Here's what you need to know: it was long (an hour), and quite full of guest speakers and demos. The demos were good, but sort of like watching bad films: perfectly rendered and realistic, but the content wasn't there. Another FPS. Another racing game. Another motorcross game. Also - there was a lot of tech talk that doesn't make for interesting reading really, but I left it in anyway!
In sum: PlayStation's plans are more or less identical to Microsoft's. The PS3 will be a media hub, featuring hi-def, online shops, community systems and bridging to the PSP rather than Windows Media Center. It looks very, very pretty (a bit prettier even than the 360, granted, but you have to have a sharp eye to see the difference perhaps). He's got some nice nods towards broadening the market and innovating. Phil's funny, too - a good speaker and clearly a Nice Guy.
All in all - quite fun, but not entirely gobsmacking. Were we expecting gobsmacking though? Probably not.
As ever - this is not a transcript, just my abridged version :o) Also - in great GDC tradition - not everyone got in.
Here's the tall guy:
Welcome to our keynote: Beyond The Box. What do I mean by "beyond the box"? I mean taking us beyond the technological and hardware announcements that we’ve made recently and showing you our future roadmap. Taking us beyond the software box – to new business, new opportunities, to us growing the market. To bigger audience opportunities for everyone in this industry.
When I was last on this stage 6 yrs ago, I gave a keynote a few days after the PlayStation2 was launched in Japan. What have we done since then? 100m PlayStation2s. Over a billion units of software. That’s 6732 titles. Many contributed to by you people in this room – I thank you for that.
On a global basis our market share is over 60%, and in some countries it's even over 80%. On a cumulative basis our market leadership … we’re clearly dwarfing the competition. But our job is to grow the market, to lead and innovate. We feel we’ve been successful. And faster than we’ve done it on PSone. That was the first system to get to a million units, as you well know. We’ve done it faster, but at comparatively higher price points – this is good for the economy of the industry!
Phil: When we started in 1994, platform lifecycles were [shrinking?], but the PSone as a hardware format has enjoyed a 12 year lifecycle. We’re still selling PSone software in many markets throughout the world. PSone is the dominant platform in many markets still,.. That will continue to be the case with PlayStation2. PlayStation2 represents a tremendous commercial opportunity for everyone in the industry – don’t forget it in all the talk about next generation! We’re certainly taking advantage of it with our own studios, and products – and will continue to, long into the future.
I want to share an exclusive look at one of the PlayStation2 titles that we think will continue to power the growth of this format. Welcome please David Jaffe, designer of god of war,
David: So, why have we decided to put God Of War 2 on PlayStation2 than PlayStation 3 well.. PlayStation 3.. it’s safe to say it’s the most powerful game machine on the planet. But it has technical limitations. It seems to be incapable of rendering 3-way sex scenes in real time.
No, it’s incredible, amazing and exciting, but there are millions and many millions of people who will continue to game on the PlayStation2 after the transition has occurred. We’re so proud to bring better graphics and immersion to players continuing to enjoy the PlayStation2 experience. GOW2 is totally on track to be better than GOW1.
Phil: thanks David and to that phenomenally talented and tight-knit team. It’s a family show after all. [laughter]
So moving on to the PSP. The PSP has become our fastest growing format ever, growing faster than PlayStation2 and PSone all over the world. A key piece of info I wanted to share first: a new lower price for PSP development tools! It’s only $5K now. We hope this will extend development even further into more studios. The PSP itself continues to innovate. We do download system updates that enhance the experience: the next update has RSS feeds for audio and text, plus a flash-enabled browser, really enhancing that internet experience there.
Another great innovation will be the addition of a video and stills cam for the PSP coming this October. The obvious application for this is a wifi videophone – we’ll have VOIP built into the OS. There are also gameplay opportunities that come from having a cam attached! I encourage you to consider this – communication based games could become a very powerful part of the PSP story. It will also have a GPS receiver. Imagine the entertainment opportunities for that – geocaching is very popular (albeit underground) entertainment today. You can take advantage of this GPS receiver.
The schedule for our network updates and our hardware updates is there [slides]. Winter.. around October, we’ll introduce a further key innovation: the ability to download and run software directly from the Memory Stick. UMD will continue, but we believe that we can do true e-distribution of content straight to the machine without the need for a disc. Content server – to memory stick – to PSP. This will be augmented by having the PSone content available through an archive server. We’ll have an emulator, and you will have access to the entire PSone library. There are some 12 year old titles in there!
As we move to the PlayStation3 era – PSP and PlayStation3 are totally connected. Integral to each other and interoperable. You’ll be able to use your PlayStation3 as a media server in your home. The PlayStation3 will bridge to a broadband connected world. Your PSP will interface to the PlayStation3, and here’s a game I want to show from Japan, "Loco Roco".
I can’t wait to play that game. Now – onto PlayStation3. I’d like to bring you up to speed… I’d really like to start with an apology. We made a big presentation at e3 and I made the worst joke of all time, about our duck demo having LOD technology : Lots Of Ducks. I repeated this joke internally, and as I did that a thousand rubber ducks fell out of the ceiling and onto my head. My team got me back.
