One of the most promising arguments of the PlayStation 5, the DualSense controller gives Sony a leap in this area over the DualShock 4. Enough to compete with that of Xbox, but with a proposal based more on the sensations for immerse the player in the video game. Frandroid spoke with Nicolas Doucet, director of Japan Studio and producer of Astro’s Playroom, the game that accompanies the PS5 and best illustrates the new possibilities of DualSense.
It was only for her a long time. Long before unveiling the PlayStation 5, Sony had launched into the arena its DualSense controller, its pride and its flagship argument to dive into the new generation of video games. And it was revealed in every way long before we really knew what his sidekick PS5 would be capable of. It must be said that the promise of what we were going to take in hand, this physical link between the player and the game, had something to put stars in the eyes. The power of the console would also be expressed in a tangible way in the haptic feedback and the adaptive triggers which, without however changing the face of the game, should nevertheless make the immersion much more meaningful.
And for that, it was necessary to create the experiences to highlight this DualSense. This is the responsibility that was entrusted before the release of the PS5 to Nicolas Doucet. Trained in England, expatriate in Japan, this French is now creative director of Japan Studio, one of the armed forces of Sony and the PlayStation in the creation of games. He is above all the man behind Astro’s Playroom, the game that accompanies the launch of the console.
The hardware decides the game
More than a small family game, ultra-fun and playful, the new adventures of the little white robot, arrived on PS4 with the PSVR and Astro Bot Rescue Mission, are above all a demonstration of all that the new DualSense controller can bring to the video game. The PlayStation mascot thus serves as a demonstrator of adaptive triggers, haptic feedback, but also the sensory input that the whole allows through multiple experiences.
But who came first, the game or the controller? “ It is always the features of the hardware that push us to make decisions or build a game ”, we explains Nicolas Doucet, who oversees a team of 25 to 30 people to design his games.“When we had the initial prototype in our hands, which didn’t look like the current controller at all, we first wondered what we could do with it. We can’t really imagine that on paper, we have to do some tests. We then designed technical demos to judge its possibilities. “
For nearly a year, the Asobi team, as it is called at Japan Studios, will multiply the tests of the future DualSense in terms of feelings and possibilities. “On carried out tests on shooting and racing demos, on surface and material rendering ”, remembers Nicolas Doucet. ” We had a gallery of shots to test the reactions, the sensations. A pistol or a shotgun, a bow and arrows are not the same thing. We were trying to define the “click” of the triggers. We also did some bad weather demos, the wind blowing, the feeling of rain, etc. to see what we could control. “
See, smell, hear: the magic triptych
The team then defines a whole series of independent interactions to understand the joystick, with in particular a little guy named “Steps” who was responsible for taming the haptic feedback by circulating laterally on a dozen different surfaces. “L he vibrations are generated by sound waves which mix together to obtain a certain feeling. And that also mixes with the sound coming out of the controller. It is very important to see on screen, to feel and to hear », Says Nicolas Doucet. According to him, the strength of the DualSense is also to offer an experience at three levels of sensation. ” This trinity of what we see, what we feel and what we hear creates the illusion for the brain, which is a little fooled. And it works ! “.
« We already had vibrations in the video game, but this way of giving haptic feedback is completely new. We literally started from zero », He emphasizes. “Our luck was to be in Japan and to have the mechanical engineers from PlayStation nearby. We have a very close relationship with these engineers ”, acknowledges Nicolas Doucet who has had more time to design his game than many other developers. “The first triggers were very hard with a metal system inside. We really felt the gunshot when we fired and we didn’t all have the same feelings. Some even felt nothing ”, likes to remember this fan of innovation. Handling, position of the vibrations, his team was able to give quick feedback to the teams on the use. ” It was a real headache for them, but we did not influence its development ”,he defends himself .
