Why Sony is being smarter with indie gaming than its rivals

David Houghton

Over the last eight years, Sony’s internal studios and third-party partnerships have produced a famously long string of artistic, off-kilter, experimental console games. In a slightly abstract way, that trait is an extension of the platform holder’s philosophy since the days of the PS1. Who else was putting out games like Parappa the Rapper as triple-A releases back then? Who else would let a studio like Team Ico take 12 years (so far) to (not) complete a trilogy? And of course, there’s now Sony’s forward-looking indie focus for the PS4 which, at this year’s Gamescom in particular, earned the platform-holder widespread plaudits for seemingly presenting the most modern, progressive approach to next-gen.

But how much of Sony’s open-minded, creative persona is genuine, and how much is PR bluster intended to score early jabs against a Microsoft now often perceived as unswerving and out-of-touch? Recently I had the chance to sit down with Richard Haggett and Richard Hogg–both of Honeyslug studio–designer and artist on upcoming PS3/PS4 indie game Hohokum. As creator of early Vita hit Frobisher Says, Honeyslug already has a decent amount of experience working on the more creative side of Sony’s line-up, and so seemed a prime source to talk about the current state of the company’s outlook. So talk we did. At length. And it rather turns out that Sony’s bright, new democratic future of ‘interesting game design for all’ feels like a very real thing.

Hogg, for example, sees Sony’s conspicuously game-focused direction with the PS4 as an important statement of intent itself.

“One, they’re definitely putting the focus back on video games rather than all the other Netflix bollocks, which is, I think, amazing. And also, I think indie games and unusual types of games are a big part of their message. Look at how big a part of both the E3 press conference and the Gamescom press conference that was. Mark Cerny talking about indie games. I don’t think that’s just lip-service either. I think they’ve realised that it is the future.”

Indeed, I myself was heartened by SCEA President Jack Tretton’s early comments regarding the PS4’s online marketplace, which seemed to imply an organic, non-compartmentalised storefront featuring games in all their forms, with price being the only distinguishing factor. Haggett seems to agree:

“Yeah, the absence of ghettos. We definitely don’t need any more Xbox Live Indie Games type channels. Because it’s insulting. It’s meaningless as well. When the biggest selling game on Xbox Live is Minecraft by an order of magnitude, and yet they have this thing called Xbox Live Indie Games… But yeah, it’s great to see Sony just rolling it into one place.”

Of course, it’s easy for a cynical, world-weary journo to find less altruistic reasons for Sony’s move towards independent developers. Sony of course, does not have access to the almost limitless coffers enjoyed by Microsoft, and with several of its divisions in a fair bit of trouble over recent years, it needs to be more frugal about the way it launches a console. And it’s surely more cost effective, in terms of creating superficial impressions at least, to spend a publishing and marketing budget across a lot of small games to than risk it all on two or three big ones.

But while that may or may not be the case (or part of it, at least), there is an unmistakable sense when talking to the Hohokum team that Sony’s brave new indie world stems from a place of genuine care for video game design, and is part of a progressive overall view on the changing shape of gaming. As Haggett mentions, while we discuss the evolution of gaming culture moving into next-gen:

“I think the other thing that’s happened over the last couple of years is that the power of large marketing budgets to command attention on games has been neutered somewhat by the ability of people to put Let’s Play videos on Youtube. And it’s about ‘Ah, what’s interesting to watch someone play? Is it Call of Duty, or is it Minecraft and Spelunky?’”

Indeed, it does feel like Sony is hitting this stuff at exactly the right time. There’s been a definite shift in the way that even the mainstream perceives games over the last couple of years. Perhaps fed by ennui at an over-long passing console generation, perhaps the product of developers’ increasing dissatisfaction with the rigidity of console publishing possibilities, PC gaming has made a major resurgence, and the eclectic mix of gaming that has resulted cannot be ignored by anyone. In fact, as a result of online gaming culture’s increasing shift towards YouTube, it’s almost impossible to avoid.

