GAMEON'2011, August 22-24, 2011, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland, Conference Tutorials

Conference Tutorial

Utilising the Playstation 3 hardware to teach game engineering

Richard Davison (Newcastle University) & Dr. Graham Morgan (Newcastle University)


Sony's PS3 Academic Development Network provides academic institutions with access to
Playstation 3 development hardware, allowing students on games-related courses an ideal opportunity to gain first-hand experience of developing software for a modern gaming console. While undoubtedly powerful, the hardware presents many unique challenges that must be overcome to make the most efficient use of the processing power available. The 'Cell' processing unit at the heart of the Playstation has a heterogeneous architecture – it consists of one PowerPC core, and 6'Synergistic Processing Units'; vector processing units of unusual design, and capable of impressive computing power. Leveraging this power is imperative to successfully achieving the high frame rates and advanced graphical effects expected of a modern console game, and students possessing this knowledge will greatly increase their prospects in getting industry employment. Current academic focus on Object Oriented Programming places students at a disadvantage when developing on console hardware – virtual functions inhibit performance, and Object rather than Data oriented memory allocation limits the effectiveness of the CPU cache. Placing greater importance on platform-specific coding and of learning the architecture limits and nuances will allow students on gaming related degrees to produce more efficient code, and gain greater insight into the differences between the standard desktop computer and the games consoles they wish to develop for.

Tutorial Contents:

This tutorial will provide an overview of the Playstation 3 hardware architecture, explaining the similarities and differences between the Cell architecture and that of 'traditional' CPU design. Coding practices both good and bad will be explained, showing how current everyday coding practices generate poorly optimised code for execution on the Cell. Finally, experiences with dealing with Sony and it's Academic Development Network will be shared, gained via working on a series of Playstation 3 oriented programming tutorials for Masters' level students, providing an insight into the work involved in adding console-specific development to Newcastle University's Computer Games Engineering MSc.