Play 200: Developers Pick PlayStation’s Biggest Innovations
Developers tell us what ideas and innovations they believe the PlayStation consoles have brought to the games industry.
Continuing our celebration of Play 200 (on sale now by the way) we asked developers all over the world what ideas innovations they felt the PlayStation brand has helped to introduce or popularise. The results were diverse and often rather passionate. We’ll let them explain…
I bought a bunch of PS2s for people – I’d had a really good year – and a bunch of my non-gaming friends got bought PS2s for Christmas and I gave it to them saying ‘it’s a DVD player’, because they didn’t have DVD players. And they all ended up playing games on it as well. I don’t personally believes that DVD would have been as successful as it was if it wasn’t for the PS2. From a general societal point of view that’s the biggest influence and I hope the same thing happens with Blu-ray on the PS3. Sony has always been a brilliant technology company.
Miles Jacobsen OBE, studio director, Sports Interactive
3D graphics are really big when you think of the PlayStation platform and it really popularised it for sure. The controller goes all the way back to the first console and has changed the way games are played. I am proud that while EyeToy didn’t permeate to everybody I think it paved the way for a lot of new things to happen; things like Singstar and Guitar Hero happened partly because EyeToy happened first. Those games were able to occur more easily because of EyeToy. They don’t use its technology or anything but that way of creating a peripheral that goes with a gameplay experience I think was part of that.
Richard Marks, head of Sony Computer Entertainment R&D
To me it’s in the world of sound that the PlayStation has had the most influence. I know that’s odd to say considering how amazingly graphics have advanced over three generations of PlayStation home console hardware, but to me, it’s the sounds that have forever changed.
First, the PlayStation brought full voice acting into the gaming arena for good. Before PlayStation, you simply didn’t have enough space to do voice beyond a few choice selections, and due to space restrictions, you couldn’t do more than some very badly compressed voice to boot. The PlayStation made voice acting a must have in games, and if you look back at the pre-PlayStation titles, it’s amazing how much we had to rely on goofy text conventions or no voice at all. Voice made games human in a very real way.
Next up, the PlayStation made high fidelity music a full part of games, and this has transformed games forever. I know a lot of people love their 8-bit tunes and lament the loss of those days, but as someone who grew up in an era where we went from primitive home-video games, to the Atari generation to truly 8-bit games and now has the privilege of making games in the modern era, I have to say I don’t miss the restrictions of space and technical limitations that were imposed on early gaming music. Music allows a strong designer to create mood, give clues to the player as to upcoming action, and guide the experience as much as the visuals do. By unfettering music for all time, the PlayStation allowed us to explore game play and music in such games as Rez, and led to the possibility of the music game genre from “Dance Revolution” to “Guitar Hero” to “Rock Band” to “DJ Hero” and others.
Timothy Gerritsen, director of product development, Irrational Games
For me the winning innovation is the combination of the game console and video player (DVDs for PS2). This was the major step in bringing the wide mainstream audience towards gaming. Before PS2 the games were just for us geeks, totally outshined by other popular (not so interactive) media like TV and movies.
Jarek Kolar, senior gameplay producer, 2K Czech
I have always been a big fan of the controller and the innovations it brought. It always seemed to fit my hands perfectly, is very ergonomic, and the dual analogue sticks really opened the platform up for very precise control and innovative new ways to play. In addition, the implementation of rumble was spot on and way ahead of its time. I know that Sony wasn’t necessarily the first with all of these innovations but the “Dual Shock 2” was far and away the best controller of its time, in my opinion. I still fondly recall playing “MGS” and watching the helicopter take off and fly by me near the beginning of the game. The immersion was so great it brought a huge smile to my face and I actually restarted just to make my wife experience it. With motion-controlled gaming on everyone’s mind right now it’s important to remember where we came from and to recognize that some games will just feel better with the correct controller in your hands.
Barry Caudill, executive producer, Firaxis Games
It seems to me that it was the Playstation that, through the Dual Shock joysticks, brought analog interfaces to the wider console audiences and that this was the single most important evolution of input since the very first video games appeared. Time will tell if we’ll feel the same way about motion control.
Randy Pitchford, CEO and president, Gearbox
The Playstation was a pioneer in what would eventually become media centric devices. For example It gave us the ability to watch DVDs on PS2 and Blu-rays on PS3. They introduced great design for controllers which are the standard still today.
Vincent Pombriandt, producer, Ubisoft Montreal
For me it’s the whole package the PS3 offers – it’s truly is a full multi media station, online connectivity, downloadable high-def movies, Trophies and of course Blu-ray as it’s becoming a much bigger deal now. I’ve really come to love it, at first as a developer I was pulling my hair out but as a home console it’s amazing.
Brett Rector, producer, LucasArts
First, they got the media right(CD, then DVD, then Blu-ray). Inexpensive to duplicate, high capacity for lots of rich media! This seems obvious, but every system prior had used cartridges and lots of folks thought optical discs wouldn’t have the bandwidth and seek times to make excellent games. The second thing thing they did really well is the design of the controller, and the sequence of upgrades — first dual analog, then dual shock. The two thumb sticks are essential, and I give them a ton of credit for getting that right early on. I’m a big fan of their shoulder buttons as well. Overall the controller has been remarkably enduring–and for good reason–it works.
Brian Fleming, producer and co-founder, Sucker Punch
The thing that the original PlayStation did brilliantly was introduce the fact that it was a lifestyle product. It broke out from the notion that games were niche and confined to geeky guys in their bedrooms. It popularized the fact that a games console could be a lifestyle product that you could put in the living room with credibility. Through great marketing it became a piece of technology that was also seen as cool and socially acceptable. The fact it played DVDs as well as games was a decision that justified many millions of purchases. Without doubt it heavily influenced the design of modern consoles and the expectation of cross media functionality from the console consumer.
