Next Gen Battle: Too many OSes…

A few things have struck me as the specifications of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have been revealed. Without being too much of tech-head I’ve been getting the impression that the core technology of the 2 machines is pretty damn similar. They both have similar AMD chipsets with the same amount of memory.

Microsoft have pretty much admitted they held back the Xbox One specifications from the bleeding edge so that Kinect could be a standard feature and the price kept down.

The much trumpeted difference in the media is that the PS4 uses a newer, faster type of memory. In theory this will mean, as I understand it, that there are potentially less bottlenecks in processing data.

The only really obvious way to compare machines is, of course, multi-format titles. This generation the PS3 was hampered by being too complex and it’s inflexible allocation of memory, usually leaving the 360 as the lead format due to it’s similarity to PC architecture with which many programmers were familiar.

With this new generation much has been made by Sony of the PS4 going for a developer-friendly PC-esque architecture, so on the face of it with similar specs multi-format titles will be virtually identical.

If the developers decide to opt for the Xbox as the lead again this time I can potentially see Sony’s machine not being pushed by these titles and only exclusives, again, being optimised. The thing is unlike last time I can see the PS4 being home to the superior multi-platform titles.

Let me explain my thinking.

Microsoft has said that Xbox One uses THREE operating systems. One for the gaming, one for the multimedia/Kinect and a third to talk between the other two. I can’t be the only person who thinks this is overcomplicated and asking for trouble can I?

Surely all this faffing about is going to take away processing power from gaming? They say “too many cooks spoil the broth”, I can see the problem in this instance being too many operating systems.

If both had one OS  and the same speed of memory then it would be mostly about small technical differences and maybe who could produce the speediest operating system. Add in three OSes and you would expect the machine with one OS on otherwise equal machines to be slower at performing the same tasks. The fact that it’s not only hampered by three OSes but also has a core component (the memory) that is slower doesn’t bode well.

Even if the three operating systems used the same amount of resources as the PS4’s one OS, they are bound to be more complicated to program for simply because there are three. Even if a game is only dealing with one of them there will likely be a knock-on effect of some sort somewhere.

So why if, for this example, the Xbox One was the lead format would the PS4 version be potentially superior? Well this time the PlayStation isn’t “more powerful but too complicated”. This time it is likely to be just as easy to develop for with it’s new PC-esque design, if not easier because of the smaller number of operating systems. This combined with the faster memory could mean that even if the developer has pushed the Xbox One performance-wise the PS4 would have some breathing room.

Imagine you have a scene in current generation game with a lot of action going on. In a multi-platform game the PS3 version is, according to most reports I’ve read (though less likely now than it was), more likely to have a jerkier or at least lower frame rate than the 360 version.

Now think about an equivalently busy action scene based on my thinking I’ve explained so far. The extra breathing room, however small, would likely allow the PS4 to have the higher frame rate or at least maintain it more consistently.

I’ve tried to be as objective as possible with this and, as I alluded to earlier, I’ve only given the sets of specifications a brief look over and judged them on a combination of other’s “expert” analysis and my own technological knowledge. What I’ve speculated about is just that, not fact. It will be a good few years after the launch other the Xbox One and PS4 before we know the real story.

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