My condolences to his friends and family. It's no exaggeration to say Ryan's output has been brightening my day for over 10 years now. He will be greatly missed by a great many people, most of us who only got to know him in a one directional way via his work.
Shivoa's forum posts
@mildmolasses: An analogy is not meant to be an identical situation. I am transferring the point to a different area so the argument against using the analogy is that the particulars of the transferred argument do not work. "These are not the same in several ways" is only a case if you can point to why the ways they are different invalidate the use of the analogy for this specific debate (on a product with a new and used market where the seller of the new product is able to increase their monetisation the used market with a simple method that makes their product worse for the move, this is Adrian's case for why used makes games worse).
Most people do buy other games because their current one does not function as they desire. Here are some examples of games that have significantly longer than normal longevity for the people who really get into them: Minecraft, WoW, CoD multiplayer. Yep; the novelty, the new content, the conversation between peers, the level progression: these are all factors that wear out with games. This is not to say this makes them identical to cars, but this is why people buy lots of games: they are wearing them out for their personal use, their value decreases as their novelty drains. The big difference is obviously that this does not change the resale value (well, state of the conversation about the item in wider society - I guess they are devaluing for everyone but my main point of degradation would be using up novelty and that is on a per-user basis). You don't have a large collection of games you play at the same time; the low unit cost/resale value is why you didn't have to sell off one game to buy another, not your desire to be playing both at the same time. Note that when you scale up to people with a lot of money to throw about and an interest in cars as entertainment not utility then garages full of vehicles are not unheard of.
Anyway, the details are not that important; the analogy is just a nice lazy way of transferring the argument Adrian made to another area and showing how crazy it seems, how a good marketplace of competitive companies goes against making worse products for the same price so we shouldn't be totally shocked if the entire notion doesn't hold water.
@dark: Oh definitely. These new consoles have lots of RAM, the muttering about the PS4 being a 4GB device until very recently isn't shocking and having both machines having more than that available purely for gaming (and unified) is great. The limitations of the current consoles (spin round in Rage and cry at the tradeoffs they made that result in that little gap that they can't keep the textures for the stuff behind you in the RAM; the endless advancements in streaming assets and subtly loading in the detail to cause less obvious jumps as you play that plagued earlier titles, especially early UE3) have developed some very nice standard designs that will make the next gen very healthy when it comes to providing large detailed worlds that load in before you get close enough to need it. Ok, so titles like WoW are getting very old and offer seamless worlds but there the texture density (and art choices that support it) help to keep the memory requirements lower but this gen of consoles has solidified streaming assets rather than load screens.
While 5GB isn't infinite, thanks to the compute power of the GPUs to thrash through the textures (with all the diffuse, spec, normal, etc used for a modern material system with physically based shading methods) and the expanding scope of what coders will use the RAM for to keep a world 'alive', it is certainly nothing to be sniffed at. 5GB is a good volume of RAM to have available (PCs will continue to mainly have 2GB or less of textures near the GPU and need to swap them for the 4-16GB of system RAM cache stuff) but 7GB is better (and that PS4 figure isn't officially confirmed is it?). Will games come out that actually need it? I'm going to bet for not, they might be slightly better at hiding any loads or having the most detailed surfaces close to the camera but I'm going to say Digital Foundry are going to have to work hard to find those differences caused by the available RAM (the RAM speed may have far more to do with stuff like that being a concern/easy pickings for comparison articles, not to mention 18 GCN blocks vs 12 to process the render at 1080p).
A message on Twitter sent me. Oh, you're here already.
lol... wow how did the memory portion of this article get totally ignored. it's like everything with microsoft the good stuff is often ignored. if its not negative its nothing at all
Hi there, new poster. I'm not sure if you're an astroturfing bot (given how you're spreading your message via posts like this and in Twitter, replying to weeks old conversations when people bring up the 5GB quoted RAM figure - as happened to me and the people I was talking to on Twitter a week ago) or an enthusiastic fan of the new Xbox One hardware/software system.
