PS4 - 26 developers speak

PS4 - 26 developers speak

By Craig Chapple & Will Freeman

March 14th 2013 at 10:30AM

Devs of all sizes discuss the PS4, ease of development, next-gen costs and new hardware features

Revealed three weeks ago, Sony's PS4 console gave developers a glimpse at what might be possible on truly next-gen hardware.

Despite not revealing the box itself, Sony went to great lengths to show it had been listening to developers by creating familiar hardware on a seemingly more open system, and that it had watched carefully consumer trends by integrating instant updates and streaming as well as a new share button, all central to the console's ecosystem.

But now the dust has settled, what do developers really think of the PS4, and how will it affect and change the industry landscape for at least the next five years? We asked 26 developers from all sides of the game industry, from indie to triple-A developers to service providers, what the PS4 means for them.

Has the PS4 met your expectations of what a next-gen console should be?

Avalanche CTO and co-founder Linus Blomberg
"Absolutely. The hardware as such is great, and will outperform most PC's for many years to come. But the true greatness lies in the accessibility and ecosystem supporting it in terms of social connectivity and cloud services."

Rebellion CTO Chris Kingsley
"The PlayStation 4 is a great piece of hardware that more than meets our expectations. To use a bingo analogy, it has the two fat ladies - eight cores and 8GB of RAM. That’s a lot of cores and a lot of RAM which we’ll quite happily find plenty of uses for. And of course we all know that AMD makes great GPUs.

"The GPUs can of course do compute tasks, though I’m pretty sure we’ll be using all the GPU for graphics – if we’re not filling up the GPU with graphics tasks we’re not trying hard enough."

nDreams CEO Patrick O'Luanaigh
"I have been very impressed by what I've heard about the PS4 so far. Sure, it's a powerful piece of hardware, but I'm more excited by their focus on 'immediacy'. One of the many reasons that tablet and mobile gaming is growing so rapidly is the speed of play - you can literally pick up a tablet and be playing a game in seconds.

"Sadly, the PS3 isn't able to compete with that; I think most PS3 or 360 owners find themselves sat around too often waiting for a system update and/or game patch to download and install before they can play. Being able to jump onto your PS4 and start a game within a few seconds will make a real difference.

"The other thing that excites me about Sony's approach is their eagerness to embrace cross platform gaming, cloud gaming, 'games as a service', indie digital-only publishers and free-to-play gaming. Their willingness to push into these areas will mean lots of innovative new IPs and new types of game arriving on the PlayStation Network, whether that's Vita, PS4 or some other PlayStation device.

"Having lots of new experiences from exciting new teams is the lifeblood of any platform, and if Sony can capitalise on this and iron out a few issues they currently have, I think there is real potential moving forwards."

Codemasters senior executive producer Clive Moody
"The question really is, does the console offer developers enough to create amazing games that people want to play and crucially, act as a catalyst for innovation and fresh experiences?

"The answer is certainly yes for the former. In terms of innovation and freshness, Sony have given us the tools and it’s now very much in the hands of developers. From my own experience so far, we are exploring a whole range of new approaches that  genuinely excite and can definitely take the racing genre in to new and interesting places."

Mojang business developer Daniel Kaplan
"I really didn't have a clue on what to expect other than more of the same but a fine tuned experience. Sony has fixed the issues with waiting time which, in my opinion, is quite a disaster on consoles today. Waiting on updates, having to update before starting game, can't download at the same time you are playing etcetera. 

"Something I really hope that they will also address is the openness of the platform and make development easier for the developers, such as no need for devkits, no need for special weird agreements, no need for confusing NDAs and stuff like that."

Blitz studio design director John Nash
"As a studio we're excited to see the new console launch and are certainly impressed with the initial slate of titles. Their next tier visuals and core sensibilities should secure a good install base in the market by appealing to the devout PlayStation fan-base.

"Sony's PS4 platform and their continued commitment to supporting developers and fostering innovation means that the space of possibility for new game experiences isn't just mere conjecture. For us the real excitement will begin when the second, third and fourth wave of titles hit, hopefully taking full advantage of the unique features of the Sony PS4 ecosphere.

"As we are fortunate to be a PS4 development partner and middleware provider, we are in a strong position to both support and deliver on the high vision of the PS4."

