More PlayStation 5 Details Surface

More information has come to light about the upcoming PlayStation 5.

In an exclusive interview Wired, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan, System Architect Mark Cerny, and others revealed new information about the console. Firstly and to the surprise of no one, the console will be official called the PlayStation 5. “It’s nice to be able to say it,” said Ryan, “like a giant burden has been lifted from my shoulders.”

Ignoring what we already know from past reports, Cerny began by clarifying the ray-tracing support discussed before. He revealed it was not a “software-level fix”. “There is ray-tracing acceleration in the GPU hardware, which I believe is the statement that people were looking for.” This was in reference to questions he had gotten after revealing the PlayStation 5’s ray-tracing support.

Cerny also emphasized the system’s solid-state drive (which had previously been demonstrated to slash loading times to fractions of a second) was also efficiency. “If you look at a game like Marvel’s Spider-Man,” Cerny says, “there are some pieces of data duplicated 400 times on the hard drive.” 

While a regular hard drive may have to use techniques like this to reduce load times, Cerny claims the SSD will allow for faster reading speed and save space. This extra space could hypothetically be used for more detailed environments, or make games and patches smaller. PlayStation 5 games will use 100-GB optical disks. The consoles’s drive will also function as a 4K Blu-ray player.

The SSD and optical drive run at different speeds, meaning game installation will be mandatory. However, storing, configuring installations and removals will take a different approach. As Cerny states “Rather than treating games like a big block of data, we’re allowing finer-grained access to the data.” Wired gave the example of just installing a game’s multiplayer campaign, while installing the single-player later; or installing the whole game but installing the campaign once you are done.

The user interface has also been given a make-over, allowing players to see what their friends are up to in single-player games and join in multiplayer games easier. Cerny explains:

“Even though it will be fairly fast to boot games, we don’t want the player to have to boot the game, see what’s up, boot the game, see what’s up. Multiplayer game servers will provide the console with the set of joinable activities in real time. Single-player games will provide information like what missions you could do and what rewards you might receive for completing them- and all of those choices will be visible in the UI. As a player you just jump right into whatever you like.”

The interviewer (Peter Rubin) was also given the controller. Described as “an unlabeled matte-black doohickey that looks an awful lot like the PS4’s DualShock 4.” However, thanks to a hole and a patent for a voice-driven AI assistant, Rubin was prompted to ask if it was a microphone. Cerny simply stated “We’ll talk more about it another time.” An unnamed spokesperson stated later “We file patents on a regular basis, and like many companies, some of those patents end up in our products, and some don’t.”

While Cerny says the controller is currently unnamed, naming convention would dictate it being called the DualShock 5. Cerny did reveal it had adaptive triggers that offer varying levels of resistance to- as Rubin puts it- “make shooting a bow and arrow feel like the real thing- the tension increasing as you pull the arrow back- or make a machine gun feel far different from a shotgun.” It will also have haptic feedback as oppose to a rumble motor and programmable voice-coil actuators in the grips.

The haptics and improved speaker on the controller work together. For example, in the demos Rubin played (from Japan Studio, the developers of PlayStation VR’s Astro Bot Rescue Mission). Rubin explains the most “impressive” demo, where the controller reacted to the environment his character was in.

“I ran a character through a platform level featuring a number of different surfaces, all of which gave distinct- and surprisingly immersive- tactile experiences. Sand felt slow and sloggy; mud felt slow and soggy. On ice, a high-frequency response made the thumbsticks really feel like my character was gliding. Jumping into a pool, I got a sense of the resistance of the water; on a wooden bridge, a bouncy sensation.”

Rubin also played a demo of a game that Sony had ported via the PS5 devkit. Rubin notes the devkit looked “a lot” like the dev kit that leaked in August 2019. However, no statement was issued on how PlayStation 5 would be shaped compared to the devkit.

The demo was of of Gran Turismo, and Rubin describes how the controller reacted to the different terrain the car drove on.

“Driving on the border between the track and the dirt, I could feel both surfaces. Doing the same thing on the same track using a DualShock 4 on a PS4, that sensation disappeared entirely. It wasn’t that the old style rumble feedback paled in comparison, it was that there was no feedback at all. User tests found that rumble feedback was too tiring to use continuously, so the released version of GT Sport simply didn’t use it.”

Product Manager Toshi Aoki said the controller team had been developing haptic feedback since the DualShock 4’s development. While it could have been included in the PlayStation 4 Pro, they felt doing so would have created a “split experience” for gamers.

Other, smaller differences over the DualShock 4 included a USB Type-C connector for charging (and play through the cable), and the larger battery and haptic motors making the controller heavier. Aoki stated the new controller would “still come in a bit lighter” than the current Xbox controller “with batteries in it.” While devkits were stated to have already been with “a number of studios,” the controller prototypes had only been sent out more recently.

New  games were kept under raps, however Marco Thrush (President of Bluepoint Games, the studio behind the Shadow of the Colossus remake) did state “We’re working on a big one right now. I’ll let you figure out the rest.” In the past the studio has worked on numerous HD ports and collections of PlayStation titles, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.

Thrush also spoke about the PlayStation 5 as well. “The SSD has me really excited. You don’t need to do gameplay hacks anymore to artificially slow players down- lock them behind doors, anything like that. Back in the cartridge days, games used to load instantly; we’re kind of going back to what consoles used to be.”

Laura Miele (Chief Studio Officer for Electronic Arts) also had high praise.

“I could be really specific and talk about experimenting with ambient occlusion techniques, or the examination of ray-traced shadows. More generally, we’re seeing the GPU be able to power machine learning for all sorts of really interesting advancements in the gameplay and other tools. […] We’re stepping into the generation of immediacy. In mobile games, we expect a game to download in moments and to be just a few taps from jumping right in. Now we’re able to tackle that in a big way.”

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

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