PS4 News Round Up (Finale)

Having covered the bulk of the Sony Press Conference, and the exciting new prospect of the PS4, I have just a few loose ends to discuss. While I have looked at some of the finer points of the system tech itself, and the slew of games mentioned, there remained larger conceptual projects yet to be touched upon. Some of the ideas shown off weren’t in concrete game form, nor did they offer themselves to what the PS4 is capable of by itself, but what the hardware can do with the right creativity.

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As mentioned previously, one of Sony’s big focuses in discussing the PS4 was how developer friendly, and even, developer contributed the core building process has been. Sony demoed a small video clip going over some of the finer points of what they wish to see in conjunction with developers, and some of their ideas going forward.

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The video covers a wide arrange of topics and observations of gaming, helping to paint an honest picture of where the PS4 needs to be, in moving towards a successful future. Smaller developers, like Ready at Dawn Studios (contributors to the Jak & Daxter series and God of War series), make a mention of Sony’s all inclusiveness. Hardcore, casual, social…etc, all of these trends help to motivate each other, and work well to create a dynamic picture of gaming. Instead of just one subjective vision of what a “console experience” should be, a fun game will be a fun game, regardless of it’s market approach, or demographic aim.

Other big names in the small community come from the likes of Tim Schafer, who was open in referring to Sony as approaching him with questions. Questions on how best to execute an inviting environment for a smaller studio like Double Fine, and and how to service a company who is usually restrained in their creative vision.

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Other third part devs of note, like Randy Pitchford of Gearbox fame, comments on Sony working hard with dev feedback to provide a simple system to work on. Pitchford mentioned the platform having a certain “elegance” in it’s approach to designing engaging experiences. Elegant in the sense of creating  streamlined simplicity, to more easily create these fun video games devs want to make, and players want to explore.

Others still, like Alex Rigopulos of Harmonix (Guitar Hero, Rock Band), talks about retaining their individuality in property, to better hone what they believe to be a better craft of game making.

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While the developer video will of course, be favorable to Sony, a lot of the devs they talked to haven’t historically shilled for Sony related press, signifying they are trying to reach beyond their own creative walls. On top of the simple fact that many of these men are usually too busy developing games of their own, and are usually very frank about their own visions, paints a favorable picture for the PS4. The off the shelf PC hardware innards of the PS4 has pros and cons certainly, but if nothing else, should provide needed benefit to companies who only have the time and money to produce one really great product. With the alternative being not affording a longer budget of money and time to port the game to more complicated hardware. The PS4 sharing hardware commonality from a unified development stand point, is an overall win for gamers and third party developers alike.

One of the other designers they interviewed was David Cage from Quantic Dreams (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain). He was invited to the conference in person, to talk about his new tech, and the emotionally driven, but technologically backed vision he sees possible on the PS4.

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“Getting the player involved is the holy grail of all game designers”, complete immersion being a huge challenge for any one in the field of creation. David Cage is well known for his more cinematic approach to game design, so comparisons to black and white movies with a contrast to older game tech and the PS4 isn’t surprising. He outlines how far his own company has come, showcasing the dramatic rise in technological advancement involved.

Starting with his first game, Omicron in 99, the game boasted a mere 350 polygons per character.  Moving forward through the years, the poly’s involved in making the characters spring to life is exponential, with his next game, Beyond starring Ellen Page, reaching over 30,ooo polygon’s involved with a single character.

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This all leads up to Quantic Dreams next big leap in technology, with what has now been dubbed as “The Old Man Tech”. Cage showed off, what is likely the most realistic character model ever showcased during a video game press conference, with the visage of an incredibly detailed old man living and breathing, in real time.

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The Old Man  dwarves any other character Quantic Dream has ever rendered in  polygon count alone. This is without the mention of their engine utilizing advanced skin shaders with translucency,  realistic eye shading, volumetric light reactions, 3D depth of field, and several other complex systems working smoothly real time, in 3D, to create one of the most impressive character models developed to show off a game engine to date.