Lucid Games founder Nick Davies
"I think it's early days isn't it, it was just an introdcution to some of the cool features that the PS4 has got. I think we'll probably see a lot more over the next few months and at E3 with more specific contnet.

"But I think there's some pretty exciting features in there, certainly on the sharing and social side. I think that's, from what we've seen, that's been certainly the most exciting aspect of the PS4.

"They've really got a lot of interesting features in there for people to interact with their friends, interact with their friends' games and, certainly with the Gakai stuff as well, I think there's a more open to the social side of things, and I think that's one of the big things they wanted to get out there."

Remode CCO Martin Darby
"The PS4 represents an evolutionary update to the PlayStation heritage and as such it looks poised to solve a number of problems for developers. However, whether the PS4 will become revolutionary is down to how much it solves problems for customers too, and that remains to be seen."

Gearbox Software FX artist Nick Peterson
"It all depends on their development tools. If they get anywhere near as good as Microsoft's development tools were for the Xbox 360, they'll be sitting pretty. The device looks like it's going to be very fast with that GDDR5 memory. I do wonder where the next Microsoft console will fall in the performance category. Ultimately, you have to sort of cater to the lowest common denominator.

"Indie for PS4, now that would be interesting. I wonder how much of the hardware they would open up for indies? My guess is it would be something akin to what Microsoft did with XNA for the Xbox 360. It would be neat though."

Mode 7 joint MD Paul Taylor
"The PS4 looks like a much more practical option for indie devs than past Sony consoles. I really appreciate what they've done in terms of its architecture. Also, there are loads of ways for players to share content, which helps out teams with smaller marketing budgets."

"All round, it looks like a good thing. I hope Sony will continue their proactive and supportive dealings with the indie community in the future."

FuturLab MD James Marsden
"We're most impressed by Sony's change of attitude toward their platforms. PS3 launched with Sony's first party publishing having a strong preference toward triple-A showcases, and a pretty blunt disregard for anything less than that, including 2D games, whereas now they're much more supportive of good ideas and fun, well designed games, regardless of production value.

"Of course they need their triple-A showcases, but Sony are doing a great job supporting indie developers, particularly on the PS Vita. The message that indie is important for Sony on PS4 took centre stage with Jonathan Blow, so we're sold, and hope to get our hands on a PS4 development kit as soon as possible.

Mediatonic creative producer Ed Fear
It was great to see non-triple-A products share the spotlight at the reveal. I think it showed that Sony wants to keep itself relevant to the now-diverse range of developers.

Insert Coin Studios creative director Brandon Lacasse
I'm looking forward to seeing how indie developers will go about bringing a game to the new console, particularly on the business side.  

Wish Studios CEO Caspar Field
"PS4 was intelligently pitched as developer-friendly, internet-friendly, powerful, social, and accessible - all of those were the right buttons to press. It was smart to save the case design and price for later in the year; it's the services, positioning and controller that matter most. Sony has played its cards smartly, giving PS4 a very strong start."

Indie developer Mark Phillips
"I feel that part of the success of the PS4 – a large part – will be how it embraces the indie development scene and how reciprocally the indie developers respond."

Codeplay director of games technology Colin Riley
"We are excited about the possibilities of GPGPU given the RAM is unified and fast. That will result in some really interesting technologies going forward, and we were happy to see GPGPU shown in the reveal."

Pitbull Studios MD Robert Troughton
"If Sony can pull this off and have everything ready for the PS4 launch then the next generation is looking very rosy indeed! The PS4 sounds like both gamers’ and developers’ dream machine."

3D Ninja 3D artist Wes McDermott
"The PS4 looks extremely promising. Sony's new direction definitely appears to be focused on ease of development. I'm most excited about the possibilities for independent development and was thrilled to see an independent title featured in the reveal."

Ripstone director Phil Gaskell
"The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time, and I can't wait to play, create and share in this future. PlayStation's are made to be loved, not understood.

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference, and I hope Sony's attitude towards indie game development spreads."

Wargaming PR Manager Arthur Pratapopau 
"As you know, Wargaming just took its first steps into the world of console gaming, with the acquisition of Day 1 Studios (which will now be called Wargaming West), who are hard at work on an unannounced console title.

"Certainly, the introduction of the PS4 by Sony is intriguing to us. New hardware means new technology, and most importantly, new tools to bring gamers compelling and immersive gaming experiences. We’re curious and excited to learn more about the PS4."

