At the Game Developer Conference 2013, or GDC, Sony held its much anticipated panel discussing how developers can take advantage of the PlayStation 4 hardware. While much of the panel was focused on specific ideas and concepts for developers that would mostly fly over the average gamer's head, Sony did reveal quite a bit about the PlayStation 4 that both gamers and developers can appreciate.
Sony Senior Staff Engineer Chris Norden's speech can be broken down into four key elements: hardware, controller, PlayStation Eye and the PS4 interface. Below, we've broken down each segment highlighting the key points as it would relate to gamers, enabling you to quickly find the information that would most interest you.
While much of the hardware talk was aimed at developers, there were a few interesting details mixed in that regular gamers will find interesting:
- The PS4 uses low power consumption and reduced heat output, good for gamers with space limitations.
- The development code is based on Windows 7, meaning it will not only be easy for developers to debug their games but it will also be easy for developers to port their game from the PC and vice versa.
- The PlayStation 4's Blu-ray drive is "up to three times faster" than the Blu-ray drive included in the PlayStation 3, according to Norden.
- While the PS4's hard drive size was not officially revealed, Norden has gone on record as stating it will be "very large."
In other words, the PlayStation 4 is a marked improvement over the PS3 in both hardware and accessibility on the developer's end. While the PS3 was known for being hard to develop for, the PS4 looks to give developers access to the system and development tools they cannot get elsewhere, even on the PC.
For the second part of his presentation, Norden spoke at length about the DualShock 4. In Norden's speech was many new details about the controller, including:
- The DualShock 4 eliminates the analog buttons found on the Dualshock 3, due to "most developers ignoring it" according to Norden. He claims that using digital buttons will allow Sony to "cut latency way down," between the system and the controller.
- Developers can now vary the analog strength in each motor of the rumble technology found in the controller. For example, explosions can cause a large rumble while raindrops can cause very subtle rumbles. In comparison, the PlayStation 3 rumble technology was either on or off with no in-between.
- Sony has redesigned the L2 and R2 buttons to be more comfortable and to cut down on accidental button presses. However, the shoulder buttons aren't the only thing being redesigned: the analog sticks have been tightened as well for more accuracy when aiming, for example.
- The DualShock 4's light bar is comprised of four different colors: blue, red, pink and green. These colors correspond to player one through four, respectively.
From the sounds of Norden's presentation, it feels that Sony took the few criticisms of the DualShock 3 to heart and improved on the controller in a way that made sense without infringing on the best aspects of it. While these improvements to the controller are all minor, combined they should make the DualShock 4 one of the best controllers that Sony has ever put out.
PlayStation 4 Eye
The PlayStation 4 Eye Camera sees a significant overhaul, making it a core component of the PS4 experience in contrast to the PS3 Eye, which was by and large a very unnecessary and unused accessory. In the third part of his speech, Norden highlighted some of the key areas in which the PS4 Eye trumps its predecessor:
- The PS4 Eye, comprised of two cameras, features a larger field of view, higher resolution and more bits per pixel than the PS3 Eye, translating to a camera that provides an upgrade an every possible way over the PS3 Eye.
- While the PS3 Eye was a "one image" camera, the PS4 Eye can change exposure, gain and white balance on the fly, according to Norden, allowing the PS4 Eye to track movements and players more accurately in all lighting conditions.
- The PS4 Eye has a three-axis accelerometer built into it.
- The PS4, DualShock 4 and PS4 Eye will all work in tandem to provide new experiences for both the gamer and the developer.
While the PS3 Eye was unused and mostly a gimmick, the PS4 Eye has the potential to be a game changer for the system if developers use it properly. With the information Norden unveiled, we can't wait to see some of the inventive and creative uses developers have planned for the new camera.
Norden ended his speech talking about the PlayStation 4's interface, specifically the social aspects of the device and the friends list. While much of this information was unveiled at Sony's February 20th unveiling, Norden went into extra detail about some of the social and interface features gamers and developers can look forward to on the PlayStation 4:
- The system will constantly provide new content to users at all times, such as new downloadable content, movies, music, downloadable games and social recommendations.
- The PlayStation 4 home screen will display a compact look at everything happening within your social network. Whether a friend beat your high score or someone recommends a movie, it'll be there when you boot the system.
- The PlayStation 4 will feature an increased maximum size for your friends list.
- Improved support for multiple PS4 users on a single system, i.e a family playing on one PS4.
- By default, your real name, pulled from a social network like Facebook, is turned off. The system will only display your PSN name by default. In addition, to share your real name with someone on your friends list both users must agree to the interaction. This should put to rest some gamer's concerns over privacy.
- Norden describes the social element as taking place not just around the game, but in it as well. Norden uses Heavy Rain as an example, stating that when presented with making a choice, you can also see the choices your friends made from within the game. Gamers will remember that this is something The Walking Dead Season 1 already accomplished, but at the end of each episode and not during it.
Overall, Sony shed a light on some of the features that didn't get as much time at the unveiling. These features, when taken as a whole, show that Sony is dedicated to every aspect of the PlayStation 4: big or small, hardware or software, gamer or developer, Sony seems to be doing everything right with this new system.
Stay tuned for our coverage of E3 2013, where Sony should finally reveal the last two pieces of the PS4 puzzle; price and date!
Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 3/27/2013
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