Sony’s PR machine has been rather contrite of late, after some really quite stellar gaffes a few years ago, but comments from Kaz Harai in an interview recently are a firm return to the ‘what in Gods name were you thinking?’ school of PR. Ignoring the fanboy-baiting predictions of who’s going to ‘win’ (given the expansions in the game industry, does anyone have to ‘win’?), the bit that got my attention was when he talked about the (many would say unnecessary) complexity of developing for the PS3:
“We don’t provide the ‘easy to program for’ console that [developers] want, because ‘easy to program for’ means that anybody will be able to take advantage of pretty much what the hardware can do, so then the question is what do you do for the rest of the nine-and-a-half years?”
I had to read that twice to see whether he’d really, actually said that - it’s a pretty big insult to developers.
Developers are a problem-solving breed. But here’s the thing - unless you’re a student, or just hacking around on your own time for fun, you have deadlines. Time is money, and professional developers have people breathing down their necks for results, and having spent N times as long as estimated to utilise / optimise something doesn’t tend to go down too well. And as developers mature and become more savvy about the environment they work in, rather than just being geeky hackers, they generally start to look less for pointless puzzle boxes, and more for things that make them productive.
So what would they do with the other 9 ½ years? They’d probably spend it on making new and exciting actual products rather than decoding an esoteric design.
Anyone can design something to be complicated. The real genius lies in making something powerful, and at the same time making it easy to access that power. You honestly shouldn’t be proud of a design that’s difficult to use - the layman’s way of looking at it might be “Hey, but developers will be squeezing new stuff out of it in 7 years time!”, but the more informed way of looking at it is “Developers would have been getting that power from day 1, if some idiot hadn’t buried it under so many layers of obscurity”.
Kaz, I’d advise skipping the GDC this year, or if you do, best to wear some projectile-proof clothing of some sort.