The most significant change in this console generation is how platform holders are making concerted efforts to lower the barriers for developers to bring their games to consoles.
As VP of developer and publisher relations at Sony Computer Entertainment America, it is Adam Boyes’ job to reduce bottlenecks and improve developers’ experience on PlayStation platforms.
“It’s about continually making our processes better,” he said in an E3 interview with Gamasutra. “We’ve made massive progress in making things better, but there are still some manual processes, some filing of paperwork.”
Boyes said PlayStation has an internal process team called “MOLT,” which stands for “minimize operating lead times.” That team focuses solely on reducing the bottlenecks associated with making a PlayStation game.
“What else can we be doing? Can we be doing click-throughs, can we do propagations, can we do sales reports directly to the developers?” are questions that are happening internally. “We’re just trying to make ourselves more efficient.”
Aside from direct phone support, Sony also has DevNet, where developers can file issues, which connects them to people who can support them in the forums, when a phone call isn’t as efficient.
One of the biggest barriers for console game developers is obtaining a dev kit. Microsoft has promised that retail Xbox Ones will eventually be functioning dev kits, and even Sony’s own retail PS Vita can be used as a dev kit. Boyes said giving the PS4 that functionality is something that has been discussed internally, but nothing has been decided quite yet.
“We’re always looking at different ways to make life easier [for devs],” he said. “We’re leaving no stone unturned as to what we can do. We actually have a global strike team plus an SCEA strike team that’s in charge of looking at [possibilities] of early alpha access, and paid betas, which we’ve allowed before. We’re always looking for ways to make development more accessible, looking at the barrier of entry.”
Selling games that are still in development is a serious discussion that is happening at PlayStation, says Boyes. It’s not unusual to see an early alpha game on Steam to top the sales charts. But the console audience is a bit different from the PC audience, and Sony is looking into just how complete does a game have to be before it releases on a PlayStation platform.
“That’s one of the massive conversations we have internally — that, at what point does [a game meet standards of release]?” Boyes said. “Because at some point, we have to ensure that we’re being mindful of the consumer. You don’t want someone to stumble across [a game in alpha] and expect it to be finished, and have a negative experience.”
However, Boyes, who does play Early Access games on Steam such as Rust and DayZ, said he knows there is an audience of players who want to help form the vision of a game as it’s being developed. “We live in a different world, there are people out there who … enjoy trying things that they know aren’t going to be finished,” he said.
“Honestly, we’re working through [paid alpha discussions] right now,” said Boyes. “We’re figuring out what is ok. And obviously we have the technical requirement checklist that people have to adhere to.
“We’re sort of internally discussing what does that [TRC] list look like, with titles like this — what are the caveats? It’s still a project that a lot of minds are knocking around together. … It’s something that’s at the top of my mind every day.”
We’ll have more from our interview with Boyes in the near future.