Mark Cerny and the development team at Sony's Japan Studio created a giant PlayStation 4 controller to simulate what it would be like to play console games as an eight-year-old.
During his keynote presentation at the Develop Conference in Brighton, Cerny discussed his motivation for creating Knack, the family-friendly PS4 exclusive he's producing.
Cerny wanted to create a game that would appeal to core gamers when played on hard difficulty as well as newcomers and younger gamers when played on easy difficulty.
But during playtests the development team encountered a problem: eight-year-olds struggled with the control scheme of many games. It turned out the issue was not the complexity of the control scheme, rather it was the size of the controller compared to the size of their hands.
"So 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," Cerny explained.
"And we immediately understood that the shoulder buttons were simply out of reach of the typical eight-year-old, but all face buttons could be used quite readily."
Cerny, who produced the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro series' during the early days of PlayStation, revealed Knack came to be after he decided he wanted to produce a game alongside spearheading the PS4's architecture.
He wanted it to act as an "on-ramp" to console gaming, that is, provide those who had never played games before with an experience that would be accessible.
"What the Japan Studio and I chose to make was a character action game with two audiences in mind," he said. "One audience was core gamers. I wanted to tap into the nostalgia for game experiences of the past, that feeling you had when you played Crash Bandicoot or Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time.
"Crash was actually a brutally difficult game despite its very simple two-button control scheme. That meant on a hard difficulty setting our game really needed to challenge the core gamer.
"The other audience was light or beginner gamers. I chose this because I have some very specific and personal beliefs about consoles and their position within the world of gaming. Console games can be pretty complex. If we just focus on the controller and the game's control scheme, there are 16 buttons on DualShock 4 that a game can use, and a typical triple-A title will use almost all of them.
"I'm personally comfortable with that. I started gaming in the era of the Atari 2600, which only had one button. But then I had decades to adjust to the increasing complexity of games as they evolved to the point where they are today."
Cerny said children of the 1990s started playing games with handheld consoles, which had simpler controls, before then moving on to home consoles. "In a sense handheld game systems were training them to be console players," he said.
"But today the trends are quite different. Young children are playing games on smartphones and tablets, as are many adults who have never played video games before. The ease of interactions with touchscreens is so high that pretty much anyone can play Fruit Ninja on an iPad.
"So we have this gulf that's developing for many light, young or beginner players between what they're familiar with when playing a game and what's required to play a modern, triple-A title.
"I started to think about creating a game that would firmly have a foot in both worlds. 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.".