The winning streak had to come to a climax at some point, and many are pulling out their pitchforks in anticipation of that this evening. There were some mumblings on NeoGAF overnight regarding an imminent “console memory drama”, and that manifested itself earlier today in the form of a Eurogamer.net article about the PlayStation 4.
If the sight of computer internals makes you feel physically sick, then we’ll spare you the mumbo-jumbo; you can read the original article for all of the nitty-gritty. Essentially, our frustratingly savvy partners over at Digital Foundry managed to lay their hands on some secret PS4 documentation, containing some unknown technical snippets about the system. Remember that 8GB GDDR5 RAM? It’s not all used for games.
Initially, we thought that Sony was utilising around 1GB of the referenced tally for the console’s operating system, but it turns out that the machine’s actually employing a lot more. Well, sort of. The publication explains that the hardware currently reserves around 3.5GB GDDR5 RAM for system functions, leaving just 4.5GB for games. That’s actually a little bit less than the Xbox One’s slightly slower 5GB DDR3 RAM – but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
While it’s unlikely that PS4 launch games will use much more than the aforementioned figure, developers can request an additional 1GB GDDR5 RAM should they require it. It’s unclear what the stipulation for this is – and whether any studios will actually use it in the system’s first few months on the market – but it’s readily available should it be required.
And it’s the reason why you shouldn’t freak out over this technical tidbit: Sony is simply thinking ahead. Once an amount of RAM is assigned to developers, it can never be reclaimed. This proved a huge problem with the PlayStation 3, as resource-heavy features like cross-game chat were impossible to implement once the manufacturer had offered precious computational reserves to developers.
However, the same is not true in reverse. Developers may have access to just 4.5GB GDDR5 RAM right now, but as the company works to streamline the operating system and get a feel for what features are going to be important in the future, it can start to give some of the memory back to studios. So, there’s every possibility that outlets will gain admission to much more of the system’s resources in a year or two. In fact, we’re convinced that that’s the plan.
But does that mean that the launch games are going to look like trash? Well, you can judge for yourself based on the footage of Killzone: Shadow Fall and inFAMOUS: Second Son that's already been released. But let’s look at this another way: what did you think of The Last of Us’ visuals? Yeah, that was using 512MB of RAM.