Why PCs and consoles are not the same
The problem with the supposition in the original post, from my perspective (SoftEng but not an OS guy), is that is assumes that the game can take more and not have an issue. The 5GB point is well below the 7.5GB of RAM that the XboxOS + Windows has available to it (once you assume a 500MB block for the hypervisor, as you say I think this is more than where it actually will turn out to be on the dedicated spin they're making rather than the 2012 version for all x86 PCs) but that doesn't mean a game can just request more RAM from the VM system and get it. What if the snap-in apps (these are being displayed by the Xbox One right now so you can't throw their RAM to the HDD and resume them later, they are live) are using that 2.5GB of RAM? That is why these fixed platforms have these bounds, because you know you are guaranteed to have 5GB of RAM for you. The reason why PC games need more silicon to run at the same performance is because their code has to assume the RAM allocated isn't guaranteed, it could be paged out to the HDD when needed. Consoles are lean because that RAM is guaranteed (and if you need more then there may be a paging system but you also need to know you're about to hit it and be able to expect the performance death that comes when you need to load the page back in - titles that do streaming assets are managing their own 'paging' system, the articles about how Rage works with the levels of storage for the texture assets provides great primer material for those wishing to know more).
Why consoles have hard limits
A game could be developed (assuming the hypervisor allows it and doesn't enforce the 5GB limit) that uses 7.5GB. But what would happen if that was run on an Xbox One which used some snap-in app (that has every right to consider the 2.5GB of RAM it + Windows OS is being given the play with) that was eating the same RAM and because it is visible this isn't a case of saving it out to HDD and loading it back up (which would destroy any idea of instant switching MS have given users up to this point - which is why I think it is unlikely they will pass through certification and game that uses 7GB of RAM)? Then you would have two apps fighting to get accesses on this data that the OS was desperately paging in and out of the system depending on which bits were being accessed each frame. Both would have miserable performance is a realistic outcome, I would say especially on a machine with a slower RAM but the obvious limiting factor of the HDD where those paged RAM blocks were living is way, way slower and the factor that kills the performance (as in it takes several seconds to load 1GB of data from HDD to RAM due to the speed of reading from a HDD - even a sequential read that assumes no fragmentation or need to write out the pages being replaced).
I don't know the specifics of this console, I've not had a chance to play with it or get the NDA documents explaining how it works. But talking about generalities, I think if MS have given developers a 5GB line then they are going to play to that 5GB line because in the future app developers for the other OS are going to base their assumptions on how much RAM they can play with on the same rule book. This does mean that some RAM for most users will be sitting idly there storing no data (or more likely storing cached data for other apps that are not live so they can resume faster - just like modern Windows none of the RAM will actually be sitting empty it'll just be sitting there inactive with cached loads from when there was spare time to load it on when they didn't unload it from previous use).
@devildoll: As I said, not current games. Those will not show a difference as they will all be designed considering the low RAM of typical systems. This changes when Christmas happens and millions of gaming rigs appear with 8GB of unified RAM. If a game had anything like a 4GB framebuffer then we would be looking at seconds (minutes?) per frame, not frames per second. At 1080p, even with a complex deferred, AA buffer then the big block of the RAM is not the buffer to which it is writing the output. The RAM is used for the source assets needed to be read in to generate the buffer. The diffuse and specular surfaces, the normal and gloss values. The current and upcoming engines need quite a bit of data to paint a single pixel in that framebuffer (and some intermediate buffers and storage blocks for their raytrace touches and reflection cubemaps - stored and real-time generated).
The assets you need to be able to stand face to face with a wall and resolve to crisp surface representation are influenced by the output resolution but that is not going to be the limiting factor (see Rage and the 720p pass they did on their asset database to create the GBs of texture pages that shipped on the final game - never even getting to the disc with an asset in more detail than could be used in a 720p render at the minimum distance the player could be from the surface that used it). Whatever the resolution you're gaming on, you want textures (of all the types listed above) at all mipmap levels in your GPU's RAM and not being throw at the thing via the PCIe connection from the system RAM.
Looking forward and noting how these new consoles are both 8GB unified models, I'm going to say if the availability of 4GB GTX770s improves (and drives the prices down the the expected premium that and extra 2GB of GDDR5 should force) then people expecting to hold onto a card for 3 years should get the 4GB model and there isn't a game today that needs it but we can find out in 3 years if I'm right about the games coming out designed for the new consoles. Will all games designed for the new consoles suck on a 2GB card? Nope. Will there be at least a few that would otherwise be awesome but are busy throwing texture data to the insufficient RAM because the level has over 2GB of texture assets? I'm betting yes. If it was my money, I'd wait out a $30 more expensive 4GB edition of this card.
I'm not the only person to have expressed this viewpoint.
