Mark Cerny, the lead system architect for the Sony PlayStation 5, took a deep dive immediately into the solid-state storage drive (SSD) for the upcoming online game console that launches within the fall.

That’s fairly geeky speak for a sport console revelation, however Cerny did an excellent job explaining why the technique across the SSD is vital to each sport builders and avid gamers. The speak was extra like a developer-to-developer speak for the Game Developers Conference, however Sony took it on-line after GDC was canceled.

He revealed the small print throughout a video presentation, noting some trade historical past on the outset. He mentioned designing a sport console has to shoot for each revolutionary options and respect for the previous, equivalent to guaranteeing builders will know the way to make video games.

Cerny mentioned PlayStation four struck the proper stability on the way to stability efficiency with the familiarity with the x86 programming mannequin.

With PS5, the GPU was the half with probably the most pressure, putting a stability between innovation and familiarity. But the programming mannequin is similar, because the PS5 can have a most important chip that features each an Advanced Micro Devices central processing unit and a AMD Radeon RDNA 2 graphics processing unit. Both of these processors will likely be on the identical chip.

PlayStation 5: Mark Cerny’s deep dive into SSD memory

The SSD

PlayStation 5: Mark Cerny’s deep dive into SSD memory

Above: Mark Cerny traveled the world to get suggestions for the PS5 design.

Image Credit: Sony

On his explorations with greater than 100 sport builders, the principle request was so as to add stable state drive (SSD) reminiscence, which is quicker than a tough disk drive in delivering information for video games. Those laborious drives have been priceless in a method, as they made feeding information from Blu-ray disk drives potential, however builders have been banging up in opposition to the boundaries of the laborious drive.

“To me, the SSD is a game-changer,” Cerny mentioned.

It takes 2 milliseconds to 50 milliseconds to load information from a tough disk, at 50MBs to 100MBs a second by way of fetching the info from both the middle or the sting of a tough drive. Two-thirds of the time is spent finding the proper sport information, and a 3rd of the time is spent loading it. So 20 seconds has been the norm for giant transitions.

For gamers, that meant gradual load occasions and even gradual “fast travel” occasions. SSDs can load at 5GBs a second, with an nearly instantaneous search time to find information. So the load time for 2GBs of knowledge from an SSD is 2.7 seconds, or 10 occasions quicker.

For avid gamers, that is good. The sport for a PS5 will boot in a second. For reloading after you die, you might be instantly again within the motion.

But that’s not the principle motive that Cerny included the SSDs, he mentioned. The main motive is the SSD provides the sport designer extra freedom. The laborious drive sabotaged the sport design up to now. Like having a 30-second elevator journey to load one thing. They simply couldn’t do what they needed to do.

Developers got here up with options like storing information in chunks for associated objects, however it ends in objects being positioned in duplication many occasions on a Blu-ray disc or laborious disk. Patches take a very long time to put in as a result of new information must be duplicated earlier than being truly patched.

With a quicker SSD, system reminiscence (random entry reminiscence, or RAM) can now be used extra effectively. On the PS4, system reminiscence needed to retailer all of the reminiscence that might be used within the subsequent 30 seconds of gameplay. So information was sitting in reminiscence on the potential for use. With 16GB of most important reminiscence, or random entry reminiscence, the loading is quick sufficient to get the info and cargo it way more shortly, without having to retailer a lot in a cache. Lots of the PS4 information by no means obtained used. That’s not the case with PS5.

PlayStation 5: Mark Cerny’s deep dive into SSD memory

Above: The PlayStation 5 specs have arrived.

Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

So that helps get rid of the bottlenecks associated to loading speeds. To additional enhance speeds, Sony added a customized chip to function the interface to the flash reminiscence chips within the SSD.

By the way in which, RAM needs to be electrically refreshed and loses information when it’s turned off; flash reminiscence chips retain information even when the ability is turned off. As a outcome, flash can retailer video games completely whereas the quicker RAM is used as system reminiscence for a sport that’s being performed. All of those enhancements that Cerny is speaking about can be utilized by Microsoft as nicely on the Xbox Series X, which additionally makes use of SSDs.

Custom designs

PlayStation 5: Mark Cerny’s deep dive into SSD memory

Above: Sony’s specs vs Microsoft’s.

Image Credit: Sony/Microsoft

But Sony additionally tried so as to add its personal distinctive enhancements to the system and gameplay efficiency. This is the place it’s possible you’ll discover variations between the upcoming PS5 and the Xbox Series X.

With a customized flash reminiscence controller, Sony solved lots of the SSD bottlenecks. It may also help easy operation, with six ranges of precedence when studying from the SSD. While textures are being loaded, an enemy is perhaps shot and must saying some dying phrases. That interrupts the feel loading.

So Sony added 12-channels for the flash interface. That helps pace up the flash, however flash isn’t low-cost as a type of reminiscence. Sony needed to stability the fee, in order that it might hold the value of the console down. Sony centered on a flash measurement of 825GBs, connecting at a pace of 5.5 GB/second.

Rad Game Tools created Kraken, with 10% higher decompression efficiency for information. It was used on the PS4 and it was widespread for later video games within the PS4 era. The customized decompressor for Kraken is in the principle customized chip (which has each an AMD CPU and AMD Radeon RDNA 2 chip, and there’s a DMA controller, two I/O processors, and on-chip RAM, on the SSD chip. It hyperlinks to system reminiscence and to the customized flash controller.

“The whole processing of loading data and showing it to you happens faster,” Cerny mentioned.

Flash is dear, so you may add exterior laborious disk to the sport, at 100 megabytes for second. You can go away a library of video games on a tough drive, equivalent to PS4 video games. You can play these video games off the laborious drive in order for you.

You may also add exterior SSDs from the open market and set up them in a bay on the PS5. They connect with the customized I/O unit and reap the benefits of these options. But the exterior SSD needs to be as quick because the PS5 SSD.

There might be drives that assist 7GBs a second by the point the PS5 ships. Sony must take a look at which drives can meet necessities, so Cerny mentioned to carry off purchases of exterior SSDs in the mean time.

Sony is including backward compatibility of the PS5 in order that it may play PS4 video games.