Note: All information is accurate at the time of typing/publishing but there’s always a (pretty good) chance I’ve got some bits wrong so…yeah.
TASK 2 – CURRENT HARDWARE TECHNOLOGIES
I will talk about hardware technologies in games including Human Computer Interface (HCI) developments for some platforms, CPU and GPU technologies and more. I’ve chosen to focus on the PlayStation 4 platform in the platforms section but I will talk about a few games from different platforms later on.
HUMAN COMPUTER INTERFACES
In terms of consoles I will be talking about the controller for the PlayStation 4, the Dualshock 4. When it was first introduced in 1997, the Dualshock controller was capable of vibration feedback and analogue input thanks to the two analogue sticks. With two additional buttons being available thanks to the addition of the analogue sticks this allowed for a large increase in actions available to a player in game.
The Dualshock 2’s major innovation was that the analogue sticks now had pressure sensitivity and this sensitivity was also available to the other buttons enabling actions based on how hard buttons were being pressed or sticks tilted. The Dualshock 3, by way of the SIXAXIS controller, introduced gyroscopic motion controls and wireless controllers in order to allow more actions to the player in gameplay. The Dualshock 4 is the latest iteration of the device, pictured above, and includes a two-point touch pad on the front of the controller which can be clicked down. The controller includes the SIXAXIS component of the Dualshock 3 and LED bar on the top of the controller which can be used to identify which player is which during multiplayer games and also have feedback to games they are playing such as Green LED for full health or Red LED for low health states.
The Dualshock 4 featured the first time the controller received a physical redesign rather than on a technical level and one of the objectives for Sony was to try and make the controller far more ergonomic and comfortable to hold for extended durations of play.
As you can see in the image of the Dualshock 3, the handles are shorter so the controller doesn’t “sit” in the hand as comfortably as the Dualshock 4 does. Which Dualshock and Dualshock 2were portable easily because they were wired controllers, Dualshock 3 and 4 require a charging cable, although as one end is a USB it should be charge-able from any USB socket.
CPU, GPU, MEMORY, DISPLAY AND SOUND
A CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is the circuitry within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program. Modern CPUs are almost all microprocessors which means they are contained on a single integrated circuit chip. A GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit is a specialized electronic circuit design to rapidly manipulate and alter memory to accelerate the creation of images in a frame buffer intended for output to a display.
For example, the PlayStation 4 has a CPU made of two quad core modules, totalling eight cores. The base clock speed is a very low 1.6 GHz with a maximum speed of 2.75 GHz. The idea behind the PS4’s CPU system is to allow efficient multitasking when in low power modes such as standby etc. The GPU has a speed of 800 MHz and the entire system has access to a unified memory pool of 8GB of GDDR5 RAM.
One of the reasons for the large amount of RAM was to not only ensure console longevity but to also allow it to multitask in a market that increasingly wants diversified products capable of doing many different things. While some consumers simply want a console to play games others prefer something that’s a multimedia device and while the PS4 can play Blu Rays and stream YouTube and Netflix etc, it also has the capability to stream via Twitch etc to enhance the social aspect of the console. While the console can display photos and videos at a 4K resolution (3840×2160 or four times the amount of pixels as 1080p) no games are rendered at such a resolution, with adoption of the resolution being slow but primarily driven by services such as Netflix’s 4K streaming and Ultra HD Blu Rays.
It uses AMD True Audio chip for the sound, which supports in-game chat as well as a huge number of audio streams for use in a game. It also has a swappable 500GB SATA II hard drive, and while it supports SSD drives the lack of a SATA III interface makes a potential upgrade a bit of a waste since the limitations of SATA II mean the bandwidth for reading data makes an SSD upgrade a minor improvement.
I will also talk about the interaction with a game and the visual feedback you receive from the game Destiny. You control Destiny on the PS4 by a Dualshock 4 controller. This includes two analogue sticks, multiple face buttons, 2 shoulder buttons and two triggers. You use the left analogue stick to control your movement, the right stick to control the perspective of the first-person camera and the shoulder buttons and triggers to use unique abilities and shoot during combat.
In the bottom left you can see information relating to how much ammunition the player has and the cooldown on abilities like grenades or the class’ unique ability (the white bar will eventually turn yellow when available), although on some guns the bullet count is displayed on a LED-esque panel on the gun.
The objective tracker in the top left lets you know what direction to head in, and what you have left to do. You also receive audio feedback when you take damage, when your shields are completed or when objectives and activities and completed around the game world which helps to keep the player immersed in the experience rather than forcing them to dive through menus or be taken out of the game in order to check their progress.
Consoles and PCs use hard drives to support a large number of data but while the default options for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One total at 500gb, a quite small numer when most games have an install size of 30-50gb +, PCs have multiple terabytes of hard drive space. Sony use propriatery memory cards for their PS Vita handheld to help combat piracy that the PSP was plagued by. However this leads to greatly inflated prices due to zero competition with someone usually paying £1.50 or so per GB rather than on PC were you can get a 4TB Hard Drive for £100 or so.
Modern consoles all use Blu Ray discs which can store anywhere from 25-50GB + of data, although the Wii U is limited to 25GB discs. However PCs still use DVDs as the primary physical medium because while consoles have Blu Ray drives not all PCs do and also because the rise of third party software such as Steam, Origin and websites like GOG.com mean that PC gaming is moving towards a much more digital-centric future.