Cid SilverWing said:
I don't seem to be hearing anything about being BC with PS3 titles, or is that a given?
The PS4 is not powerful enough to run a PS3 emulator, for complicated reasons. This is why they are going to be offering PS3 cloud steaming instead.
Why "emulate" it at all? Why not just have the original 8 year old software programmed into the console as well?
I am not sure I understand what you are saying. I am going to assume you mean porting the old games to the new system.
Well, that would involve partially reprogramming each game over again for the new system. This is something Sony cannot do for a number of reasons including the fact it would cost a ton of money and they don't own the rights/code to every game. In addition, it would not allow you to use your old discs. The idea here is that Sony wants you to be able to play your old PS games on their new system. Any game, including the ones they have no control over. If you own the disc, they want you to be able to play it on the PS4. This is not possible for the PS3, but they can make it happen for the PS1 and PS2.
Let me know if I did not understand.
Ok, I thought about it for a little bit and I think I get what you are trying to say.
This is going to get a bit technical, but I will try to keep it as simple as possible. This means I will probably be quite inaccurate, but it will be close enough to illustrate the point.
A computer works by software sending instructions to the hardware which the hardware then executes. These can be things like "x = 2+2" or "draw a triangle". The instructions sent are not so simple as that, and can be more accurately pictured as a stream of 0's and 1's sent to the processor - something we could never understand and does not inherently mean what we intend it to. The processor interprets this stream of 0's and 1's by how it was constructed. How the processor interprets these instructions is know as it's architecture.
A piece of software must be built for a specific architecture. If you attempt to use a piece of software on a type of architecture it was not meant to be used on it will not work. It will essentially send nonsense to the hardware. This is done by compiling/building the software - translating the human understandable instructions like "draw a triangle" into computer understandable and architecture specific instructions. This is why ports are possible without completely reprogramming the game. A typical programming language will be able to be complied into a number of different languages for use. Compiled code cannot be easily translated back into human readable code.
The PS3 hardware was built using what is known as "cell" architecture. This particular architecture has certain advantages but is also very different from the standard "x86" architecture used by most PC's today and by the PS4. Instructions made for cell architecture cannot be interpreted by x86 architecture. This is why PS3 software cannot readily be made to work on the PS4 - they are fundamentally different machines.
Sony could recompile and release individual software on the PS4, but this is actually much harder and expensive than it sounds. Console software is designed to work with a specific piece of hardware. It would likely need significant reprogramming to make it work on another piece of hardware, even more powerful hardware. In addition, Sony would not be able to do this with with all games - they only own some of them.
This is where emulation comes in. Sony wants us to be able to use the old software compiled for the old hardware on the new hardware. As I said, old discs working in the new system. In order to do this, you need to trick the new hardware into acting like the old hardware. This is much harder than it sounds. It takes immensely more powerful hardware to accurately emulate a old piece of hardware.
(To give an idea of how hard accurate emulation is: A perfect Pong emulator exists. However, consumer grade hardware is not yet powerful enough to run it at the original frame rate. A typical high end gamer PC could run this emulator at around 5 fps, last time I checked.)
Because perfect emulation is practically impossible, amateurs typically shoot for good enough emulation; an emulator that can run the most popular old software without game breaking bugs. Sony is shooting for near perfect, commercial level emulation. Emulation so good that only minor bugs will show up in virtually any title. This is one way to achieve software backwards compatibility, and is really the only economically viable way to do it for an entire back library of software. The problem is that the PS4 really is not capable of this level of emulation for the PS3. Like I said, it just is not powerful enough. In fact, I am surprised they think they can pull off this level of emulation with PS2 games.
The other option besides software backwards compatibility is hardware backwards compatibility. Basically, put a PS3 in every PS4. This would greatly increase the cost of producing every unit, and that cost would be passed onto the consumer in one way or another. Generally a bad idea, and this was one of the big reasons for "$599 US dollars" back when the PS3 launched. If I understand correctly, each of the original PS3's had a mini PS2 shoved in there.