Sony Worldwide Studios head Phil Harrison is currently delivering his Game Developers Conference keynote, entitled "PlayStation 3: Beyond the Box", revealing more of Sony's plans for PlayStation 3, which is due to launch worldwide in November.
We understand he began by making a reference to digital distribution, so there should be more on that soon. He started by, in the words of our correspondent, "banging on about PlayStation 2" - and David Jaffe joined him on stage to talk about God of War 2 (we've heard of it...) and show off a video. It's going to be playable at E3, and will be one of the games that ensures people play PS2 for ages after PS3 is out, says Harrison.
Moving onto PSP, Harrison reiterates what company head Ken Kutaragi said in Japan last week - that the next update will include RSS feeds and Shockwave Flash support, and that video messaging and a camera adapter are due in October. Also this October, PSP network downloads - as in games, although UMD releases will continue. So that's PSone content, as promised by Big Ken, downloadable from the Internet, but also original content too.
Harrison also talks about connecting PSP to PS3 wirelessly, and how the former will be able to view PS3 content - video being a safe bet (and something our finger-frenzied San Franciscan correspondent might've done well to clarify for us eh?). LocoRoco video shown, too.
Now he's onto the PS3. And he's apologised for all that LOD/Loads of Ducks stuff from last year. To make up for it, he has a new demo from the team that did the ducks one - thousands of fish moving around underwater in shoals, with accurately modelled water, sunrays penetrating the surface, and so on. Moving on, he says PS3 production will ramp up faster than either PSone or PS2, and that the November launch includes Australia and Asia-outside-Japan, as expected. We've also heard that there'll be full 1080p resolutions for those who can handle them in both NTSC and PAL regions.
Continuing to intersperse the info we all want with demos and things, Harrison's now introducing a video of soldiers getting blown up and ragdolled around. There's also a demo from the SCEE London team of a highly detailed car model, which then gets mercilessly shot to pieces with all the bits modelled accurately. Apparently the bullet holes have realistically flaking paint, windows shatter, parts fall off as their bolts are shot out - and all this is from an unannounced game, he says.
And now he's onto Blu-ray, which many susp(wait a second! No time for commentary-commentary!)... for which he reckons the storage to system ratio is perfectly balanced. Presumably that's a dig at Microsoft's use of DVDs. Ducks! Ducks are funny! Blu-ray will allow publishers to launch games on a single disc for every global market, so one SKU for the whole world, Harrison adds.
ZOMG, a PS3 game! WarHawk is being demoed in real-time, according to our correspondent, with shots of flying through clouds, over the ocean, as hundreds of ships and missiles cluster around capital ships in the sky (WarHawk was one of the games shown in pre-rendered sequences at last year's E3, obviously). Naturally the producer then gets up and says how easy it was to develop for PS3, and that WarHawk will be playable at E3.
With WarHawk back on its perch, Harrison's moving on to "PlayStation Network Platform", which is an internal name. Starts by reiterating details announced in Tokyo last week, of how Sony is building a massive network and publishers can do their own thing if they really want to. Moving onto clarification of last week's info, he says that game applications can be launched direct from the hard disk - no disc required. Total digital distribution is possible.
Then the crowd's shown work-in-progress pictures of the network system, with video chat windows overlaid on games - much like the stuff shown at E3, by the sound of it. Emails and so on can be sent without leaving a game, like on Xbox 360. Next up it's online shops within MotorStorm and F1, integrated with the graphical style of those games so that people can download new cars, tracks and so on. There's a lot of Xbox Live esque functionality being shown, including pop-up notification windows.
This ought to be a good acid test for crowd reaction - apparently a real-time MotorStorm demo is on display. MotorStorm was one of the most controversial of the E3 videos last year, but early reports from our man (yes, it is a man) suggest that there's plenty of mud flying around and dust going everywhere, HDR effects and highly detailed visuals. Hmm, mud-slinging... Wheels leave wet mud trails which are persistent, says Harrison; as they dry out, they change the contours of the ground and mess with your suspension realistically. Vehicles get dirty from the mud, with wet spray that dries over time (it's all very hair-drier-fun-time, isn't it?), and, naturally, we're to expect more at E3.
Then it's onto a new Insomniac Games FPS, Resistance: Fall of Man, featuring lots of aliens, clever weapons (our man says), although not a lot of environmental physics apparently. We'll see. At E3. Whee. "One thing that's interesting," says our man as we FOOLISHLY start to quote him directly, "is having some weapons which use physics stuff on the SPUs." What?
[Waves at Gaming Age Forum] Hi guys!
Another Insomniac demo, non-interactive. A fantasy world - "very like the city in Fifth Element" says our man despite our pleas for him not to editorialise. "Flying cars, huge baroque skyscrapers." Baroque eh? Ooh I read a book once la-di-dah! And then a ship floats past with the Ratchet & Clank logo on it, apparently.
Digital distribution is a major change for our industry, says Harrison, and talking about it will be a big deal at GDCs for years to come. There's a new initiative afoot to launch online-only PSP and PS3 content developed by SCE Studios. There's even a website for it: www.playstation.com/beyond. Ooh look, so there is! "Partnerships resulting from EDI [E-Distribution Initiative] will allow the developers' downloadable games to be published for individual purchase or subscription over SCE's direct distribution methods," it says.
Singstar's next on the agenda, and finally there's talk of downloadable tracks via the Internet; also customisable backdrops, the ability to store videos and photos within Singstar and share with the community - it's all about turning Singstar PS3 into "a next generation experience".
And that's your lot! Following a video of Singstar PS3, Harrison leaves the stage. Thanks for reading/putting up with all this/hi Mum.
This page was updated semi-live as we received information from the ongoing keynote (we've got a man! A man! Woo!), and there'll be a full write-up of events in San Jose from our men on the ground shortly after it concludes. With less jokes, you'd hope.