Anne Blondel-Jouin, managing director at Nadeo
Paris, France-based Trackmania developer Nadeo is not a console game developer, which gives the studio a different perspective on the future of game consoles. The studio's games are heavily reliant on user-generated content, such as tracks for its series of online, community-centric racing games. As a developer on the wide-open PC platform, the Ubisoft-owned studio has direct access to its loyal fanbase and is able to push content updates at will.
So what would convince a company like Nadeo to develop for a next generation console? "If we were to go on next-gen [consoles], we think it would be good for us if it was an open platform," says Anne Blondel-Jouin, managing director at Nadeo.
It'd be an extreme and highly unlikely scenario, to have a completely open console, but Blondel-Jouin is right -- the nature of Nadeo's business relies on sheer openness.
"I have no clue about [console makers' exact plans]," explains Blondel-Jouin. "So far we are looking with much interest at what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8 and DirectX 11.
"That's something we're interested in, as we're still PC-oriented. ... If the other [console] platforms were becoming as open as a PC is, then yes, we'd be very much interested, because the more players we can reach, the better. Trackmania and Shootmania and Maniaplanet are based on how many players are coming, how big the 'fiesta' is.
"We would need to get as close as possible to our players," she continues. "Consoles have rules, and they're great rules, and they're rules to make their businesses work. We have nothing against consoles, but so far, we want as much freedom as possible for the players, and the only platform allowing that right now is PC, so we're still PC."
She says when she joined Nadeo, she was struck by how respectful the community was towards Nadeo's games -- that there was hardly any moderation needed from the studio, which has a single community manager.
"I would say to console manufacturers, 'Don't be afraid of your players or your users,'" she advises. "If you're good at what you do, then they'll respect it, and they'll take it to the next step. If you give your keys to the players, you'll be amazed at how far, and how much better they'll make your new console, and you will benefit from it.
"Being too closed is preventing them from [accessing] all that creativity that's everywhere. ... I would love a console that gives me the tools and instruments to do whatever I want, and it would be perfect, and [console makers] would benefit from it."
David Polfeldt, Ubisoft Massive managing director
Sweden's Massive is best known for the PC strategy games Ground Control and World in Conflict. Its direction took an interesting turn since being acquired by Ubisoft, and now the studio is at work on the multiplayer component of the upcoming first-person shooter Far Cry 3 for consoles and PC.
"To help us be a better developer, the consoles would have to be more similar between each other than they are today," says David Polfeldt, managing director at the studio. "Now, the difference is too big between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. So you really, really need to make two games, actually. That's the way we feel. It's extremely cumbersome, and the result is that they look the same. So that would be a huge leap forward, and we could spend more time making the game fun, or making more sexy features, rather than just adapting the tech.
"The second thing is that the new consoles should be connected all the time, 24 hours, so we know they're there, and we can do things with them." Polfeldt then echoes other game companies: "The third thing is that they would need to open up and make it easier for us to play with our own game when it's on their platform."
For the Massive boss, current processes within first-parties often stand between the game developer and the game itself, and therefore a game's community. It's quite different from the studio's experience as a developer of online PC games. "It's sometimes expensive, there's an awful lot of bureaucracy, even when you want to do quite small things," he says of getting approval on consoles. "We're so used to be able to do changes or fixes or balancing on the fly, that it's something you'd want to have in the next generation of consoles, this same ability to play with your own game."
When running an online game, he says, "It becomes logical to stay close to the community, and have interaction, and have a dialog [with them]. If players make a fair point [about an issue with the game], you can change that. But now if I agree with [player criticisms], I start to think 'Oh yeah, to change that I would have to -- oh shit, it's just too much work.' And I won't change it even if I think [the feedback] is right."
Speaking about the specific barriers in console game development, Polfeldt adds, "It's the TRCs [technical requirements checklist], it's the certification, there's a fee you pay, so if you want to do a title update, you pay for that."
Asked what he would say if he had the opportunity to speak to a console manufacturer directly, he replies, "Maybe a [question] I'd like to discuss is how you expect us to be able to run our business on your platform, with things like microtransactions, item-selling, auction houses, those things. How tight would you want to control those, and how autonomous could I be with my game, and how do I direct business with people playing my game on your platform? That would be a really interesting discussion for me to have."
Karl-Magnus Troedsson, DICE general manager
For the gamers who upgraded their PC hardware so they could play its Frostbite 2-powered Battlefield 3 on the highest "Ultra" settings, perhaps it's no surprise that Karl-Magnus Troedsson, general manager at Battlefield house DICE, would like to see significantly more processing power from the new consoles.
"The developer heart in me says 'give me all the power you've got,' when it comes to CPU and GPU and memory and BUS speeds -- just bring it," he implores. "Because that's what we see as the future of consoles, that they really need to take a big step forward. Not a small step, that's not enough. They need to take a big step forward."
He adds, "I would also suggest that you give me a platform that is easy to develop for with a hardware setup that isn't too unique. The more streamlined it is with the other platforms, the better.
Like Epic founder Sweeney, Troedsson stresses that it's the home consoles that need to be showcasing the highest-end games -- a technological tour de force is what's needed to get new consoles off the ground, and distinguish them from today's offerings.
"I would inspire [console makers] to realize that they're delivering the quality HD platforms. Together with modern PCs, they are the HD platforms, and they should be the premium platform. They need to be at the forefront of what technology can do. The core gamers on these platforms, this is what they expect. You need something that looks and plays well, and sounds really good, and that's pushing the envelope."