Interview: Michael Denny

Interview: Michael Denny

By Chris Dring

September 3rd 2010 at 8:00AM

SCE Worldwide Studios Europe VP on Sony's 3D strategy

Being a part of Sony Worldwide Studios must be a challenging job.

Having only just got to grips with the PS3 hardware, developers are now been asked to create content for Move or 3D, or both.

In fact, with Sony as a corporation putting all its weight behind 3D technology, the demand for 3D content is bigger than ever.

Here we speak to Michael Denny, the senior VP of SCE’s Worldwide Studios in Europe, to discuss the challenges and benefits of 3D content, and we ask about the evolving relationship with developers Insomniac and Media Molecule.

How difficult is it to implement 3D into games? Can it just be a bolt on, or does it need to be built from the ground up?
Again, one size doesn’t fit all. Some games it is very easy and it depends on the code-base you have, and if the game runs in 60fps. But most of the games going into 3D it hasn’t been a big challenge to the teams, and I think when you’re building games from the ground up with 3D in mind, it won’t be too much of a challenge for most teams.

From Sony’s point-of-view, combining 3D with Move is a great way of bringing consumers even closer to the experience…
I think that is absolutely right. 3D in itself is one of those added features we can give now to the right games. And games compared to movies, the interactive nature of it can make it more immersive with 3D.

And when you combine that with the Move controller, so like in games like The Fight being able to judge distances and feel part of the action a bit more, and Tumble – the 3D physics tumble game – it does make the game and accuracy feel a bit more immersive than normal 2D. I think it is choosing the right games, be it Move controls or DualShock games. But 3D can add a lot of immersion to many titles.

Which titles do you think best demonstrates 3D? Evolution says its driving games, do you agree?
I think racing is a fantastic genre for 3D, because in racing experience a lot of it is about judging distance – when you are hitting that corner and so on. Also, when you look at a game like Motorstorm Apocalypse, the sheer destruction in environment, and knowing they were going to make that game in 3D as well, means they can design around that. So a lot of the debris and destruction moves towards the player. So I think driving is going to be massive for 3D.

But you look at some of the other games as well, we talked about the Move titles where you can reach into the game. And the shooters where maybe it is the feeling of owning the gun, which you certainly get with Killzone when you play it in 3D.

Any genres where it wouldn’t work?
I wouldn’t rule out genres. But we aim to make the most of 3D in games and it will never be a one-size fits all, or a broad brush every game will be in 3D. The games have to show potential and excitement. But I think it is something we will look at for all games. And ones where it will add extra immersion and gameplay, definitely.



Why has GT5 taken so long to come out?

I think when you have got a game like Gran Turismo, which is THE PlayStation franchise, then you want the game to be absolutely right and to the highest quality. I think that now we’ve announced the date and we know this is a Gran Turismo year, it’s not only exciting for us at PlayStation company, but for PlayStation fans and consumers. And it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. From a worldwide studio perspective, our strategy is always to concentrate on the highest quality possible. We need exclusive games that differentiates our platform, Gran Turismo has always been our flagship title and I am sure it is going to be that again.

It’s been almost two and a half years since Prologue. Won’t the game feel dated?
Far from looking dated, it will look state of the art. I think it is the game that the driving genre absolutely needs. And Gran Turismo for PlayStation will move that on again.

How important was it for a studio like Insomniac to show its commitment to PS3?
Insomniac has been a fantastic PlayStation developer for a long period of time. They have produced some of our greatest games. So it is always great to have Ted [Price, CEO] and the team along to Gamescom and reveal some new stuff.

It’s particularly great that it is here in Europe as well. PlayStation has always had a lot of success in Europe, and it’s always nice to save something up for the European conferences as well.

Is there a benefit for the group to remain independent?
One size doesn’t fit all. In terms of the worldwide studio strategy, we have now 16 internal worldwide studio teams, some of which were organically grown and some of which were acquisitions.

But we also have a massive network of independent studios that we contract with, that produce great exclusive games for us. And I think we will always have that balanced approach.

Some teams work better in the independent area, and if the fit is right for them to come internal, that is great, too.

Media Molecule has become internal. How has development changed since its become part of the Sony family?
What we loved about Media Molecule from the first time we met them was the passion and innovation and creativity and ambition for what they wanted to do. And when you have a small team like that who have a very particular way of working, the last thing you want to do is come in and change that special way of working.

So very much I think the strategy behind the acquisition is that we can support them as a small studio in the ways they want supporting. But in terms of their creative process and production process, that very much still remains their own. I think people can start to see the fruits of that now coming together.

Something that was missed on some people is that although LittleBigPlanet being a beautiful looking game, but LittleBigPlanet 2 with the all new graphics engine just looks absolutely stunning. And when you look at the whole new feature set it is going to be amazing.

The hype behind the first LittleBigPlanet was huge, but the excitement behind its sequel is a little more muted. Why do you think that is?
I think it comes from the introduction of something new. You are always going to get that very special hype about it when you launch a new IP for the first time and the excitement that comes with that. So I don’t think it’s any different than any other sequel to an original game that is so well received, critically and commercially.

LittleBigPlanet 2 is almost more than just a straight sequel. What that game gives the people is the chance to create any games. As well as the new story mode, the chance for Machinima in there. The feature set goes on and on.

I think to create the hype is always a difficult challenge. But the experience the very active community that we still have for LittleBigPlanet 1 will buy into, I’m sure again, with LittleBigPlanet 2, is just bigger and better.

The user-generated content produced for it has been pretty impressive…
It’s getting close to three million pieces now. The vision, on how the disc is just the start, has just been amazing. The community is very active and the ability to tap into that for the future is fantastic.

So it doesn’t concern you that the momentum behind it isn’t as big as the first one?
I think the momentum is. The hype of introducing something new will always generate massive excitement. I think the momentum behind this game is bigger because we already have the active community behind it. And they are the guys who absolutely count. And as we come up to the launch of it that’s only going to grow.