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GDC: Q&A - Sony Studios' Yoshida On Move Development
GDC: Q&A - Sony Studios' Yoshida On Move Development
March 10, 2010 | By Christian Nutt

March 10, 2010 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, GDC

Today in San Francisco, Sony unveiled the final form of its motion controller, the PlayStation Move. It's a solution that seems to look more like Nintendo's Wii Remote than Microsoft's Project Natal -- though it includes both camera and accelerometer technology.

On stage during the event, SCEA marketing head Peter Dille talked about the product in terms of a platform launch. After the presentation, Gamasutra was able to speak to Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony's Worldwide Studios organization, about what this technology means to Sony -- and others' -- games.

The Changing Face of Sony Development

Sony has traditionally been an engineering-driven company, an approach personified by Ken Kutaragi, the original creator of the PlayStation. However, Kutaragi has been succeeded by Kaz Hirai, and Sony has been promising that the approach will be more balanced with the needs of software developers in the future. But have things really changed?

"That's a perfect question," replied Yoshida. "PlayStation Move is our very first platform [where] SCE has completely changed the approach. There's been a key management change in Japan... [Hirai] made sure that, going forward, new platforms should be developed from the collaboration of the game software development teams and hardware development teams."

In fact, that need prompted Yoshida to relocate to Japan from the U.S., he said. "Because of Kaz's new vision, I felt like this is the perfect opportunity for me to be in Japan and become an intermediary to help the hardware guys to talk to the appropriate software teams."

In fact, said Yoshida, "The head of the hardware department [in Japan] agrees and I feel now that we have done this on PlayStation Move, we cannot think of any other way of developing a new platform. It is so crucial, the input of the teams from our various studios."

The Gene of PlayStation: The Development of Move

PlayStation has always been home to a variety of software -- something Yoshida described as the "gene of PlayStation." He said that shaped their approach to Move. "We wanted to make sure that the new hardware systems can work for many different type of games. We have many different teams creating prototypes and the software systems."

"We always wanted to provide something for everyone. That's why it's a very key target for the system development for PlayStation Move; we wanted to capture both core gamers and casual gamers," said Yoshida.

Teams were asked to "critique and give feedback, long lists of things that were wrong with the early prototypes and give them back to Japan... And they were able to iterate the new hardware prototype and software system and improve it."

The development environment and software libraries that drive the Move system -- which are available to all PlayStation third party developers -- was developed in the U.S. under Richard Marks, Sony's R&D manager of special projects. "What we did from first party was help Rick Marks to improve the software system and tools," said Yoshida.

Core developers, like Zipper Interactive, whose hardcore shooter SOCOM 4 will optionally use the Move peripheral, are "super demanding", said Yoshida, as "they are competing with many excellent shooters out there. So the precision of the system, unless it's there, they wouldn't even be interested in incorporating PlayStation Move."

Yoshida said that "we dragged many teams into this hardware development because we wanted to make sure that ... [Move] satisfies the needs of development teams that usually make traditional games, like SOCOM."

When it comes to the design of the system, said Yoshida, the system's broad base of players made also prompted the choice of a wand and camera solution. "We looked at many different technologies before we settled with the vision-based combination with inertial sensors... We looked at pros and cons, we created prototype games using some other technical systems. Through these activities we are very confident that the choice of technology we made is the right one for PlayStation."

Developing Move Games

Though many of the Move games on display at the event are obviously competent and may be fun, there's nothing that will blow the minds of gamers who've already played the Wii. Yoshida said that these are the first steps.

"Take Wii -- compare their first party titles at the launch, second year, third year. Developers take time to experiment with many things and get heir arms around [the platform]. We're excited and happy with early results of development teams."

The long projected lifespan of the PS3 means Move has hit at the right time, Yoshida said. "Like we've been notoriously saying, the PS3 has a 10 year life cycle. We're still on the early half of development. We're excited to have this system [Move] this year. Last Christmas, we felt like we were able to shift to the right price point for PS3, and we feel we're ready to target a broader audience, and this is perfect timing."

