Announced at E3, PlayLink is an initiative that would allow all kinds of gamers to play a new group of games on PlayStation 4 with their mobile phones. That’s You! (a party quiz game) was the first to release, but it’s a long road ahead for PlayStation with known titles such as Sing Star and Super Massive’s (the creator of Until Dawn) Hidden Agenda to come in the next few months.
We got to talk to the CEO of Wish Studios, Casper Field about why That’s You! is such an important game in the PlayStation 4 lineup and how PlayLink will change the way that we play games in the future.
What excites you most about allowing people to use their mobile to play games on their PS4?
CF: The most exciting thing about PlayLink is that it connects people to PlayStation using the phones in their pockets. We can make these incredible, new, original experiences, utilising all the amazing things phones can do, and everyone can get involved, no need for extra peripherals.
Creatively-speaking, when you think of all of the things that a smart phone can do, it’s incredibly exciting and inspirational. One of the key features of That’s You! revolves around taking selfies – something most people do a lot on their phones. It’s just natural to them, and we used that, put it in the heart of the game. People love it – they’ve snapped over 30 million photos in That’s You! so far. We created new ideas around the camera, text input, swiping, drawing, the microphone – these features are so powerful that it really changes the way that we think about designing a computer game when the input device is no longer a regular controller.
What were some of the main challenges you faced when developing a game that required using a mobile device to control?
CF: There were tough and interesting challenges right across the team during the development of That’s You!, but a lot of them were technical. With mobile devices at the heart of our thinking we needed to create an ecosystem that connected up to six phones or tablets to the PS4 and TV – in a reliable way. Players would share information seen on the TV screen while secretly being able to view private information on their phones and make interesting and fun decisions through their phone to the console. There is an immense amount of technology at work to make this happen but it was critical to us that players never saw that tech in action, everything needed to ‘just work’. Perhaps the biggest technical challenge came when managing the data associated with selfies and drawings. The game needs to distribute those pictures between all of the phones and the PS4 at super-speed so that there is no perceptible delay between players swiping a card up to the TV and it appearing there. Getting all of that to work seamlessly took a long, long time.
Do you think that That’s You! will appeal to hardcore gamers or is it designed solely to bring new gamers in?
CF: We designed That’s You! to appeal to all gamers whether they are hardcore or players that are not so seasoned. The core component that makes the game so fun is that the people w]ho are playing ARE the answers to the questions that are being asked by the game. So, in this respect it doesn’t really matter if you are hardcore or casual, the fun in this game comes from being able to explore the history and relationships that you have with your family and friends. It has been very interesting for us to watch the game being streamed on Twitch as there is a real mix of players who are obviously very experienced gamers and their friends or family members who have a phone but don’t own a console – they come together and enjoy the experience as a group, which is exactly what we had hoped would happen.
Why do you think that a mobile phone is more accessible than a DualShock 4?
CF: There is a familiarity with a mobile phone that means that people are immediately very comfortable with it. When I play games with friends who aren’t gamers, a DualShock can be a pretty intimidating thing, but with a mobile, people just immediately know what it can do and how to make it do those things. It’s this sense of comfort and familiarity that helps make PlayLink games so accessible.
I’ve already seen a lot of comparisons to the Jackbox Party Pack. What differentiates That’s You! to this collection of popular games?
CF: We have a lot of respect for what Jackbox has done – we’d actually been prototyping for nearly a year before they announced the original Party Pack. But they took a different technology route than us, using phones’ browsers rather than making a native app. We went the app route because it gives you so much richness and depth of interface, for picture taking, drawing, typing, and giving you a really fast, intuitive input response. On top of that, our app lets you take the That’s You! experience away with you, allowing you to write questions and draw pictures to later include in the PS4 game. There’s also a taster version of the full game you can play, just using the app, called ‘Pass It On’.
On the PS4, it was important to us that the graphical quality of That’s You! exceeded the expectations that players have for a social party game. We had the opportunity to leverage the horsepower of the PS4 in order to create a game that was not only incredibly accessible and fun but also had the aesthetic quality of a genuine high-end console game. We did this because we felt that party games could appeal to a wide audience not just by looking like shiny Saturday night TV, but by looking like a beautiful movie. And the feedback we’ve had is that we hit that goal, we made a game that people love looking at.
That’s You is out now on PlayStation 4. It’s still FREE for PlayStation Plus subscribers.