

general loss of performance (>50%)

This number sound ridiculously high to me. Can you cite a reliable source for that?
Surely there will be a performance loss, but I seriously doubt it will be anything close to that magnitude.
Either way it'd be very difficult to compare the performance of a multi-platform MMO to a single-platform MMO considering the "MMO"-aspect probably limits performance far more than the number of platforms it runs on.

Re:Obvious (4, Insightful)

non0score (890022) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227573)

Unless a cross-platform game company is willing to release their figures, I can't really cite a source. Even then, they can only release their numbers for the GPU (for obvious reasons).

To put this into perspective, let's just consider writing a game on the PS3 using console methodology vs. PC methodology. To begin with, you gain >50% performance just switching from PS3's OpenGL implementation to libGCM (15fps to 25fps...sad, I know). Then you consider the fact that you can carefully maintain your buffer states, early Z, double Z, special caches, etc...which is about 5~15% performance PER item (in addition to the fact that you can reinstate the buffer states). Then you consider the fact that you don't need to flush the rendering pipeline (~0.Xms per full flush), custom MSAA resolves (saves passes), hidden functions not exposed on PC hardware, texture bandwidth vs. computing power trade-offs, less worry about batched draw calls, etc.... In the end, it adds up to >50% performance loss going from hardware-specific to hardware-agnostic with an abstraction layer (DirectX or OpenGL). Put it another way: PS3 can push out about a couple million polygons per frame with all sorts of effects and stuff. You'd be hard pressed to find a PC game with a cross-hardware engine pushing out the same render quality at half the framerate.

On the other hand, the Intel CPU is way powerful and there really isn't a way for me to compare that vs. the PPC derivatives on the consoles. But trust me when I say that I've seen 1000X speedup by going from excellent C code to highly optimized ASM, which you can only feasibly get by working on a fixed hardware. However, I'm going to stop giving more details as I don't want to break NDA (everything I've said can be found on the web at very legitimate sites). If you want to know about the inner workings of the GPU (and maybe the CPU), you can always check out blogs such as Wolfgang Engel's (and remember to read comments!) or other GDC/SIGGRAPH presentations.

Re:Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227751)

You work for sony right?

Re:Obvious (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227689)

general loss of performance (>50%)

This number sound ridiculously high to me. Can you cite a reliable source for that?

Seems rather low to me. It's well known that all the layers of abstraction between your CPU/GPU and the running program really slow things down. PCs have vastly faster hardware, and look at what they pull off!

I once heard from a game developer that the XBox360 has about as much processing power as a 2.0ghz Athlon 64. The XBox360 CPU is pretty weak, but with minimal OS overhead, almost no multitasking, and compilers that optimize perfectly for that particular CPU... it's much easier to milk performance. 50% doesn't seem unreasonable. Even claims of 80% loss wouldn't surprise me.

I've read first hand discussions from the GP2X(device) emu devs(writing emus for arm processors) that hand optimized assembly in specific areas boosted performance of their emus by 60%. That's huge! That's not just the running bits sped up 60% - the entire program's framerate went up that much.

Sony built an assembler for the PS2 that does a near-perfect job keeping all the registers and stuff full. Factoring this in, and what the emu devs stated, 50% really doesn't seem like a high estimate. And since the devs have no choice but to code better algorithms(rather than just bumping up the system requirements a tad), 50% almost seems too small to be feasible.

But just consider all the dev time saved. :)

Re:Obvious (4, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227379)

I disagree. The question is why doesn't EA treat its software like any other game maker who puts out a PC title.

Because it's flatly not possible for EA to do that. The console manufactures have strict guidelines about online play, and without their authorization, a game doesn't get published. It's possible for Sony, MS, and Nintendo to allow it; but it would be an unlikely exception.

