Sony: Future platforms will be developer-friendly
Working culture completely overhauled since Kuturagi's retirement and the launch of the PS3, says Yoshida
Sony's internal software developers will be getting much more input into the design of future PlayStation hardware, according to Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida.
Including games developers in the hardware design process is a significant change from the creation and launch of the PlayStation 3, when Sony Computer Entertainment was overseen by 'father of PlayStation' Ken Kuturagi, working with an enclosed team in Japan.
But since Kuturagi's retirement, Kaz Hirai - a more software-focused executive - has created a more inclusive business at SCE, pulling Japan and the full Worldwide Studios teams closer together.
"That has made a huge, huge day to day difference, and a month-to-month and year-to-year difference," said WWS president Shuhei Yoshida, in an exclusive interview published today.
"Actually, I'd say that Move was the first platform project that, from day one, from the very conceptual stage, had Worldwide Studios involved. WWS was involved before SCE's hardware guys were involved. It was between Richard Marks, the SCEA R&D group and Worldwide Studios teams - they started looking into next-gen motion gaming, and tried every different kind of technology, including 3D cameras and other motion capture technologies like magnetics or ultrasound," he detailed.
"That's a totally, totally different approach from the days when Ken was running the company. As soon as Kaz took over Ken's position, Kaz told the people in Japan that from now on, they had to talk to Worldwide Studios about anything about the platform, and get our feedback on any decisions. I thought, "wow"!"
Both the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation 3 were criticised for being difficult hardware to get to grips with, but Yoshida said that games developers will have much more input on the tools and operating system for the next PlayStation console.
"Not only do we give them input, but Worldwide Studios' tech teams are part of the platform OS and tools development. That's a completely new world as well.
"Our central tech groups, the WWS tech groups, have been making game engines or tools for the studios in the group - but now they are part of the tools of development and the low-level middleware library development. That means the future platform, the PlayStation platform tools and OS... At least part of those will actually be developed by game developers."
Yoshida himself has been instrumental in bringing the company together under Hirai's vision, enabling the teams to collaborate closely where before there was no structure to communicate.
"I had never been that kind of process. People understood Kaz' vision, but they didn't know what to do, or who to talk to," said Yoshida. "They had set milestones in terms of developing hardware. I felt like I could uniquely go into that group of engineers in Japan and suggest a new process - interject the right kind of software teams to the right kind of hardware issues that need solutions.
"I felt that, because they didn't have to talk to us when they were making hardware decisions previously, they might feel like the process took too long if they had to go through additional steps. I was afraid that they might not like it. But what's really exciting, for me, is that I have found that they really, really embraced the relationship. They always wanted to make hardware that great games could be made for - but they didn't know who to talk to. They were making decisions with very limited insight from the software side, regarding what kind of hardware features or tools would make game developers happy."
This new working culture is proving successful for Sony, with hardware and software teams able to give feedback to each other at the prototype stage and better understand each other's needs.
"Not only were we able to say, yes, this feature is good, or this other feature won't be necessary - we could show examples, the reasons why some features are more important than others," added Yoshida. "We could use our game concepts, our prototypes, and show them the reasons.
"Then it becomes really clear in their minds - they understood that they had to make Move's response time as good as Dual Shock, in order to make it adaptable to all kinds of games. That kind of technical decision can now be made with direct insight from gaming teams. The engineers say that they're so glad to hear these things - they can't think of any other way of making new hardware, now."
The full interview with Shuhei Yoshida, where he also discusses Move and why projects such as The Last Guardian and GT5 have such long development times, can be read here.