Escaping the Cell: Are Developers Sold on PS4? | GamesIndustry International
Sony's initial pitch for the long-awaited PlayStation 4 is that it's developer-centric hardware, designed with the intention of reducing financial, technical and administrative barriers to publishing on home consoles. The PlayStation 3 was famously obtuse, but according to new system architect Mark Cerny, Sony has built the PlayStation 4 as "a platform by game creators, for game creators."
GamesIndustry International approached developers with real-world experience of creating games - from indie to triple-A, mobile to console - to gauge their initial reactions to the specifications, services and software from a company finally lifting the lid on its next-generation gaming ambitions.
Our panellist were:
Dominic Matthews, Ninja Theory
Matthew Seymour, Heavy Iron Games
Robert Troughton, Pitbull Studios
Will Luton, mobile and free-to-play games consultant
Simon Barratt, Four Door Lemon
James Brooksby, Born Ready Games
Mike Bithell, indie game developer
Simon Prytherch, Fluid Games
Martyn Brown, Insight for Hire
What were the standout features of the PlayStation 4 reveal for you?
Dominic Matthews: I think it got glossed over a little, but hearing Sony's intended commitment to self-publishing on PlayStation 4 sounds very promising. The lower the barriers to entry the more diversity and creativity we're going to see in video games. It was also very interesting to see Sony not only talk about the strong social aspect of future gaming but actually go as far as integrate a Share button into the control pad. A big step in recognising how players want to interact with each other outside of gameplay.
Matthew Seymour: The standout was the whole and very comprehensive PlayStation 4 package. Many of the past pledges that came from all the first-party manufacturers on their current generation systems look like they will now become realities with the release of the PS4. You'll have the horsepower to create eye-popping games with amazing physics while offering up varied interface opportunities but also the robust connectivity to play what you want, when you want, on any Sony device you may have. It's really all about the one-stop shop if you want to succeed these days, just ask the folks at Apple and Amazon.
Robert Troughton: I loved that it was gaming-centric. They've chosen components which should allow them to release an affordable console that is still a big leap from the last generation. For me, I think the standout feature is going to be the near-instant play where gamers won't need to wait for lengthy installs - a huge problem on PS3 - or long downloads. There are still the gimmicks there - the touch control on Dual Shock, the PlayStation Eye stuff, I'll be interested to see how those are brought into games - but those do still seem like unproven gimmicks to me.
Simon Barratt: It was great to see the specifications coming out from Sony, as exciting as the leak stories all are for people it does hurt a lot of small and medium developers as the platform holders for obvious reasons try to tighten up the people who 'need to know' ahead of announcements.
On the technical side of things the 8GB of GDDR5 confirmation was really exciting, the number of parallel cores and the speed of the memory containing the data that those cores operate on is the most important thing for modern games, be it more 'out there' indie games, big all action first-person shooter games or somewhere in between. I think people quickly jump to the conclusion that somehow that doesn't matter for certain innovative games but the quicker and easier it is to have a performant game running on a platform the more focus can go into the gameplay iteration, polish and overall feel.
Feature wise, I'm really excited about the Gaikai integration, twitch.tv / ustream and also YouTube channels covering Minecraft and such have become a massive part of a lot of gamers lives. I had a lot of fun even with the initial social gameplay aspects in OnLive and it's great to see Sony make this a core part of their new offering. It was also good to see them acknowledge the need for gamers to get up and running quicker, while it's great to be able to get content updates and patches all the time I see and hear a lot of frustration regarding updates from gamers on all major console platforms.
James Brooksby: As a developer, the standout feature is the ease of which we will be able to develop for this new system compared to the previous generations of console machines, that have slowed fast paced and iterative development; a wise move indeed. Secondly, the social aspects of the PS4 are going to be great; watching and interacting with others gameplay streams is going to make playing and sharing really fun.
Mike Bithell: I found myself getting far more excited about the service-side stuff than the games. The integration of Gaikai has been handled really smartly, and I think that video record/upload stuff is going to be something of a Trojan horse. I prattle on to anyone who'll listen about how big a part I think YouTube plays in indie game success nowadays, and putting that element of performance and sharing front and center is a great statement of intent.
Will Luton: It was always going to be what David Perry had to say - I have a great deal of respect for him. Gaikai and the cloud are the best link Sony has to the future of games: moving away from expensive iterative hardware launches to make PlayStation a service. The money is always in access to content, expensive specialist hardware is a barrier.
Looking at the early technical specs and services, how does this change the type of games you're able to create? Can we expect significantly better or alternative gaming experiences?
Dominic Matthews: Aside for the more powerful hardware which will obviously allow us to make better looking, smoother experiences, it's clear that the PlayStation 4 isn't just about power. I think the PlayStation 4 will ask different questions of developers, such as "how do people play together," "how do players engage with the game away from the main console," "how are you going to take advantage of the streaming technology." Ultimately, the aim is to make gaming more fun, which the answers to these questions have the potential to do.
Matthew Seymour: The types of games we can make for the PlayStation 4 go right back to the wide range of opportunities seemingly built into this new and accessible system, and Sony's efforts in streamlining the publishing pipeline for the establishment and independents alike. From the looks of things right now, they're building it and if the audience comes along for the ride, there is nothing stopping us from creating and publishing what we believe they'll want to play and enjoy.
Robert Troughton: With the improved hardware, as well as improved tools offered by such as Unreal Engine 4, I believe we're going to see another big leap in quality. Environments will undoubtedly become less static, characters and objects will be much more dynamic and reactive to player interactions. It's going to be fantastic to see what developers do with all of this.