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GDC - Sony Keynote 172

In San Jose, the first big keynote finished up delivery about twenty minutes ago. Phil Harrison from Sony laid out some of the future plans the company has for the games industry on the whole. The PS3 featured heavily, of course, but new announcements centered on the PlayStation Network and online functionality. Read on for my take on Sony's chance on the big stage, here at the Game Developer's Conference 2006. Update: 03/22 21:57 GMT by Z : Fixed some typos. I was typing fast and was already late for the Ron Moore Keynote. Additional views on the event can be seen at the Wonderland blog and Joystiq, with Kotaku offering impressions from the Q&A that followed.
Sitting in the Civic Auditorium before the event starts, it's a blur of noise (Weezer, etc.) and lights. The standup at the front with PS3, PS2, and PSP shells is getting a lot of photo attention from and endless stream of journalists. There seems to be some sort of dress code that I'm unaware of, seeing the number of bald black shirt-wearers out there. I'm flanked by the Joystiq and Kotaku editors, and despite the bad feelings you might expect there has so far been no bloodshed. There's no WiFi connection in here, though, so at the moment we're fairly useless as far as commentators go.

To be honest, I'm not really anticipating anything all that exciting being announced here. The big announcement (the delay) is already out there. There are no plans to have a playable version of the PS3 on the show floor. If there are any meaty announcements made, they're likely to revolve around games for the console. Even then, my hopes aren't that high.

Jamil was just introduced, and offers up the idea that the keynote will 'demystify the next generation of consoles'. Phil Harrison walks out, and offers up the idea of 'going beyond the box'.

The PS2 Report Card:

  • 1m units hardware
  • 1b units software
  • 632 titles
  • overall market, 60% ownership
  • some markets over 85%
PS1 as a hardware format has had a twelve year lifecycle, going far beyond the five year lifespan analysts predicted. PS2 will continue to be a significant force well into 2010. They're committed to supporting their current-gen system for some time to come.

David Jaffe is introduced. The PS2 is nice, but it's 'Incapable of rendering 3-way sex scenes in realtime.' They're going to be doing AAA games on the PS2 for some time to come. God of War 2 will be available for play at E3. They show a clip from the game, which features a ton of the super-violent finishing moves we saw in the last game. At one point Kratos walks up a cyclops' chest with his blades, and then reaches into his eye socket to wrench his seeing organ free. Another clip shows the God of War slicing the wings from a griffon before leaping into the sky. Promises of more to come at E3.

PSP is their fastest growing format. They're lowering the prices on PSP dev tools, having shipped over thousands worldwide. Internet browser will be a focus, with a Flash functionality. A video camera is also upcoming, for a VOIP videophone/Wifi videophone. He hopes 'communication-based games' also becomes a powerful part of the PSP story. GPS receiver is also upcoming. He's hoping for some geocaching-style games, along with the more obvious uses. The camera and GPS are both going to be coming out in the fall, around late Sept/Early Oct.

E-Distribution. Going to be a download from a content server onto a MemoryStick. They're going to be offering PS1 content from an archive server, in addition to new games. The PS3 will also be interoperable with the PSP. PSP can be used as a media browser for content on the PS3 via wifi and USB.

Another new PSP Game, Loco Roco. Wow. Crack-addled. Some sort of blue balloon guy that rolls around...sort of like Gish? It stretches shape and moves around, sometimes budding off into multiple creatures in a side-scrolling format. Coming out this Summer.

PS3! An Apology with Ducks. A new 'duck' demo. This one is is underwater, with thousands of fish simulated in realtime (procedural animation). Lots of schooling behaivor. It looks nice, I guess. He goes on to talk about basic features.

They include:

  • Full PS2 backwards compatibily
  • Full Blu-Ray Support
  • Legacy SD to full HD support
  • Latest HDMI
  • Broadband Network Connection
  • Wireless Connection
  • HDD Standard
They claim a November 2006 launch again. Production capacity is supposed to ramp up faster than previous. 1M/month at start. Lots of middleware companies already onboard, from Alias to Havok to Epic to IGN/Gamespy. He discusses some of the additional compiler tech coming up, much of which will be out by June. Hardware for devs will be around in time for E3, with more afterwards.

He introduces some work from Ninja to show off ragdoll physics in a soldier man demo. They drop in a ton of soldier guys (over 1000), and then set off an explosion. Bodies fly, and bounce off of each other with appropriate screams. Laughs from the crowd.

Simon Hobbs from SCEE london, to show off a vehicle demo. Lots of shiny shaders and such. Still looks kinda jaggy to me, but then it's a demo. They shoot up the car, to show off the destruction of the model. It convincingly deconstructs, the hood popping open to show us the engine. It's not all that attractive, but speaks well to the physics of the console.