Re:Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227433)

The simple fact is your WRONG. The PC world doesn't have vastly differing hardware and software at all. Games are written to a software framework not to hardware, DirectX, OpenGL etc, those specs are identical regardless of what hardware your on so the games don't care and then even the hardware while differing levels of power is basically the same core architecture, x86/x64. Sony/MS/Nintendo all use vastly different gaming frameworks and also vastly differing hardware platforms. The difference between the 360 and the PS3's CPU architecture is vastly different than the difference between PC's. That being said the reason there is not a lot more cross platform gaming is that it is not in their respective financial interests to provide it.

Re:Obvious (0, Flamebait)

DaHat (247651) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227709)

> The simple fact is your WRONG.

Actually... he's right... and you are not only wrong, but rather dumb to boot! It's a good thing you posted anonymously... otherwise that post could come back to haunt you for the utter stupidity you displayed.

>The PC world doesn't have vastly differing hardware and software at all.

So the underlying OS doesnâ(TM)t matter much? Or which version of pixel shaders or how much ram is in the box?
Perhaps you should get to know the Steam Hardware Survey: http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey [steampowered.com]

Whole heck of a lot of DX 8 & 9 machines out there.

Obviously Steam hasnâ(TM)t gotten the memo that the PC world doesnâ(TM)t have vastly differing hardware... otherwise they wouldnâ(TM)t care much, now would they?

Moving on... let us just focus on the GPU side of things for a moment... shall we?

While it is true that various iterations of Direct X/OpenGL have various standards of supported features... it is not uncommon for game makers to take advantage of specific extensions/features that one GPU class or another exposes that is not fully DX/OGL compatible.

This is coupled with the fact that not all cards of the same GPU type and speed are created equal... after all, letâ(TM)s not forget that the amount of RAM in a given desktop can vary widely, coupled with the amount of ram on the video card is also variable between PCs... the developer needs to be very careful with their memory usage depending on how low end of a machine they want the game to run on.

The advantage of consoles is of course you have a known platform you can target and exploit without the need to worry about lesser systems... or allowing your game to grow with time or have additional features/effects/resolutions only be available with the next wave of video cards that wonâ(TM)t see most desktops for another year or two.
At the end of the day... DX and OGL are simply the lowest common denominators... and while they can do much... at times you can do even more if you target something specifically.

>The difference between the 360 and the PS3's CPU architecture is vastly different than the difference between PC's

Half true... though as most competent developers will tell you, with the proper designs up front, writing an application that is available on multiple platforms is extremely doable... it all comes down to the question of if it is worth the time and energy required.

>That being said the reason there is not a lot more cross platform gaming is that it is not in their respective financial interests to provide it.

You finally said something that was correct... although largely nonsensical.

Re:Obvious (4, Insightful)

Laminan (1625947) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227217)

This reminds me of the classic prisoner's dilemna and nash equilibrium. Clearly if they all cooperate they could create a common platform that would allow people to use software across their hardware platforms. But those who do not participate and get exclusive titles, would then be at an advantage. People might buy their 'one extra' console just to get those exclusive titles. It is silly, but that is a peak in the mind of a video gamepublishing exec.

Re:Obvious (4, Informative)

Sparton (1358159) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227287)

That's pretty much it. My buddy is a test coordinator at EA, and his stories about games failing for the stupidest guideline violations never ends.

And I think that's what it's really about: each company has their own guidelines (from Nintendo's save screen longer than 0.15 seconds has to have a message that you can read, to Sony's all of "PLAYSTATION 3" has to be capitalized). If a version of the game was submitted to one console maker, got passed, but failed at a different one, that means they need to change code for a version and still make sure it's compatible with the older versions that passed under someone else's watch.

And never mind shinanigans related to updating the game (or virtual lack of ability in Nintendo's case).

Re:Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227383)

If a version of the game was submitted to one console maker, got passed, but failed at a different one, that means they need to change code for a version and still make sure it's compatible with the older versions that passed under someone else's watch.

