Interviews by Michael Gapper (@michaelgapper), with research and editing from Duncan Harris (@deadendthrills) and Dan Dawkins (@DanDawkins). Buy PSM3 online.
Sony and Microsoft might not have unveiled their new consoles at E3, but the next generation is already underway. PSM3 has spoken to the world's leading developers to see what they really want from PS4 and Xbox 720.
Here's what they're after...
Some developers crave it, others seem to fear it, But What Exactly is it?
What do developers mean when they talk about "power"? Is it the machine's ability to think? To march ever larger armies up ever more complex terrain, before a camera exposed to ever more wondrous special effects? Or do they mean the simple power to build - to imagine?
When DICE producer Patrick Liu talks about the power of next-gen consoles, he seems to imply the former. "As a developer you always want more," he tells us. "PC is very liberating to work with because it scales up very quickly." But not every game experiences such a direct benefit from spiralling brawn. Power can corrupt, after all, or at the very least make things complicated.
"The consoles are shifting a lot," cautions BioWare president Ray Muzyka. "When your tool pipeline and content creators have to learn new tools, it's harder to actually get to the big innovations and the artistic craft." In his eyes, the power to create is as much about stability. "We're reaching the point where it's less about the technological advancement and more about how you apply it from an artistic, emotional approach. It's nice when you can focus on the direction and enable player choice, and reward that choice with meaningful consequences that make players feel like they're part of a world that exists."
Over this article, we're going to find out just what power the developers really want from next-gen consoles; and - just as importantly - what power they could do without.
Controllers & Interfaces
Despite what you may have heard, the future of control isn't just about PlayStation Move
With the basic platforms frozen for the longest period in console history, this generation has seen considerable - and, from a marketing perspective, perhaps necessary - innovations in control. "Accessibility, user interface... the more we can make that seamless and easier, the wider the audience we can bring in. The power, depth and richness of games can be enhanced," says BioWare's Muzyka.
But is an innovation the same thing as a breakthrough? Sega veteran Toshihiro Nagoshi draws an important line between interface (simply, how we connect with our games) and a mere subset of that: hardware peripherals. "People don't look at the peripheral when making choices on which console to buy," he warns. "The console makers should stop relying on creating different peripherals and adding more features."
"The most important and unavoidable thing about gaming is the interface. Right now that means either buttons or touchscreens. Those are the only two interfaces we have," he says, apparently unimpressed with the potential of motion-sensing devices such as Move and Kinect. "Sure, we have voice input, but voice will never become the main interface, just a sub-input. I think the answer lies in some as yet unknown third type of interface."
Something hands-free, we ask? "No, I think hands will always be directly involved. That will never change. Something like gyroscopes is close, but gyros are hard to control. It needs to be something new that allows for totally accurate control. Once that is discovered, everything will change."
- Next-gen motion control: Moving forward
- Memory: Why size matters
- PS4: The story so far
- Xbox 720: Everything we know about it