Sony's new motion controller • Page 2

A chat with the chaps developing it.

Eurogamer: What about Project Natal? Do you think it's very different to what you're doing?

Paul Holman: Well, think about it - our heritage has been with camera work for a generation. Way before we had EyeToy products we were showing R&D work - at ECTS I think, back in the early PS2 days - and that was later picked up by the studios and turned into EyeToy. So we've got a good heritage in this space.

What's really exciting now is that you've got the building blocks, the voice recognition, the skeletal recognition... It's really about what you do with these building blocks and what direction you take them in.

Eurogamer: Microsoft seems to have abandoned the controller altogether, while you're looking at ways to take the controller further...

Paul Holman: I think the first abandonment was with EyeToy, really.

Eurogamer: Are you basically saying Project Natal is a posh EyeToy?

Paul Holman: No, not quite, I wouldn't say that. All I can point to is the fact there have been historical precedents in this area. What's exciting is that we're seeing increased performance in our machines and other forms of UI, you can mix and match and make something interesting. I'm always keen to see what people like Lionhead come out with, because at the end of the day it's about what game developers do with it.

Eurogamer: Can you explain a bit more about how the controller actually works? What about the coloured light-up ball, for instance? So the camera recognises different colours?

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This is Paul Holman. "Heeheehee! Perhaps now we will claw back some of the masssive investment we poured into PS3!"

Paul Holman: You can programmatically set the colour as well. It's RGB, so there's the full spectrum of colour. And you can use up to four of these things at the same time, depending on your game design, so it's quite interesting.

Kish Hirani: I'm not a games designer, but if I was I might use it as a muzzle flash if you're using a gun, or use it as a paintbrush you can use to dip in and pick up different colours... There's always room for wizards...

Eurogamer: But there will still be buttons on the controller too?

Paul Holman: Yes.

Eurogamer: The same number as currently are on the DualShock, or are you planning to simplify things and strip it down?

Paul Holman: I don't think it's fixed, as such. One of the aspects of the way we work is we tend to bring out prototypes early on and work with game teams - our own studios, external studios - and get their feedback. We're really in that phase where we're working with people to see what they want, so that when we have a final product it's actually going to meet the game designers' needs.

Eurogamer: At E3, you said the motion controller will launch in spring 2010. Why announce a launch date at all? In the past Sony's had a few, shall we say, calendar issues with things like Home... Why did you feel it was important to set a date?

Paul Holman: To show it's real. Game developers want to know, if they're working on a title for next year, whether they should consider it or not. We have to send some sort of message. At the end of the day, we know the track we're taking for our technology, we know when we're going to manufacture, but we have to make sure there's a good catalogue of games to back it up.

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Why write your name with a pen when you can use a glowing ping pong ball stuck on a DualShock?

Eurogamer: How confident are you that you're going to hit the spring 2010 release date?

Paul Holman: From a hardware point of view, everything's on track.

Eurogamer: How many games for the controller are in development right now?

Paul Holman: To be honest, I don't know.

Eurogamer: How much interest have you had from developers?

Paul Holman: Good interest. We've got a limited set of prototypes because we're in that phase and they're all in active use, and it's almost like managing that is the hardest thing at the moment. People are coming in with some great ideas.

Kish Hirani is head of developer services and Paul Holman is vice president of research and development at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.

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