Oddworld Creator: PS2/3 "Put Half The Dev Community Out of Business"

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Oddworld Creator: PS2/3 "Put Half The Dev Community Out of Business"

ken kutaragi

Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning says Ken Kutaragi's developer unfriendly PS2 and 3 put half the community out of business.

Former Sony Worldwide Studios President Ken Kutaragi is often considered a legend of the industry. The "Father of the PlayStation", when Kutaragi was nominated for a lifetime achievement award by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, only one "bold" voice strongly opposed his nomination - Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning. Lanning claims that rather than revolutionize the industry, Kutaragi's infamously developer-unfriendly PS2 and PS3 instead put half of the developer community out of business.

"I was totally opposed to [the lifetime achievement award]!" Lanning said at a DICE summit keynote featuring himself and current Sony Worldwide Studios President, Shohei Yoshida. "He changed half of the industry, is what [Yoshida] said. I said he put half of the development community out of business!"

Lanning lamented the financial challenges of making games for the PS2 and 3, particularly in convincing publishers and other funding sources that a game could be completed on time and on budget. "Now you find out, whoa, we have zero ability to predict [time and money costs]," Lanning said. "We have to discover, and we [couldn't get] financing to discover."

In fact, according to Lanning, this extreme developer unfriendliness is what led a lot of the community to "jump ship" to the Xbox. "You opened doors for Microsoft!" Lanning said. "Their hook was, 'we'll build a machine for developers.' They have a brand challenge coming into the business [as a new games company], but they promised to make costs more predictable. We were trying to survive. Microsoft was a way of landing."

Lanning boasted that Oddworld: Munch's Odyssee launched day-and-date with the original Xbox "on time and on budget" - a nigh-impossible feat for a PS2 title.

To be fair, Yoshida himself agreed with Lanning, stating that the developer-unfriendliness of the consoles was a mistake. He tried to explain that Kutaragi's confidence lay in his assumption that top dev teams would simply overcome the challenge presented by the hardware, and discover how to make great games regardless.

All I can say is, while he didn't get support from Lanning, I'm sure Microsoft's Xbox team would most definitely be behind Kutaragi's lifetime achievement award...

Source: Ars Technica

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The PS2 "hard to develop"?... Uh... Really?, I mean, there's literally hundreds upon hundreds of games for it, I thought it was the easiest to develop.

What the hell do you care? You went Microsoft before then. Oh wait. That must be why. Such butthurt...

Hmm... And yet, somehow, PS2 is the the best selling console in history with biggest library of HIGH-quality games. Even if what this person is saying is actually true, then maybe the industry really needed to lay-off half of the employees to become better?
Although I doubt that Mister Lanning is right. He is probably, as FalloutJack said

FalloutJack:
butthurt

So you bet on the wrong horse and now have excuses for the mistake, if it was really that bad then PS2 would not have had so many games and sold so well.

I still think he deserves the Lifetime Achievement Award. The PS2 is one of the greatest selling systems of all time. It has a huge library and is remembered fondly by probably nearly everyone who ever owned one. It is spoken of in revered tones and is often cited as the highlight of the gaming console era. That is no easy feat. Maybe he did make it difficult for developers, but the systems that he 'fathered' are masterpieces and he deserves recognition for it. Just because Mr. Lanning didn't like the way things were handled doesn't mean that the PS2 and PS3 are not worthy of the praise they, and Kutaragi, get.

In fact, according to Lanning, this extreme developer unfriendliness is what led a lot of the community to "jump ship" to the Xbox. "You opened doors for Microsoft!" Lanning said. "Their hook was, 'we'll build a machine for developers.' They have a brand challenge coming into the business [as a new games company], but they promised to make costs more predictable. We were trying to survive. Microsoft was a way of landing."

Yeah, how did that work out for you, Lanning?

OT: Seeing as Yoshida backs up some of his claims, I'm sure he's right, but considering how most other developers also switching over from PS1 to PS2 did just fine, it sounds more like it was a case of sink or swim, and he sunk.

Now, I like Lanning, and Ken Kutaragi was kind of a crazy man, but this just sounds like sour grapes. He never got the same succes he did during the PS1 days, and completely missed out on the popularity of the PS2, and now he's like 'The PS2 was a big meanie head'.

SupahGamuh:
The PS2 "hard to develop"?... Uh... Really?, I mean, there's literally hundreds upon hundreds of games for it, I thought it was the easiest to develop.

