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Breaking: GDC Keynote - 'PlayStation 3: Beyond The Box'

Breaking: GDC Keynote - 'PlayStation 3: Beyond The Box'

March 22, 2006 | By Frank Cifaldi, San Jose

March 22, 2006 | By Frank Cifaldi, San Jose
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At Sony's keynote at the 2006 Game Developers Conference, "PlayStation 3: Beyond the Box," Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios President Phil Harrison was quiet about the unit's thus-far unannounced price point, though he did make one vague hint suggesting a retail value higher than that of the PlayStation 2:

"Our job is to grow the market, our job is to lead, our job is to innovate, and we feel we've been very successful in doing that," said Harrison. "We've done it faster with the PlayStation 2 than we did with the PlayStation 1, and also at comparatively higher price points. This is very good for the economy of the videogame industry."

Harrison's keynote seemed focused on the eventual elimination of physical media for game distribution, touching both on the previously-announced wifi game downloading capabilities of the PSP including software-based emulation of the PlayStation 1 back-catalogue, and formally announcing the code-named PlayStation Network, which will allow developers to distribute game content including, apparently, full games entirely in an entirely downloadable fashion.

Harrison also touched on the PS3 hardware's launch, which will happen in "early November" simultaneously in the United States, Japan, Asia, Europe and Australia, and that production capacities allow for one million unites to be manufactured per month. PlayStation 3 development units, he said, are "absolutely on track," with final hardware being shipped to developers in June.

Harrison also praised the Blu-Ray disc storage format, which the PlayStation 3 uses as its standard format for disc-based games. In this next generation of content, games will demand more detailed graphics, more objects, richer details, higher bit rates for sounds, and more. But Harrison claims the format makes sense from a commercial perspective as well:

"[Blu-Ray] allows more localization to go on a single disc. It allows developers and publishers to create one disc for a global SKU. This is what Blu Ray brings uniquely to the PlayStation 3."

In addition to Harrison's speech, Sony's keynote featured a number of video clips and guest appearances. God of War creator David Jaffe was on-hand to show exclusive footage of God of War II for the PlayStation 2, explaining why the game is in development for the current console instead of the PlayStation 3:

"There's a couple reasons, the main is quite technical in that PS3 is probably the most powerful game machine on the planet, but it has technical limitations in that it seems to be incapable of rendering three-way sex scenes in real-time. So we're keeping the vision on PS2 in order to deliver that to the audience."

This was followed by a moderately impressive trailer of the game, with Jaffe's promise that the game would be hands-on at E3.

HAVOK showed a tech demo illustrating nearly 1,000 fully rendered soldiers being thrown around, via large explosions, and all utilizing real time ragdoll physics. This was followed by a demonstration of a fully-rendered automobile being shot by a machine gun, procedurally being destroyed by bullets going into it. "We can literally rip it to shreds in front of you," said Harrison. The demonstration, he said, is from a forthcoming game that has not yet been announced. "It's an action game," said Harrison. "I won't say anything more than that."

Dylan Jobe, producer and director of the upcoming PlayStation 3 behind-the-back plane shooter Warhawk at Incognito Studios, showed a playable demo of the game, focusing on the importance of what he called "ambient warfare," which refers to combat not necessarily involving the player being simulated on-screen, in the background. The game, like God of War II, will be playable at E3.

Harrison then went into detail about the PlayStation Network Platform, which is the internal development name of the PlayStation 3's network service, and not necessarily what will ship to consumers. The service will be live, worldwide, when the PlayStation 3 launches in November, in collaboration with Sony Online Entertainment. "They are using their expertise to write technology in support of our business goals," said Harrison.

"We will provide all the basic services as standard," Harrison continued. "But third party game services can also be connected, so this means that developers and publishers of MMO-type games can integrate with our platform."

Harrison showed pre-production stills of a very Xbox Live-esque network interface, overlaid on top of a game; in this case, the upcoming Formula 1. Unique to the service, however, is the ability to show live streaming video chat in-game.

Other video presentations followed, including Scott Kirkland and Mick Hocking from Evolution Studios focusing on the destructable terrain of their upcoming MotorStorm, and Insomniac's Ted Price showing their upcoming first-person shooter Resistance: Call of Man, followed by a short teaser of their next PlayStation 3 project, a new game in the Ratchet & Clank series.

Harrison closed the keynote by discussing his "wheel of fortune" business model for the future. "We have an industry that has been based on simple business model: we make content, we put it on discs, and we sell it in stores.

"In the future we're going to go through a radical change. We'll be creating and servicing a network of game communities, the most fundamental shift in development we've ever seen. GDC, in the years to come, will be focused on this shift from disc-based to network-based."

"In summary, you can see we have a tremendous family. And we have the innovation to grow the market, and together we have an incredibly bright opportunity and future."


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