Darrell Gallagher, head of studio, Crystal Dynamics
The first time I saw a PlayStation 1, it was one unique console lost among the noise at the CES in Las Vegas. The guy on the booth told me it was a new console made by Sony that was out in Japan and that would be available as an import in Europe for a ridiculous amount of money (something like 800€ I think at the time…). The console was running a game called BATTLE ARENA TOSHINDEN from TAMSOFT. When I saw this I was absolutely amazed. It was the most incredible, hyper realistic game I had ever seen, and it was entirely in real-time 3D! That was in 1994 and it is really impressive to see the progress that have been made in real-time 3D in only 16 years. Now everybody takes for granted to see facial Motion Capture, skin shaders with translucency and reflections in the eyes, but it is sometimes interesting to remember where we came from on a technical perspective. It gives you great hope about where could maybe find ourselves in the next 5 to 10 years….
On a broader point of view, I think that PlayStation has contributed significantly to expanding the audience of video games. It is also the only console to date that sold more than 140 million units worldwide with the PlayStation 2 which is still a fantastic achievement. PlayStation is almost a common word today, and you often meet non-gamers talking about “playing PlayStation” instead of “playing video games” which certainly means something. I think PlayStation is a brand that talks to all gamers and many people of my generation were almost born with a DualShock controller in their hands… PlayStation made video games enter in the living room, which is something that everybody takes for granted today, but that was far from being obvious when the PlayStation 1 was released.
David Cage, director and founder, Quantic Dream
By embracing the CD support it made cartridges obsolete allowing for larger games, fully voiced, etc. Suddenly console games could go beyond what was typically expected from them. They could be more epic, cinematic, etc. Nintendo fought that trend as long as it could but the company was eventually forced to embrace it.
The DVD format is now the basic format of all games. However, digital delivery is now slowly but surely threatening what we take for granted.
Jean-Francois Dugas, game director, Eidos Montreal
PlayStation has been responsible for quite a few ideas and innovations over the years, but if there’s one breakthrough that will go down as its greatest legacy it is that PlayStation has taken gaming as an activity that was predominantly aimed at children and dedicated hobbyists, and turned it into an activity which can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age, gender, or level of dedication. Because of PlayStation, you can tell people you like games, and they won’t necessarily think you’re twelve or a nerd.
Hermen Hulst, managing director, Guerrilla Games
When the PSone came out, before Nintendo, that sort of made gaming seem a bit cool. I remember the PSone getting into club culture and all this kind and it was good at making it feel a bit more trendy. It meant it wasn’t as embarrassing telling your friends what you do for a living, because suddenly they were more like ‘that must be really cool’. It’s not quite on par with being a rock star, but it felt like it was edging towards that realm. The PSone was also really good at getting into people’s homes and was horrendously successful to the point where people didn’t realise it was a brand of console and that anything that you played a videogame on was a PlayStation. I think that was really good and they upped the game in terms of quality as well compared to what you could play on a lot of the old home computers. Maybe it heralded a sort of era of professionalism or something. I still wish they came with keyboards really and a manual on how to program them.
Mark Healey, creative director, Media Molecule
The fact that we all play games! In his book ‘Trigger Happy’ Steven Poole said “videogames are just part of the cultural furniture…The post-pub PlayStation session is one of the joys of modern British life”. We invented high-quality social gaming. PlayStation games helped turn our medium from a niche / geeky / childish pastime into acceptable mainstream entertainment for all ages and genders.
Matt Southern, game director, Evolution Studios
Using the right analog stick to control where the camera is looking has become second nature to gamers and is the most powerful tool at our disposal for letting people be in control of their experience. Go back and play an old 3D game where you have to reorient your character to look around and you’ll quickly see how sweet that right analog stick has become.
Nate Fox, game director, Sucker Punch
PlayStation is the first console, in my mind, that really helped gaming start to have a wider, more mainstream appeal. Was the first console I remembered hearing referenced a lot in TV shows, movies and by athletes.
Pete Hines, vice president, Bethesda Softworks
The PlayStation was hugely popular, selling a ridiculous number of units. Everyone who was even slightly interested in video games had one. It was the mature answer to the Nintendo 64, whereas the N64 felt like a kid’s console, the PlayStation felt like a mature gaming system. With the CD as the media instead of cartridges the system felt more advanced than others at the time. Lastly, it paved the way for the PlayStation 2, which helped push video gaming directly into the mainstream conscious that now competes against movies, television, and music.
Tim Willits, creative director, id Software
I don’t know if it’s necessarily PlayStation but I’ll give you a more general Sony answer… I think the development culture they fostered with PS2 is something that was so refreshing. That’s the reason why PS2 was such a success. I think that there was a drive for creativity that happened in the early 2000s that literally spawned this industry and kick-started a huge part of who we are today. If not for that and if not for what Sony did as a publisher at the time too, and what PlayStation did for the industry, we would be far, far from where we are today.
Ru Weerasuriya, co-founder, Ready At Dawn
The technical revolution that made it possible to play with 3D polygons was probably the most prominent thing that we’ve seen since the start of PlayStation. It would have been good if it had been with Sega Saturn, but it didn’t turn out that way.
Masayoshi Kikuchi, producer, Sega
Issue 200 of Play is on sale now from all good newsagents and supermarkets featuring the 200 Greatest PlayStation Moments. You can also get Play from our eShop and for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch via iTunes