Its worse then that. Each console manufacturer has different regions. I've had a game pass in Europe, and fail in North America because one trade mark icon was on the left instead of the right. It looked stupid on the right, and we had gotten a waiver for it, but apparently the waiver was only valid in Europe. The various region certifications don't talk to each other and want other things. We even had one patch go out, certified in one region, that region comes back later and said 'oh we missed this, yah your patch is still certified and will go out in 2 days, but we'd like you to patch it for then'. I could tell more stories about certification frustrations, but after a game goes out, your mind kind of scabs over and you forget about them. :)

I'm just glad I've never worked on a DS title, I've heard that Nintendo always, and I mean always, bounces a third party game, and its always for a new and strange reason.

Re:Obvious (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227329)

Posting Anonymously for this. There is no software reason why the two consoles don't share games. In development as an online engineer for another title (I don't work on Madden so I can't say for sure for them) I've actually done some game play tests between development consoles, it helps work out some uninitialized values and corner cases that cause online crashes when dealing with sloppy programming. But development consoles can work in non-secure mode, retail consoles can't. As developers we have to send everything out as secure. That means that a PS3 can't talk directly to a XBox360. The consoles can't even talk directly to the servers, instead they have to go through gateways that decrypts the data. The gateways are located centrally, and you can bet that Sony's gateway isn't going to talk to Microsoft's gateway (And I'm leaving a hell of a lot out here), so that means for one console to talk to another console it has to hit a central server, adding three machines, and a lot of hops/latency to the mix.

The gimped up networking layer is one of the reasons I'm glad I got out of online development, and into a much less stressful area. Everything, and I mean everything, can @#$@ up online, and its up to the online engineers to fix it. Someone forgets to initialize a variable in the game play engine, a bug only appears online, its up to online to find it, going though code that they haven't designed, written or looked at before. I've even had a mistimed animation cause a disconnect on me. That makes online very conservative, and you could say very religious as in 'please god don't let it @#&$ up on my watch'. The typical Online engineer is only about 5 hours from burn out, they aren't going to suggest xbox 360 - PS3 gaming. Besides I'm pretty sure that both MS and Sony have their lawyers on the case that you can't interpenetrate between the two. But also Online Engineers want to help make a great game. And they would love to add in cross platform play if they could, and if they had the men to do it, don't get me wrong about it, but online has never been a focus in most sports games, and are constantly over capacity.

Re:Obvious (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227655)

Also client/server model of these networks would require Live servers (Xbox) to enumerate Sony clients on PSN and vice-versa, that would mean sharing network authentications/certs/codes and such. That can't happen as it would give the enemy access to your network, for example all updates to your protocols and similar things would require negotiation with the other network, managers on both sides would be scared to do that.

Anonymous Coward. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227081)

I actually read something about this the other day... Sony doesnt care about it. They are actually allowing cross platform with the upcoming FFXIV MMORPG on Windows/PS3. I can't say I agree or disagree with MS's reasoning, but it has to do with Quality Control on XBOX360. Back in the PS2 and XBOX days, all servers were managed by the developer. After a few years, servers shut down, and people still continue to buy the game only to find out that when they try to go online, it doesnt work anymore. Since XBL users pay 50 bucks per year, MS has to offer quality control that all online games will be able to be played online. Since with a PC and PS3 the network access is free, SONY doesnt owe anything to their users.

Re:Anonymous Coward. (2)

SeeManRun (1040704) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227141)

MS and Sony do not host the servers, the game company does, and it is up to them to decide to stop hosting them, and as far as I know, all that money goes to MS for xbox live subscription fees, none to the developers. However, Microsoft is very interested if one of the big titles on their platform experiences outages while many people are playing.

Re:Anonymous Coward. (3, Informative)

assassinator42 (844848) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227377)

Where did you see that?
I'm pretty sure Microsoft by default handles all of the server for matchmaking and leaderboards. I remember back with the first Xbox that Microsoft had to develop a protocol to allow Live games to communicate with the game company's server. This was done at the insistence of EA, who would not release titles with online play unless they could control the servers. This is why you have to accept a separate EULA and make a separate account to online with some EA games. I remember games like Burnout 3 and Revenge not working right for a few days after launch because of problems connecting to EA's servers. This is also why old EA games like Timesplitters 3 no longer work on the Xbox while you can still play all(?) of the older games that rely on Microsoft's servers.
As shown by what they've already done, EA has enough leverage to force Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to allow cross-platform play. I doubt you'd find any resistance from Nintendo, as they lack a truly unified online play system like Microsoft and Sony have.