Air-Edel's Chris Green
"The new system looks amazing, and it really takes the PS3 forward in leaps and bounds.  Also it fills me with excitement that the next generation of consoles will really be that, next-gen and not current gen version 2.0."

Lextech Global Services system engineer Felipe Laso Marsetti
"The PS4 apparently gives triple-A developers a fantastic architecture to work with. 

"For indie developers who have grown accustomed to the mobile landscape, it would be fantastic to see Sony embrace a similar model to iOS or Android, letting us pay a small yearly fee ($99 or so, like iOS) to be able to publish our apps and games on the PS4 taking full advantage of Move, the DualShock and the PSN ecosystem. Even if it means going through a strict review process like Apple.

"It will also give Sony a huge advantage over Microsoft as it would become the de-facto platform for indies and small studios."

 

What is the PS4 like to develop for?

Avalanche CTO and co-founder Linus Blomberg
"Compared to the PS3 it's a walk in the park. I think that's one of the major lessons Sony learned with the last generation, you have to be accessible for the developers to be successful. Of course, there's still some quirkiness involved, especially if you're used to a Windows development environment."

Rebellion CTO Chris Kingsley
"Sony have always produced good development hardware and the PlayStation 4 is no exception. For developers the real key at the early stages of new hardware is to get good, stable tools as quickly as possible, and Sony have done a great job for PlayStation 4.

"The new tools and hardware integrate really well with our existing development tools, pipelines and processes meaning we can get up and running very quickly and create and build games fast."

Codemasters senior exeutive producer Clive Moody
"With its incredibly bespoke architecture, the PS3 didn’t make itself an easy platform and it has taken pretty much the entire generation for many studios to get the best from it. The PS4 seems much workable straight away, we can apply some of our advanced tech to it straight away and spend more time on the creative execution."

Ubisoft CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot
"The PS4 is a great machine; we'll be able to make things look fantastic. Because the teams are working hard on their projects, I think we will see good things from the start. Sure, in two years engineers will figure out how to do a lot more. But these machines are easier to build on than before, so we should be able to reach their potential quicker.

"They have so many features that they can play with. It’s easier to be a creative person with new consoles, because after four years of people using all the capacity, it's harder to be innovative. With the PS4, we will see new ideas and new ways to approach gamers, and that will excite consumers and excite creators."

Rebellion CTO Chris Kingsley
"At Rebellion we’ve always developed on the PC so the x86 cores will be a fantastic time saver. Having commonalities across more than one platform means you spend less time just getting things working and more time pushing the hardware as far as you can. Of course, there are always likely to be a few wrinkles along the way.

"But it is also great that Sony are literally thinking outside the box. The PlayStation 4 is so much more than a box that produces great images and sound. Sony have built in ways to connect with players more deeply to create better ways for players to experience their games."

Xiotex founder Byron Atkinson-Jones
"The fact that Sony have finally adopted a PC architecture makes me believe there may be a god especially after many years cursing the obscure hardware they always made us code to."

Climax Studios CEO Simon Gardner
"It's much easier to develop for. The tool chain is an advancement over the PS3 and everything about it is slicker, simpler and much more developer friendly. We were very pleased with the 8GB of memory and the compute shader system is very powerful."

Four Door Lemon owner Simon Barratt
"The PC like architecture is a big boost in terms of productivity for teams of all sizes. More technically capable teams will be able to take advantage of the huge amount of CPU cores and also compute power in the device for amazing results whether they are using them for graphics, physics or other interesting uses."

Air-Edel's Chris Green
"The roll back to x86 technology (PC technology) should make it a lot easier and quicker for studios to create and optimise cross-platform games, and get up and running quickly when the new systems come out, something that the PS3 had issues with.

"Also, I feel the x86 platform was what helped the XBox 360 get such a strong hold in the market even though the PS3 was on paper a better machine, because the developers felt more comfortable writing for it. In my opinion it was only really the PS3 exclusive games that showed off the system to its full potential."

Are development costs going to rise significantly for the PS4?

Avalanche CTO and co-founder Linus Blomberg
"Not necessarily, it depends entirely on what game you're making. The PS4 opens upindies and smaller developers to a whole different level than the PS3. But it also raises the bar of what a mega blockbuster can be, and I'm sure there'll be some new records in terms of development budgets.

