How much are you doing to help these independent developers figure out how to develop on the PS3, and use the SPUs, and things like that?
JH: In first-party, we provide the hardware, and we usually give them hands-on. They get to work with our designers and our tech directors. So they get a lot of information about it. But it's not that arduous.
People try to portray the PS3 as this very difficult beast to develop for, and the reality is that Kellee and Jenova at thatgamecompany got their PS3 dev kit really early on, and within a month's time, had flOw up and running. And they'd never made a console game before. Jonathan Mak, within three weeks' time, he had Everyday Shooter running on the PS3, and he's a solo everyman.
I think that while there isn't a huge
toolset that's being provided with the PS3 -- we have some very good
tools now, those early developers didn't have so much, but we
have some good tools now -- but I think it's more than that. There isn't
any baggage. You can get right to the iron. You know what you're telling
the machine to do, and for most developers, that's very liberating.
It's that last twenty percent of trying to get all the bugs worked out of the game, and of making the game look pretty and be responsive. After all, these are supposed to be real-time experiences, and not low-framerate.
If you're working through a fairly
large SDK where a lot of things get included that you don't necessarily
need for your game, it's going to be very confusing on what to rip out
and what not to have in there. And even just for debugging, it's like,
"Hey, is it my problem, or is it somewhere in this black box?"
The cool thing about the approach that
we have, is that it requires you know a little bit about programming.
It doesn't write the game for you. But it does give you a lot of power
over the hardware. It's a different architecture. With last generation,
you could kind of come up with an engine that would work across all
three platforms and get reasonably good results, but now, the machine's
so powerful and so different that if you really want to take advantage
of it, you have to write specifically for the PS3.
I think that's mostly what those people are talking about when they say that it's difficult. Also, how much did flOw and Everyday Shooter use the SPUs?
JH: To some degree they do, sure.
Not as much as [thatgamecompany's next game] Flower is, perhaps?
JH: They're OpenGL, and they're using our solution, which is PSGL, which is a great renderer. Flower looks awesome.
I know, from talking to them, that
thatgamecompany's developers have since figured out how to use
the SPUs, but I think with smaller games, it's in fact easier to develop
on the PS3, because you don't necessarily have to.
JH: That was part of our strategy with them. We felt like with flOw, we'd allow them to get their feet wet, understand the mechanics of building the game. We didn't think it would be a good idea for them to take on some sort of heavy, 3D world in their first game. But now that they've got that under their belts, here we are a year later, and now they can, and the proof is in Flower. It looks great.
The thing that's just really cool for
me right now is that this is kind of how I got started in games. I got
started back in the early '90s. It was an era when I could make an entire
game myself, or with one other person. It was an era of experimentation.
A lot of the games that you see now, the first person shooters, Castle Wolfenstein, that was [originally] an experimentation. Doom was one of the early experiments on direct distribution of games. It's neat to see this stuff happening again.
I think the outgrowth of this is that you are going to see just incredible diversity, and the things that we consider genres now -- because we're so accustomed to seeing multiple games done with the same mechanic -- we're really going to be busting genres.
You're going to see a blurring of lines and this movement, this convergence in technology and the fact that universities and other places are taking game development seriously and preparing people for doing it, is just a wonderful time to be in.
Yeah, it seems like art games are
going to come more from the independent side than from the large-scale
side. It certainly has started to be the case now.
Yeah, you're right. We treat our developers like artists. That's our intent. And that's the best way to treat them. This is what it's all about. You have a vision for doing something, and then it's a matter of finding the audience.