Head of the new generation PlayStation suggests that the company has listened to the game creators.
It is noted that Cerny has been faced with the challenge of designing the architecture of a console that has to serve for several years. The design and architecture of the PlayStation 4 is built to last. “We’ve done a great job of matching the GPU that we believe will allow the system to grow over the years,” he says.
The trajectory of the versatile Mark Cerny will soon be rewarded in Spain with the Legend Award 2013 in Barcelona GameLab, an award established two years ago, which has already received Peter Molyneux and Hironobu Sakaguchi.
Below, you can read Mark Cerny’s Elmundo interview about his work and the PS4.
Were you involved in the development of PS4 in 2008?
I guess I’ve worked in secret ever since.
How did you start the project? I’d like to get a brief description of your role.
In the summer of 2007, after shipment of the launch titles, began a series of ‘postmortem analysis’ for the PlayStation 3. By that I mean we inspected in great detail how the ‘hardware’ and the ‘software’ of system and development environment meet the needs of developers. I was a participant in these conversations and they were fascinating. I started thinking about possible strategies for the next generation console, an issue even more interesting to me.
In late 2007, I took a chance and asked the direction of Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) to let me play a leading role in the project of the next generation and, to my surprise, they said yes. As a result, I worked in the architecture of the ‘hardware’ since 2008 but also was involved in many conversations about our strategy in relation to the ‘software’ of the system and the services it could provide to facilitate the development of games and better meet the needs players.
In a recent interview, Shuhei Yoshida said that one of the main patterns of SCE was that the PS4 console would facilitate the work of developers. How have you managed to achieve this?
A strategy based on developers stems from our desire to be dedicated to the consumer. We understand that by providing developers with a set of attractive tools to support the creation accounts of the desired titles by players.
As a result, at the beginning of the development work kept many conversations with internal and third-party developers about seeking a tool set on a next generation console. They assumed that any system we create would have high performance, so your comments focused primarily on the ease of creating games.
The consensus among developers was not the rejection of a design “blank sheet” for PlayStation 4, but rather wanted us to use some kind of conventional technology for computing and graphics. Using this technology, the developers would be able to start working directly in games without the need for a long period of study.
Finally, and for the above reasons, we opted for an x86 processor and PC GPU, although we ended up refining the GPU in many respects. Over time we think developers will find the time to use these advances and the result will be higher quality graphics, better physics simulation, etc.
SCE insists that the PS4 will approach the user experience. I would like a more detailed explanation of this strategy. Can you reveal any item that you have made or intend to integrate ye to help improve the user experience?
There are several design principles behind PlayStation 4. One of them is ‘instant’ we minimize waiting time experienced by the user. For example, if you buy a game digitally, you will not need to wait for the whole game to load before you start playing. PS4 titles are designed to allow you to play once you’ve downloaded only a small part of the data of the game, and the rest of the game is downloading while you play.
Another design principle is ‘social’. We have added a button to the controller named ‘SHARE’, which takes you quickly to an interface to upload screenshots and gameplay videos. Whenever we record the video of your game in the background, so it is very easy and convenient to share these videos on PlayStation 4.
There are other social functions, such as our commitment to friendship networks based on real names and profile pictures. This does not mean that we remove the aliases and icons used in the current multiplayer sessions, are very useful when anonymity is important. However, we want to add a new social dimension in which it can interact with real-world friends.
Other principles are ‘integrated, simple and personalized’. In short, it is too far to explain in a few paragraphs. We want to explain more about the set of functions over the coming months.
The computers are in a constant process of evolution and continuously hurtle new architectures, processors and more powerful GPU, etc.
How do you tackle the risk that this console is obsolete in a few years? For example, how does it affect the product life of Moore’s Law?
In some ways, the rapid evolution of computers plays in favor of consoles. Many of the teams take about five years to develop a game. As a result, they need a stable specification during that period and that is what provides a console, ie about one hundred million devices that share the same basic specification.
The consoles also tend to have higher performance than would be expected by the cost, due to lightweight operating systems and the fact that developers enjoy many years to study the specific architecture.
Regarding the performance issue in the context of Moore’s Law, our strategy has been to create a console with a number of features for the short term and others for the long term. We have a family basic feature set that allows a wide range of games at launch and have done a great job of matching the GPU that we believe will allow the system to grow over the years. To give just one example, we have adapted the ‘hardware’ to allow the ‘shaders’ computing are used in traditional graphics interface. This is the kind of technique that we believe will be used within three or four years of the life cycle of the console to increase the graphical quality of the games.
I would like to know your experience working with developers in the design of this new console. What does that have requested the creators?
The number one request was unified memory architecture, because programmers spend much time in managing multiple memory banks. They also asked us to create a very wide unified memory to support the trend toward more detail and variety in the game world. We finally found a way to satisfy these two requests.
The hard drive of each PlayStation 4 also is the result of contributions from developers. Much of the rationale was to support the currently popular model of launching a bigger game and then provide little additional content digitally through the online store. But there is also another justification, based on the desire of many developers to create what can be called ‘live software’, for example a game in which, each time you come back to play every day or week, the world itself evolves and new open gaming opportunities. The result is a huge amount of data that must be stored locally, making a hard drive is almost essential.
Will the PS4 need to be connected all the time? And if so, how will this affect plans for PSN?
PlayStation 4 is not a permanent connection system in that sense, but the experience is much richer if you are connected. You will have access to digital content and updates your games, along with a wide range of social functions: upload videos and screenshots, see your friends play and interact with them in various ways within the games.
You are an expert in all fields of game development: you’re a developer, programmer, and an animator. Which of these roles suits you more?
During these years I worked mainly as a designer, programmer and producer. Right now, in my title for PS4, first occupy the post of creative director, and I have to say that I find it incredibly rewarding, designing the game world, writing the script for the game’s narrative and so on. I am very excited to return to the position of creative director in future projects.