Yeah, it was the hardest to develop for actually. It was also cheap and insanely popular, so it was a more viable platform for all intended purposes.

Holy shit, this antagonism towards the guy for speaking his mind.

It would have been nice if you had added exactly why the PS2 was so developer unfriendly. The PS3 I can understand, but I thought that the PS2 was a gaming smorgasbord (prettu sure I both misspelled and misused that)

SupahGamuh:
The PS2 "hard to develop"?... Uh... Really?, I mean, there's literally hundreds upon hundreds of games for it, I thought it was the easiest to develop.

It wasn't, not by a long shot. It had the same problem the PS3 did early on, in that it was very difficult to develop for. The difference was that the PS2 sold an insane amount, so it was either dev for it or lose a pile of sales.

The PS2 is probably my favorite console, but I have no problem saying that Sony might have still made some missteps.

Yep, despite the PS2 having fairly impressive specifications, parts like the 'Emotion Engine' chip made it hard to put the hardware to good use. The difference between early PS2 games and the ones released in the final years is huge. Developers such as Square Enix spend years figuring out the hardware in order to make the games they wanted to make. That's something they could do, because their big projects were going to sell millions of copies anyway. Plus, they had revenue from projects on other systems. Those were luxuries many smaller developers did not have.

(Some Japanese publishers jus started publishing slightly prettier sprite-based games, but since SCEA had been so against 2D during the original PlayStation games, I don't it something like that was much of an option for American developers.)

Alleged_Alec:
Holy shit, this antagonism towards the guy for speaking his mind.

Well, that's just it. He isn't. He's bitter and shouting petty grievances because of what might have been.

... What? Okay, I can get the PS3, but the PS2 remains to this day the record holder for the largest library of games ever! What is this guy on about?!

Now i would have understood if he said the PS3 did that.

But the PS2? It was basically a PS1 with beefed up specs featuring close to no architecture changes. I doubt any veteran PS1 dev studio would have had issues developing for PS2 unless they overreached what they were capable of.

FalloutJack:

Alleged_Alec:
Holy shit, this antagonism towards the guy for speaking his mind.

Well, that's just it. He isn't. He's bitter and shouting petty grievances because of what might have been.

So you're ignoring the part where Yoshida agreed with him?

SupahGamuh:
The PS2 "hard to develop"?... Uh... Really?, I mean, there's literally hundreds upon hundreds of games for it, I thought it was the easiest to develop.

It was also the market leader, when your other options for a release are the Dreamcast, Xbox and Gamecube (combined lifetime sales, about 54 million units) sucking up the budget needed for PS2 (60 million units sold by 2003) doesn't seem such a hardship anymore.

Of course a lot of people simply didn't get that budget in the first place. As for the PS3 situation, Sony had more or less control of the wider market with the PS2, so they over charged on release for the PS3. With fewer people buying the PS3 because of it's piss taking price tag (Five Hundred and Ninety Nine Dorrars!) suddenly the expense of developing for it become a much more pressing issue.

Bob_McMillan:
It would have been nice if you had added exactly why the PS2 was so developer unfriendly. The PS3 I can understand, but I thought that the PS2 was a gaming smorgasbord (prettu sure I both misspelled and misused that)

well i thought it was common knowledge of how weird and obscure the emotion and cell architectures were to develop on , at the time of their releases everyone seemed to be scratching their heads asking wtf is this and how does it work but hes also talking about the way sony just didnt communicate and wouldnt tell devs how much cost they were running into and messed everyone around with release dates, caused no end of cash flow problems especially for smaller teams.

i mean they made MS the better option and when a thieving lying bunch of dick smokers are the better option you know they fucked it hard.

A lot of people here dont seem to know that they are talking about, I sure as hell dont know either but when even the other guy agrees with him you know that he has a point.

I dont know if it was easy to develop on the PS2 or not, most of us here probably dont know either, and the fact that it had the biggest library of games doesnt prove anything since the PS2 sold so much meaning that a game for the PS2 had a much bigger audience then in the other consoles. That alone is a big reason for devs and publishers to try to make a game for the PS2.

gigastar:
Now i would have understood if he said the PS3 did that.

But the PS2? It was basically a PS1 with beefed up specs featuring close to no architecture changes. I doubt any veteran PS1 dev studio would have had issues developing for PS2 unless they overreached what they were capable of.