@jams: As far as the CPU goes, both consoles use Jaguar setups (and non-standard ones at that) so you can't go out and buy something that is a good match for what is inside either console beyond being x86. The Kabini CPUs that just came out that are Jaguar for PC are low end and come as 4 cores (or 2 cores at the very low end). That's a block for Jaguar. These are the low end cheap x86 cores that make sure AMD can get down towards tablet power loads (and fight ARM's top end designs) and both consoles were designed to have all the CPU and GPU resources in a single chip so needed a lean CPU to fit in the thermal and desirable die size headroom. They took two 4-core Jaguars and stuck them together. The high end AMD CPUs use a strange design where you get two integer blocks and a float block in each unit and then they sell them by counting the number of int blocks (so an 8 core AMD FX chip only has 4 float blocks) so despite being a cheap way to buy 8 cores they are kinda 4 cores in some ways. Of course Intel are the major player for PCs and so most tweaking to a PC port will be done on Intels (see some reviewers complaints about AMD machines and crashes in review code) but their mainstream prices (like the new i5 listed above) use four very fast (compared to Jaguar) cores.
This shouldn't matter. Games should be getting built with a job system that loads however many cores you have available and lets things take up space on spare cores depending on the variable load of the frame. Especially with the Xbox One being a virtualised environment where some of those cores may not be available due to background tasks, assuming X cores and only using exactly those ones doesn't seem like how you'd build an engine, especially one which you know will be cheap to port to x86 PCs and there you may have 16 cores or maybe as low as 2, depending on spec. The basic issue is that a gaming PC has 60-130W of performance CPU with the most common config being 4 cores, the consoles have possibly 30W over 8 cores. There isn't a good way to buy a PS4/Xbox One CPU and even if you could, the current desktop performance CPUs are much faster.
The GPUs are standard GCN blocks (12 for Xbox One, 18 for PS4) which means you're looking at roughly the compute power of a $150 AMD card on the Xbox One and a $300 card for the PS4. The Xbox One uses a large (1.6bn transistors) block of cache to get past having DDR3 RAM and the PS4 uses a nice 256bit wide GDDR5 interface (but remember both share this bus with the CPU's needs). That does mean that coders will be tweaking their code to get the most out of that style of architecture. Does it matter? The benchmarks do the talking here, nVidia and AMD designs that average out to about the same performance give significantly different performances in individual games and on synthetic tests. Of course, some of that difference is the 256bit wide GDDR5 connection (now at 7GHz on that GTX770) while AMD use a 384bit wide bus on their high end (which is why they have 3GB, 50% more width gives a different balanced number of RAM chips and 1.5GB on a top end part would be crazy) and we just said that even the good RAM on the PS4 isn't a wide bus (and isn't 7GHz either) so if any of those benchmarks are showing the advantage of the AMD memory advantage then neither consoles will be able to teach coders to expect that.
nVidia have a large team of engineers who do outreach (The Way It's Meant To Be Played programme) and put out a range of papers and code samples explaining how to get the best out of their designs, along with the driver tweaking that makes less-worse any game that is doing things in a way that doesn't work well on their implementation of the standards. They have the dominant position in desktop and laptop graphics and don't seem to be moving away from that with their expansion to mobile (even moving their GPU designs to their mobile parts with the 2014 chips and leveraging their video encode chips to do personal Cloud gaming like Vita remote play with an Android device). They may be in a bit of a hole when everyone is building engines for GCN architectures but I doubt they'll be crushed by it. These $400 cards we're talking about are already significantly faster than the silicon in the SoCs of the consoles (and eat up to 250W of power on their own, beyond the power budget of the entire box for the consoles) so for raw power these are probably both going to come in ahead of the consoles and so enjoy the consoles being pushed towards their desired performance area rather than asked to do something beyond them.
The final caveat on that general sentiment: the Xbox One doesn't have a whole lot of general-purpose compute (because it doesn't have a whole lot of GPU power in general) but people coming from the PS3's Cell are used to using those vector units and that is all going to happen on the GPU with these new designs. nVidia used to be fighting hard for general purpose compute but that stuff is all now in the Titan/GTX780(capped)/Tesla stuff, the consumer cards are built to be lean and power efficient and don't really give you a lot of compute. AMD switched with GCN and moved to adding much more general purpose compute performance to try and fight against nVidia's control of that market (and design wins in supercomputers where you sell thousands of chips for $3000 a pop in a single sale) so they are very much leading that fight today. If things go really heavy in that direction then nVidia cards from the last 18 months will struggle more than older nVidia card or current AMD cards. I can certainly see the case for buying AMD to be on the safe side, I'm not a fan of their software team myself and think nVidia have the edge for drivers and features (YMMV). You are certainly not screwing up if you buy a similarly priced AMD card rather than the GTX770 in this sort of build, the 7970GHz is a hell of a card.
