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Why one PS4 game dev avoided embracing the DualShock 4's tech

The PlayStation 4 version of Hohokum isn't very cutting edge. But that's because the game developers don't want it to be.

Where other early PlayStation 4 game developers are looking at ways to take advantage of the PS4's powerful GPU compute tech, or ways to make use of motion controls, a touch pad, a built in speaker, Hohokum developers Honeyslug struggled to find uses for the controller's standard buttons and thumbsticks.

They only managed to come up with actions for three of the buttons: One speeds up the game's snake-like "Long Mover," one slows it down and a third makes it blink.

"The blinking doesn't really do anything, it just blinks," said Seth Killian, lead game designer at Sony Santa Monica's external games division.

Honeyslug did look at the possible uses for the PS4's impressive tech, but the only thing they ended up using beyond the routine controls of buttons and thumbsticks is the light bar. Its glow changes to match the color of the Long Mover.

The distinct lack of PS4-ness in a PS4 launch window game is a specific design choice, Killian said.

"They wanted to stick with simplicity," he said. "They liked the elegance of the Long Mover and its flight without too many bells and whistles.

"It's not meant to be a technical showcase, it's a game about a feeling. This game is about a feeling and a mood, a mental space. That is it's guiding principal."

In Hohokum, players simply explore and play with their environments. There is no codified story, or objectives. There's not even a way to lose.

"One of the driving themes of the game is ‘Look at at this interesting space we've created,'" Killian said. "It's moving away from the standards of games. It's not a directed experience."

And weaving more of the PS4's inherent technological magic into the game experience threatened to undo that, he said.

"Adding more technology or bells and whistles, it sort of takes away from the simplicity of ‘I'm a colorful Long Mover' and flying around and interacting in the world of Hohokum."

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