Interviews

Interview: Sony's Michael Denny on PS4

PlayStation's VP of Worldwide Studios on next-gen games, backwards compatibility and more

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How important a feature to you foresee the light bar and camera becoming for core games specifically?
I think time will tell on those things. I think the important thing is that we have an improved camera system now with stereo cameras, which obviously offers a lot better 3D depth tracking. The HD feed too allows for much clearer AR type games.

The light bar works independently of the camera so there are a lot features that can be used like in Killzone where it will change colour to indicate your health for example, which is quite nice.

Again when you go back to teams' feedback, we had a whole load of different features and systems we could implement. What we went with were the ones that teams felt that with time and certain games and genres, they could really bring to the fore.

One of the most obvious uses of the light bar is to identify which player has the controller or which character is being played, but I think it's about the future. We only showed a limited number of games last night and with time I think that will grow and grow.

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The PlayStation 4 Eye

A lot of our readers will be keen for you to offer comment on the pre-owned issue, and whether or not Sony would consider implementing some sort of prevention measure? It is of course a potentially difficult balancing act trying to satisfy the demands of consumers and the health of your studios...

It's a massively important issue and I understand why it's one that keeps coming up and will keep coming up, because people want to know what the exact stance is.

At this moment in time the announcements have been about our philosophy and vision for PlayStation 4, our motivation to put the gamer at the heart of it and why we've got the development community on it.

In relation to points like that, of course we're mindful of what the game development community wants and what the wider industry issues are with those things. I think in good time that will become clearer.

So it's not something you have a definitive position on right now?

It's not something that I feel I have any further announcement or comment to make on, other than to acknowledge with you that it's a massively important issue and of course we are going to do the right thing.

What does PlayStation 4 mean for the online capabilities of your titles?

I think the world's moved on massively since PlayStation 3 was introduced. Everything is now more connected - although I do keep stressing that PlayStation 4 can be played without an internet connection.

One of my favourite things from the event was the instant-on demos, being able to browse the store and play games to see if you like them straight away. I think all of those user experience things are a massive up in addition to great content.

What's your end goal in terms of adding backwards compatibility to PS4, possibly via cloud?
In terms of native backwards compatibility, that won't be on PlayStation 4 but you're right, with Gaikai we have the possibility with that technology to bring the back catalogue to other PlayStation devices. That is a vision that we want to pursue, that is something that we're excited about and we're sure it's a service that gamers will enjoy when we bring that.

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Friends can 'assist' PS4 gameplay via cloud

What about digital PSN titles - is there any ambition to eventually implement a backwards compatible solution there?
Again, in terms of PlayStation 3 titles none of them are backwards compatible. I think it's the same question I just answered in terms of Gaikai and the systems that at some point to make those titles available on other PlayStation devices would be a great vision.

So at this point you can't provide any assurances over PSN backwards compatibility for the PS3 owners who might see it as an important issue?
It is an important issue but there are loads of important issues that weren't part of these initial announcements. We wanted to announce early because we wanted to explain to people the vision behind PlayStation 4. I think a lot of the digital rights management, a lot of the business case will come up in future events leading up to launch.

What lessons did you learn from the strong launch line-up of the PS Vita that might affect your PS4 plans?
I think we learn lessons from every platform we launch and every game we launch. I think Vita as a handheld and portable platform is quite a different offering to what PlayStation 4 is going to be in terms of the competitive landscape

But the main point is that yes we had a nice line-up of titles with PS Vita, but I think nearly every console you can think of from the last decade, in terms of those pillar titles coming through... it sometimes takes a year, two years or so. So when you look at Vita now, games like Tearaway and Killzone Mercenary are starting to come through.

With PlayStation 4 what's exciting is we can see the strength in depth of titles come through - not just in first party but third party, and I really believe PlayStation 4 will have the strongest launch line-up we've ever had.

How might your portfolio of games change going into the next-generation?
I think you're always going to want to cover the big genres - the big, triple-A experiences and keep pushing them and keep innovating within them. I think Drive Club was a great idea and part of their vision you would've seen in Motorstorm RC on Vita - more of a social type racer, but on PS4 I think they feel they can do a more fully formed racer and bring some of those things in to it.

I think they put it in a lovely way when they pointed out that at the end of the day first-person shooters, multiplayer... it's a social experience now. Everybody's on headphones talking, it's team based to a certain degree - how can we get that ethos into asynchronous challenges within a driving game?

So I think there are big genres that we want to cover but we want to innovate within them and move them on. What we wanted to do last night as well by giving a glimpse of games that aren't in production - Media Molecule's insight into their concepting process and prototype they came up with - is to show that we will take risks and do things that are surprising, a bit different and that will hopefully excite our fans.

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Watch Dogs

In your very first unveiling of PS4 you've already unveiled a multitude of titles. In terms of 2013 and the launch window, do you have anything left to pull out of the hat?
Absolutely. This was the first announcement, it was an early announcement, and as I said this was really to set the agenda and to get it clear to everybody what those design pillars were for PlayStation 4, what the ethos is behind PS4, who it's aimed at and getting the game development community on board.

I think it was a great start to get everybody thinking in the same terms as we're thinking, and of course now we've got the rest of the year to go out with further announcements.

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