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Why PS4 will alter the gaming landscape: Cerny speaks

Friday, 12th July 2013 14:45 GMT By Dave Owen

PlayStation 4 architect Mark Cerny tells Dave Owen why he feels Sony’s next-gen console will fundamentally alter the gaming landscape at launch.

Mark Cerny & PS4

The architect of PlayStation 4, Mark Cerny has proved instrumental in crafting Sony’s next-gen console, and has consulted developers to gauge what they wanted from it.

Cerny recently discussed his career history and the creation of PS4 at the GameLab conference in Barcelona. Watch his full ‘Road to PS4′ presentation here.

During the Develop 2013 conference this week, Cerny discussed his latest game project Knack, and the PS4 tech powering it. Watch the session here.

Here’s a new video called “20 things you didn’t know about PS4′, it’s full of console insight and facts.

There are few figures in games development with a history as closely tied to PlayStation as Mark Cerny. Amongst a wealth of achievements he’s played vital roles in introducing us to Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Jak & Daxter, and Nathan Drake.

It was wonderfully fitting that his new game – Knack – was the first PlayStation 4 title we ever set eyes upon. This followed his introduction as lead architect on the console. As Sony aims to bring us a golden age of gaming, there are few more qualified to lead the way.

The console’s genesis is well-known by now. In 2008 Sony began asking developers what they wanted from the next PlayStation. Cerny told me at a Sony event, “For hardware architecture we focused on the current business partners of the company. We went through the top 20-40 games and spoke to those teams.

“We didn’t stop there. We kept going on and having conversations as we developed the system software and the like. So what that means is, starting last year when dev kits became available, those conversations expanded to essentially everyone making games in the industry.”

‘Everyone’ is not an exaggeration. The PS4’s keyword is accessibility. Sony wants the system to welcome gamers and developers of every shape and size. Most prominent has been the push to entice indie developers, an approach that came too late to really impact on hardware development.

“The hardware is based on custom chips that have a tremendously long lead time,” says Cerny. “So when we were discussing with developers what these custom chips [should be] it was 2008-9 – we didn’t have the indie phenomenon you see today. So the integration of the indie community on a technology level is really recent.”


Jonathan Blow’s The Witness underlines Sony’s strong indie approach.

Fortunately the hardware’s focus on accessibility and familiarity made it easy to incorporate indies. Cerny always aimed to nurture creativity at any level. “We wanted the focus to be on the games that the creative directors wanted to make, rather than the minutiae of the hardware. That’s universal,” says Cerny. “That’s true whether you’re talking Destiny with their 400-strong team or you’re talking one guy doing everything. They want to focus on the creative vision.

“At the same time we have to balance that out with a rich feature set that they can use in the later years of the hardware. The hardware has to grow over time. That’s why I refer to it as a super-charged PC architecture – there’s more in it than what you find in a PC.

“There are all these customisations, such as what we did to the GPU and other parts of the system to ensure that they would really be these systems that programmers could dig into in year three or four of the console life-cycle.”

The move toward PC-like architecture has caused some to declare the redundancy of home consoles. Cerny sees some key differences that set consoles apart from PC gaming. “The developers really have a chance to study that architecture because it doesn’t change for many years,” he says. “They can learn its secrets and get progressively better performance out of it.

“Consoles also provide a stable platform. This is really important because some developers need five years to create a game. The fact that during that five year period the target hardware doesn’t change really allows them to bring titles to the world that couldn’t exist otherwise.”

Long development cycles produce new problems however, namely huge budgets that have created a risk-averse market in danger of smothering variety. Cerny looks to indie games, at the other end of the spectrum, as the answer.

“I look at this historically,” he said. “PlayStation 1 was a really magical time because we had a tremendous variety of software. Really good games were made by just a few people for just a few hundred thousand dollars. So we had titles like PaRappa the Rapper at retail and it was really embraced by the game playing public.”


Incoming release Proteus shows Sony is serious about the PC indie scene.

The power boost of subsequent PlayStation models amplified the scope of games, which left us with the swollen teams and budgets we see today. Cerny identifies a positive in this: a large team forces people into narrow roles where they might not be satisfied for long.

He explained, “So we’re seeing a lot of people who want to contribute more broadly and deeply who are joining small teams. There are also small teams coming from PC. As a result we’re now getting that variety of titles. Due to the very accessible nature of PS4 they’re coming to the console and they act to balance out [triple-A games]. Variety of experience is key to PlayStation 4. I think we’re going to see an incredible variety on PS4.”

