The 26 November 2020 issue of Weekly Famitsu includes three interviews discussing development of the Playstation 5 with Sony Interactive Entertainment senior vice president Nishino Hideaki, senior art director Morisawa Yuujin, and hardware engineering and operation EVP Itou Masayasu.
Nishino Hideaki on the UI
The interview starts by discussing the UI with Nishino. The interviewer points out how the PS4 had a “share” theme, and asks if the PS5 has something similar. Nishino says that the concept behind the PS5 is getting rid of anything that gets in the way of the user’s experience: He says that people spend their limited time immersing themselves in games’ worlds, and when load times and such are too long they end up doing things like reaching for their smartphones, which hinders immersion. They thus sought to increase immersion by getting rid of load times with the use of the high speed SSD, and improving on the quality of sound and graphics.
The improved sleep mode also serves to do away with loss of time: Nishino says that “live” games with weekly updates are more common now, and while games constantly evolving is a good thing, having to update or patch a game every time you start it up can also lead to stress. They thus increased the number of things that could be done in the background while the console is in sleep mode, so that users can play games immediately when they want to.
Nishino next discusses how the PS4’s Share button influenced the PS5. He says that being able to capture footage was a standout feature, and they were especially interested in what users would share, and where they would share it.
They identified many use cases, and what they felt had the biggest need was sharing amongst the groups that exist for various games, and that sharing amongst friends is far easier than sharing on social media. They refer to the group of players a user may play a game with as “inner circles”, and focused on how to have such communities enjoy games more with the PS5, such as making it so that a player in one game’s group can jump into another game’s group immediately when invited.
When asked about why the Share button was changed to a Create button, Nishino says that this is because the content being shared is in fact part of the game experience, and that they renamed it to match how they want users to create more such moments which are part of the gaming experience.
The interview next discusses the control center. Nishino says that games have reached a point where it takes some time to clear everything in a game, and that they have heard from creators that fewer and fewer users have been fully completing games, which they too found to be a pity. They thought that they would be able to urge more players into completing games by putting hints and hooks that increase immersion into the system itself, and that resulted in the control center.
The control center also fulfils the role of the PS4’s quick menu, but in addition to functions that are frequently used, they added “cards” that display hints and hooks for games. Implementation itself was relatively easy, but what sort of cards to display was harder: Different cards are displayed for different cases, and the order in which cards are displayed was something they had to think over and discuss.
Cards are divided into two types: The ones created by SIE, and the ones created by the games’ creators themselves. They set system-level rules on how the cards would be displayed, so that they would be displayed appropriately.
The help function is also mentioned, with the interviewer asking if it is SIE or the games’ creators. Nishino says that while they do ask the developers to create the cards, they have not made it necessary for the developers to create the game help: They can create it if they want to, and SIE is taking the stance that they themselves might create it in some cases.
The interviewer asks if there might be cases where the developers request that help is not made available, and Nishino says that the decision is left entirely up to the creators. That being said, SIE feels that having hints on the same screen as the game does not hinder immersion much, and are asking developers for their cooperation
It is pointed out how game help is a PS Plus feature, and the interviewers asks if they are planning other features for PS Plus users. Nishino says that they cannot give out concrete details yet, but the main focus of PS Plus is to satisfy PS4 users, and they think it is important to make it look attractive to users switching from the PS4 to PS5. They intend to make it so that users feel that they are getting more value from the same price when moving to the PS5.
Morisawa Yuujin on the Design
The PS5’s design is discussed with Morisawa. Morisawa says that he always loved video games, and that he wanted to one day design a Playstation himself. He got the chance this time, and was very happy, but also felt great pressure from the task, due to how it is the fifth iteration of the console, meaning that he would be compared to the designers who came before. He does say, however, that the fun of the task outweighed the pressure.
Morisawa’s starting point for designing the console was thinking if he could express users’ experiences, emotions and energy up to this point in the design. He then started thinking of what Playstation means, and reached the conclusion that it is “five-dimensional”. He says that the high speed SSD decreasing loading times makes the bond between the real world and the worlds of games even stronger, and by playing the PS5 people around the world become heroes and warriors at the same time. He thinks that this world created by the PS5 is “five-dimensional”, and also felt that it would be an appropriate theme for the PS5 due to the number 5.
The interviewer asks if the theme was determined immediately, and Morisawa says that it took time, as it was difficult for him to find the right word to express what he felt. It was also difficult to express “five-dimensional” in the design. He says that with the Playstation, the details are left entirely up to the designer, which is a challenging job worth doing, but also very difficult as they have nothing to work off of. After a lot of thinking, he reached the conclusion of “escaping the box”: Making it not a solid block, with parts seemingly not connected, that looks like it is multiple parts despite being a single object. He then came up with the idea of the black body sandwiched between two white boards.
The interviewer points out how the Playstation has been black since the PS2, and that making the PS5 white by default was a huge change. Morisawa says that he did not start off with white, only thinking that he wanted it to have a two-tone design, and it ended up as white after he tested multiple colour combinatinos.
After deciding on the “five-dimensional” theme, Morisawa came up with a story behind the design. In his story, the PS5 comes from another dimension, and the black mechanical parts contain a great amount of energy. But while the PS5 wants to interact with humans, it cannot do so directly in this state, and so it created the white covers. Morisawa says that he always comes up with this sort of story when designing things, and he hopes that players feel the same sort of excitement he imagined when they open the PS5’s box for the first time.