"As an open-world developer however, there's tons of exciting potential to create epic experiences that are more cost-effective due to the scalable nature of procedural technology, things that we have been forced to hold back on with previous generations."

Climax Studios CEO Simon Gardner
"It will really depend on the game, but a lot of source assets are created to much higher fidelity anyway, so this might not have the impact that you would expect.

"There is also the issue of the cost of games that the market will stand, and I think with the demise of several publishers last year, it is clear that in many cases we have already reached that. I do think there will be a much greater mix of types of games on the PS4, which will allow more experimentation, innovation and business models."

Lucid Games founder Nick Davies
"I think developers have kind of tiered off, and so there are already developers that have got 200-to-300 people on a project so I doubt that is going to ramp up signifcantly.

"It looks like Sony want to be more open with indie developers, so there's certainly scope, especially with digital downloads, for small teams to do clever things with all of the clever technology. So I think some people will spend more, some people will spend the same.

"I think costs will naturally go up with the bigger developers, but I think if you're smart, if your tools are good, if you've got a good design that compliments your team and the platform, then you can keep costs manageable."

 

What opportunities do you see available to developers with the PS4's new features?

Rebellion CTO Chris Kingsley
"The new controller has some great new features that we’re playing around with - it’s early days but we’ve got lots of ideas. Being able to play remotely on Vita could be brilliant too."

"And of course there’s cloud gaming which is still a bit of a nebulous concept at the moment as it means many different things to different people. There are so many opportunities out there! We’re like kids in a toy shop and it’s playtime."

Codemasters senior executive producer Clive Moody
"The new pad’s great and we’re currently figuring out what it may offer racing games. That it has motion tracking built in may be one opportunity, we’ve looked at concepts to implement motion-only control into racing titles in the past but it comes back to having something physical, that gives players feedback such as vibration, in your hand that relates most naturally to the racing experience of having something physical such as a steering wheel in your hand.

"For us, connectivity plays a hugely important part of the next-gen racing experience. We want to make it easier for people to share the experiences of their games and we’ve featured a YouTube share in our titles since DiRT 3 and that will continue and evolve, especially through a new level of integration with our RaceNet platform."

Climax Studios CEO Simon Gardner
"There are lots of features that it is too early for us to comment on, but I would say that in our opinion it lifts the bar and is significantly better than the current PS3 offering. It has a better approach to downloads and updates. The potential of streaming is exciting. Connectivity via Mobile devices should lead to even more ways to creatively interact with the PS4."

Mojang business developer Daniel Kaplan
"I'm a bit disappointed that the gamepad is not so elegantly designed, since it looks like they have crammed in everything in a small space.

"I'm really looking forward to the recording features. Video recording is something that has been huge for Minecraft on YouTube and I hope that it will be a great success for other developers too. I'm still quite uncertain about the cloud gaming features but if they can pull it off, it will be great."

Gearbox Software FX artist Nick Peterson
"As for the social aspect, I don't really care about it personally. I'm sure some will, but I also wonder if it is really as big as people claim it is or will be on consoles.

"It seems to me most peoples' social sphere sticks to Facebook and not much else at all. PlayStation Home was a flop, the social tools for the Vita don't seem to be used often, and honestly, I get tired of seeing and hearing 14 year old kids mouthing off at everyone when I play online."

Four Door Lemon owner Simon Barratt
"The Share and other Gaikai based aspects of the PS4 are really interesting and if implemented well will be a massive boost to developers in terms of the social media promotion of their games, you only need to look at the success of many gaming YouTube channels to see that."

Lucid Games founder Nick Davies
"There's a lot going on with the new controller but I think if you look at the design, from my personal opinion, I think there's a lot going on but I don't think it's strayed too far from that classic DualShock look.

"I don't think any of the features get in the way of the others, I think the touchpad is interseting, and games can use it. It's not going to alienate the more traditional fans who just want their dualsticks, four face buttons and the D-pad. It looks quite tightly and smartly designed. You can cram alot of features in without each one compromising the other, which I think is pretty clever."

Air-Edel's Chris Green
"On an audio and music side of things the inclusion of a speaker in the new DualShock 4 controller, I mean I'm sure the touchscreen will be fun too, but the speaker means that we should be able to do some innovative and exciting things with audio coming from the controller, similar to what we saw on the Wii in games like Zelda or No More Heroes, but hopefully take it a bit further."