Sony Meeting 2013: Here Comes PS4

For the past several days the internet has been aflutter with anticipation for Sony’s press conference, which promised an announcement to excite the masses. Sony had been pretty outspoken about letting Microsoft take the first step in announcing a next-gen console so when they dropped word that they’d be leading the race, hosting a major reveal event tonight, it came as a happy surprise. I’ve frequented the PS4/Xbox 720 rumor mills over the past couple months and considering they’re slated to hit stores in an estimated 8 – 10 months, I feel like we’re entitled to some cold hard facts and previews to drool over. At 6:00 PM this evening (EST), Sony was kind enough to acquiesce. Here is a recap of the Sony Meeting 2013.

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Defying all expectation, the meeting actually began right on time kicking off with the typical video montage fanfare before our emcee, Sony President Andrew House, took the stage. Taking no time at all for formalities, House immediately began talking about the PS Vita and its mobility and flexibility. He went on to stress the importance of cross-play and being always connected. Following a brief recap of Playstation’s success and failures leading up to present, House indicated that the current state of connectivity and cross-platform interaction demanded a new console. This new console, of course, is the PS4.

At this point I’m feeling a little anxious – talk of mobile gaming and ‘always-on’ systems typically means Facebook integration and the sort of added features that become more irksome peripheral ideas than anything else. Being able to post my new platinum trophy on a friend’s wall is a nice little gimmick, sure, but I don’t want this to be the focus of my Playstation 4. My first impression is one of tentative concern. This could be a positive way of telling us all use of their games requires online connectivity – a verification process that could cause whole experiences to be ruined by a lapsing internet connection.

House then introduced Mark Cerny, the ‘lead system architect’ of the PS4, to talk about the Playstation 4’s inner workings. The Playstation 4 is very definitely a powerful machine, what Cerny described as a ‘super-charged PC’. The specs listed exactly as spoken:

  • CPU: x86
  • 8GB RAM
  • CPU almost 2 Teraflops
  • System memory GDDR5
  • Highly enhanced PC GPU

Shortly after going over the innards of the next Sony console, Cerny revealed the brand new Dualshock controller, which closely matched some concepts that have been floating around the internet recently.

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Photo: playstationgang.com

This is purely an aesthetic nitpicky thing, but I’m not a fan of the new controller. The raised edges on the analog sticks are ugly, as is the touchpad, and anyway I’ve always loved the consistent model for the Dualshock. I’m sure after 4 months of owning one the Dualshock 3 will look like a sad piece of archaic technology, but to fresh eyes this is a visual step down.

Cerny then gave a superficial demonstration of the tech by showing off a real-time demo of the new Unreal engine, which featured two immense demons causing large-scale destruction in a snowy environment. The visuals don’t immediately stand out as a leap forward, but if you know where to look you can tell the graphics are definitely improved.

And shortly after he revealed his next title, a new IP called Knack which, despite its cartoonish, simple visual style showcased an impressive amount of fluid, moving objects (The protagonist himself is made up of several dozen of these).

Cerny continued to talk about the power behind the PS4, mentioning there will be virtually zero time between boot-up and game start. Similarly, downloads, streaming and sharing content will supposedly be nearly instant on the PS4’s system. In fact, Cerney stated demos can be started even before the download is complete.

The kind of speed and power indicated seems far beyond anything I’d expect from a console gaming platform. Beyond what I’m willing to believe as well, until I can see it in action (at least this is what I’m trying to tell myself between squee-ing).

The next speaker brought on stage was Dave Perry, one of the founders of Gaikai. Perry began by saying that Gaikai will be the catalyst for Sony’s new all-encompassing social structure. Facebook and Ustream will be integrated into this system, and additional features will include spectating or even taking control of a friend’s games. Reinforcing the idea of always-on and persistent play, Perry talked about reducing latency between the system and controller, and furthermore between the console and the Vita – that’s right, there will be remote play between the PS4 and the Sony handheld. Perry also revealed that in the future Gaikai will hopefully be used to stream older games, all the way back to the PS1, effectively serving as all backwards compatibility for the PS4.

Some of these social features are actually very cool. The Dualshock 4’s ‘share’ button makes it very easy to record video and share it with the friends, and spectating/joining games is something that has always been looming somewhere in the future of online play. I doubt I’ll ever do much with this stuff, but I think it’s neat, and hopefully it’ll do a lot to strengthen the PS community and brand.

After Cerny left the stage, the game demos began. The first official debut was Killzone: Shadowfall and I think I summarized it pretty well on Facebook while watching it live:

fb killzone

 

Killzone is one of the titles we always see at Playstation announcements and while each game does a fantastic job showcasing the power of the console, the franchise is unavoidably boring. I’ve tried on multiple occasions to try to get into the series and never once enjoyed myself. That being said, despite immense levels of indifference coursing through every fiber of my being, the trailer looks gorgeous.

Next up was Evolution Studios who announced a new driving game called Drive Club. The game looks like it will take full advantage of PS4’s social features to take Need For Speed’s Autolog to a much higher level. Additionally, the amount of detail and care that has supposedly gone into the car models is near Peter-Jackson-Lord-of-the-Rings level stuff. All in all, though I’m not a racing game fan, this looks like a great direction to take the genre.

Following that, Sucker Punch showed the trailer for Infamous: Second Son. Infamous is another series that, for the life of me, I can’t get into. Friends of mine and critics I respect all like this series but I found the first game very generic and never could convince myself to play (Admittedly, I hear it’s far superior to the first one). The intro from Sucker Punch’s speaker sounded intriguing and actually reminded me a lot of Watch Dogs, however the teaser was just a lot of super powered fighting and douchebaggy protagonist mugging in front of the camera. Like Killzone: Shadowfall, the trailer looked great and I’ll probably never play it.

For the sake of length here, I’m going to list some of the other announcements and move on:

  • Jonathan Blow’s new game following Braid. The Witness.
  • David Cage came on stage (My cue to take a break) and showed a tech demo from Quantic Dream.
  • Media Molecule showed off something with PS Move and puppets?
  • Capcom announced they’re working on a new engine and showcased a work in progress, tentatively titled Deep Down. Looks insane.
  • Square Enix showed Agni’s Philosophy and announced a new Final Fantasy game is under development.

Following all of that, Ubisoft took the stage and showed a new trailer for the much anticipated Watch Dogs. This was not explicitly focused on any kind of narrative aspect, as we saw in the initial gameplay reveal in 2012 which featured a shootout outside a nightclub, but rather seemed to be a much smaller, more incidental interaction with some NPCs in the open world. And while I’d say this demo isn’t as exciting as that other one, I think it reveals a lot more about the potential this game has to blow the doors down on the limits we’ve grown accustomed to in video games.

Next, Blizzard made an appearance to announce Diablo III will be ported to PS3 and PS4 in the future, and finally Bungie rounded out the night with a brief look at Destiny, making it clear that now that they’ve achieved their independence from Microsoft, they will support Sony just as strongly as their previous overlords.

With that, we got a closing and a holiday 2013 release and that’s all for the Sony Meeting 2013!

I went into this press conference expecting long-winded PR nonsense interspersed with some mind blowing game previews, and instead I got pretty much the opposite – some really amazing tech was described and shown, Sony made very clear they’ve made a conscious effort to make it easy to develop games on the PS4 (The PS3 was notoriously difficult to work with for developers) and they are still dedicated to making real games rather than peripherals. Meanwhile the games revealed, for the most part, met expectations on the level. Still a mystery? Pricing and what the goddamn thing even looks like.

What do you think about the Sony Meeting and PS4?

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