Hogg continues, with an anecdote to chill the average Activision suit to the bone:

“I was talking to a friend of mine’s son, who’s 12, maybe 14, and I asked him what games he plays. And he plays Minecraft and Spelunky. He’s just a normal kid. He’s not got arty-farty left-wing parents. He’s not been influenced by someone who’s into indie games. They’re just the games he’s found that he likes. I think he plays some more mainstream games as well, but his favourite games are Minecraft and Spelunky.”

In short, the gaming community is now telling the publishers what they want to see, not the other way around. Traditional models of marketing and asset distribution are giving way to more organic, empowered conversations among the audiences that stuff used to be aimed at. A PR contact of mine recently lamented the way that some of his less forward-thinking clients complain about a news story not making it to Google, yet completely ignore the global Twitter conversation that might have been going on for hours.

But again, whether you take the cynical view that Sony has quickly latched onto a new game marketing tool, or interpret it as a more benevolent, community-building feature (in truth, again, it’s probably both), the DualShock 4’s Share button could not have come at a better time. It might well be a way to get players to do a publisher’s marketing for free, but the communication and discoverability boost it will bring to more left-field console gaming will change the landscape of the kind of games people play.

As we discuss the way that games in general are evolving, particularly in regard to the rise of less pressured, more exploratory experiences like Gone Home, Dear Esther and the playful giddiness of Hohokum’s reactive, abstract worlds, we naturally cover the ongoing argument regarding what modern games actually are and the boundaries of terminology that define them. We all agree that it doesn’t matter, and that gaming’s diversification is both inevitable and utterly positive.

Says Hogg, “I love the idea that in 10 years’ time the mainstream of video games will be the sort of thing that we’re championing, [the games] that–at the moment–are quite marginal”. And Haggett is thoroughly adamant that this future is something that Sony is working towards on a software level, beyond the increased shareability afforded by its system architecture. “That’s a big part of what the team at Sony Santa Monica are doing”, he says. “They’re trying to move the centre line. Even if they can only move it a little bit, it will help”.

That philosophy has been clear in the aforementioned Sony studio’s journey of diversification over the last 12 years. Initially making its name with futuristic racer Kinetica, and then God of War–arguably its best-known franchise–Santa Monica has since been involved in a huge number of the PlayStation brand’s more experimental games, from Fl0w onwards. And it’s now helping Honeyslug with the development and audio design of Hohokum. That’s one hell of an impressively eclectic back catalogue, and one few would have foreseen when Kratos first burst onto the scene through a Harpy’s exploding ribcage in 2005. Indeed, some are still unaware of the studio’s full body of work, as Hogg points out.

“I guess it’s got to the point now where they’ve got a reputation for supporting [this kind of thing]. It’s funny though, in my [GameCity 2013] presentation this morning I asked how many people associate Sony Santa Monica with that sort of stuff, and not many people put their hands up, which was interesting.

“…I guess Fl0w was the first game that felt like something different. I was like ‘Weurgh, Sony Santa Monica? They’re the God of War people’. And that continued with the other ThatGameCompany games, with Flower, Journey and Linger in Shadows.”

“And that bit of Sony Santa Monica”, he continues, “which is their external development team, it’s a small group of really passionate people who are trying to make interesting, high-quality games happen. They’re now working with The Chinese Room on Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture. And also The Order is another one of their external things, so they’re into the more conventionally-playing stuff as well. Yeah, they’re great to work with”

Haggett continues the appreciation, telling me about the tertiary bonuses of being an indie under the Sony wing by explaining that Hohokum’s collaboration with record label Ghostly International just couldn’t have happened any other way. But it’s not all about deals and corporate clout.

“On a practical level they’re both funding the game and also allowing these opportunities to happen. But we’ve also been out to LA a couple of times and just sat there and chewed things over with people who are really into what we’re doing and really understand what we’re doing, but are one step removed. Their faces aren’t right up against it, and they’re able to have a bit more perspective. And it’s good to have that relationship with someone who’s giving you money, but they’re also giving you advice that isn’t connected with the fact that they’re giving you money.”

