GDC: Sony Shows First PSP Game
By David Smith
Sony Computer Entertainment America's presentations, like the one delivered by executive vice president Andrew House at the Game Developers Conference earlier today, tend to be more than a little optimistic. But Sony has a lot to be optimistic about -- a massive lead in the console arena, and upcoming hardware with almost universal popular support behind it. Support for the PSP was the most notable sentiment on display during House's presentation, as several developers expressed their enthusiasm for Sony's new handheld.
Worldwide, House claimed some 81 developers are at work on PSP games: 23 in North America, 24 in Japan, and 34 in Europe. His presentation featured expressions of support from several developer representatives -- Electronic Arts, Vicarious Visions, and even long-time Nintendo partisan Julian Eggebrecht of Factor 5 had encouraging words to add.
A North American company delivered the most notable contribution to the presentation. Backbone Entertainment, represented by former Digital Eclipse producer Chris Charla, showed off a video of its first PSP project, an action-platformer called Death, Jr. that will be exclusive to the system.
If the name inspires visions in your head of a superdeformed Grim Reaper (something like the Blind Skateboards mascot), you wouldn't be very far off the mark. The trailer featured graphics roughly comparable to PS2 games and a action-oriented style reminiscent of Spyro the Dragon or Maximo.
Though his enthusiasm wasn't so surprising, considering this was Sony's presentation, Charla had plenty of positive things to say about developing for the PSP. "Polygon for polygon," he claimed, "PSP has more power than PS2," and it's apparently easier to develop for as well. "A huge number of effects that are given to you in software on PS2 are available in hardware on PSP."
Charla compared the ease of development to experience with the GameCube, saying that Backbone had its first PSP game up and running within two man-weeks, and a PS2 project ported over to the PSP within four.
House had some fairly bold predictions about the PSP's potential sales success. "The trajectory of sales could be even bigger than PS2," he said. Citing the speedy growth of the mobile handset market, House predicted that the PSP is arriving at the optimal time for a product of this kind.
He also spoke in a little more detail about one of the PSP's more interesting technical capabilities. The handheld's support for 802.11b wireless LAN will obviously replace the physical link cables of past handhelds, but House also claimed the PSP will connect with other hardware. As rumored earlier, connectivity with the PlayStation 2 is in the works, and the PSP will also be able to connect with PCs, possibly to move digital media like music and movies back and forth between the two.
The PS2 wasn't entirely forgotten during Sony's presentation, although it focused less on mainstream games and more on the potential of the new EyeToy peripheral. House displayed the new EyeToy face-mapping feature in 989 Studios' latest baseball game, and also demonstrated a new, as-yet-untitled project. This demo allowed a player standing in front of the EyeToy to control a character sliding down a rail, like the rail-slide levels in the recent Sonic Heroes. The camera detected the player's movements to let the character lean back and forth, and a pair of sensor wristbands let the player control the character's arms, which moved up and down to catch passing items.