While it’s always easy to look back on the past with fondness, the PSone really was a special time for gaming. Development budgets were relatively manageable, so publishers could get away with launching titles such as Incredible Crisis, No One Can Stop Mr. Domino, and Vib Ribbon on the machine. Such variety didn’t stop on the PlayStation 2, but there certainly wasn’t an abundance of Mr. Mosquito-esque releases. However, Mark Cerny hopes that indie titles will spark a “gaming renaissance” on the PlayStation 4.
"With PSone, there was no way to make an indie title," he said at the Develop conference in Brighton, as reported by Eurogamer.net. "The hardware didn't support digital downloads, and all games were distributed on CD-Roms. There was no way for creators to directly reach their audience. But AAA game development was very different than it is today. Crash Bandicoot, which sold six million units, was created by just seven people. A typical individual would contribute broadly in the creation of a game.”
Cerny continued: “Due to small team sizes the barriers to creating new types of experiences were quite low, and consequently the diversity of games available at retail was quite high. As a result, there was a certain fun factor that was an intrinsic part of the PlayStation DNA in those years. Concept-driven titles like PaRappa the Rapper, Devil Dice, and Intelligent Qube were well received by the game playing audience, and each went on to sell over a million units."
However, with the PS4, the Marble Madness creator believes that Sony has an opportunity to “fundamentally alter the landscape of gaming”. He explained: “I believe that the indie paradigm will have the hardware as enabler, not as the central player, which is to say that Octodad: Dadliest Catch isn't about the triangle count, it's about keeping your cephalopod nature a secret from your human family.”
According to Cerny, the company’s new indie approach has been spearheaded by publisher relations specialist Adam Boyes. “Since [he] joined SCE, pretty much the whole process has been overturned,” he said. “He wanted us to look at the day in the life of an indie developer, and challenged us to explain whether our processes were helping or hindering the creation of the diverse titles that we were looking for.”
The company has since seriously relaxed its policies, making it easy for anyone to publish games on the platform. Cerny added that the firm has also worked on improving its accessibility in the public space. “We've gone from putting our process out front to putting people out front, which is to say that your indie journey on the PS4 as a developer begins by tweeting Shahid Ahmad, not by filling out a form."
Cerny concluded with one powerful point: “We believe that a renaissance of gaming is coming on the PS4. Heavy content will thrive on the platform, but in many ways we will also be returning to the creative freedom and broad content that made the early years of PlayStation so unforgettable.” We think that we’re in love.