What I want to share though, is what this team who created the duck demo did: here’s what happens when ducks sink. [demo] Here we have thousands of real-time sim fish. It’s procedurally generated animation. The sun is accurately simulated: it’s 16,000 times brighter than anything else in the sky on screen there. You can see the fish flocking and schooling. This is a great example of what we can do when we distribute tasks across multiple SPUs [Single Processor Unit?].
Moving on: some of the key info. One of the key features is full backwards compatibility if the TRC is observed, Full Blu-Ray support, both for movies and games. The full spectrum of display devices, from PAL and NTSC all up to full HD 1080 progressive. Broadband. Wireless. HDD: another key feature. I’ll come back to that.
We’ll do a simultaneous worldwide launch in November 2006.
Now, production capacity will ramp up faster than the previous: over 1m units per month. What enables the software community to take advantage of this power is the great middleware companies involved ready to take part: go talk to these 16 companies, all providing great tool and technology solutions. [list on screen]
I’d like to focus on a few: Epic and their Unreal engine. SN Systems. Havoc. [Companies with PS3 hi-tuned middleware]. The schedule for our SDK is totally on track – shipping in June. The hardware schedule is focused on delivering final tech to developers in time for E3. So…
Let’s take a look at some more demos. I’d like to welcome the Havok and SCEE people to stage. This is a three way production between Ninja Theory and these guys: check out this ragdoll physics. This is game production code you’re seeing. Here’s over a thousand fully skinned and fully rigged chars – and we can blow them all up as we’ll now show you.
Let’s pick a few off. .. [lots of bodies flying]
I think just looking at this you can see game design opportunities. Maybe we’ll just ship it like this.
Now another demo.. once again, much more in a game environment. Based on physics. Vehicle dynamics. Here’s SCEE London. We start here with a car – this is definitely not a car that you would see in a traditional racing game. Check out the paint shaders on this. We can simulate the imperfections you see in paint on a car. Let's add some by shooting at it. The car is being procedurally destroyed by the bullets here. This is a combo of graphics, physics and dynamics all combining to extend the sophistication .. this is from a forthcoming title that we haven’t announced, so.. well, you can see it’s clearly an action game. [Alice note: It’s Halo, guessing by the environment]
Now – a lot has been spoken about in the media about Blu-Ray and what it means to the movie industry. I want to take a few moments to share why it’s vital to you. It’s the capacity to memory ratio. A nicely balanced system is about a 100:1 ratio of storage to memory. This has tremendous benefits both creatively and commercially. We are an intensely media rich content business! More graphics, variety, objects, details, more theatrical performances. More sounds, higher bit rates. This will all eat up disc space. But from a commercial point of view this allows more localization on a single disc. More speech, more languages – one single disc for a global SKU.
Also it’s a high performance next generation movie player. Here’s a real-time 3d game demo… we showed this at e3 but some people didn’t believe that this was running in real-time. Here. I’m moving the camera. You can see the richness of the scene. Here’s Piccadilly Circus [alice: it looks real]. This uses 100 megabytes of data for this scene. We need Blu-Ray to maintain this fidelity across the game.
So moving on. I’d like to share a tech demo that looks like a game. It is a game; we’ll show it at e3, but we don’t want to give too much away.Here’s Dylan Jobe to tell us about it.
Dylan: I’d like to spend a bit of time talking about how we’re using the PlayStation3 capabilities to breathe life into Warhawk. Here’s ambient warfare: the combat sim that is being constantly evaluated in the background, creating an environment of an epic war for the player to engage in. We’re all aware the PlayStation3 can generate hi-def image and audio – but what about hi-def simulation behaviour. 100s of enemy fighters doing strafing runs [ rather long description of his game ]?
We also use the Cell processor for a variety of natural phenomena as well. Look as this procedurally generated waves.. these clouds being generated by a volumetric raytracer on another batch of SPUs. You don’t need to use the Cell to software render. […]
Regarding production: while the ps3 is a complex and very powerful machine, its entry point is still very accessible. While we have a variety of programs running on the SPUs for collision, or physics, or water surface.. none of these are written in assembly. This is very safe and comforting to know that you can access the power of the Cell without the tedious production process associated with low-level optimizations.
Phil: Now to some very significant announcements. Here’s something the industry has been demanding. A network platform. The PlayStation Network Platform is our internal name for it, not something we’ll use for consumers. The basic service is based around the four Cs: content, communication, community and commerce.
The basic outline is that the service starts with the launch of PlayStation3, and the basic service is free of charge. We’ll build it on an open internet business philosophy. A lot of collaboration. It will be a worldwide network. We’re building it with SOE. They’re using their expertise and talent to write ground up tech. We’ll provide all the basics as standard. The infrastructure and operation will be handled by us. But 3rd party game servers can also be connected. MMOs can work and integrate with our network platform. This is a key innovation! The basic service: account creation through user registration. A lobby. Matchmaking. Score/rank, video and voice chat. Presence, a friend list, avatars.