That last point feels like an important one to emphasise here. Just before some of you rush down to the bottom of the page to drop “OMGBIAS!” comments (perhaps understandable, when the developers of a currently Sony-exclusive game are saying nice things about Sony), know that the tone of our hour-long pub chat felt anything but. In fact Hogg, quite early on, flagged up a fear that “I almost sound like they’ve got to me, and that I’m a shill. But it’s true. I’ve only had a positive experience with them.”

Because it seems that Sony’s culture of outreach doesn’t take the form of helping a chosen few from an ivory tower. Instead, it seems that Sony does in fact see all elements of gaming equally and, crucially, sees itself as part of the spectrum.

“There’s a bunch of those guys,” says Haggett, “all over America and they UK, and they’re kind of part of the indie community. They’re on Twitter and they’re following a bunch of indie developers and getting involved in those conversations, so when games emerge–whether they emerge on Twitter, or on Kickstarter or wherever–those Sony guys just know anyway because they’re part of that community. There’s no need to fill in a form. They’re just part of it.”

As an example, he cites Nick Suttner, ex-journalist and now Account Support Manager at SCEA. “He’s just a guy who you meet at indie parties who just happens to work for Sony. That genuinely is how it is. And there are people like that at Nintendo and Microsoft, but I think there are just way fewer of them, and I think the corporate culture at those companies is just a bit different. They’re just behind in terms of having a corporate culture that supports it.

“The nice thing about Sony is that if you look at them, if you follow them on Twitter, you’ll see people like Scott Rhode and Shuhei Yoshida tweeting about making Soundshapes levels. So it goes up the structure. Whereas you get the sense that at Microsoft and Nintendo maybe it doesn’t have that kind of love for indie stuff. There are people where who are totally into it, but it maybe doesn’t go up as far. And it’ll take time for that stuff to bed in.”

Indeed it might. But I can’t help feeling that as this new console generation develops, it must. Think back to the start of the 360/PS3 generation. Think of the culture and services built around the then-new consoles, and then consider where they and we ended up. We’re long past the days of the console experience remaining static between the launches of new generations.

The platforms our machines represent are now capable of rapid evolution, and they must make use of that ability in order to stay relevant and address changing audience needs. That dynamism is part of what helped the once ‘dead’ PC make a major resurgence recently, and consoles must follow its lead. I’m now confident that Sony is on the right path. If the other two can get up to speed quickly, then the most exciting console generation in years may just be starting.


Industry must ditch “private club” mentality – Murasaki Baby dev

Ovosonico’s Massimo Guarini bothered by defensive responses to outsider criticism, also says publishers still best option for indies

Murasaki Baby dev

Sony’s Gamescom media briefing saw a big push for the PlayStation Vita, including a price cut on the hardware and announcements for a number of new exclusives and indie games. One title that fell into both categories was Murasaki Baby, the debut effort from Italian studio Ovosonico, created in cooperation with Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios Europe. Speaking with GamesIndustry International this week, Ovosonico CEO and creative director Massimo Guarini discussed the genesis of the project, which sees the player guide an unusual balloon-holding girl through a dark fantasy world using the Vita’s touch screen.

“During a business trip, I saw a little girl holding a balloon in her hand on a train,” Guarini explained. “And I was moved by that image, and thought how cool would it be to interact with her just by holding her hand. It’s as simple as that. I really thought it could be the perfect tool to create some emotional content around the game.”

As for why he settled on the PlayStation Vita as the ideal platform, Guarini said he narrowed down the potential platforms as soon as he thought about a gameplay mechanic, where the player swipes the back of the Vita to change the background of a level (from sunny to rainy, for example) as a way to solve puzzles. And when he took the idea to Sony, Guarini said the PlayStation maker was on board in under a minute, with no hesitation about the game’s female protagonist or other such concerns.