Blue-Ray. Some discussion of the ratio of content on the disc to memory in the system. A lot of discussion on the need for more space, given the amount of content going into new games. (graphics, performace, sounds, localizations). Can offer the publisher the chance to make one disc for all markets. They show a demo of the London from Getaway Future, a demo from back at the last E3. They 'need' Blu-Ray' in order to get all the sound and content onto the disc.

Another demo. This one's actually a game, but they want to focus on the tech. Dylan Jobe, producer of the Warhawk title. A hovering jet, an aircraft shooter title. They're using the term 'ambient warfare' to describe the general chaos and background fighting in the middle of a battlefield. Not only do they have that, but they render the clouds, waves, and light in realtime. Software rendering and Hardware rendering combine to offer up the shiny. Everything is anti-aliased and displayed in HD. Nothing is written in assembly, everything is done via higher level access to the PS3 chip. He promises that there will be a playable demo at E3 of the title. least one then.

PlayStation Network Platform (not the final name). It's going to focus on Content, Communication, Community, and Commerce. Going to start with PS3 launch, basic service free. 'Open internet' business philosophy. Worldwide network and launch, co-designed by SOE. They'll provide all the basics. 3rd party servers can be made and connected to the network (MMOGs) if they're so inclined. Basic community services - account creation, lobby and matching, score/ranking, video/voice chat/text chat, friends lists and avatars. Shops to sell online content, both in and out of games. PS3 HDD can hold this downloaded material, and games can be launched directly. No Discs! Subscriptions, micropayments, etc. are all available. Next week, the SDK is heading to devs. End of June, the complete server-side will be available to devs, with September offering the final environment.

Formula 1 offering, another Demo. Video chat window overlaid over the game. Smack talk your friends while you play, with gestures, I guess. Email and friends can be accessed in the game. Invites to other games from within another game. The shop is also available in games, purchasing new cars/new tracks. The style of the shop can be adapted to the game, for a more integrated experience.

Yet another demo, for the title Motor Storm. Some folks from the developers, driving the car around kicking up dirt and making trails in the ground as it goes. Lots of complex geometry, along with stuff like visible welds on the vehicle frame. Persistent deformation of the gameworld, presenting gameplay challenges depending on the game involved. They'll be offering up a lot more at E3.

Another demo, CEO of Insomniac Ted Price. An internal demo of Resistance: Call of Man. Typical console FPS, with headcrabs and whatnot. They offer up more AI at a time, lots of cute physics stuff (nailbombs, black hole generator). Another title that will be shown in more depth at E3. 'Why they're working on the PS3'. Superior firepower, he sez. Blue Ray and the SPUs have been the most exciting things they've had to work with. Lots of room for content, lots of processing power, lots of room for stuff they've never been able to do before. The seven SPUs allow for a lot of extra stuff load balanced to the other processors. All that parallel processing and content == better games.

A 'sneak peak', a noninteractive demo for ooo something shiny. A future-tech world, lots of stuff going on in the background. Fifth element's flying car city. Has an art-deco looks almost like the buildings of Myst. Moving through the city high above, and then diving down into the misty depths of the city. Robots walking past, one some mission or other. Ratchet and Clank. This is the new Ratchet game. Looks pretty good.

Today. We make content for discs in stores. It's what the industry has done for 25 years. Creating network and communities of gamers. Fundamental shift in the planning, creation, production, and management of games. Future GDCs will be focused on network-based business as opposed to disc-based businesses. Revenue streams will be more complicated. Besides prepackaged media, there's also downloadable content, episodic content, in-game advertising (booo!), SOCOM 3 (39 Million hours of online play). Lots of commercial opportunity for the industry. Subcriptions also a source of income. (WoW bigger than Ireland) Mobile gaming as a possible addition to the network. Game object auctions (no comment on that), but yeah. Merchandising. Gotta sell those T-shirts. The Wheel of Fortune.

Building direct relationships with the consumer is their new big things. They're introducing an initiative for online content creation. e-Distribution is the key.
Live now, a place where devs and content creators can connect with Sony to do online stuff for the PlayStation Network.

Innovation grows the market -

  • SingStar 4 million units in 2 years
  • Eyetoy, 9 million in 3 years
  • Buzz, 2 million in six months.
Over 4 million units of SingStar in EU. Ultra-localization of the game for new users, with regionally appropriate songs and language. What they're doing with Singstar to move to the next level. downloading a song, video/photos of singing parties, all online. That's the impressions right off. I'm off to the Ron Moore keynote, more on this event in the day's synopsis.
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GDC - Sony Keynote

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