Is this, in fact, a new beginning for the PlayStation 3? "The learning curve from PS2 to PS3 was such that, that two years ago when we launched LittleBigPlanet [felt like it] was our proper system launch, and last year Uncharted 2 was the second year... Many teams are just releasing the first games on PS3, since last year."

Yoshida pointed to titles like InFamous, MAG, and Killzone 2 as evidence of this, and also of the system hitting its stride. "When I talk to all of the developers that we work with, they feel totally comfortable working with PS3 now, and it took a long time."

When it comes to Move, Sony is targeting about 20 first-party games within the next fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2011. This includes both dedicated titles like Move Party and games that optionally use the controller, like SOCOM 4.

Will all of Sony's first party games, then, become Move titles? Said Yoshida, "Technically it's very straightforward to put PlayStation Move into the game, that's one of the strong points for Move that we feel, because PS3 is very robust, it takes a fraction of SPU."

However, not all games will use Move, said Yoshida. "The key is if the developer has a good idea to use Move in the game. So for SOCOM 4 we feel strongly that gamers who are not good at shooting games will find it much easier to get into a shooting game. That's a strong, good reason to do so, but each game is different."

In fact, the move to put these controls in SOCOM is less about convincing hardcore gamers to use Move and more about convincing slightly more casual players to try the game. "We are not necessarily trying to convince people... who are good at using DualShock controller, to play shooting games [with Move]. We are trying to target a little bit broader playing audience who feel intimidated playing shooter games online. We'd like to invite these gamers into more hardcore games, like SOCOM."

And the causal games for Move will offer a lot of depth, said Yoshida. The table tennis game has similar assist options as you might see in a driving game, but these can be turned off, and "if you are a good ping pong player, you can disable some of these assists and really show what you can do with the paddle."

Should developers who deliver dual-control games like SOCOM, in fact, go easy on Move players? Said Yoshida, "This is exactly what we need to do. The control scheme that Zipper came up with for SOCOM 4 is very intuitive to move..." However, camera control can be a problem -- so, said Yoshida, "the game developer has to adjust the game difficulty and make sure that you don't get too much from your side when you are using Move... That will be necessary." Sony sees the potential of inviting more people into hardcore gaming as part of Move's success.

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todd blend
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Wow is this really happening?...Is Sony really doing a ripoff of what's already out there? I mean come on now! These are the same guys who said Nintendo was in a field that they would not dear explore in due to seeing the wiimote being a toy and a gimmick! And now they want in? So that means their controller is a toy and a gimmick point proving there! It took Sony 3 '' years to get it right because Sony doesn't clearly know where it wants to go in this gen.

They have been trash talking about the Nintendo Wii for 3 years and saying that the next gen is not there and only saying blue-ray (soon orange-ray/red-ray) and graphics is what people want. But in those 3 years Sony was not seeing the numbers needed to drive their PS3 home like PS2 did in the past. Sony is lost to tell you the truth! Ever since they enter the gaming world, they have never been original! They have copied Nintendo so much that Nintendo needs to sue them. They copied Nintendo on,

.....Having rumble pack PS1/PS2/PS3 in the controller (N had this with N64)

.....Playing PS1 games on PS2 (N had this first on Game Boy games to Game Boy Color long ago so Sony says hey lets take that idea to the PS2)

.....PSP connection to PS3 (N had this with GBA/GC now NDS on Wii)

.....Applies 2 joy sticks on their controllers and 2 sets of L and R buttons (N had 1 joy stick with N64 so Sony adds 2 on theirs and oh the SNES has 1 set of L and R buttons)

.....Small PS1 and PS2 slim systems (N did the same with the original NES/SNES before Sony came into the gaming world)

.....Different PS1/PS2/PS3 color systems (again N had this first with the Game Boy brand and then later on N64)

