If you like games and PlayStation®, Sony has just what you've been hoping for-the new PlayStation®Vita. This innovation in portable game consoles is revolutionary, not evolutionary, and the PS Vita designers rose to the challenge. Join us as the visionaries discuss the next-gen PlayStation® device.
Hiramatsu:What's the next stage in PlayStation® evolution? Our ambitious answer to this question combines real and virtual (game) realms in an experience that's pure entertainment.
Imagine gamers forming communities, or groups collaborating with Sony to dream up new entertainment. Solitary gamers might not be able to enjoy the stimulation and discoveries that might await community members.
To do it, we had to rethink the graphical user interface. Although the familiar "Xross Media Bar" is fine for d-pad navigation, things get more interesting in games with a world of content that can't be summarized by a single icon. Many discoveries await you-know when friends are playing, see hard-won trophies or levels that friends have cleared, challenge someone to a game, and more. To showcase these unprecedented facets of gaming, we developed a new concept called "LiveArea" screens.
Before immersing yourself in a game, you can learn about it or related communities. The touchscreen puts all of this information at your fingertips. Think of "LiveArea" screens as dynamic online game posters, flyers, and gateways to social networking. We wanted to capture the anticipation before a game and the excitement of a community. With this goal in mind, we set to work in GUI design.
Karasawa:PS Vita can do many things, but clearly, it's an excellent gaming platform. Games themselves are quite a rich form of content. Visually alluring, they excite us even when we're just staring at the screen. They're also interactive, of course, and we can even play with faraway friends.
This wonderful content calls for a discreet system interface that serves as a container. "LiveArea" content should also take center stage, so our GUI designers sought a transparent interface. One approach to GUI design is to have functions neatly arranged as icons on a layer separate from the content. Instead of this, we wanted the system interface to blend into the content. In other words, we sought a GUI you don't really realize is a GUI.
Plain 2D icons wouldn't help us achieve this effect. Unless we made the icons as substantial as the rich graphics in games, they would seem outside the game. Ideally, "LiveArea" screens would not look odd if a character from the game strolled into view. Also, the icons should seem substantial enough to touch. Besides being tempted to touch them, you should perceive a sense of space. Toward this end, our GUI designers met to analyze the ideal look and feel. Some of us suggested liquid forms, others solid forms, and others, gel-like forms somewhere in between. Some suggested delicate icons, and others, icons that seem sentient. This abstract brainstorming can be useful when exploring design that won't clash with any game aesthetics but still has textural qualities.
I invite you to see "LiveArea" screens for yourself. The icons are lined up like a set of pin badges. They don't seem particularly hard, though, and they sway a little. Flicking the screen shakes them around, and starting an application flips them up. Their ambiguous qualities appeal to your emotions and make the icons oddly enjoyable to interact with. Another detail worth noting is the high frame rate of this touch interface animation, which is 60 fps on PS Vita instead of the usual 30 fps. Smoother movement makes the system seem more responsive, which also makes touching the screen much more enjoyable. I'm convinced that in a sense, we succeeded in imbuing the interface with an original kind of reality.
We also developed a unique way of closing applications, by dragging down from a corner of the screen. A regular Close button would have sufficed, but there was no need to clutter up the screen with symbols, or to spell it out so crudely. We had created a rich graphical space, so we neatly incorporated a routine gesture for turning the page on content that's no longer needed.