PS Vita "developed entirely differently"

Develop 2011: Sony discusses the possibilities for social networking, augmented reality, and a new development model for PS Vita.


Who was there: Kish Hirani, head of developer services at SCEE.

What he talked about: Hirani started by showing off the PlayStation Vita units to the audience and explained that there were only five units in Europe at the moment. He then ran through the technical specifications compared to the PSP-3000 and explained that the way it had been designed meant that gamers would get "a whole range of games" from casual to AAA.

Dual thumbsticks for the Vita was a frequent request from developers.
Dual thumbsticks for the Vita was a frequent request from developers.

He then went on to show off some of the PS Vita's early augmented-reality applications. First, he loaded a tech demo from Japan Studio showing the system's facial recognition and video chat features, with the latter using virtual avatars. These avatars tracked the movements of the two people talking, attempting to match head, mouth, and eye movements. It then featured one of the participants attempting to flirt, showing hearts leaping across from one screen to the other.

For AR, the Vita can use any patterned surface as a "marker"--rather than having to use a specific object, as you have to do with current AR games such as EyePet. A tech demo from London Studio then showed off a patch of office carpet being used as a play surface for two different games, one involving a flying dragon picking out targets on the floor, and another showing a brief tank battle set up on terrain mapped across the floor.

Hirani then showed off Reality Fighters, which uses these technologies to create a fighting game featuring characters built from facial capture technology, and stages grabbed from the real world. He then talked about the development challenges around augmented-reality games. Accuracy of mapping and display is actually the third priority for those developing games with this technology, according to Hirani; stability and robustness are both more important.

The PS Vita was not created in isolation--very different to the PlayStation 3. There were "huge amounts of input" from both first- and third-party studios. "Every single person" asked for dual analogue sticks, he said, and the whole system design was informed from a very early stage by what developers wanted. The PS Vita has been "developed from the ground up with developers in mind," Hirani said.

Quote: The PS Vita is "designed from the ground up as a social networking device."

Takeaway: The PlayStation Vita was developed in a different way to previous Sony platforms, and that change in philosophy is being continued in Sony's developer relations. Neil Brown, senior engineer of SCEE research & development, emphasised these points. "We've never had tools in such a mature state before launching a new platform," he said. "It's our most developer-friendly console by quite some margin."

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