At a panel on indie development solutions for PlayStation 4 at the Game Developers Conference, Sony invited indie developers themselves to describe their experiences working with different middleware tools to get games onto the new console.
The panel was opened by Sony developer relations account manager Shane Bettenhausen, who provided a brief history of Sony's relationship with independent developers. He said that the platform creator has been allowing indies to publish titles on the PlayStation 3 since 2008, including the ability to set their own price and date and no fees for getting licensed.
Bettenhausen stressed that his job exists as part of Sony's efforts to provide smaller developers with networking and PR help. He said Sony wants it to be easy for developers to bring PC and mobile titles onto all of its platforms, most notably the PlayStation 4.
Bettenhausen revealed that since launching a new web portal for indie developers last year, 200 new teams have been licensed for creating content on PlayStation devices, with another 350 in the middle of the process right now. He said that over 100 indie titles are in development for the PlayStation 4.
Before handing the mic over to some of those developers, Bettenhausen focused down on three specific pieces of middleware that make it easier for devs to port games to the PlayStation 4.
First, he showed off PhyreEngine, a free, internally created solution offered to developers. PhyreEngine was used for the PlayStation 4 versions of Flower and Divekick. Switchblade Monkeys' Yousuf Mapara, the creative director of Secret Ponchos, took to the stage and described Sony's responsiveness with PhyreEngine, expressing shock that the publisher was so willing to work so closely with such a small team.
Next Bettenhausen discussed Unity for PlayStation 4, which is still in beta and receiving bi-weekly updates. 17-Bit lead engineer Zach Aikman described the painlessness of porting upcoming 2D shooter Galak-Z to the PlayStation 4 via Unity. According to Aikman the porting process from PC to PS4 took a single day. The ported game has had framerate issues and bugs, but getting it up and running so quickly was an unexpected experience. Aikman also noted that Unity for PS4 will be in open beta at the end of March, which should increase the number of developers who can benefit from it.
Finally, Tom Spilman from Sickhead games came up to talk about porting TowerFall to PlayStation 4 using Monogame, an open source rewrite of Microsoft's XNA. According to Spilman, it took a team of two under eight weeks to port Towerfall Ascension to PS4, and they ran into very few bugs or performance problems.
While all of the developers involved in the panel noted that these middleware solutions are in early stages, all seemed extremely positive and confident in the future of PlayStation 4 and the tools Sony has created and supported for smaller teams.