Global Game Industry News Blog

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Game Development is Hard, and Made Harder by the Manufacturers

I love it when developers get the chance to give glipses into their worlds, and Dave Perry does just that here. The truth of the matter is that in general Sony (and other console manufacturers too) need to get better about not working in secrecy for years and then introducing a console to developers a couple of months ahead of the release of the actual device.

It takes time to learn the way these systems work, and since (especially with Sony) your tools are never really that great to begin with you're fighting the machine. Sony actually released some new tools at GDC this year, which is pretty neat that they're giving tools to all licenced developers that they've kept previously for special developers, which really, is a problem. Don't do that! Of course if you're not giving out tools or hiding tools or changing tools or any of these things you're going to make it really hard for developers to make the most out of a system.

The other piece of this is that documentation and just general knowledge of how these systems work is not known or provided. Developers often have to figure out (and re-figure out) how to do things on each and every console, with each and every generation. This means that you wind up putting a ton of effort into developing systems for each console you've already developed, or hacked together on another system, because of some undocumented hardware/API issue you've encountered.

This is why it takes years to see something like God of War.

PS3's power will be untapped for years - Perry

Former Shiny Entertainment boss Dave Perry has praised Sony's PS3 hardware, describing it as "the best piece of hardware, without question" - but claims that it will be years before developers tap that power.
...
"I haven't seen anything even close to what the machine's capable of doing," he claimed. "So that's the sad part for Sony - I feel really bad for them that somebody hasn't really stepped up to show us the hardware all singing, all dancing."

He attributed this under-utilisation of the machine to a common cycle in the console market, using God of War as an example of a game which finally tapped much of the power of a system which had been on the market for several years.

"The point is you're not going to get to see the PlayStation 3 for probably a couple of years, and then you're going to go, 'Wow, that's incredible.'"

Perry lays the blame for this problem squarely at the door of the hardware designers, who he believes have far too much control over the design of console systems. "This is how sad the industry is right now," he said. "If Sony thought of a way that their architecture designers could somehow add even more power for less money, but made programming a misery - actually made you just want to kill yourself - they would do it."

He believes that the way through this impasse is to allow top developers to have more input into the design of console systems, a move which he claims would help to "focus on what's important" rather than building in secondary features such as web browsers at the cost of both affordability and game functionality.

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