Fresh ideas and continued commitment to indies: PlayStation at Gamescom

Fresh ideas and continued commitment to indies: PlayStation at Gamescom
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

August 13th 2014 at 8:19AM

We round up the biggest news and themes from last night’s press briefing in Cologne

Thanks to a rather temperamental Wi-Fi connection, Develop was unable to bring you up-to-the-minute coverage of PlayStation’s 2014 Gamescom press briefing last night or even deliver the headline facts via Twitter.

It’s a shame because the platform holder had a lot to announce – in fact, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Jim Ryan proudly claimed that the platform holder “showed off more titles than at any previous Gamescom”.

While some games on display were the usual big brands and familiar franchises – Far Cry 4, Destiny, Metal Gear Solid V, and so on – it felt like the bulk of the titles discussed were independently developed, brand new IP or in many cases both.

PlayStation’s continued commitment to bringing fresh ideas to market was clear from the very beginning. After sharing the impressive stat of 10m PS4s sold globally, Ryan said the following presentations would “continue [Sony’s] tradition of unveiling games that are that little bit different”.

Case in point was the first announcement: The Tomorrow Children by PixelJunk dev Q-Games. Marking the studio’s return to 3D games development, this unique title sees players controlling clones in a dystopian future with distinctly Soviet overtones.

To open with such an unusual title – and to follow it with the likes of The Astronauts’ The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Mike Bithell’s Volume – underlined PlayStation’s determination to offer more than just the traditional best-sellers. True, it’s much the same tune that the platform holder has been singing at both Gamescom and E3 this year and last, but it’s a strategy that continues to work and helps highlight that developers – particularly European ones – are still able to surprise gamers.

There were plenty of surprises throughout the rest of the evening. Announcements such as Hellblade (a brand new IP from Enslaved dev Ninja Theory), Alienation (an arcade-style shooter from Housemarque) and Wild (an open world game from Wild Sheep Studio, the new dev formed by Rayman creator Michel Ancel) fulfilled the need for new IP, something that companies often struggle to accomplish so soon after the big showcase that is E3.

Ancel’s appearance was just one of many from notable developers, with Hideo Kojima taking to the stage to introduce a hilarious video explaining the various ridiculous uses for cardboard boxes in MGS V, Bohemia’s Dean Hall announcing a PS4 adaptation of Day Z and Mike Bithell presenting new footage of Volume.

Bithell thanks Sony for “changing the conversation for indies on console”, pointing to the many independent developers that have found success by releasing their titles for PS3, PS4 or Vita, and Sony’s Gamescom line-up showed that the platform holder is determined to maintain this strategy’s momentum.

In addition to the indie titles mentioned so far, showreels and trailers were shown for beautiful puzzle platformer Rime, skiing game Snow, border control title Papers Please, surreal mystery Ether One, stylish puzzler Qube 2 and action title In Space We Brawl, plus Dreamfall Chapters, Pix Cat and Nom Nom Galaxy – and all of these games will debut on PlayStation platforms first.

There was a good mix of styles on show, but it was also clear that the resurgent horror genre, with the first gameplay footage of Bloodborne, the new title from Dark Souls creator From Software. There were also two new players in the horror field, starting with P.T., a mysterious game from the newly-formed 7780s Studio. No info on the game was revealed, but attendees were pointed to an interactive teaser that is now available online and caused testers in the demo video to scream in fright.

PlayStation also reintroduced Until Dawn, a survival horror game about eight friends trapped in a mountain cabin. Sony Worldwide Studios’ SVP Michael Denny promised the Supermassive Games title had been completely “refocused, rewritten and rebuilt” since it first debuted a few years ago.

It wasn’t all about indies and third-party devs, however. Sony is also keen to ensure its own studios are also pushing the boundaries of games development – demonstrated best with a great presentation by the UK’s Media Molecule. The studio showed off the first footage for a PS4 adaptation of its Develop Award-winning new IP Tearaway, with upcoming title Tearaway Unfolded experimenting with the unique functionality of the PS4 controller just as its forebear did with the Vita.

It was certainly a diverse showing from PlayStation at this year’s Gamescom briefing. Fresh details on big blockbusters such as Destiny and Far Cry 4 broke up the news of debut indie titles, and there was a strong presence by UK developers, with Media Molecule, Evolution Studios, Bithell and more taking to the stage.

While it can be argued that few of these new titles will set enthusiastic gamers’ tongues wagging in the same way Call of Duty’s reckless destruction of national landmarks will, from a development point of view Sony’s was by far the most interesting of the two press briefings, giving a glimpse into just how far studios are letting their imaginations take them.