Develop Conference: PS4 architect hails return to open, developer-friendly attitude
Mark Cerny, head of Cerny Games and the lead system architect behind PlayStation 4, has said that we are entering a new renaissance of gaming with the arrival of Sony's next console.
The developer and engineer gave the opening keynote at today's Develop Conference in Brighton to an assembly of game creators, press and academics about how the industry has evolved, his own personal journey through it and how he came to hold a pivotal position in the creation of PS4.
Cerny made clear in his talk that making the PlayStation 4 platform a more open, developer-friendly place is the result of years of research and communicating, and structural changes which began even before the PS3 was released.
Being fluent in English and Japanese, as well as an experience programmer and having consulting on hundreds of games, he felt his skillset was right to advise the development of the next PlayStation.
"In the long run, I feel my lack of formal status has been of great benefit to me and SCE," he said.
As an external advisor, Cerny said he's not responsible for the budget or negoitating contracts and such. Instead he is looking at the long-time vision for the platform and guiding how best to make it possible.
He recounted that he first became involved with Sony Computer Entertainment when requesting one of the first PlayStation dev kits at a time when the company was only serving Japanese studios.
It was through this that he met Shuhei Yoshida, now head of Sony's Worldwide Studios group, and began a long friendship which lead to his involvement in all of Sony's hardware platforms to date.
Together they formed the Initiative for a Common Engine (ICE) team within Sony last in the PS2's life, which was intend to get SCE's first-party studios transition to the next generation smoother.
Cerny said it was a victory to get himself and small set of ICe members into the 'inner sanctum' of the PlayStation hardware team during the development of PS3.
He and his team working on creating the foundation engine and tools for Sony's first-parties to use on the console.
But PS3 was a more complex machine than anything previous, and Cerny said that unlocking the potentuial of Cell of like attempting to solve a Rubix cube - every team was in competition, and Sony wanted its teams to be ahead.
He admitted that he and his team had adopted the wrong attitude, when it came to making the PS3 development tools something that third-parties would gain from, along with Sony's core studios.
“We were just thinking about our games, we didn’t think about our platforms.”
The latter part of Cerny's talk was devoted to indie games and their resurgance.
Cerny said that original PlayStation foster more experimentation thanks to relatively simple architecture, and as a result we saw games such as Parappa the Rapper and Dead Dice.
However, since then, the publishing and approval process over the years has become more corporate, which Cerny said hampered indie development in the PS2 and early PS3 generation.
"We feel is it essential to bring [indie] games to our platform, because we know that variety is a key part of the appeal of the PlayStation," he said.
Now he said the company is restoring the balance with PS4, and has "radically simplified" the approval process, allwing for games and business models of all kinds - paid-for, free-to-play, microtransaction and others.
"As a result of these technical, business and platform values, we believe that a renaissance of gaming is coming on PS4. Heavy content with thrive on the platform, but in many ways we’re also returning to the creative freedom and broad content of the original PlayStation," Cerny said.