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Cage points out that the  technological feats that go into making  the “Old Man” possible isn’t  important to remember for the gamer, of course. He merely runs through the laundry list of features to further underline that the PS4 is capable of creating a new image of video game visual excellence. This is all in an effort to push the boundaries of how meaningful games can be, and what kind of emotional experiences can come from it.

David Cage want in helping set a precedence for visual standards, and what the PS4 can achieve in the future was the key of the Old Man Tech Demo. The Old man being a character that doesn’t say a word, but simply displays the emotion through visual cues alone.

With a decided push towards some third party exposure, Capcom had the light shined on them and their new game engine “Panta Rhei”. Yoshinori Ono (Executive Producer for the  Street Fighter series) was on hand, to help boisterously introduce the new tech from Capcom. The engine Panta Rhei,  looked to be using some incredibly impressive texture mapping and lighting effects, to give an early glimpse at the working titled game “Deep Down”.

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While not a whole lot of additional information was provided for the game, the trailer provides a stunning glimpse into what looks to be an Elder Scrolls like game, complete with  a first person perspective, and incredibly detailed environments to explore.

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Throughout the trailer, an element of survival horror is hinted at, possibly suggesting the game may borrow some elements of suspense to keep the game play tight, and fast paced. There are several more action packed segments later on where the knight in the trailer, rushes at and is fighting a dragon from a behind the shoulder third person perspective a la Resident Evil 4.
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Whether or not the first person and third persons stuff can be switched at will, or forced upon the player depending on circumstance remains to be seen. Given the rather successful nature of RE4, I’d venture a guess and say it may rely more heavily on a third person view, with small  in between first person glimpses from  the eyes of the adventurer, to heighten the thrills.

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In one final moment of the trailer, the knight rushed the dragon unsuccessfully, and buckled down as the beast shot a stream of flame, clashing with his shield to create a brilliant display of fiery chaos.

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While the Panta Rhei engine is looking impressive, without any concrete information to go on for the game “Deep Down”, it may remain merely an awesome tech demo. My fingers are crossed Capcom has the game in development, as some kind of third/or first person medieval survival horror game, which would represent a powerfully grand game play experience worth my time with the PS4.

No newly founded CGI tech demo fest would be complete without Square Enix present, and present they were.

PS4 Finale Square

They showed off their own next gen proprietary engine to wow the audience, but had no information to spare. Not even a name was given to the “state of the art game engine”, which was an honest mistake in the face of the other competition on hand. While bereft of informative detail, the visual wealth of knowledge was in line with what Square Enix is known for, in providing graphic quality rarely matched in any tech arena.

While  the sites were grandiose to gaze upon, I can’t really interject with further speculation of my own, as I found  it hard to deliver further context for what was shown.

The engine definitely looked impressive, with particle effects and complex lighting elements…though the themes of the cinematic were all over the place.

One moment we were in an isolated desert town.

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The next moment we were in a dark and claustrophobic indoor structure, involved with some magical ritual.

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At one point, guerilla soldiers broke into and crashed the ritual with (Ak-47’s?) …

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…and then a woman shot electricity out of her hand.

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Also, a hyena

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The engine looked just to throw everything and the kitchen sink out at the viewer, in order to  showcase any number of common game elements to try and impress us with. While graphically the engine had some eye popping fidelity, and a fluidity to match (more so than my screenshots can provide), the content in motion confused more than enticed (as no solid game play footage of any kind was shown or hinted at).

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The trailer ends after an incursion with the surprise enemy force, and an unnamed female magician barely escaping into a far stretching vista.

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Could this be the new Final Fantasy game SquareEnix hyped during the press conference? There is a possibility, though it looks to be a long way from completion.

Last up, is probably the most ambitious idea from the entire conceptual side of the PS4 conference. The company who displayed their ever ambitious nature was Media Molecule (Little Big Planet.  They showed off their interest in striving to understand and use Sony’s motion controller, The Playstation Move, in order to help broaden gaming dialogue through creation.