.....Sony adds motion tilt to the PS3 controller (didn't Kirby's tilt on the Game Boy color have that. oh cool lets add that on PS2/PS3 controller)

There is so much to this that its not funny any more and it'll just kill my hands just to list some more. People new that are attending in the gaming world today, need to read about past video game history because Nintendo needs respect but every one lately does not give it to them. Hey I am a hardcore gamer to this day and have been around the olden days before and after Nintendo systems so I've seen and heard who copies! I know every one copies but damn Sony is the master of doing it right on the dot that people think that they are the ones that come up with all the ideas and people give them credit for some thing they never worked hard for!

But the sad news is that the 3rd parties that flocked to the Wii when it first came out are now jumping ship to the other systems with their motion copy cats thinking ''hey we'll get more sales with our Wii ports on the PS3/X-Box 360 then we did on the Wii''. You see that is one of the reasons why hardcore N-fans don't buy 3rd party Wii games any more because we didn't forget how they use to treat us in the past years on the Nintendo systems. Just give us real games to play and don't worry about the new casual players that Nintendo dragging in and just focus on the games for the core. But no they dug a hole and forgot where it was and got caught in it by giving up crappy games thinking we would not know about. Lets take a look at Square soft before the Enix joint back then.

They were with Nintendo first before they became a sell out later. They made some of the best RPG's in the past that no one could out do what they did best in. And then in a blink of an eye they left N for Sony. Now I remember there was a big fight between Nintendo not trying to let Square soft leave but failed. Now for the years after 96/97 all the way into the 20Th century when Square soft left they would trash talk about Nintendo how they saw them as toy systems, Nintendo was still pissed off. Because Nintendo really helped Square soft out badly and it really hurt them went they left. I heard Nintendo saved Square soft from going broke in the NES days so maybe that's why they got pissed. I would also feel that way if I spent mad money to get people back on track and then give me no respect later on.

Now I'm not just picking on Square soft by the way, there are more other 3rd parties that were with Nintendo in the past that easily left to go work more with Sony and spend less time with brother N. I remember they to would talk trash about Nintendo's system later on saying if this game was on cartridge, it would not sell like it did on cd/dvd's. There was so much trash talk that they started to say oh the Nintendo systems are all toy's and they don't want any thing to do with it and their games wont sell.

Well Nintendo has and always will cater to all age groups in the gaming world because its some thing they have been doing for years now. And the age image they carry with them is and still will be to unite families of all age groups around the world to have a fun with the games they make. They got it made by hard working and to innovate like no mother f..ker out there today and beyond!

I really can't wait until what new product Nintendo shows out their door next that will shock the gaming world. Because when ever they break new grounds on gaming/ideas they will always be spotted by hound dogs trying to track them down to hump off their ideas.

Robert Ericksen
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Great Article Todd.

Shane Sweeney
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Todd, I'm a massive fan of Nintendo and Miyamoto is the best thing this industry has, but lets not over credit things.

The Rumble pak was not the first Haptic device, nor the first haptic device used for gaming. From the Sidewinder and well before. The Rumble pak was an optional add-on and only a small number of games supported it. But we know all the platform holders at the time were testing haptic products, just as we knew all platform holders a few years ago were playing with motion sensitive controls, just as we know today all platform holders are playing with 3D effects, online distribution and streaming games. While it is impressive to be the first to release a marketable product with known existing technology, lets not over sell it.

Same goes for backwards compatibility, right back to the days of the 2600 and the 7800 backwards compatibility was the standard. Arguably it wasn't until Nintendo platforms did backwards compatibility stop or reduce (although Sega tried it for a while longer).

Slimming technology has been around from the very beginning, crediting Nintendo with Moores law is a bit of stretch. Hell they werent even the first to introduce it to video games with 8 bit computers, same goes for colours schemes (despite it paining me to consider coloured plastic shells as innovation *quivers*).

