Q&A with Mick Hocking, Vice President, Sony Worldwide Studios Europe.
Gamezplay: Hi Mick. Could you tell me a little about who you are and what you do?
Mick: I’m the Vice President for Liverpool, Evolution and London studios - part of the Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios group. I am largely responsible for the creation and development of some of PlayStation’s leading brands, like SingStar, DanceStar, Formula 1, World Rally Championship, the MotorStorm franchise and of course, WipEout.
Gamezplay: So how are you involved with PlayStation Vita?
Mick: Well I have been working on WipEout 2048, which I’m proud to say is a launch title for PS Vita. We were able to create a game that for the first time delivers a portable experience on par with our home console version – some gamers have even fed back that the PS Vita version looks superior to the PlayStation 3 version! That’s pretty awesome for us.
Plus PS Vita allows us, as developers, to deliver interactivity between platforms that gamers will have never seen before. The Cross Play feature gives us true cross platform interaction allowing head to head races to take place between players on the big screen via PS3, and others on their PS Vita consoles.
Gamezplay: At Gamescom you appeared as part of a panel looking at the shape of gaming in 2021. The latest WipEout game is set in 2048. How do you think gaming, and particularly portable gaming, will look then?
Mick: Well the pace of change is already so fast. Just look at the advances from PlayStation®Portable to PS Vita. In just seven years they have added touch screens, cross play, next-gen graphics, dual analogue sticks. I mean seriously; that’s pretty incredible.
Gamezplay: So what is next then? If you were to be put on the spot?
Mick: Well at Gamescom I talked about the potential of mixing stereoscopic 3D with augmented reality. I can see a point where home headsets will become a real possibility. They’ll be lightweight, with high resolution screens and tracking sensors on the headset too. Possibly even these headsets’ screens will be transparent, so players can see the real world as well as augmented reality stereoscopic 3D at the same time. So you can have a fully immersive experience, a partially immersive one, or an augmented reality experience with this one device.
Gamezplay: And what about portable?
Mick: Well if we stick with the headset idea, I see no reason why once such technology became established in the home, it couldn’t be modified for portable use. I was playing Heavy Rain recently and thought that the AR (augmented reality) technology that Norman Jayden uses to solve cases could be amazing if applied to gaming. Everyone who has played that game remembers the scene when he gets given that pokey office and uses the AR glasses to completely modify the way he sees the world around him. One minute he’s underwater, the next he’s on the surface of Mars, then he’s above the clouds in a stunning mountain vista. Imagine if, by wearing a set of similar glasses, or even some kind of contact lens you could completely transform wherever you are – on the bus, in the park, wherever – into a completely immersive and interactive game world.
Gamezplay: What will 2048 bring in terms of software rather than hardware? What types of games will we be experiencing on the portable consoles of the future?
Mick: Well, I really hope that we’ll still be making WipEout games!
Gamezplay: Of course! But will the games be radically different from what players have available to them now?
Mick: What I do think you’ll see are games that increasingly blur the lines between the gaming, and real-world environments. PS Vita is already doing this in a few ways. The front and rear cameras are used to put game objects in a real world setting on-screen, Reality Fighters is a launch title that really shows off this capability. Also the NEAR functionality allows you to collect virtual items by passing by real-world locations where PS Vita users are, or have been. Fast-forward thirty years and think back to the ‘AR’ style technology we discussed and imagine the possibilities. Even when not actively playing a game you could look around you and spot gaming items, characters, perhaps even entire ‘levels’ to interact with.
Gamezplay: It sounds like you could be talking about the kind of immersion seen in films like The Matrix. Could science fiction become the reality of gaming on the go?
Mick: Why not? Look, we are talking way, way in the future so let’s not be conservative! I see it this way; Thirty years ago when the only real handhelds were the Game & Watch kind, the kind of power and gaming experience that PS Vita is offering would have seemed impossible. In the future, technology is going to allow game designers to create experiences that are limited only by our imaginations.