Tech Interview: PlayStation Move • Page 3

Digital Foundry vs. Dr Richard Marks.

Digital Foundry: Obviously stereo 3D has been really big at E3 this year and the potential with Move is sensational in terms of the handling of objects within 3D space.

Richard Marks: Our team has been really focused on the Move only so far but some of the game teams have been combining 3D and Move. Just last week we got a 3DTV into our area, just because we were coming to E3 and we wanted to make some new demonstrations. It's really, really crazy how it feels when you combine Move with the 3D television. Most of the games for 3D so far are "flying through" games and that's a really strong 3D feeling but another kind of experience is a diorama experience.

So there's like a virtual diorama or dollhouse. With the Move you can actually reach into that wherever you want and move around, it's such a compelling feeling. It feels like it's right there. Then we tried that same demonstration with a 2D display and it's really hard. Shadows can help you...

Digital Foundry: You can move your light sources about in 3D and still know where your objects are in 3D space. With 2D you really need the shadow directly beneath the object to figure out depth.

Richard Marks: We've done things like attach a light to the Move, so the lighting changes as you move the controller. Not only do you get the shadows, but the light moves with it. There are a lot of tricks that people will come up with in how to give a more 3D feeling with only a 2D display, but 3D really is like a Holy Grail. The ultimate demonstration which I didn't have time to complete last week is to combine the head-tracking and the Move with 3D. It's like a holographic experience. Now you can look around, now you can look behind things, reach in there, grab that.

Digital Foundry: You're ready to roll out now. The hardware is ready, the third parties have got the tools. What involvement do you have in working with the developers in getting the most out of the controller?

Richard Marks: Right now we've been acting very much like a dev support team since we made the software. But it's pretty much got to the point now where the actual dev support team understand everything we understand. We help teams now mostly doing something new. So there's a data layer and there's an interpretation layer... if they're interpreting the data in a new way that hasn't been done before then we're interested in helping them and understanding what they're doing. But if it's something like pointing and shooting, that's pretty well established. Third parties don't need any help, we have sample code for that.

Digital Foundry: So if developers come to you with a concept you've never seen before...

Richard Marks: Then that's where we'll get involved. Actually the teams have been really good. I think the developers have been really shocked when they get the source code, the SDK. It comes out with position and rotation. That's just it. That's the answer. That's the way it should be. It's very simple.

Digital Foundry: It must be pretty easy to get basic game concepts up and running quickly if so much of the game data is derived directly from the user.

Richard Marks: Right, and we have another tool from the dev support team that broadcasts the data across the network from the Move, so you can send it to a PC. You can wrap a prototype on PC, or Flash or anything like that and still use the Move.

Our artists actually have a plug-in for Maya where they can do some content creation things in Maya in 3D. We actually have a new demo here for content creation... [starts using Move demo on a nearby PS3]. This is like a 3D modelling demonstration. You can spin this object like a lathe and I can carve away on it. So for content creation, you have the tool in one hand and the object in the other. It's super-natural what you do with it. You don't have to think. This is what our artists are excited about.

Spatial input on a PC is a little bit tricky. For effectiveness they can flip into 2D and have 2D views for everything but for "naturalness" Maya isn't super-intuitive though it is effective. With content creation for the average person, this kind of UI can be used by any one but a complex modelling package... not many people can use that.

Digital Foundry: And that's another aspect that would be boosted immensely by stereoscopic 3D...

Richard Marks: Yeah, we actually have this demo running in 3D. All these demos can be moved to 3D very easily. The multi-touch demo you saw on Engadget, that looks really neat in 3D also.

Digital Foundry: On a somewhat more mundane level, what's the battery life like on the Move controller?

Richard Marks: Battery life is about 10 hours when it's fully charged and obviously that changes depending on how much rumble is happening, how bright the light is; the light adjusts to the room lighting. It charges from USB and we've just announced the charger. It's pretty cool... Move snaps in, standing up.

Digital Foundry: Your tech demos are great, the GDC and Engadget demos in particular. A lot of the PlayStation audience are early adopters, they are going to be getting into Move, they're going to buy into 3D. There's an argument that your demos are far more of a transparent view into the potential of the Move technology than many of the games. Would you be prepared to release these as a PSN download?

Richard Marks: We've been asked that before. As a group we make the demos to create an impact, to explain a concept but we don't run them through QA the way you would with a game. We've been wrestling with it: if you give these things to people and they crash, there's a certain level of people that'll be OK with that because we're giving them things they wouldn't have otherwise. But there's another level of person that wouldn't be happy that Sony has something out there that crashes. That's bad.

It's a tough call. I'd love to share these things with people. We work with them and they're neat. Some of them are really powerful, visceral experiences. But some of the game teams would rather we didn't share them because they'd like to use the concepts in their games and be the first ones to do so...

PlayStation Move is due out on 15th September in Europe.

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