Building upon ideas and technology is something society does to progress. Its the literacy of the 21st century. Would you rather Xerox of kept the Graphical user interface as an unsellable product or would you rather Apple to of stole it and built something useful? Would you have preffered Apple kept its stolen goods or would you prefer the Gnome, Amiga and Microsoft people to of never built upon the ideas?

Sure, Nintendo deserves a lot of credit for a lot of things, including the WiiMote, but lets not pretend they invented the technology or pretend they first thought of it. And lets certainly not frown upon other companies building on good ideas. Its called progress and we all benefit.

Ken Masters
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Todd, you have to realize, the PS2 owners didn't flock to the PS3 like the industry and Sony predicted would happen, desperately want to happen, and densely expect to happen. I'm sure Sony is looking at Nintendo's bottom-line with jealous envy as they bleed dollars from every orafice. I can't blame Sony for mimicking the winning strategy.

Too bad it just won't work though.

Tiago Costa
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I remember my good uncle Ben saying : "With great hardware must come great... GAMES!!!"

There is not to much to say in this regard, the Wii selled like hot cakes and everyone wanted in the madness until they realized that the Wii is a Nintendo games only zone and third parties do not do well there.

Generate great games, and SOCOM 4 is a beautiful way of showing that Hardcore games can be used with the 'Move', and people will flock to this new shiny piece of technology.

Hell let me play oblivion with this and I'll buy it on the spot...

No one will actually give a damn who began the motion war (I was playing with my arms back in college in my eyetoy in back 2003 or 2004 so, Nintendo didn't actually invent motion gaming, nor did Sony with the eyetoy).

Disclaimer: I really love the Wii, its a great console for some quick fun, for parties and whatnot. But every night or so when my two baby girls go to sleep, I like drop on the couch, fire up my PS3 and play for a (sometimes long) bit of games without giant heads.

Rafael Vazquez
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I second Tiago, its really about the games; the Wii is an impresive system, but it is over-flooded with basically the same type of games. If Sony (or Microsoft for that matter) can create top-notch games, that include their new interfaces as a core design decision (not an afterthought as I fear SOCOM did), then gamers will come.

Tiago Costa
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@David Delisle

The majority of Wii owners aren't likely to buy any other console. This is a way to have the kids play their fathers and mothers into buying a PS3 instead of a Wii. Why buy a Wii when they can buy a PS3 that does the same and more?

This is (if they pump great games into the system) a great 'MOVE'(now I see the pun in the name, its THE "PLAYSTATION MOVE") to overtake the Wii in their own turf.

Josh Milewski
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Sony has been experimenting with Move-like stuff since at least the EyeToy launch in 2003:

Ken Masters
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Tiago - The same people you and Rafael think are gonna be woo'd by Move are the people who could care less about HD and Socom. A 'me-too' Wii Sports and 'Move Party' aren't really going to entice the Expanded Audience to pick up another box that's more expensive to go along with their Wii or even pick up a PS3 over a Wii.

I expect to see a plethora of those popular 'The Wii is SO doomed!' articles now that Move has officially had the big unveil. But I think, once again, it's all gonna blow up in Sony's (and the Industry's) face - as usual.

Jonathan Gilmore
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I think that is one advantage "Natal" has over Sony's Move. Move is just so "me-too." I don't know that people who have already bought a PS3 have been waiting for this, nor do I think there are a lot of people who would have bought a PS3 "but for" its lack of motion controls.

People who want a PS3 and want the waggle/nunchuk experience probably already have both the PS3 and the Wii. I'm sure some of them will pick this up too but I don't know that there is a real game changing aspect to the Move.

I think Natal is a little different because MS obviously has invested so much more R&D into it, and committed so much more muscle into getting content out on it. Natal, to me, has a much greater risk/reward, and could be a spectacular failure or help the 360 to distance itself from the PS3 and be a huge success for MS. To me, if the Move fails it won't have that big of an impact on the PS3.