No, some things were quite different. The CPU, while powerful, was very different from what you'd find in most other gaming systems and PCs at the time. It was designed specifically for the PlayStation 2 and because it was divided into eight seperate 'units' many developers had a hard time figuring out how to use all that power. Due to a lack of tools it often came down to reinventing the wheel themselves.

This CPU, the Emotion Engine, was so unusual, the PlayStation 3's backwards compatibility relied on it. It's the reason why newer models aren't backwards compatible like the older ones: they left the Emotion Engine (which was fairly expensive component, even in 2012 when they were last produced) out as a costs saving measure.

While this developer does appear to be overreacting because of bitterness, the PlayStation 2 being hard to developer for is a completely valid complaint.

(Most Japanese gaming consoles have their own oddities, by the way. The Saturn was also notoriously difficult to develop for. The N64, on the other hand, was more flexible and quite powerful at the time, but the use of cartridges instead of discs had its own disadvantages. For instance, if a developer wanted to add a bunch of FMVs to a game and double or even triple the size of it - no problem, a few extra discs only raise the production costs slightly. Using a bigger cartridge was much more expensive, expensive to the point were some games cost 2/3 the price of the system itself.)

Also i remember when Lorne was against Xbox and went 100% over to the PS and cancelling all further games for the xbox. So he wasnt all that upset about the PS2/3. lol

zumbledum:

Bob_McMillan:
It would have been nice if you had added exactly why the PS2 was so developer unfriendly. The PS3 I can understand, but I thought that the PS2 was a gaming smorgasbord (prettu sure I both misspelled and misused that)

well i thought it was common knowledge of how weird and obscure the emotion and cell architectures were to develop on , at the time of their releases everyone seemed to be scratching their heads asking wtf is this and how does it work but hes also talking about the way sony just didnt communicate and wouldnt tell devs how much cost they were running into and messed everyone around with release dates, caused no end of cash flow problems especially for smaller teams.

i mean they made MS the better option and when a thieving lying bunch of dick smokers are the better option you know they fucked it hard.

I was a kid when the PS2 came out, I only got one when the PS3 had already been out for 2 years, so I dont know too much about it. I have to wonder why no one outside of Sony knew what the Emotion architecture was. Did Sony invent it themselves or something?

Bob_McMillan:

I was a kid when the PS2 came out, I only got one when the PS3 had already been out for 2 years, so I dont know too much about it. I have to wonder why no one outside of Sony knew what the Emotion architecture was. Did Sony invent it themselves or something?

It was developed for the PS2, nothing else (aside from early PS3 models) uses it, yes. If I recall correctly it was with the help of Toshiba. The fact that the EE consisted of eight seperate units with unique functions was kind of mindblowing at the time.

Since consoles back then were devoted to doing just one thing and doing it well (running games), manufacturers didn't have to worry about much software outside of the game. It made sense to develop systems that worked well for games and games alone. The insides of consoles were these balancing acts of specialty CPUs, third-party components and everything in between. These systems were powerful on paper yet relatively cheap to produce, because they didn't need the raw power of a PC. Developers had to either learn how work with this strange architecture or move to another system. Of course there were limits, but since Sony was the grand victor of the 32/64-bit and 128-bit generations there was a lot they could get away with.

I remember Sony being very proud of both the Emotion Engine and the Cell. While they were both challenging to work with (the EE more so than the Cell), it meant dedicated developers would be able to see great improvements in their work if they stuck with it. And they were right. Games like Radiata Stories and Dragon Quest VIII still look lovely today. The developers who really worked on getting the most out of the PS2 and PS3 produced games nobody thought possible when the consoles were first introduced.

Nowadays consoles have a more PC-like architecture. Which makes sense, because they run slimmed down versions of OSs, all sorts of apps and so on. They need to be versatile and flexible, just like PCs. This is good for developers, because the differences between individual consoles are much smallers and PCs are familiar territory for most to begin with. The downside is that we likely won't be seeing any vast improvements during the lifespan of the Xbox One/PS4. The games coming out five years from now will only look slightly more impressive than the ones we have now. At best, high end graphics and such will become more accessible to smaller developers.

SupahGamuh:
The PS2 "hard to develop"?... Uh... Really?, I mean, there's literally hundreds upon hundreds of games for it, I thought it was the easiest to develop.