After the tests, it then remained to imagine the experience to accompany the future jewel of PlayStation. It then took 18 months thereafter to conceive Astro’s Playroom , between the idea and the final rendering. This is when the question of what to do with it arises. “We had the choice between making a collection of fairly logical mini-games or an ambassador of a new technology.», He remembers. “We have done it in the past, but this time we wanted to go beyond that by using Astro, the little character created for the PlayStation VR, to serve as a magnet for all these demos and to achieve something homogeneous. “
In the end, in a game with “play areas», The joystick is used for short experiential sequences: blowing the joystick to activate a mill, resisting the wind using the resistance of the triggers, feeling the different surfaces. But not everything was as easy to translate as you might think. Astro crosses water, sand, snow or grass, goes from earth to sky. Jump, stand on a rope in balance. All of this required multiple adjustments to appear realistic. “The sensations of metal, ice or rain are easy to reproduce. There are many contrasts to notice the differences. Water is more difficult, because sound and visual support is important to understand where you are“Admits the dad of Astro and Eye Toy, PlayStation’s first augmented reality game for the PS2.
A small game with great technological prowess
Even ifAstro’s Playroomis like a succession of mini-games, it is much more than that. The idea of plunging your hero into the heart of the console, with also a part of nostalgia for the older players through many nods to the old PlayStation and their accessories (artifacts to glean in the game) , is a real video game experience in its own right. Visually, the game is neat. “We took advantage of the fast loading times of the SSD, the 4K and especially the 60 images per second which are very important in a game of reflexes to bring fluidity. We still have ray tracing in it“, Likes to remind the French. A real round of innovations for a game not so trivial in the history of PlayStation.
«For us, the playful and toy side of video games was essential, at the heart of our thinking. We don’t really have a narrative, it’s the immersion that tells our story differently, ”Explains the creative director. “The physical side of the controller with its vibrations and its motion detector, to be able to blow in it, to have sound feedback and to feel, it was a joy and it was part of a game logic. We loved working with this so different controller. . “
After the immersion by sight with the PlayStation VR, Sony tries to immerse the player a little more in the heart of the video game via this direct contact with the sensations emitted by the controller. True innovation of the PS5, it seduced us by its potential still little exploited by the other games. It takes time to develop adjustments. Nicolas Doucet knows that he was lucky to take advantage of it very early in the launch of the PS5 and that not everyone has this opportunity. “It is a small investment, it should not be omitted. It must be done from the start. It seems complicated to me to inject this at the end of productionHe admits.
The feats of DualSense not necessarily for all games
There is no doubt for a moment that many games will quickly seize it. But will she succumb to everyone’s charms? Not sure. For Nicolas Doucet, on short games, it’s easier. “It seems to me perfect to accompany a car racing experience with the different coatings offered and even the feeling of speed. On an open world, with around sixty hours possible, you will have to select the moments, because it risks being too much stimulation. It can’t be continuous, the players need to have moments of relaxation and not be at the bottom endlessly to really appreciate», Analyzes Nicolas Doucet. Mini-games of ball sports, on parquet or concrete, by hitting the ball with an instrument, also seem conducive to enjoy the controller, according to him. His Team Asobi has already carried out some tests, in particular on baseball “perfectly cut for with the ball and the sound of wood or metal. “From there to possibly seeing another game arrive …
If virtual reality has missed the boat of immersion in the video game a little, or missed its departure, the DualSense controller could be a new vector to take the player into another dimension easier to reach. Will we one day be able to combine the two technologies to go even further? “We made a game less ambitious than Astro Bot Rescue Mission on PS VR which was supposed to allow you to discover virtual reality. But, coming with the PS5, we know that Astro’s Playroom will reach a lot more people, families who will try their hand at the new console. Maybe one day we can combine the two technologies, but we must always keep in mind the accessibility and the simplicity of innovation. Japan Studio has already hinted that Astro may well reappear faster than you think. And, when questioned on the subject, it is not the main interested party who denies it to us. A half-smile as a bonus …