The commerce is where it comes to life. We’ll have a shop.. and shops can be accessed as an API level from within games! Consumers will be able to download content to the HDD. Game apps can be launched directly from the HDD, no disc required, so you can avoid discs if you so wish. We’ll support subscription, pay-to-download and micropayments. This will be wrapped up in entitlement management and tools to create a great consumer experience. Next week we’ll be dropping the first release of the SDK to developers, complete by June. The final production environment will be available by September.
I want to share some images from our Formula 1 game for PlayStation3: here’s what the UI will look like. Here’s videochat, overlaid onto the game. Here’s email. Messaging. Here’s the commercial aspect: you can download content that you can buy from inside the game. Another example is one more closely integrated into the style and tone of that game: here’s Motorstorms’ shop. Here we have downloading new buggies and new tracks. This gives you a flavour of the seamless integration we want to have.
Here’s a groundbreaking PlayStation3 demo. Here are the guys from Evolution Studios.
[splattering mud motorcross demo]
Next up, a more gamelike demo and a sneak preview of one of our key titles for PlayStation3. Here’s the CEO of Insomniac Games.
Ted: Hi. I’m showing an internal demo that we completed a few moths ago.
[pretty, but boring, FPS demo]
I want to say why we’re working on the PlayStation3. We’ve had a long relationship with Sony, but we’re an indie dev. We chose the PlayStation3 because it has superior firepower. But I’d rather talk about the two things that are most exciting for us: Blu-Ray and the SPUs. Next generation assets are expensive, both in terms of dollars and disk space. Every object we create is more complex. Every character needs 100s more animations to make it this believable. All this content has got to fit somewhere! I think the Blu-Ray announcement was a huge win for developers. We can have one worldwide disc. We can have our prerendereds in multiple formats right up to hi-def and still have room to spare. Hopefully everyone knows that the Cell has 7 SPUs optimized for mathematical computations: bots, AI, collision.. these can all come off the main processor onto the SPUs. The challenge is that you have to balance the load between the processors so they’re evenly tasked. Do it right, and you can do more per frame than any system invented, and more per frame is what makes these worlds believable.
Phil: So. Today. We have an industry based on a fairly simple biz model. We make content, put it on disks, in boxes, and sell it in stores. We’ve done that very well for 25 years. But in the future, we will go through a radical change. We’ll be creating and servicing a network of game communities. This requires the most fundamental shift in the planning, creation, production and management of game development that our industry has ever seen.
Our revenue streams are going to become more complex, but this gives us tremendous opportunities. With all the things PlayStation3 can do we can augment our traditional biz model with content downloaded by the consumer. Episodic content! I’m personally very excited by that. I believe games can have the same social currency as a great TV programme. I believe games can and should fill the same role in our future as a great episode of Lost.
I can see a more vital stream of revenue coming from in-game advertising. SOCOM3 launched last year, and has clocked up 39 million hours of online play. In terms of a homogenous audience that advertisers can identify and sell to in the right way - what tremendous commercial opportunity! If done correctly, and with great sensitivity to the consumer, I believe this can provide great revenue stream to our industry.
Subscriptions. WoW is a social phenomenon. If it were a country it would be bigger than Ireland. That’s an achievement! I want to bring that social network functionality into PlayStation 3 and beyond.
Game object auctions. This is contentious. So I’m going to neatly skip over it.
Something Hollywood does so well: merchandise! We’re creating phenomenally powerful brands. With great consideration from the consumer. That direct connection between consumer and game developers – we want to push this. We’re announcing a next generation of content that will only be available online. This is a reach out to content creators that we perhaps don’t know today. www.playstation.com/beyond. It’s in English, Japanese and Korean, and shortly in French and German. This will allow developers and content creators to make initial contact with us through this site – we’ll then get back to them via our content producers. We’re looking for the next creative opportunities, it’s a creative experiment, we don’t want to stifle thinking,.. […]…want…amazing innovation!
So we move from product based to service based, starting with packaged product augmented by downloadble content. We'll enhance this with social networks, the MySpace experience, this will be a key part of the PlayStation3 going forward. What brings it to life is the voice chat, the text chat, the video, the social features we’re building in for the future.
We’ve been very successful in creating software experience augmented by hardware that has grown the market: Eyetoy, Singstar, and Buzz. Buzz 2 just sold over 2m units in just 6 months. Here’s Singstar, a phenomenon in Europe: we sold 4m units over 5 variants. Even in Croatian! This ultralocalalisation has let us reach out to new consumers. What does this mean for creating games? I’d like to show you what we’re doing to take Singstar from package into a network channel.
[tape: new Singstar will have downloadable content. Add your own media. Networked multiplayer?]
So you can see we’re moving out of traditional into next-generation with PlayStation 3.
So in summary - we have the hardware platform family. We have the software vision, We have the PlayStation Network Platform, and we have the innovation to grow the market.
Together we have an incredibly bright future ahead of us.
There will be lots of pictures. Check Flickr's GDC2006 tag for a ton!