Once on board, indie games will have to compete for exposure against big franchises with big marketing budgets. Cerny is keen to stress that Sony will support these games on the business end by ensuring high visibility on the PlayStation Store.

Yet Cerny believes that support from the PS4 community will be of greater importance. Some have sniffed at the console’s social aspects and Share button, but, as Cerny explains, the implications for indie games could be huge. “The community is able to elevate the visibility of titles they find compelling,” he explained.

“So if you like The Witness you can post a video or say something in a feed. If you’re not sure about a game and see a friend playing it, there’s a headphone jack on the controller and you can call them up to get their opinion.”

It sounds like Cerny envisions a potted version of how indie games gain exposure now through social media. “The games community will not need someone outside to tell them what to play. They’ll figure it out amongst themselves.” The hope is that as more players support a wider variety of games, more developers will want to get involved.


DualShock 4 is more than just a controller. Its functions are vast.

The PS4 is not just about bringing more developers to the party. Alongside new experiences, Cerny wants brand new audiences.

“I started playing games in the era of the Atari 2600 – there was one button on the controller. The Dual Shock 4 has sixteen buttons, and triple-A games will use most of them. It’s not an issue for you or me because we had decades to adjust to the growing complexity of games.” For those whose only gaming experience is on a phone or tablet – particularly children – this can be a serious barrier to entry.

He continued, “I see this very large gulf between the skill-set of what those people are familiar with and what is required to play a triple-A game.” Cerny believes that PS4 can bridge that gap. This is one reason for the inclusion of a touchpad on the Dual Shock 4. “It’s a natural way to input. It’s also a way to bring someone [used to phones and tablets] into the console world.”

This philosophy extends to Cerny’s own PS4 game, Knack. On a harder difficulty it’ll provide a stiff challenge. Easy mode will accommodate console beginners. “It provides an on-ramp so that they can play a console game – very much a console game, a story-driven action/adventure – but in a manageable way.”

It is this spirit of accessibility and inclusion that Cerny believes will make PS4 the best gaming experience possible. He concluded, “We have the opportunity with PlayStation 4 to fundamentally alter the landscape of gaming. We can have the highest richness and variety of content.

“It really will be a renaissance of gaming.”

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32 Comments

  1. Animeboy413

    Wow, PS4 sounds so amazing

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Zensi

    To be honest .. This sounds like what the ps3 should have been… No “next gen” features to blow anyone away here …

    #2 1 year ago
  3. SlayerGT

    Wish this was a video..I’ll just have to do Cerny’s voice in my head whilst reading :)

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Tavarish

    How I have not missed all this BS marketing that comes with console generation change. So much fluff in all of that.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. tracyis300

    A guy that works under sony talking about how great the new console is going to be and how it benifits the industry. Ill belive all that when sony shows off a live demo of how there online interface works and how it games.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. hitnrun

    @4: Amen. I’m pretty sure I’m buying a PS4 but it’s hard not to hear “advanced Cell architecture” and “blast processing” in the back of your head and giggle a little when you read this stuff.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. koopa

    :)Ill be getting both, even thou PC is awesome; i don’t have the money or time to be keep upgrading or maintaining my current PC. Plus, I’m tired of breaking my back, fingers and being so close to the screen. I want to lay back, bone my wife and play games or movies and dab oil. The only thing I play on PC is Flight Simulator, exclusives are next to gone. I’m getting old(25)and I cant afford to be waiting my time. Quick fast easy

    #7 1 year ago
  8. KAP

    PS4 sounds incredible. I’m so excited by this truly awesome console.

    Getting one after this…

    #8 1 year ago
  9. G1GAHURTZ

    @2:

    +1

    #9 1 year ago
  10. illuminatusv

    @5:

    +1

    #10 1 year ago
  11. super3001

    2

    +1

    sony is standing still and somehow proud of it.

    jealous sony sheep saw xone forward facing features and complained to get removed.

    ps3.5 is outdated piece of shit. sony has no vision

    #11 1 year ago
  12. broomburgo

    @4 BS marketing?

