As we edge ever closer to a new console generation and more information is gradually released, it is becoming interesting to think not only about how the various new features will change the gaming experience, but also how they will influence and develop the virtual photography experience. Future posts will cover what the advances in the new consoles themselves may bring to the medium but for, now there's a chance to look at what a lot of you may be using to control your future virtual photography on console.
Having remained rather quiet until recently, Sony have finally revealed something tangible in the form of a few high quality renders of the final design of PS5's brand new controller, officially called the DualSense™ wireless controller. Perhaps the most radical redesign that PlayStation have ever given their accessory, the DualSense boasts a modern shell that evokes a feeling of Portal Sentry Turrets, Wall-E's Eve and even the rear of a Jaguar XJ220 (to me anyway), but is also seeking to innovate in new areas that enhance the gaming experience. Whether through conveying the texture of a surface via subtle vibrations in the chassis or the tension of a bow string via the variable resistance of adaptive triggers, an array of haptic feedback sensations are included, all in the name of enhancing immersion and making people more connected to the game they're playing.
All very interesting stuff, and the kind of thing that I look forward to trying but, as a virtual photographer, playing is not the only way I form connections with games these days and Sony in particular seem to have been on board with that idea. By providing excellent photo mode support in first party titles and having launched the DualShock 4 with the addition of the Share button to facilitate capturing and sharing user generated content, the PS4 has certainly played it's part in nurturing virtual photography amongst console gamers. The Share button has since become a great success then, and it is excellent to see that Microsoft will be adding one of their own to the upcoming Series X controller in order to make the capturing and sharing of "epic or meme-worthy moments" easy and instantaneous on their new console as well.
So what about the new DualSense controller? Intriguingly, Sony have said that the "Share" button has been replaced with a new "Create" button. Although closer to the D-Pad and seemingly more prominent, a definite improvement on the near-flush Share button, the Create button looks essentially the same and a simple name change seems too trivial to warrant a specific mention. Even the claim of "pioneering new ways for players to create epic gameplay content to share with the world" doesn't sound much different to what we already have. However, the fact that this new button was deemed noteworthy enough to promise more details closer to launch has me wondering what else it will have in store.
this can really only be fulfilled through the addition of new creative tools
In Sony's words, the features of the new button build upon the success of its predecessor, implying a step up to another level, and this can really only be fulfilled through the addition of new creative tools. The PS4, for example, featured a freely downloadable software utility called SHAREfactory which offered a surprisingly robust set of video-editing tools for users to create unique content, captured via the Share button and edited directly on their console. The development of SHAREfactory into an even more capable suite could be a possibility to support the heightened aspirations of Sony's new sharing button, and it would certainly be a welcome one, but there is a greater opportunity to be had than simply developing supporting software.
More exciting and transformative would be the implementation of capture and edit features at a system level, bringing the freedom of a photo mode and the creativity of SHAREfactory closer to every user. Much like NVIDIA Ansel on PC, a set of native console virtual photography tools would allow photo mode access to be supported without the need for developers to create their own bespoke setup. Not only would this increase the number of titles open to virtual photography but it would also see a much needed unification of photo mode UI and control standards.
surely more than a late-cycle experiment
One notable thing not covered in the DualSense reveal, is the underside of the controller. Ordinarily, this may be because there is nothing worth reporting down there, but it seems likely that the recent release of the DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment is a clear indication of one more new feature that the PS5 may benefit from. The clip-on attachment, which enables any combination of 16 existing buttons to be mapped to 2 new paddles on the back of the controller, is surely more than a late-cycle experiment and actually created with forward compatibility in mind. Whatever the rationale, the addition of programmable paddles makes for more convenient button combinations and is as welcome from a virtual photographer's perspective as it is from a competitive gamer's.
Quite how much of this the DualSense fulfils remains to be seen once Sony reveal more detailed information about the controller and the PS5 console but if they can take full advantage of the apparent opportunities, this may just be the device to control the future of virtual photography.