In real life, there are no free lunches.
The PlayStation 4 Pro may not be a hardware beast, but it definitely seems to be delivering some serious oomph and eye candy. A lot of this is because of some shortcuts and handy tricks that Sony have incorporated and embedded into the architecture of the new system itself, such as the much vaunted checkerboard rendering technique, which lets the system upscale graphics to 4K resolutions very effectively, without much in the way of a hit to resources.
Or at least, that’s been the understanding so far- as it turns out, that may not be entirely true. Posting on his blog, Jonathan Blow, the developer of The Witness, the acclaimed puzzle game that launched on PS4 and PC earlier this year, and which will be upgraded for Pro as well, explained that checkerboarding isn’t as ‘free’ as one might thing- there are still trade offs to be made.
“I think it depends on the particular game and engine,” he said. “Different rendering pipelines are structured differently; for some pipelines, the cost of adding checkerboard rendering would be very low, because they are already computing a lot of the information that checkerboard rendering needs. For other pipelines the cost might be higher. In our case we’re just not sure of the total cost yet, but we think it is probably high enough that we may prefer to do a straight upscale. But we’re not completely sure.
“(It is true that, as Sony has announced, the PS4 Pro provides hardware support for checkerboard rendering that makes it faster than it would otherwise be. I think in some places I have seen the rumor that checkerboard is completely free, but I would consider that an exaggeration: the cost is going to vary per game. Unfortunately due to NDAs I can’t provide details; I can’t say anything more about Sony technologies than what they have announced. It is definitely true that if you had a game running on the original PS4, and the developer wants to do the most straightforward thing to make the game look better on the Pro, that developer could enable checkerboard rendering and the game will look better and run faster; so it’s “free” in that sense. But if you are going to get picky about how you are spending the GPU memory and bandwidth of the new machine, then there are tradeoffs here, like with anything.)”
So it sounds like there are a lot of trade offs to be made- and that there are a lot of alternative ways that that extra power could be used and utilized by developers in their games. It should be interesting to see how the PlayStation 4 Pro is utilized by game makers in the days to come.