Frostbite Technical Director Discusses PS4 API & PS3 SPU vs PS4 ACE


Unless you’re living in a cave, there’s a good chance you’ve heard much regarding AMD’s Mantle API (Application Programming Interface) which provides low level access to the GPU, thus reducing CPU overhead on the PC. We know that DirectX 12 and OpenGL plan to deliver this too – given what is being promised for GDC 14 in just a few days time. On Twitter Johan Andersson pointed out that Mantle isn’t need on the PS4 because it’s own API is low level enough already:

“PS4 graphics API is good as well, we don’t need Mantle on PS4.” Said Johan. The Playstation 4 uses the PSSL (PlayStation Shader Language) for it’s API – which has heavily evolved from the PS3. For more on PSSL you can check out our video below:

There has been much technical discussion regarding the Playstation 4’s compute potential, which of course uses GPGPU (General Purpose computing on the GPU) to perform compute tasks. This is based on AMD’s GPU GCN (graphic core next) architecture on a HUMA memory system, which makes it easy for the CPU and GPU to work on compute tasks. These tasks can vary from fluids, AI to physics and more. The Playstation 4 however isn’t new to this, and similar affects could be achieved with the PS3’s Cell processor’s SPU. The Cell processor contained 6 of these processors and they were very powerful in their own right, but required in-depth knowledge of the PS3’s hardware to use correctly.

Johan Anderson discussed this with a few others on Twitter “The compute rings of S.I. could be the same kind of delight. :p” says Christophe Riccio,  Naughty Dog’s Cort responded “To a certain type of programmer, SPUs are raw delight in silicon form. We miss them. We ache for them.” to which Johan answers “won’t be the same as the good ol’ SPUs 🙁 but ACE is something at least”.


It’s worth remembering that they’re not discussing the technical power of the two systems, but more the low level optimization and the level of excitement which comes of using them. For more information on the PS4’s ACE please click here. To check out more regarding the Playstation 3’s SPU’s click here. Despite there being a lot of frustration regarding the PS3’s hardware and optimization, many developers actually enjoyed the challenge as if you knew how to use them, titles ran incredibly well.

If you’d like more information on some of the PS4’s optimization and how compute and the CPU work, then please check out my analysis of Naughty Dog’s presentation at Sinfo.

Watch my video on this topic below.

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