Re:Anonymous Coward. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227511)

Damnit, why is there no -1 Wrong moderation?!?

Oh well, I guess -1 Overrated will have to do :-P

Re:Anonymous Coward. (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227281)

Now there's an oxymoron; XBox and Quality Control. "Multiplayer worked great until it melted through the floor."

Re:Anonymous Coward. (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227313)

The existing FFXI MMORPG already works on PS2, PC and 360, so it's definitely possible to do, probably just more effort than it's worth for a non-MMO title.

Re:Anonymous Coward. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227441)

The simplest thing one has to do to support this is nothing more than having all network platforms having byte-compatible messages. That means that the server needs to send to each client according to its endianness.
It of course depends on the network protocol each game chooses - there are tons of ways of defining that. Some 3rd party network packages synchronize by mirroring the exact classes in memory and that is obviously a bit of a hassle when you want to have byte-compatible code across platforms that have different endianness.
So I for one believe that it's mostly up the network library of each company. In other words, having one "protocol" per platform is easy.

Re:Anonymous Coward. (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227585)

Network access on the playstation isn't free. It's just a different model. The person providing the content pays for it essentially. So if you download a 'free' wallpaper from the PSN the guy who put it up there pays. If you buy FFVII from the PSN, Square Enix pays. I haven't looked at the PSN contract lately (not being in the PS3 dev business so much anymore), but I think it was a per gig rate too, so if you had something big, and free you could bankrupt yourself if it was sufficiently popular.

There's not fundamental reason why you can't do cross platform play. It's just developer convenience. You tie the online services of a game into the respective platform (or in the case of the PC you need your own platform, unless you lose your brain and use Games for Windows Live). If you want to write your own platform for the PC and on the server side figure out how to talk to the PSN and XBOX live stuff you probably can, but it wouldn't be trivial.

The MMO guys have a whole other ballgame with MMO's since patches normally go through Sony/MS quality control - a not so fast process. So either square enix has negotiated a special deal, or all of their patches for FFXIV will have to be approved by Sony first, and then pushed live. That creates a real mess if you're doing all 3, since the PC you could in principle sign off on it, and publish it immediately to your server, and then you have to wait until *both* MS and Sony sign off on a patch, and if you have to make changes for one you may have to resubmit for both etc. I wouldn't want the hassle. As I say, maybe you could get a special agreement with Sony/MS if you're big enough, but those system are in place for a reason; it's all to easy to screw something up.

Merge Difficulties (2, Insightful)

quanticle (843097) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227083)

Even if Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo were to come to an agreement about common online elements tomorrow, it'd still be nontrivial to merge all the player data, handle duplicate usernames, handle comparisons of records between different platforms and the such. Even if we disregard the political aspects, the technical aspects are daunting, and likely to grow even more so as these services continue to grow independently of one another.

Re:Merge Difficulties (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227181)

I'm sorry, but the technical aspects in this case are utterly trivial. Interoperability is undesirable for these companies, period. They don't want to invite comparison, they don't want to spend $0.01 on anything that could help their rivals, and they don't want to pay for increased bandwidth on "their" networks from customers that aren't theirs. This is not irrational of course and they have every right to keep things as they are, but let's not pretend it would be at all difficult. All of the technical aspects are solved problems and have been for a *long* time.

Open Standards:Merge Difficulties (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227721)

It is unlikely that there could be any kind of agreement on a common online elements.

We already know how MS handles an ISO standard like OXML.

While you could see and shoot at any other player in the game, you can't hit them and they can not hit you.

