Wednesday, June 23, 2004

XBox Next Specs

So, the last few days there has been a big furor over the leaked XBox Next specs. Obviously it is a little early for things to be quite as firmed up as the article claims. But then again, it jives with every other rumor about the system that I have seen (PowerPC processors, 256M memory, no hard drive potentially, etc, etc).

The big thing I noticed was the crazy turn the console is taking. Triple core system, with what appears to me to be something like hyperthreading, where each core can run more then one thread (2 to be exact). That is 6 threads. Now to some extent that makes sense when you read the section talking about all the audio mixing being done on CPU rather the a dedicated sound chip. But, how hard is the thing going to be to program. I mean, its got a fricking GPU too, which has to be kept busy while you keep 6 threads running across all the processors.

Multi-threading is hard, especially to do efficiently. And almost all game engines today are single threaded. Oh, they might use some slave threads to load data, or maybe they go crazy and have a sound thread and an input thread. But for the most part they tick the world and sent the state off to be rendered. The only major engine that I am aware of that flaunts SMP capability is the OLD Quake 3 engine. And that always seemed more like a 'I'm John Carmack and better at programming then anyone else' type feature then something that was actually meant for serious performance gain.

People complained about the PS2, its complicated, proprietary hardware, and the difficulty getting the vector processor and other CPUs all working together as efficiently as possible. Unless those hyped XNA libraries are incredible, I think the XBox Next is shaping up to be REALLY difficult to program.

Oh, and then they made it Big-Endian as well, just another kick in the pants for all those PC developers-turned XBox developers. Although Big Endian probably is a Power PC thing rather then a conscious 'Lets be difficult' decision.

No comments: