March 15th, 2013, 00:22 Posted By: wraggster
Sony Santa Monica’s Jason McDonald and Mark Simon are, surely, exhausted. They’ve been flown into PlayStation’s London office for a day of press interviews and they’re flying back to Santa Monica later that same day to continue to refine God Of War Ascension’s new multiplayer mode. Singleplayer might be done, but online play is the kind of job that never ends, says McDonald with a weary smile. They are both cheery and enthusiastic speakers, nonetheless.We’re here to talk about God Of War, but really we want to know about PlayStation 4. We enquire whether Sony has asked them what they’d like to see from the new console as it was being built, in keeping with the rhetoric that emerged from PlayStation Meeting. Sony Santa Monica has been so hard at work getting Ascension finished – or as finished as it can be before online multiplayer feedback begins to filter though – that Jason McDonald and Mark Simon weren’t asked. But they can give us a sense of the feeling internally about the new machine.“Everyone’s excited about it for sure,” says Ascension’s lead combat designer McDonald. “The last hardware release was seven years ago so it’s not like this happens every couple of years – we’re ready.”Mark Simon is lead game designer on Ascension. “Our studio is filled with gamers too so you have that buzz – we see the new games and thinking as a developer is almost secondary,” he says. “You can see the possibilities but really you’re like ‘Man, I really wanna play this game.’“I think they’re concentrating on the social aspect which is great, because we’re kind of delving into it now with [God Of War] multiplayer. We’ve found that it’s not like you develop the game and then you ask afterwards what people liked and didn’t like. Now it’s what’s working and what’s not working and we can fix that. So that’s the thing for the next generation hardware and PS4 that I think is exciting, that we’re embracing that and saying that that’s important and games are about having fun with one another.”McDonald is most interested in the implications of that Share button. “The spectating, in particular, is very new,” he tells us. “You get a little taste of that on PC where people can just stream their games on PC – people like it so having a way to do that on a mainstream console is going to be big. With games like Ascension people are going to get competitive and want to stream and see other people play.”The raw power of the new console will open up greater opportunities for games like God of War, too. “The hardware possibilities are crazy,” adds Simon. “I’m excited that things like depth of field will look great next-generation. It’s going to mean real cinematography, and real in-game is going to look like a pre-rendered movie. That is awesome, because then our cinematic games becomes really cinematic all the way through and there’s no quality change between pre-rendered and in-game.”Though he’s had little hands-on experience with PS4, Simon can nevertheless explain why all the talk of creating games on PS4 suggests it’ll be easier to code for. “Generally you have to write a lot of low-level code in order to work with architecture from PS2 and PS3 and then you go to this standard that everybody is programming with on PS4,” he says. “So what that means is it frees a lot of people to stop thinking about low-level code. Obviously it was a strength of the PS3 because the sub-processor was a badass, but it took a lot of work to use the full architecture of the PS3. But now by using something that’s more common across all of programming land, that frees up time, and programmers with freed up time can make better tools and that’s going to make for better games.”Simon also acknowledges that Sony has learned lessons from outside the console business. “Maybe in the future you start to see some things that are happening in mobile and on the web are starting to happen on console. I think those worlds are going to blur – and I think it’s because of popularity and profit.”The move to a more social, data-driven style of game development through online play has just begun, it seems. On PS3, God Of War Ascension’s multiplayer will be tinkered with for the next few months, even years. When PS4 arrives, neverending, service-style game development might leave some at Sony Santa Monica looking back fondly upon the days when a project had a more definite beginning, middle and end.
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