Because MS wants you to run out of ammo and buy more.

well I'm sure it varies from game to game (5, Funny)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227085)

but I do know that the keyboard+mouse guys would _destroy_ the gamepad people in any sort of FPS.

also emacs is better than vi.

simple answer: everyone hates opengl (-1, Offtopic)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227095)

...and nobody even has heard of SDL

Isolated incompatible sandboxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227129)

Each console has its own magic connectivity protocols - encryption, profiles, NAT, matchmaking, friends, invites, messaging, leaderboards, voice chat, and so on. Generally, you (as a console programmer) can't see the whole internet; you can only see connections which you get from the specific console net APIs, which are filtered to only let through things coming from signed compatible consoles. Behind the scenes these protocols are supa-secret to prevent people from being able to sneak packets through (to prevent cheating among other things).

Single network (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227139)

There was one or two games that allowed play between PC/360/PS3 (I forget which) but the publisher ran their own game servers and completely avoided PSN/XBL.

I believe all 3 networks (PSN/XBL/Nintendo) have in their agreements that you will use their network exclusively if you use it at all. Thus it's use theirs and have no cross-platform network play or run your own servers. Of course it's always cheaper to use the game networks.

Implementation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227147)

It's how it's implemented. The time it takes one machine to calculate different parts of the game code is different between the two machines. In the end it becomes rather difficult to keep the consoles in sync because of the differing rates (nobody wants to have one player catch the ball on one machine while on the other it's a miss because he wasn't close enough). From what I know they actually just send the inputs across and each console calculates the output on their own and the coders are responsible for keeping the AI deterministic so this is possible. Turns out the developers really don't care about the money as much as you'd like to think. The execs do, developers, not so much.

its a good thing! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227167)

We ps3 owners dont want to listen to squeky voice pre-teenagers ruining the game all the time.

We do not want them. Please god, let them stay on that other console, the one that they can afford.

 

Re:its a good thing! (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227417)

This is the funniest "selling point" that I hear Sony fans repeating. "Our console is so expensive it keeps out the riff-raff."

Christ, the PS3 is a great machine, but a lot of their owners have very fragile egos. Reminds me of Apple consumers.

Pretty sure that is a Live issue (1)

Derekloffin (741455) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227195)

Sony's infrastructure is basically open. Yes, it has some commonalities between programs, but in the end it is the game developer that has control of the network for their game. Ms took the opposite route and went with a closed network where they control almost everything. So, unless they make a special deal (ala what's been done with Final Fantasy XI), cross platform isn't allowed. For example, Live has it's own user account with all the capabilities to talk, block, etc with other live users. However, there really is nothing in place to deal with a non-live user which is obviously a necessity if you want to actually play with them.

Re:Pretty sure that is a Live issue (2, Insightful)

RoadDoggFL (876257) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227243)

I agree with this, but didn't notice until now that cross-platform gameplay (PC-to-console) has been done on the 360 with Live (Shadowrun, FFXI) but not with the PS3/PSN. Even the Dreamcast let console players play in games with/against PC players. Just find it odd. As for the initial question, MS has a lot more to lose by letting PS3 players play online with players on the 360. It'd hugely tarnish the perceived value of Live if every game you joined was already full of people playing online for free.

its a really simple answer (5, Funny)

Nyall (646782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227197)

PS3s are big endian machines.
Xbox 360s are little endian.

Q.E.D They can't talk to each other.

Re:its a really simple answer (0, Flamebait)

Chainsaw (2302) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227259)

PS3s are big endian machines. Xbox 360s are little endian.

Q.E.D They can't talk to each other.

Oh, right, that's why all of those PowerPC equipped Macs couldn't connect to networks and exchange information with my x86 Linux server: they had different endians.

No, actually, that's bullshit. There is absolutely no reason at all why the endian should matter. If a piece of software can't communicate with another because of different endians, the programmers should be dragged out into the woods and be shot.

Network byte order. Look it up.

Re:its a really simple answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29227319)

Woooooosh!