“We honestly never ever thought about the market, the target, or anything like that,” Guarini said. “It was so immediate to understand, so touching while we were all trying to play this weird game inside our heads, that there was no strategic discussion done of the product. I guess this will come up eventually, but honestly we didn’t care too much about [marketing].”

The primary action in Murasaki Baby is simply holding the hand of a lost little girl.

Given the game’s unusual premise and its home on a still-struggling Vita platform, one might expect Guarini to have had some inner conflict given his roles in charge of both the studio’s creative direction as well as its financial well-being.

“There might be situations where wearing two different hats isn’t very comfortable, but that’s how it is in a small developer,” Guarini said. “Fortunately, not being a company who does work-for-hire or any kind of services for third parties, we’re in a good position where we can focus 100 percent on the game.”

Even with self-publishing for indies set to become a standard on next-gen consoles and already ubiquitous elsewhere, Guarini said there were still some significant advantages to the traditional publisher-developer model.

“If we really want to be a more serious form of entertainment like movies and music are, we need to talk a broader language.”

Massimo Guarini

“For me, working with publishers is still probably the best way to go for an independent developer, rather than trying the lottery and going on iOS or the App Store,” Guarini said. “In that case, you would be literally overwhelmed by the amount of business development and marketing work you would have to do… On iOS, you definitely have access to a broader market, but you have a crazy average of like 100 new games a day coming out. Regardless of how good they are, the fact you have to be visible against 100 new games a day is just insane.”

Guarini expects the indie scene on consoles to grow significantly as well, but no matter how influential or lucrative it gets, the developer said there’s no way a PlayStation, Xbox, or Wii platform would see the same scale of competition issues. At the same time, he’s not expecting indie games to be the lone factor in determining the outcome of the next-gen console wars.

“I really see the market and the content pool expanding quite fast, actually,” Guarini said. “It would be a huge mistake to say independent developers aren’t important for publishers or aren’t going to be there in the future because of AAA. I’m not saying these smaller, creative games are going to be the future of gaming, in the same way I don’t think free-to-play isn’t the future. It’s just another additional market segment for games. We’re just expanding, not turning into something different.”

Expanding the market is a recurring theme for Guarini. But to achieve that, he believes the industry needs to break some old behaviors and stereotypes.

“I feel the industry is celebrating itself all the time,” Guarini said, “and whenever somebody who’s not in the industry says something about games, you get all this bad reaction from people. ‘How dare you say this? You don’t know video games!’ Well, you know what? I like comments from people who don’t know video games and don’t play video games, because that’s exactly the kind of market we should look at. If we really want to be a more serious form of entertainment like movies and music are, we need to talk a broader language. We need to talk to normal people, not just to people who live inside of World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings.”

“It makes me feel like we’re really like a private club. And from a creative point of view, I really don’t like that aspect.”

Massimo Guarini

Guarini admitted that breaking that behavior will be challenging, and called on creators across the board to be more willing to expand their vision beyond the typical subjects and to try “something a little bit more comprehensive.” He also suggested that developers themselves are the cause of much of the problem, saying many of them cling to a teenage mindset, even if they’re 40 or older.

“Whenever somebody tries to say something about expanding the medium, you get all sorts of negative reactions, like you’re a sort of traitor and you’re disrupting the whole thing,” Guarini said. “But it’s not about disrupting. It’s about growing.”

He pointed to David Cage as an example. Regardless of whether or not someone liked Heavy Rain’s approach to gameplay, Guarini would like to see people try to understand what he’s talking about rather than just trying to shut him up or slinging abuse his way on forums. Guarini was likewise dismayed by the amount of abuse celebrities and non-gamers receive when they talk about the industry.

“You can agree with them or disagree with them, but give them space to talk about games. You don’t need to be a video game guru to talk about games,” Guarini said. “It makes me feel like we’re really like a private club. And from a creative point of view, I really don’t like that aspect.”

