Former Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski is taking a break from active game development, but he's clearly still keeping tabs on the industry. After Sony's PlayStation 4 press conference earlier this week, Bleszinski posted his thoughts on the show to his Tumblr blog, offering some praise, some scorn, and three keys he sees as crucial to winning the next-generation console wars.
Starting with the positive, Bleszinski lauded the decision to have Mark Cerny introduce the hardware, saying the veteran developer was "perfect" in the role and likening him to an American version of Peter Molyneux for his captivating sincerity. Bleszinski also gave high marks to the new DualShock 4 controller, saying it appeared to have more comfortable thumb sticks than its predecessors, and a more solid build all around.
It wasn't all praise from Bleszinski. For one, the developer questioned the decision to make Cerny's family friendly Knack among the first wave of PS4 games.
"I can't help but wonder why one would make a younger skewing title such as that for the early cycle of a console when the first buyers are usually the earliest adopters who are the older crowd with the most money," Bleszinski said.
He also took issue with some of the returning series Sony showcased. He was disappointed to see Guerrilla making another Killzone instead of a new intellectual property, and was similarly dismayed by Sucker Punch's reveal for Infamous: Second Son.
"There is never a better time to launch new Intellectual Property in video games than at a console transition. Gears and Halo 'got' this."
"Infamous games are fantastic but never seemed to sell as well as they should have and it feels like someone in marketing got nervous launching an all new world so they had to fall back to the Infamous branding," Bleszinski said. "Watch Dogs stole E3 last year partially because it was a whole new 'thing' and not 'Assassin's Creed: 2024' edition...There is never a better time to launch new Intellectual Property in videogames than at a console transition. Gears and Halo 'got' this."
Sony's continued attempts to push PlayStation Vita integration during the event were another sore spot for Bleszinski. The second-screen experience Sony is chasing may be something consumers want, but the developer said people already have all the second screens they need with their cell phones and tablets.
Finally, Bleszinski laid out the three big keys that he thinks will determine the winners and losers in the next generation. The first key is the games, naturally. The second key is the ecosystem, as Bleszinski pointed out that getting iTunes and the App Store just right were instrumental in Apple's success.
The third key for success in the next generation will be the ability to adapt, Bleszinski said. New hardware should be able to pass "the Minecraft test," which is basically a question of whether or not the platform is open and flexible enough that it could spawn the next Minecraft-style hit.
"If the hardware is great and the system sound then the biggest deciding factor will be how much each console creator allows the community to take over in an organic fashion," Bleszinski said. "It sounds like the Sharing feature is a great step. The next one? Indie games, mods, user levels...you know, the things that the PC is so darned good at."