The interviewer next asks if the design might have had an adverse affect on the cost of producing the console. Morisawa says that product designers do also consider the cost when designing items for mass production, and that while the white panels might look superfluous, they are in fact functionally necessary. They work as a support, and as they are removable they also make it easy to clean the console.
The size of the PS5 is discussed next. The interviewer asks if the console’s size made it hard for Morisawa to design it, and he says that this was not the case, as he actually came up with an initial model that was bigger than what the engineers expected.
Morisawa says that he is from a generation that used gigantic gaming PCs, and worked off of that image of a powerful next-generation system, but it ended up too big. As he had worked on PC designs before, when he heard of the PS5’s specs, he expected it to be large, and going by the power consumption compared to the PS4’s expected it to generate more heat as well. At the same time, however, he heard that the fan would be quiet, and so expected the fan to be big as well. He says that the PS5’s curved lines were also part of considering the specs, being made so as to improve airflow.
In the earliest phases of development, the PS5’s specs were top secret and Morisawa was not able to see them, and he had to design the console not knowing what the engineers were thinking, and he says that when he finally got to meet them, it turned out that they were thinking of the same things, and he was moved. He thinks this might have been helped by how he designed the console thinking of how he did not want to obstruct the engineers in any way, and his own love of video games: As a player himself, he wanted to avoid the console overheating, and wanted it to be quiet.
The DualSense controller is brought up, and Morisawa says that it follows the same “five-dimensional” theme as the console. He is asked for his intentions behind the small square, triangle, X and circle texture on the controller, and says that in his story the white parts are made by the PS5, and he thought it would be interesting if you could see shapes, which are representative of the Playstation. He also likes easter eggs in games, and this is him doing one of his own. He notes that the texture is in other peripherals as well.
Itou Masayasu on the Hardware
Itou discusses the PS5’s hardware. The PS5 spent five years in development, and Itou is asked how this compares to previous generations, and he says that all of the previous Playstation models took about five years as well.
With the PS5, they started thinking about the theme and concept by first considering what they would like the user experience to be like, asking Nishino and other planning team members for requests, and looking into what sort of technology they would need to fulfil these.
Itou says that many people have less free time now, and to have such people enjoy games with their precious time they found it necessary to reduce pointless waste of time such as in loading. The PS5 was designed as a high performance high speed console with the concept of valuing the user’s time.
In addition to this, immersion was also considered important, and the “Tempest” 3D audio, haptic feedback, and adaptive triggers were introduced to improve immersion. While the technology for the latter two did previously exist, they had difficulty reducing the size for use in controllers. Itou says that in addition to the new features, they also focused on how the DualSense controller feels, and that while it’s a bit bigger and heavier than the DualShock 4, users should be able to play games with it feeling the same.
Itou says that they also focused on keeping the console quiet, as it being noisy would also hinder immersion. The interviewer points out how Morisawa commented on how Itou’s engineering team and Morisawa’s ideas coincidentally matched, and Itou says that it was indeed something surprising for Sony. Sony’s designers are skilled, but as a result the engineers and designers’ ideas sometimes do not match up, and as both sides want the best for users, this often results in the two clashing their ideas against each other. In the case of the PS5, however, Morisawa and the engineers had the same ideas.
Next, the interviewer points out how many people on social media said that the PS5 was cheaper than they expected, and asks if a lot of effort was put into this being made possible. Itou says he does not feel that they put special effort into making it cheaper, because the project began five years ago with the price already determined, and development went along with it in mind. He says that wanting to keep products as cheap as possible so that more users can afford them is a Playstation policy.
The interviewer says that people on social media also commented on how big the console is. Itou says that because the PS5 is more powerful than the PS4, it also consumes more energy. When balancing the cost and specs of the console, they reached the conclusion that making the console a bit bigger would result in improved cooling and less noise while keeping the cost down.
It is pointed out how liquid metal is hard to use and costly, and the interviewer asks why they used it in the PS5. Itou replies that while liquid metal may be expensive, the effect it has in reducing the cost for the heat sink and other parts meant that the cooling system would cost less overall. As for how hard it is to use, he says that they spent two years testing it and were satisfied with how safe and reliable it was, and says that they succeeded in making a liquid metal specifically for the PS5.
The interviewer says that many people were impressed with the “beautiful” design of the Playstation 5’s internals in the teardown video, and Itou says that this too is a Playstation policy: Keeping the design clean means less parts, and thus more consistent quality for products.
Itou is asked how developers are reacting to the PS5, and he says that as always they are keeping in contact with developers, and that most opinions about the PS5 are positive. He says that while there were many reasons that developers liked the PS4, one of the biggest was that it was easy to develop games for, and as the PS5 uses the same architecture, developers can work the same way for it as they did with the PS4. He says that while they made it easy to develop for the PS5, the fact that the methods are the same as before is very popular with devs.
Itou also says that raytracing and the high speed SSD were also things that developers had requested from them. Raytracing especially was something that they wanted to include in the PS5 from the beginning but found difficult, and they are glad that they ultimately managed to get it in.
The interview is concluded with Itou saying that the PS5 was designed and developed with player immersion in mind, and that reduction of loading times with the SSD and the use of Tempest 3D audio and the DualSense’s functions has led to a console that can appeal to the player’s five senses, and he hopes that players will enjoy this “new dimension” of gaming experience.