Fri. Mar 31st, 2023
Shu Yoshida and Lorne Lanning

Shu Yoshida and Lorne Lanning

Sam Machkovech

LAS VEGAS—Day two of the 2015 DICE Summit kicked off with two PlayStation-era titans talking about the history of the platform. Sony Worldwide Studios President Shu Yoshida and Oddworld Inhabitants Creative Director Lorne Lanning confronted and recalled their respective origin stories, including Yoshida’s early explosion as a producer for the Crash Bandicoot And Gran Turismo series and Lanning’s early third-party PS contributions.

Halfway through, the conversation spiraled out of control as the game veterans and board members of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences discussed the only time the two men had had a serious fight. The board wanted to vote to give a Lifetime Achievement Award to former Sony Worldwide Studios president Ken Kutaragi, Yoshida recalled, but only “one brave member” offered a no vote.

“I was totally against it!” Lanning said in response to the keynote. “He changed half the industry, you said. I said he bankrupted half the development community!”

Lanning then described the financial challenges of making games for developer-unfriendly platforms such as PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, particularly convincing publishers and other funding sources that a game could be completed on time and under budget. “Now you find out, ho, we don’t have the ability to predict [time and money costs]said Lanning. “We have to discover, and we [couldn’t get] funding to discover.”

That, combined with a changing landscape with third-party publishers, forced Lanning to cancel his former Sony partnership. “You opened doors for Microsoft!” Lanning said. “Their hook was, ‘We’re building a machine for developers.’ They have a brand challenge coming into the company [as a new games company], but they promised to make costs more predictable. We tried to survive. Microsoft was a way to land.” Lanning reminded the audience Oddworld: Munch’s Odyssey launched day-and-date with the original Xbox “on time and on budget”.

“I i i hate those plows”

To his credit, Yoshida acknowledged the developer-unfriendly issues of those consoles’ hardware: “Making PS2 hardware unique, and that [game makers] eventually learned how [design for it], it reinforced Ken’s vision to make great hardware innovation. Yoshida said. “In a way, he had the confidence to say, ‘If you see a high mountain, you have to climb.’ His confidence was, top teams that would win. That didn’t help the philosophy of designing for PS3.”

Lanning and Yoshida have clearly mended their business relationship in the years since. In addition to Strange world games returning to PlayStation systems, Lanning praised the developer-friendly moves of the PlayStation 4. He noted that he was surprised to get a free development kit for the console ahead of launch, rather than paying up to $15,000 per development kit in previous console cycles.

The rest of the keynote covered Yoshida’s entire career, including his first job in Sony’s PC division in 1986, his emergence as PlayStation’s first major game producer for western games – “Oh, that man speaks English, let him try” — and its battles with marketing and business executives over extended development cycles. “‘Duty games come out every year! Why can’t you do this for us, for our titles?” Yoshida said, as if quoting his marketing managers. [game design] teams… but me, me, me hate those teams.” [This sounded like emphasis, not stuttering.] “I wish they didn’t do what they do so hard.”

By akfire1

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