Sony finally seems to be having a change of heart about Cross-Play


#1

It’s about time.

From John Kodera via the Playstation Blog:

"Following a comprehensive evaluation process, SIE has identified a path toward supporting cross-platform features for select third party content. We recognize that PS4 players have been eagerly awaiting an update, and we appreciate the community’s continued patience as we have navigated through this issue to find a solution.

The first step will be an open beta beginning today for Fortnite that will allow for cross platform gameplay, progression and commerce across PlayStation 4, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Mac operating systems. We see the beta as an opportunity to conduct thorough testing that ensures cross-platform play is best on PlayStation, while being mindful about the user experience from both a technical and social perspective."

Sony seems to be doing quite a bit of reevaluating as of late (like allowing the download of PS4 games from their PS Now streaming service, or breaking my heart by potentially stepping out of the handhelds market), so it’ll be interesting to see where things go from here. Hopefully this beta test is successful enough to carry this cross-play initiative forward.


Better late than never? Sony to allow PSN ID changes in the near future
#2

I’m really excited that Sony did this, and I’m okay that it took them a few months after E3 to formally announce it.

Understandably, they are doing this for third party, and in “beta”, but it is a huge step forward for gaming. To see the company who is in the lead decide to switch, is great. Microsoft received all kinds of heat last generation, and never budged, so good on Sony.


#3

I keep checking stories about this, but none of them seem to go into any detail about whether this affects the account locking Sony did to Epic accounts playing on the PS4.

Being able to play with other platforms is great, but it doesn’t address that Sony restricted players based on the platform where they first used their Epic account, and that has got to change. No one seems to be asking if it has.

Edit: Never mind, here it is.


#4

I’m curious if anyone has any knowledge here…

How much work is it to make a game with cross-play support? Is it something that can be done toward the end of a development cycle, or is it something that has to be planned in much earlier?

An example would probably be Anthem. I’m looking forward to playing it on my Xbox One X, but I’d also love if I were able to play with my PS4 friends. The game is late in development, so is this something that is remotely feasible? Is this a decision that is out the developer’s hands? Just curious.


#5

There is no simple answer to that question, as it depends entirely on the frameworks involved, the platforms, the platform holders, the kind of connectivity between platforms, etc.


#6

Ye, it’s really something you can only get from talking to (network) engineers on the project.

You can work with it always in the back of your mind, trying to make decisions to ensure it remains a possibility (assuming you’re not tied to external or pre-existing code that would preclude it). But it’s going to be something that will have been constantly considered during development if it is something that could be implemented at the end (as a reasonable patch). The entire project would need to be making decisions where it was considered (even if built on top of an engine that definitely already supported it when the project started).

Take something simple like a library of maths functions (included with every SDK with each platform), optimised with the fast way of doing various calculations (chosen based on both the hardware and the types of choices they’re expecting most developers will want to make on that platform). If you’ve got a game to ship then maybe you don’t need the exact results of the IEEE standard and some calculation could be “mostly right” (note that limited precision means floating point maths isn’t the same as actual mathematics anyway so it’s not actually shocking to pick doing things faster with less accuracy, that’s already inherent in the limited precision of calculations used throughout games). Now do all platforms have the same compiler & optimisations meaning the same decisions being made for those faster calculations and do they all map to the same hardware functions that will mean that the calculations are identical on each platform?

If you’re playing a multiplayer game then one of the things that is extremely useful is that if I do a calculation on my client and another client does the same calculation, we always get the same value out of it. That way we don’t have to synchronise our results because if we started with the same numbers we know we’re still synchronised after doing the calculation. If not however… slowly we could start to have different ideas about what the shared world we’re in actually looks like, about if we’re both agreeing to the same rules of the game we’re playing. Even when the clients are identical and the game is lock-step (everyone does all the same calculations all the time) then it’s hard work. Without guarantees around clients acting identically, the engineering job gets even harder.

That’s just a tiny example of one of the many things that can go wrong and would make implementing cross platform play extremely difficult after having already built a game. It’s not that necessarily any one thing would be impossible to patch, it’s that every inch of the game may not have been constructed always considering the possibility and so there are a million different spots that you’d want to check to ensure everything was right.


#7

I remember back in the day standing in line for the midnight release of Modern Warfare 2 with about 20 other people. Call of Duty was still riding high on the CoD4 wave and everyone there was just super psyched and sociable while we waited. We swapped stories about our best killstreaks and such, and then someone suggested we swap screen names to team up online. But of course at that point it became apparent that half of us were playing on XBox 360 and the other half were playing on PlayStation 3, and so the idea fizzled.

I don’t think anyone back then thought crossplay ever would happen, but here we are. Xbox and PlayStation can now play together! The taboo has been broken! How freaking cool is that?


#8

Half of my mind is “Fantastic. Cross-play is part of the future. Rising tide business models based on content over walled gardens will benefit all developers and publishers than an outdated zero-sum model where everyone tries to put everyone else out of business for no reason. Fan pressure works” and the other half is “What business reason did they have to suddenly change their mind? Fan pressure works to a degree but what was the final push?”. There’s been no secret that Bethesda and Epic have been heavily pushing it to the point where Bethesda straight up said if they don’t see a change in policy they will “Re-evaluate” releasing games on Sony platforms. But even then, Sony could have just held firm and let Bethesda huff and puff. Fortnite’s started to see the first signs of a decline as well (It will hold firm, but just not the beast it was)

It’s odd and I really doubt something as significant would be done for a good PR play when Sony can just breathe and get a resetera thread dedicated to how good their breathing technique is. I wonder if something changed behind the scenes that we might not know of.


#10

Consumers have short memories and they can’t have negative publicity like this ballooning as the generation winds down. Just like everybody went “fuck MIcrosoft” and bought a PS4, they could just as easily say “fuck Sony” and buy an Xbox Whatever next time.

Cross-play seems like it is now A Thing ala connectivity requirements that neither company will be able to afford to back out on.


#12

It’s interesting to me because networking is going to be one of the big battles of next generation. Not in a strictly customer POV, but especially because you have the three big server titans Amazon, Google and Microsoft who are mostly providing systems like cloud Servers and “Back end” tools like GameSparks and PlayFab. All three are looking to expand their offering in gaming and while Microsoft is already in the pool. Amazon and Google are dipping their toes in. And I can’t imagine Sony’s particularly enthused that if companies are looking for servers for their games, especially newer genre games like Fortnite or PUBG with large populations that need dedicated servers to scale up and down in load very fast. They go straight to Amazon or Microsoft (I’m not sure who is running COD Blops 4 Blackout servers. Maybe Amazon? I know COD games are normally hybrid with matchmaking dedicated servers and P2P in game but a BR mode would need a dedicated server badly) and Sony’s missing out.

I was thinking for a while that Sony’s reluctance came out of either a need to keep other companies from getting too much from their back end while they work on their own solution to provide their own network that can interact with AWS and Azure. So they can keep a measure of control on their ecosystem while allowing developers the platform to use whatever behind the scenes tools they like. There has been rumors of a PSN upgrade in development as well so they may want to trial it now in preparation for a full roll out. Plus it takes the pressure off PS5 being a zero-sum product like the PS4 if they start making moves to be a multi-device, adaptable service than one product at market.

It’s fascinating from a customer and publisher/developer perspective. Like there’s no doubt the Fortnite account fiasco and the wicked burn MS and Nintendo put out with that Minecraft Better Together trailer helped move the needle. But the needs of developers and publishers needing success going into the next generation is going to drive a lot of policy making and hopefully turn out way more pro-consumer decisions.