Ken Masters
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@ Jonathan -

I agree with you that Natal is a totally different beast and goes beyond merely aping what Nintendo has done with the Wii (which is exactly what Sony is doing). Microsoft tried to replicate the Wii before (Arcade sku, Avatars) and failed to make any headway with the Expanded Audience. I commend them for doing something to Natal's magnitude, but I'm not sure it'll be a success yet either.

I also agree that if/when the Move fails, it won't be too bad for the PS3. I do think Move will catch on with the already established Sony crowd. But Sony wants the PS3 to be the new Wii and that's just not happening.

Juan Mora Munoz
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It kinds of remembers me superman he puts his glasses on and hopes no one to tell the difference... try this with a Wiimote and a blue ball.

Don't get me wrong the PS3 its an amazing piece of hardware... but Sony... really... come on...

Tiago Costa
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I wasn't talking about the same segment of market you are talking about, not by a long shot. Wii is not doomed, anyone that says so is just lying to themselves.

What I was saying was that, when deciding on which console to buy for their kids, the parents may see the PS3 as a console that is the same as Wii (although we all know its not) and can also play other games and bluray thingies. It may be the tipping argument that makes the choice go for a PS3 (if they perceive that the extra price is worth it of course). Also their kids may pressure them into choosing the PS3 over the Wii with this argument.

If this was a Venn diagram the intersection, between the possible Wii gamers and the possible PS3 gamers would be where SONY may obtain new customers.

I was disappointed as best when I saw what the Move could do (its a Wiimote+motionplus lets face it), what may still sell me the controller is (backward compatibility with Oblivion :P) the number of third parties developing for the move and the possibility of great games. Like I said before, it will be the games that will help sell this hardware and nothing else.

Nintendo has the clear advantage in the motion games, but PS3 may compete on their own turf and perhaps even score a few points over the Wii (thus the overtake part) and that again depends... on the games they develop for this Ps3Mote err Ps3Move, everything else is rubbish.

Natal, a different beast may be... but again it will fail IF no games are made. Also I really want to, but can't foresee a good life in project Natal, but it still to early to talk about the success of failure of Natal and the Ps3Mote. We'll talk again in a year when the technology may be out by then.


Taure Anthony
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@Ken M.


nice posts I agree totally.


I hear your points we'll see and we all remember the Dreamcast. I wonder if Sony will be the new SEGA and drop out of the hardware side when it comes to another loss next-gen.

Ian Uniacke
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I'm not sure if I've said this before here, but my guess on the situation is that Sony have been pressured to add this to their system from investors (shareholders) that are getting crappy returns on the PS3 to what they expected and asking Sony how come they don't have motion controls in their system. They are in a rock and a hard place because they are pressured by investors to move towards casual but their business has been designed to target the hardcore so either way their going to either reduce investor confidence by not implementing motion controls or reduce investor confidence (longer term) by even further alienating customers and reducing profits. This is all just speculation of course.

Ian Uniacke
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Oh also Peter Dille's comments about changing their relationship with the developer is completely ridiculous. You still have to develop for the spus so this has nothing at all to do with making life easier for developers.

Tiago Costa
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@Jerry Hernandez

Im not saying nor implying that the WHOLE Wii market is for kids (its not and I dont know anyone with a Wii that has less the 25 years) I was making a mere example (perhaps over generalizing, sorry my mistake).

What I am saying is that the PS3 can try and tackle the Wii on their turf, using the same mechanics, and starting to appeal to people that only had the Wii as their only motion gaming option but perhaps were already prone to buy a PS3.

Like I said before in my Venn Diagram analogy, SONY will cater only to the intersection of Wii/PS3 gamers.

Anyway, In the end it will be all about the games released, or SONY may suffer the dreamcast effect or the Jaguar effect.

I welcome all improvement to any console, I wish that Natal would be good but I don't have any faith in it and I also wish that MS will come up with their own version of the WiiMote.