This is mostly the same as Origin, Steam, iTunes, et al.
Digital licenses mean you have to see what stuff you can squirrel away and use without connecting. The above services I mentioned have some media where, as long as you had a copy already before you got banned, the ban doesn't matter. Of course there is the revocation of access to something that you may never have downloaded (court cases where people have even tried to argue the case that the ability to download your copy was the completion of the contract of sale, as the TOS state for all the above services, and so later blocking access does not make for a nullified sale: none) and in cases of some of the media there is a continued need to access an auth server to access the downloaded media (Origin and Steam DRM, possibly iTunes media outside of the now DRM free mp3s?)
Because 100% of Xbox One requires these regular checks then it does seem likely that a ban will revoke your access to all your games and that includes discs. Origin has certainly had cases of this, so has Steam, and they sometimes get a bit of press. The real question is how good is the support team and what are the policies for getting a ban reversed.
To avoid such questions of ownership and paying money for nothing (also see online games, F2P and what happens when the servers go off and your credits or services paid for in perpetuity vanish with no refund) then disc games on the PS4 or purchasing content with known breakable* DRM is the answer. Another approach would be services that offer a DRM free experience (eg iTunes mp3s, GOG.com) but remember to back-up your content after purchase just in case you lose the ability to download them in the future for some reason.
* Breaking DRM on the copy of media which you have purchased may be an illegal act, depending where you live.
Standard 'figure of 8' connectors are usually mains (because consumers think everything is oky pokey, also they're symmetric so they're AC not DC normally) and I think there has been confirmation that the PSU is internal from official sources (hopefully someone has a link to a Cerny interview with it).
Hopefully it is the same as most recent gear and so is a global PSU with an automatic switch (anyone else remember the old global stuff where you have to make sure th switch was set to 110 or 230V before you plugged them in?) so you can take them anywhere in the world.
I would wait for official confirmation (if they haven't said yet) that a US PS4 will be able to use an Australian PSN account to access the Australian PSN store for buying local content. Sony seem to be saying region free and no DRM stuff but mainly using comments about disc based gaming so it is worth making sure their digital plans make imports/moving country viable.
Ok, I've been in that situation a while back when I was trying to unwind exactly what I did and didn't need for TOSlink/DD to be happy with PC audio.
You're right, Dolby Digital Live is the thing that takes a multi-channel audio stream at the computer (which a game can feed audio into without needing to know what the audio chip is going to do with it) and encodes it to Dolby Digital so it can be sent down the wire and decoded back to 5.1 at the other end. Dolby don't use that terminology any more (at least last time I purchased a motherboard and needed an optical for my AV Receiver they were not using the DDL branding at all) as DDL is now part of Dolby Home Theatre. Quick side-note: DTS have a similar technology and I think they still sell it as DTS Connect but I've not seen it in cheaper products like the chip on your motherboard.
The reason why movies and games are not the same is all about what you're asking it to do and how the data has been formatted. When you put in a movie (bluray, DVD, a not insignificant number of cutscenes in mainly console titles) then there is an existing DD 5.1 stream there. Your audio card doesn't need to know anything about it beyond "here is a stream of 0s and 1s, pump them down that pipe you have labelled TOSlink". It is simply a dumb forwarder of this already DD formatted audio stream (and at the other end it gets decoded and you have 6 channel audio). Obviously when you are actually playing a game there is no pre-mixed DD audio because it is generating the audio by taking mono sources and positioning them in space based on where the camera points and working out what it sounds like at each angle for the channels. So the audio card (if the game knows to feed it surround audio - which may autodetect, may look at what you tell Windows the connection is, or may need to be set in the game settings) needs to take these 5 spacial channels (and maybe a bass channel or it strips out the low frequencies itself) and turn that into a DD signal to put down that TOSlink cable.