Um, the number of available games for the most popular console of that gen is not a testament to it's ease of development. The PS2 was well known for being hard to develop for. If I remember correctly, the idea was to weed out the bad devs and reduce the bad games.

So apparently the PS2 caused the game industry to crash. Who knew?

So, er... why didn't you put Oddworld on the GAMECUBE then? I hear that was easy to develop for.

I can see how that can be said since the PS2 was almost more popular than the SNES, with the market size it reached and the developer mindset of the times to max out 3D rendering ya I can see how a high number of devs imploded.

The PS3 issues with devs came from Sony's lack of effort to ensure devs could easily build solid preforming software for their odd hardware choices......

Trishbot:
So, er... why didn't you put Oddworld on the GAMECUBE then? I hear that was easy to develop for.

Probably because Microsoft was waving cash around. Nothing wrong with that, I mean, 'hey, we'll financially support you if you develop for our brand new system' is a damn good reason to jump platforms and a console can't succeed without some good game games to back it up. Heck, we love Nintendo for doing the same for Platinum and Bayonetta. Still, it would be nice if developers and console manufacturers were open about it.

(And yeah, Gamecube was easy to develop for compared to the PS2 and the N64. Components weren't all that weird (Nintendo wanted to keep the system affordable and you aren't going to develop all sorts of unique processors if that's your goal) and I guess Nintendo had a better grasp of what developers needed.)

I think the number of quality Playstation exclusives kind of prove the bitterness is controlling this guy's speech.

Unless those were just because developers were bored and looking for a challenge.

NPC009:

gigastar:
Now i would have understood if he said the PS3 did that.

But the PS2? It was basically a PS1 with beefed up specs featuring close to no architecture changes. I doubt any veteran PS1 dev studio would have had issues developing for PS2 unless they overreached what they were capable of.

No, some things were quite different. The CPU, while powerful, was very different from what you'd find in most other gaming systems and PCs at the time. It was designed specifically for the PlayStation 2 and because it was divided into eight seperate 'units' many developers had a hard time figuring out how to use all that power. Due to a lack of tools it often came down to reinventing the wheel themselves.

This CPU, the Emotion Engine, was so unusual, the PlayStation 3's backwards compatibility relied on it. It's the reason why newer models aren't backwards compatible like the older ones: they left the Emotion Engine (which was fairly expensive component, even in 2012 when they were last produced) out as a costs saving measure.

While this developer does appear to be overreacting because of bitterness, the PlayStation 2 being hard to developer for is a completely valid complaint.

(Most Japanese gaming consoles have their own oddities, by the way. The Saturn was also notoriously difficult to develop for. The N64, on the other hand, was more flexible and quite powerful at the time, but the use of cartridges instead of discs had its own disadvantages. For instance, if a developer wanted to add a bunch of FMVs to a game and double or even triple the size of it - no problem, a few extra discs only raise the production costs slightly. Using a bigger cartridge was much more expensive, expensive to the point were some games cost 2/3 the price of the system itself.)

The Nintendo 64 was also supposed to be a pain to work with, relatively speaking. So much so that Nintendo made a big deal out of making the gamecube easy to work with. For whatever that was worth.
The original xbox benefited greatly from basically being a fixed spec pc, really very familiar to anyone who had been making pc games since windows 95 took over from dos.

The N64 on the other hand, while perhaps not too strangely set up had some serious flaws that made it hard to work with.
The cartridges get all the attention, but they aren't too bad, and have some advantages too. (which were exploited later on to help compensate for the system's real achilled heel)
Hackers and homebrew devs have done a lot to confirm the problems, and limits, as have leaked dev documentation.

Basically, the biggest problem is a 4kb texture cache, which also needs to hold the frame buffer. This means you are forced to use really tiny textures, or alternatively, really convoluted means of swapping things into and out of the cache. (which is plausible because the cartridges are fast enough to copy data from directly without too much of a performance hit)
The other issue is the gpu microcode. (a tiny bit like what a shader does in a modern gpu, but more primitive)
This microcode, which changed how the gpu behaved at a very low level, could be given custom code.
Unfortunately, Nintende refused to give 3rd party devs any documentation for how this worked. Instead, they supplied two standard microcode versions, a 'high quality' and a 'fast' version. But, they insisted devs were only allowed to use the high quality one, even though it was basically intended for film grade cgi work, and is overkill for games. (the n64 being derived from silicon graphics workstations used for 3d film effects at the time)
hackers have basically confirmed the 'fast' code was about 6 times faster, but nobody was allowed to use it...

