Attended by roughly 20 developers, Sony shared a wide range of information about its Next Generation Portable, including details on launch plans, specifications and marketing.
One attendee, who's sensibly keeping himself anonymous, described the device "as a developer's dream," adding that "Sony is finally doing the things developers have been crying out for for years." Part of Kaz Hirai's original vision when he took over from Ken Kutaragi as SCE president was to get Sony's Worldwide Studios involved in hardware development — a trait which seems to have paid off as developers praise the NGP's accessible architecture.
"Any shaders for PS3 stuff will just work," said the source. "We won't have to rewrite. What would have taken two-to-three months before looks like it could take just one-to-two weeks now. The architecture is obviously different, but it's the same development environment.
"Sony has made it completely developer-centric this time," the source added. "[The development kit] is really simple to plug in and use. It opens direct in Windows Explorer and you can see all systems on a network so you could, for example, update the firmware of multiple NGPs at once.
"A PS3 dev station can take three hours to set-up. This looks like it will take under 20 mins. It just makes everything easier they've really thought about it this time."
It's reported that developers were expecting to leave the event with development kits for the NGP in hand, but allegedly "late shipments from Japan" meant Sony are now "prioritising" kits. According to Eurogamer's source, developers requiring a kit before April must supply a "20-page concept document on a game they want to release at launch". However, key UK studios have had early kits for almost a year.
While the NGP has been given a 2011 target date, comments from within Sony had led us to believe that Europe would be made to wait. However, SCEE reiterated a 2011 date during their presentation yesterday, stating that the Wi-Fi only model would launch in "2011" while the 3G version could come later. No price details were revealed, though Sony did say they would "follow soon".
Developers were given demonstrations of a number of first-party titles, including Uncharted, Wipeout and Little Deviants. Speaking about Wipeout, Eurogamer's source said, "the Wipeout HD PS3 engine running on PS3 with no changes to the art platform. That means full resolution, full 60 frames per second. It looks exactly the same as it does on PS3 all the shader effects are in there".
According to Eurogamer's source, developers creating titles for the NGP and PlayStation 3 would only require one submission process. However, Sony insisted that they "do not want exactly the same game" on NGP and PS3 — stating "there has to be a reason for the title". The source added that Sony is looking for interactivity between the two versions, as well as NGP-only extras.
Speaking about the hardware, Eurogamer's source confirmed that the NGP will have three gyroscopes, compared with the one in the PS3 controller. Also, the front and rear touch panels are capable of six-point multi-touch.
"The touch pad on the back is fantastic," the source said. "It does feel second nature, like you're having a real impact on the world."
Switching to their vision for the platform going forward, Sony stated that it's aiming year one at "hardcore gamers" and year two on "hardcore and teens", with the expectation that the audience will expand after that.
Fascinatingly, social networking features were touched upon by SCEE. One idea suggested that "clues could be put on the social networking side" that could lead to "virtual gifts".
The positive developer response follows encouraging words from the likes of Epic Games and others in the industry. Clearly having developers on side is a key component to the success of a platform — if they are excited about making games and are able to get things running quickly, then it leaves more room for them to be creative.