PlayStation 3

Hey everyone, we're at Sony's press event in Culver City to cover their unveiling of the PlayStation 3 this afternoon. Things are just getting started, to stay tuned for our comprehensive live coverage on Engadget and Joystiq!

PS3 Contortionist

Update: the parking lot ordeal was harrowing — they almost didn't let us in! It was a mob scene out there. Some journos were so desparate to get in that they went through all sorts of contortions for the gatekeepers. Check this lady out. That's a pushup with one foot above her head.

Ouch.

The presentation started with a little game history. "PlayStation 2 defined digital entertainment.... PlayStation Portable, the next revolution!" The chest thumping was accompanied by thumping speakers.

First up: Kaz Hirai. "Are you guys excited about E3?" The audience barely cheered, so he had to try again. C'mon, show us the goods, then we'll be excited... maybe.

He does the numbers: 190 million units of hardware, 2 billion units of software. He does the backwards compatibility thing. These are the Sony strengths, so he reminds the audience that these are the goods that Microsoft can't match. No surprises here, but a specific response to the Xbox team, who weren't so sure last week whether they'll be able to make the Xbox 360 play Xbox games. [Update: Xbox 360 will be backwards compatible.]

Queue pointless interlude of flashy CGI graphics (not sure what that was for).

Ken Kutaragi introduced, and he proceeds to give the audience another lesson on the history of the PlayStation consoles. From "Real-time 3D-CG" to "Emotion Engine." He confirms backwards compatibility of the PlayStation 3, eliciting the first audience applause since he took the stage.

Cut to a video of an IBM dude woodenly reading from a teleprompter (his eyes dart quickly left-to-right) about the cell processor system. "Even though at times it seemed like an impossible journey, the entire team overcame impossible challenges to meet the goals.... We are very excited to look forward to see all the entertainment this chip will help create." All that's missing from this mess of trite mumbo-jumbo the word "synergy."

Highly technical performance overview given, including the following slides:

ps3 floating point calculations

Sony's let go of the final specs and shots of the PlayStation 3. Here you go!

  • It will support Blu-ray (obviously), DVD±R/W, CD-R/RW
  • Backwards compatible with the PlayStation 2 and original Playstation
  • One 3.2GHz Cell processor—total system performance rated at 2.18 teraflops (uh, that's actually about twice what Microsoft is claiming the Xbox 360 will do); it will have 256MB system RAM 3.2GHz, and 256MB GDDR VRAM at 700MHz
  • The nVidia graphics will be called the RSX ("Reality Synthesizer"), and will trump the Xbox 360 with 1080p (yes, that's a p) graphics support.
  • There will be a 2.5-inch hard drive (i.e. laptop hard drive) attachment—a first for a Sony launch (no, we don't count the PSX and/or the FF add-on)
  • Memory Stick Duo slot, and very surprisingly, an SD and CF slots
  • Bluetooth support with up to seven wireless controllers
  • Six USB system ports

PlayStation 3

The Technology Demos

So the specs are beginning to wear on the audience and people around us are shifting in their seats. Show us the graphics already!

Sony is only too happy to oblige. In one of the earliest demos they show a gas station blowing up, repeatedly. Lots of bits and pieces flying through the air to prove that the processer can handle the detritus of an explosion with ease. Another demo showcased a flyover of luscious and detailed landscapes that had been generated through procedural software routines only. That's like fractals, right? Well, it looked good.

This was followed by a demo showcasing the PS3's new LOD technology, or "Lots of Ducks" as the executive showcasing the technology referred to it. It was a reference to the little rubber duckling that was shown during the PS2 "Emotion Engine" demo. Hey — it's been 6 years since the PS2 launched and still nobody can explain to us what the hell the "Emotion Engine" is, other than great marketing.

So back to the LOD technology. The old PS2 demo was shown and morphed into the PS3 rendering of the same scene. Ok... better graphics, same damned duck. Then they popped in a couple of pirate battleships, each with impressively animated sails getting shot through with cannonballs.

So what's better than a bathtub with one rubber ducky and a couple of toy ships? Well, there's probably as much plastic in an E3 booth babe as in one of those ducks, but unfortunately Sony filled the tub with about a thousand more ducks. They all bobbed happily on top of each other, each individually rendered and beautifully colliding.

Sony also demoed a new and improved EyeToy interacting with the water in the bathtub. Holding a cup in each hand, the demonstrator dipped them into the water and filled them up, and poured them out. He filled one cup and poured it into the other. This was very cool and one of the wow moments of the presentation. Ripples of excitement bounced through the audience. Sony clearly wants everyone to know that the PS3 makes bath time lots of fun.

ps3 cell architecture

(Photo: this is one of those "architecture" slides. Does it actually tell us anything? Someone sic Tufte on the Sony people, quick.)

Games, games, games.

The game demos were divided into two groups: established franchises and new stuff. The demos of established franchises were arguably the more impressive and more polished of the two batches.

New: Motor Storm (Sony). This demo included about 60 seconds of truly chaotic game footage. It's a racing game, but a wonderfully muddy, violent and georgeously rendered-one from the looks of this footage, which definitely jazzed the audience. On reaction alone this was a crowd favorite. In the footage, motor vehicles of all types (dirtbikes, ATVs, dune buggies, rally cars) crashed into each other as they raced through muddy gulches and over high embankments. Motorcycles rode over the tops of slower vehicles and sometimes got crushed by larger vehicles. The violence was crunching and visceral and the entire experience immersive as a result of the realistic way in which mud, people, and parts of vehicles flew absolutely everywhere. Screenshot shows a motorcycle rider about to get creamed by an exploding rally car that's flying through the air at him.

motor storm ps3

motorstorm ps3

motorstorm ps3

Established title: Killzone (Sony) This game about interplanetary strife appears to be Sony's answer to Halo. All of the elements are here: explosions, guns, high-tech vehicles that drop marines into hostile territory at great risk of bodily harm, blah blah. The demo footage looked extraordinary, and maybe this time developer Guerilla will nail Sony's answer to Halo. One of the reviewers of Killzone for the PS2 said:

The potential for Guerrilla to develop a truly impressive FPS title on the PS2 is obviously there, but it's a learning curve that players won't be scaling anytime soon. The PS2's answer to "Halo"? Don't make us laugh.

Here's to hoping that the game lives up to the impressive footage we saw during the PS3 unveiling. 

killzone thumbnail

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Engadget & Joystiq's live coverage of Sony's PlayStation 3 launch