The lack of documentation was worse though, given that all the most technically impressive games used custom microcode to do what earlier had seemed impossible...

Wow thats a lot of off-topic stuff.

Anyway, I don't know why people are surprised the ps2 is hard to work with. I knew this back when it was at the peak of it's popularity. Many devs have said so. Most difficult console of it's generation.

Popularity has nothing to do with this, and doesn't contradict it either. If something is popular enough, companies try harder to overcome any problens. Though the ps3 was supposedly worse. I guess Sony's prior success had made it arrogant. (while nintendo's prior failure had made it more inclined to try and fix these things, even if it was too little, too late to really help them any)

It appears to me that the PS2, while it might have been a little hard to work with, wasn't that hard to work with considering Everything from 2000-2010 was on it (Excluding Nintendo IP's and Halo). I believe Mr. Lanning and Mr. Kutaragi are only complaining about it now that 2/3rds of Consoles are really Mini-PC's. If the XBox never entered the market, or if only the PS4 had become a Mini-Computer now, Mr. Lanning wouldn't be able to say jack.

So really, this is just anger/criticism in hindsight. Mr. Kutaragi deserves the Achievement award.

CrystalShadow:
Popularity has nothing to do with this, and doesn't contradict it either. If something is popular enough, companies try harder to overcome any problens.

Not to go off topic, but that's exactly why there was so many 3rd Party games on the Wii- Oh wait...

So many peeps are criticizing the guy, claiming he's just butt hurt. arguing that the popularity of the PS2 disproves his claims... somehow, but I propose it is your love of the Playstation that fuels your contempt and indeed the actual harmed buttocks...

The hardware shapes the history of gaming

kyoodle:

FalloutJack:

Alleged_Alec:
Holy shit, this antagonism towards the guy for speaking his mind.

Well, that's just it. He isn't. He's bitter and shouting petty grievances because of what might have been.

So you're ignoring the part where Yoshida agreed with him?

Yeah, actually. Seems more like trying to keep the peace than anything else. Wouldn't it just suck if the whole ceremony were marred by a fight between two men over the gaming industry? It was suppose to be a happy occasion, after all. Better to throw him a bone than leave him discontent and grumbling at such an event.

CrystalShadow:

Basically, the biggest problem is a 4kb texture cache, which also needs to hold the frame buffer. This means you are forced to use really tiny textures, or alternatively, really convoluted means of swapping things into and out of the cache. (which is plausible because the cartridges are fast enough to copy data from directly without too much of a performance hit)
The other issue is the gpu microcode. (a tiny bit like what a shader does in a modern gpu, but more primitive)
This microcode, which changed how the gpu behaved at a very low level, could be given custom code.
Unfortunately, Nintende refused to give 3rd party devs any documentation for how this worked. Instead, they supplied two standard microcode versions, a 'high quality' and a 'fast' version. But, they insisted devs were only allowed to use the high quality one, even though it was basically intended for film grade cgi work, and is overkill for games. (the n64 being derived from silicon graphics workstations used for 3d film effects at the time)
hackers have basically confirmed the 'fast' code was about 6 times faster, but nobody was allowed to use it...

The lack of documentation was worse though, given that all the most technically impressive games used custom microcode to do what earlier had seemed impossible...

Wow thats a lot of off-topic stuff.

Interesting stuff, though. Thanks for the clarifications. I had heard about the lack of proper tools and documentation, but didn't know about the gpu microcode. It's no wonder many of the developers that did support the N64 stuck with it: once they had written custom microcodes it was easier to reuse what they it in a new game rather than move to another system and learn to work with that nearly from scratch.

After all these years I'm still not quite sure what to think of the cartridges. On one hand they were great: little no loading times, for instance. The better developers really did understand how it could contribute to a smooth gaming experience and the importance of that. On the other hand, it did feel like developers felt limited when it came to more story oriented games, what with the amount of spoken dialogue and FMVs having to be kept to a minimum. Though, it was fun to see them do all sorts of crazy stuff with the ingame graphics instead of defaulting to FMVs. I mean, Conker's Bad Fur Day? That shit's awesome.

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