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Sony says: Cell can handle "branching" for AI better than the rest

Nick Doerr

When Sony introduced the new EDGE toolkit for developers, people began to listen in on the power of the PlayStation 3 and the Cell processor. While still difficult to program for, the toolkit is meant to alleviate some of the more confusing aspects of the new console. Sony also decided to sit down and chat with developers regarding the Cell and this new toolkit.

A developer claimed that there was no way to get interaction between the different SPUs of the Cell. This heralded Sony to come in and teach a miniature lesson about what does and doesn't work with the Cell's SPUs. The interesting tidbit spoken about was branching AI on the Cell. We'll use a quote here so we don't mess up the interpretation: "Branching is a common technique...where a program randomly chooses a few samples from a larger set of options, and then tests each to see which is the best...Most developers have claimed that the SPUs would be absolutely terrible for branching. As Sony put it however, branching is absolutely terrible for ALL processors. In their experience, they said, it is less terrible for the SPUs however. In the upcoming game Heavenly Sword, they said that moving the branching AI off of the Power Processor Unit (PPU) increased the performance of that particular process. In other words, the same branching ran better on the SPUs."

Since Sony has had success creating AI superior to that available on other consoles relying on different setups (triple-core PPC, etc), they've included ways for developers to have similar success with the EDGE kit. One more thing, too, was added into EDGE: "Sony said that much of their success with the Cell has come from the development of a tool they call the SPURS Kernel, a small program which sits on each SPU and enables it to better perform the tasks that programmers use it for. This SPURS Kernel was included in the EDGE suite of tools."

So what do you guys think? With this stuff, will more developers give the PS3 a more interested look? We really believe that saying all this stuff is good and all, but developers and consumers alike will need something tangible to prove these claims. Heavenly Sword was cited as an example of success regarding SPU AI branching... so, let's see it! We need something solid instead of words, as much as we'd love to take your word on this, Sony.

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