PlayStation’s Haven Studios tries to reinvent game development

Haven co-founders Jade Raymond and Leon O’Reilly (center) and PlayStation 5 architect Mark Cerny. Photo: Axios

Developers at Haven Studios, one of Sony PlayStation’s newest video game teams, aren’t just making a game – they’re trying to create a better way to make games by moving development to the cloud.

Why is it important: Game development – which combines programming, animation, interactive design, art, writing, sound and more – is a notoriously complex process that creators often joke that it’s a miracle. that games are created.

  • Haven’s goal: a server-based approach allowing for greater collaboration, faster iteration, and simultaneous work by multiple developers on specific parts of games.

What they say : Think of it as game development on Google Docs, “but it’s not a document, it’s a level in your game,” PlayStation 5 lead system architect Mark Cerny told Axios near HQ. Haven in Montreal last week.

  • Haven’s vision, he explained, would replace the status quo of developers having to huddle around a monitor to compare notes or check their progress.
  • Instead, games would be built on cloud servers, with changes visible to all collaborators in real time. “The level designer modifies it on his computer and everyone who tests it sees those changes,” Cerny said.

Between the lines: Haven’s tech isn’t here yet, but the studio has been working on a cloud-based approach since its inception last year by veterans from Ubisoft, EA and a team creating games for the Stadia platform recently. closed from Google.

  • Starting out in the middle of a pandemic, the Haven team had no office and no easy way to build a new dream game together.
  • “We had a kind of very strong need to innovate,” co-founder Jade Raymond told Axios in Montreal.
  • More than 30% of Haven’s roughly 115 developers are now working on cloud-based, artificial intelligence, and machine learning-based developer tools in an effort to streamline development, Raymond said.

Details: So far, Haven’s approach has been to put dev tools in the cloud, make new versions of his game available remotely, and run cloud-based telemetry checks that analyze performance during each play test.

  • Haven developers are also exploring how AI and machine learning can help create game graphics. Noting recent advances in AI-generated art that create raw visuals from simple text prompts, staff members test whether the AI ​​can produce rough versions of character concepts that an artist can refine.

The big picture: The target of Haven’s efforts? The slowdowns built into modern game development that co-founders Cerny and Haven say stifle creativity.

  • A game creator may have a brilliant idea during development, but the process of putting it into a release and testing it “has only grown and grown with each passing generation,” said Leon O’Reilly, Haven’s chief technology officer.
  • Moving development to the cloud, he noted, would reduce some of the time developers spend downloading huge amounts of data every time there’s a new release. “How can we reduce that iteration time and keep people in the flow of build, try, iterate, test?”
  • Cerny, who has just celebrated his 40th year of making gamesbelieves that tedious development processes detract from the quality of the game. “The game ends up not being your best ideas, or it ends up being your ideas but they’re not in the best possible form, because that’s that very fast iteration that allows you to tweak it and put it in place.”

And after: Haven executives hope to get closer to this ideal of Google Docs in the coming years by developing their first game while fleshing out their development process.

  • “Some innovations are great for us, but ultimately we’re not going to spend all of our time dreaming and staring at the sky if it doesn’t deliver a great game,” Raymond said.
  • As for what this game is: All Haven will say for now is that this is an ambitious, multiplayer, live-service project.

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