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For anyone who has been left out of the loop, Media Molecule has helped add tremendously to the stable of top notch Playstation titles with Little Big Planet, and it’s successfully fruitful ambition of providing the player with endless creativity. Not only does the game stand on traditional grounds, and offer an extremely fun title to play through, but also allowed players to customize, design, and even flesh out their own ideas in the game’s level creator.

The second title even let players design games and levels that were far outside the traditional scope of the simplistic platformer Little Big Planet was intended as. This stand out accomplishment didn’t happen in a vacuum, as millions of players have custom created millions of different ideas, all due in part to Media Molecules creative savvy with Little Big Planet.

PS4 Finale LBP

The only reason I give such lengthy exposition, is due to the rather weighty (and admittedly) unbelievable mission statement MM had during the PS4 press conference. In their quest to give players ultimate control in creativity, Media Molecule has sought to”Let you record your Dreams”. This sentiment is grand enough, but then MM continues to go on and explain they want to do it through the use of Sony’s motion controller, The Playstation Move, a yet to be  ratified tool in conventional game playing, let alone abstract  creation.

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Media Molecule helps to expedite Sony’s message of a diverse platform through sharing with the PS4, by providing this unique perspective into “recording your dreams”. This vast and ambitious process of using the Playstation move to create your own experiences exists as a detour to the common problem of creation frustration. The rep from MM refers to traditional game creation as “The Tyranny of the Polygon”, and with the Move, hopes to ease the pain and simplify the process for those who have the ideas to create, but not technical know how to do so.

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Upon further explanation, Media Molecule goes into detail about their own experiences using the motion controller interface of the Playstation Move. Just through rudimentary testing and playing around, they found the Move to provide the level of accuracy they required  and the ease of movement necessary,  to help improve the process of creation, rather than hinder it. One example used prevalently throughout the demonstration was sculpting, and the incredibly detailed models you could create.This demonstration was  through nothing else but the ease of movement involved with the motion control of the PS Move, and your own talent.

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He went on to show real time lapse of other very detailed sculptures, and then two more, and then 100 more. This in turned showcased how quickly adapted  and entertained his entire team was in expressing their creative sides, solely through the use of The Playstation Move.

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He went on to show other real results using The Move, with an incredibly intricate sculpted town, complimentary with walls, houses, roads, and a large tower.

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MM then showed off a video that was made entirely with The PS Move, involving marionettes, orchestrated music, choreography, and the players who made it possible.

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While the presentation left me with a lot of questions, it left me with even more wonder. While the end of the demonstration was reminiscent of more awkward moments from E3’s of the past, this seemed a little more genuine in design and motivation. I felt some kind of soul behind the ideas of the project, and a general passion from Media Molecule in showing it off. The Move has yet to find it’s place as a staple in the Playstation library, and this would be the perfect ideal that propels the controller into the stratosphere of the memorable. The MM rep mentioned that sculpting was just the beginning, with suggestions that any form of creation would be equally possible with enough time and thought involved.

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While The Move demo was not a singular game, and more of a proposed experience on the PS4, I really hope these lofty ideas to create this “ultimate form of user creation” comes to fruition. Everything they showed was within technological reason, and I’ve learned not to underestimate the fervor and creativity of gamers the world over. Little Big Planet sounded like a pipe dream when I first heard of it, thinking a company couldn’t possibly pull off that level of service in the department of creativity. Low and behold, LBP is one of the coolest and most engrossing creation properties in Sony’s library, and a unique gem across the gaming spectrum as a whole. I have adjusted expectations, trying to break through unreasonable excitement, but if anyone can pull of this class of quality, it’s Media Molecule.

That wraps up my look at the entirety of the PS4 Press Conference! From the PS4 details, to the mass of games on display, and the conceptual stuff following suit, I was nothing short of bursting with anticipation the entire time. I hope I’ve helped to shed some light on what Sony wishes to give you in the future with the PS4, and have provided some drool worthy details to keep you held over till E3. I’ll be doing a quick recap on everything I’ve covered in the past few days, with some final thoughts to go along with it.

See you next time, and cheers to a future with the PS4.

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