PS3: 'Still a Pain in the arse' for Developers

By Ben Strauss

PlayStation 3 has had something of a reputation in development circles for being incredibly hard to work with at times.  This stigma has held up for the past five years, as developers are still at odds with how the system forces them to work.  One such developer, Vigil (Darksiders), has been vocal about the problems as of late, claiming that working on Darksiders II has been exasperating.

“It’s a pain in the arse to work on,” said Darksiders II director Marvin Donald. “Five years later, getting used to it? That means it’s a pain in the arse. I’m not an engineer, but I hear about it all the time. We have to do wacky stuff with the way we manage memory.”

The main problems, as described by Donald, have to do with memory management and distribution of assets. 

“Even as an artist, it’s like, OK, my textures are too big, I’m in trouble because I checked in something that’s making the 360 crash because it’s a 20×48 when it really should just be a 10×24, or even smaller,” he continued.  “But on the PlayStation 3, the assets go into different categories, and if one of those categories becomes too bloated it’ll crash the system. It’s a little bit more sensitive on the PS3 in that regard. There are some things you just can’t do, or you have to do differently. Yeah, it’s a pain.”

Sony seems content with how they have developed their hardware, citing the need to keep a 10-year lifecycle for the PS3.  Sony Computer Entertainment boss Kaz Hirai even confirmed the difficulties of working with the PS3.

“It’s hard to program for, and a lot of people see the negatives of it, but if you flip that around, it means the hardware has a lot more to offer,” Hirai stated in February 2009 to the Official PlayStation Magazine. “We don’t provide the ‘easy to program for’ console that [developers] want, because ‘easy to program for’ means that anybody will be able to take advantage of pretty much what the hardware can do, so then the question is what do you do for the rest of the nine-and-a-half years?”

With the development hurdles of the PS3, one simply has to wonder about the possibility of a PS4 coming sooner, rather than later.  As rumours abound about a fast approaching PS4 reveal, could Sony be thinking about how to ease the process for developers?

“They have to do things their way,” commented Donald. “Somebody over there is going to think it’s better. And it’s really just different, which makes it a pain for everyone to port games back and forth. But, whatever. We’ll see.”

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