Everything that industry legend Mark Cerny has described about the PlayStation 4’s production process has been relatively orthodox thus far. The company maintained close contact with its first-party teams throughout production, collaborated with third-parties to properly understand their requirements, and kept the system’s internals as straightforward as possible to ensure simple development. However, the luminary’s approach to nailing Knack’s controls was anything but conventional.
Chatting at the Develop conference in Brighton last week, the legend explained that he commissioned a gigantic DualShock 4 in order to simulate the feeling of playing games as an eight-year-old. Prior research had shown that youngsters struggled to get to grips with the control schemes in most console games, primarily because the size of the controller made it difficult for them to reach all of the required buttons.
"As part of our design process, we ended up making a giant controller, 50 per cent larger than usual, so we could directly experience what it feels like to be a child playing a game," said the slightly mad genius. "And we immediately understood that the shoulder buttons were simply out of reach of the typical eight-year-old, but all of the face buttons could be used quite readily."
And that’s reflected in Knack’s gameplay, which only really makes prominent use of the face buttons and analogue sticks. Cerny added that he wanted to create a game that would serve as an entry into console gaming, while also tapping into the nostalgia of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon fans.
“Crash was actually a brutally difficult game despite its very simple two-button control scheme,” he said. “That meant that on a hard difficulty setting our game really needed to challenge the core gamer.” But the Marble Madness creator also wanted to appeal to those that may be new to consoles. “I started to think about creating a game that would firmly have a foot in both worlds.”
He continued: “By that I mean a game that was very much a story-driven action adventure, but at the same time a game that could act as a sort of on-ramp to the world of console gaming, something that on the easy difficulty setting would be playable by pretty much anyone regardless of their gaming history or habits. That is the origin of Knack. On easy it can be someone's first console game.” But will it be your first PS4 game? Let us know in the comments section below.