Re:its a really simple answer (2, Insightful)

Nyall (646782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227325)

woosh went over your heads. A silly question got a glib answer.

Re:its a really simple answer (1)

Yoozer (1055188) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227739)

different endians

The fact that we have to deal with something as ridiculous as different endians in the first place should've caused severe punishment already for all involved.

Re:its a really simple answer (1, Informative)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227283)

Uh, no, otherwise PowerPC Macs wouldn't be able to talk TCP/IP with Intel-based PCs. What you do is define the protocol to use one endian and the platforms that use the opposite just convert incoming data. Usually you'd define the on-wire protocol to use big-endian (also called "network endian" - it's also what TCP/IP uses). The same thing works for file formats, though there a third option that seems to be reasonably popular is to allow for both endiannesses in the format, using a magic word to distinguish between them. Then all ports of the software need to include the ability to swap bytes as they read a file.

IIRC both consoles have a fast instruction to swap the bytes of a word, so the overhead is trivial. Endianness is a complete non-issue regarding network interoperability.

Re:its a really simple answer (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227337)

PS3s are big endian machines. Xbox 360s are little endian. Q.E.D They can't talk to each other.

Gee, if only someone would discover the mystical secret of translating between big and little endian [devx.com] .

Re:its a really simple answer (1)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227341)

PS3s are big endian machines.
Xbox 360s are little endian.

Q.E.D They can't talk to each other.

Epic failure to grok network byte order seen on Slashdot. Film at 11.

Re:its a really simple answer (4, Funny)

SEE (7681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227429)

Is that a big-endian 11 or a little-endian 11?

Re:its a really simple answer (0, Flamebait)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227411)

Dumbest post I've read so far today

Those state of the art latest generation platforms have complex features which allows them to do never seen before things like "swap bytes". It probably takes a whole part of a cycle to do so, but it gets there in the end.

Also, pretty much every type of computer in the world has been talking with each other over the internet comfortably for quite a number of years now. How is that possible if endianness makes this impossible?

Re:its a really simple answer (1)

cskrat (921721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227515)

Maybe if you were trying to tie them together on the same mainboard. But over TCP/IP not an issue.

Re:its a really simple answer (1)

Jthon (595383) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227661)

I hope you're joking since the TCP/IP and UDP protocols have the concept of "host order" and network order. All packets should be translated to network order before sending them over the network.

Plus both systems run PowerPC based chips which run big endian so even if they didn't bother doing the host to network order translation you that won't be the cause of your networking failure.

Economics, pure and simple (1)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227331)

I'll put my 2 cents on the economics of the matter, rather than "vendor lock-in" or whatever. The platform gaming networks provide frameworks for the game developers plus the operational infrastructure (servers, server-side software, bandwidth, ops staff, etc.) and distributes that cost across all of the games on the platform that utilize it. This is likely to be far more economical for the publisher, as compared to coding and testing the client and server side code and paying the capital and upkeep costs of the network infrastructure. Also, the players may benefit further in that I suspect platform-wide backends will probably have a longer supported lifespan than game-specific backends. Time will tell.

Cross platform console work (2, Informative)

Fnagaton (580019) | more than 5 years ago | (#29227513)

The Xbox and Xbox 360 use encryption implemented in the kernel as part of the Xbox Live matchmaking. There are many reasons for this but the main ones are security to help stop people altering the packets and cheating. This encryption is a requirement mandated by Microsoft before a title can be published. The encryption does mean the other consoles cannot decode those packets, unless a lot of effort is spent to reverse engineer the encryption and Xbox Live protocols. I have a feeling that if a publisher/developer did reverse engineer the Live encryption and protocols and used that to get Sony and Xbox consoles to join the same game then Microsoft would probably pull the plug on that title.

During development of titles I've had the Microsoft and Sony consoles happily joining the same games, but during development the encryption can be turned off. The PC build also had no problems joining the network session. This is because such titles tend to have the same network code and communicate the same data (before it gets encrypted).

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