Dolby Digital is a compression technology because the TOSlink optical didn't have the bandwidth for uncompressed, 6 channel audio. So if your audio card can't do DDL and compress those 6 channels it gets from the game into something that'll fit down the digital cable then it is screwed (or needs to do analogue output over several wires) and you're going to get stereo (which will fit down the cable's bandwidth). Some RealTek audio chips do DDLive, some don't (generally older or cheaper are strong factors for being out of luck - I think Gigabyte have a history of buying the chips that do do DDL more than other manufacturers).
Ok, so that's the 'why' of needing specific stuff and all movies always work but games don't.
In Windows you normally go to 'Playback devices' and select the playback (output) port and hit 'configure' in the bottom left of that window to tell Windows how many channels a port has. Snag: RealTek (driver) digital outputs do not have this option so if a game asks Windows how many channels should it output then this can all go horribly wrong. You can't just do the configure wizard and tell Windows 5.1 and how far back your speakers are. You need to use the Realtek drivers. When you do properties on the digital output port here you can play test signals with the 'supported formats' tab. This is all pre-encoded stuff so it isn't testing DDL but that a known stream of 0s and 1s can be decoded at the other end (and it sounds like you've already sent a DD stream by playing a movie and the AV Receiver has turned on the light to say it sees 5.1 DD and decoded it). On the final tab, 'Advanced', there should be a Default Format drop-down. If your Realtek mobo audio supports it and the driver is installed and working right then at the bottom of that drop-down should be 'Dolby Digital Live (5.1 Surround)' and this is the DDL setting you crave for your 5.1 solution. Assuming your game avoids the snag I mention above or can be wrangled into ignoring it with a setting (maybe an ini file, Google is your friend for finding the geek who already read through all the files and figured it out).
But what if you looked up your motherboard advertising and think you have a DDL/DHT enabled chip but no dice? Now I'm working blind as my older PC than the one I'm on I had the Realtek drivers (worst website ever with download speeds - they throttle them close to dial-up so getting the driver via ASUS is a smart move for your sanity as otherwise you're looking at a 2 hour download of a 70MB file) with their control panel and I think there was an area where you set the digital and could tick a box or something to enable DDL. My current PC (making sure I got the above instructions right) uses Windows Update to grab the recent enough drivers for the Realtek audio (DDL worked just fine with the default Windows driver it selected so I left it, my main PC uses the HDMI on the graphics card for audio and at some point I'll get round to replacing the 8800GT in this box to one recent enough to have an onboard audio chip). So I have a vague memory of a tab for digital audio and enabling it, but as I say, the basic drivers without taht control panel seem to be just working for me so hopefully you are in the same boat and via the above instructions you could find the DDL default to enable.
For reference: although I may have a different chip, I think mine is the ALC889 (but maybe that was the old computer I'm thinking of), Windows is giving me a driver version of 126.96.36.19910 dated 07/07/2011 on this PC.
Best of luck, if that doesn't help then I hope it gives you a better idea of what is going on and stuff to start searching for to get it working in the future.
Edit: I completely missed that you'd given the model of mobo you had.
You have a Realtek ALC892 with DTS Surround Sensation according to ASUS. This could be a problem. If ASUS had paid Realtek for it then that chip supports the "optional Dolby PCEE program" which should have provided the Dolby Home Theatre support (which has DD Live) I mentioned above. The DTS Surround Sensation is one of those technologies used by soundbars that take a stereo set of speakers and make it kinda seem like you have surround (until you rotate your head and your ears realise it isn't real) so this is not going to do the job of even DTS Connect in encoding a DTS signal (which the above reply indicates your AV Receiver doesn't support for decoding (you can test this for yourself in Windows by following the instructions for the 'supported formats' tab I mention above).
I suspect if ASUS had paid the license fee then they would tell you on their specs page that your motherboard supported DDLive. I suspect this means you're stuck with stereo or surround from sources that are pre-compiled into a Dolby Digital feed (and so cannot include stuff where you have input that changes the audio, basically you're stuck with movies only).
You might be able to take this knowledge and buy a cheapo soundcard that definitely has paid the DDLive (DHT branded) license and has a TOSlink. I'm not sure how great the options are but buying a different motherboard so you get the one that paid the $0.50 licensing fee is rather extreme. When I first found out what DDLive was was when I realised my motherboard didn't support it, I then made sure to buy a series of motherboards where a must have was DDL/DHT, and now I have HDMI on my AV Receiver so the audio comes out of the graphics card and I can buy motherboards on other concerns.