    If you didn’t, watch this video

    http://www.vg247.com/2013/06/27/road-to-the-ps4″-watch-mark-cernys-gamelab-talk-here/

    in which Cerny explains how things have actually changed in Sony from PS3 to PS4 (hint: PS3 was a hardware searching for a software, PS4 is the other way around)

    #12 1 year ago
  13. ps3fanboy

    @1

    +1

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Lengendaryboss

    Filled to the brim with Xbox/PlayStation Fanboys/Trolls/Elitists/Defenders.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. xxJPRACERxx

    I don’t want to pay $400 to have gfx like it’s shown here. I think I still have a 486 in my closet.

    Games is what’s important. Launch games are much better on the Xbox One, that’s why I pre-ordered one instead of the PS4.

    I’ll get a PS4 in 2014-2015.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. sebastien rivas

    Fanboys @ war, Beware everyone ….

    #16 1 year ago
  17. stealth

    Big talk. From the games I have seen that isnt true

    ““We can have the highest richness and variety of content.” Other than tendo maybe

    #17 1 year ago
  18. Djoenz

    @15
    You are still a dumbass if you preorder either one.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. lexph3re

    I guess things just won’t change for how people can’t let go. I’m looking forward to a game console that multitask GAMING correctly. The suspend mode is a great feature that I felt psvita does so well. I am excited for next gen because regardless what people think last gen “should have been” This tech is still miles ahead of anything that this gen is doing.

    @15 you know that exclusives wise only 5 games are releasing on xbone in it’s launch window. That’s Killer Instict, Dead Rising 3, Forza 5,lococycle and Ryse Son of Rome.

    PS4 has 5 being Shadow Fall, Knack, DriveClub, War Frame and DcUO. 2 of which are free out the box to play.

    If you measure the titles together with 3rd party I’m not seeing how PS4 doesn’t have any good launch games. Because those are some really good looking games.

    #19 1 year ago
  20. xxJPRACERxx

    @18 Ok, I’m a dumbass because I want to play some games… There’s a lot of dumbasses here then, you included!

    @19 I mainly want Forza 5. I’m more of a GT guy but Forza is really good too and what they’ve shown at e3 was great. I really liked what I saw of Dead Rising and Ryse too. Then later there’s Titanfall.

    I don’t like Killzone and DriveClub is not my style. I don’t care about the other games. But I really do like inFamous so I’ll get my PS4 with it.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. ps3fanboy

    @14 Lengendaryboss, you hot topic poser poster. your filled to the brim with your own hypocrite.

    #21 1 year ago
  22. Lengendaryboss

    @DJ
    Context would help here instead of blasting off attacks.

    #22 1 year ago
  23. Lengendaryboss

    @PS3fanboy
    King hypocrite calls me a hypocrite: the irony and hypocrisy at the same time.

    Edit: Also “own hypocrisy” Good grief even other fanboys aren’t this bad with their language and punctuation.

    #23 1 year ago
  24. DarkElfa

    A console architect talking about how great and game changing his console is is like some guy talking about how amazing he is in bed.

    “You won’t believe how good I am at sex babes, my cock is so huge….”

    #24 1 year ago
  25. Sang2

    I trust Cerny, he has bags under his eyes. No person is that dedicated in the industry anymore. He also has a huge backlog of experience and a wonderful voice. I trust in PlayStation and waiting for Gamescom to see what are the other 15 exclusives they are gonna reveal.

    #25 1 year ago
  26. backup

    it already did
    killed PC and X1 at the same time before console is even released lol

    #26 1 year ago
  27. Malmer

    Alter the gaming landscape? It’s a new graphics card and a touchpad. Don’t see much innovation.

    #27 1 year ago
  28. Reddpayn

    The games are the ones which matter not the gimmicks. Whit better specs developers can create new innovations and better gameplay experiences and they dont have to worry about lack of power

    #28 1 year ago
  29. Drewidian

    Nothing personal, but what’s new about the PS4 from the PS3? I get the whole “it will be easier for developers to port/develop games”, but what NEW experiences will we see? Can someone give me some examples of some new experiences we will see on the PS4? Personally I’ll believe it when I see it.

    #29 1 year ago
  30. G1GAHURTZ

    ^ Touchpad control for Angry Birds?

    #30 1 year ago
  31. OrbitMonkey

    Who are these strange people asking for “new experiences”?

    Their games consoles. Designed to play games. Better graphics & smoother animation, that’ll be your *new experience*.

    Its when console makers forget this, that things go awry.

    #31 1 year ago
  32. Rockin a Jack D

    Why PS4 will alter the gaming landscape

    No. That would be the PC!

    The Sony PR bullshiter is in full force…

    #32 1 year ago

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