As for how such widespread behavior can change, Guarini said it was just a matter of time.

“I expect it’s going to take another 10 years before we acknowledge the fact that it’s OK for other people to make video games,” Guarini said, “no matter if they’re not Miyamoto or don’t have 20 years of experience in the industry.”



Review: Spelunky is a superb game that shines on PlayStation Vita

Spelunky is a game about self-improvement. It’s a sublime platformer with systems so clear, so polished, that you can see yourself reflected in your struggle to master them.

You will fail early and fail often while playing Spelunky, but if you get good enough, react fast enough, and play smart enough, you will win. Die, and you lose everything.

It’s a frustrating loop that rarely feels unfair, because everything in Spelunky operates under strict rules that can be learned, mastered, and manipulated to your benefit. Success in Spelunky inspires the same savage joy that comes from playing Dark Souls or Super Meat Boy, the joy of facing your own weaknesses and overcoming them.

Back to the mines

Reviewing Spelunky as though it’s a new title would be to ignore the fact that this game has been available in one form or another since 2008, when creator Derek Yu released it for free as a downloadable PC game. Yu went on to build an enhanced version that came out on Xbox Live Arcade last year and earned numerous game industry accolades, including the 2012 International Game Festival’s “Excellence In Design” award.

This enhanced version came back to PC in 2013, and this week it hits the PlayStation Network as a $15 downloadable game. It’s a cross-buy game to boot, meaning you buy it once and unlock it for play on your PlayStation 3, your PlayStation Vita, or even both simultaneously over Wi-Fi via local deathmatch or co-op multiplayer.

Spelunky deathmatch is fun and frenetic, an excellent party game that gets boring after 20-30 minutes.

The ability to play local co-op with a handheld device is revelatory because it affords Vita players their own personal camera, allowing them to venture off the main player’s screen and still remain effective. It’s a huge improvement over the Xbox 360 version, which forces all players to stay on the same screen. Playing Spelunky by yourself is just as fun and frustrating on Playstation 3 as it ever was on Xbox 360, but that’s no surprise; what is surprising about this latest version of Spelunky is how well it works as a mobile game. The vibrant, cartoonish imagery looks great on the Vita’s OLED screen, and Spelunky’s concise adventures and lack of tedious narrative make it equally well-suited to whiling away long plane trips and quick bus rides.

When I say there’s no narrative worth worrying about, I mean it; Mossmouth’s only attempt at storytelling is a randomly-generated three-line soliloquy on spelunking that appears every time you start the game. Spelunky challenges you to tell your own story by choosing an avatar from a cast of cartoonish spelunkers and guiding he, she, or it on a descent through a series of two-dimensional caves, collecting treasure and rescuing damsels on the way down.


These caves are haunted; death is no escape, and the layouts always change so you never play the same level twice.

Every level feels fresh, assembled in a near-random fashion by the dark code that powers Spelunky—code that, incidentally, Yu made available for non-commercial use on the Spelunky website.

Like your starting complement of bombs, ropes, and health points, Spelunky’s levels come in sets of four. Survive four levels of the mines and you’ll reach an underground jungle full of savage new enemies and traps to surmount. Survive four levels of that and you’ll face another pair of new environments, four levels apiece, before facing the final boss.

There’s only one explicit goal in Spelunky: get to the exit.

Spelunky’s levels are always surpassable, but they’re rarely simple; the code often places deadly traps in near-unbeatable combinations or locks valuable treasure away behind layers of stone. Sometimes these randomly-generated levels are further modified with “Level Feelings” that render them pitch black, overrun with snakes, or haunted by the undead. To survive and thrive in these conditions you have to master the game: learn exactly how high and far your character can jump, how to effectively use the bombs, ropes and special items you’ll find scattered throughout the caves, and memorize the patterns of every enemy and trap you encounter. It’s a bit like a classic Super Mario Bros. game, if Mario rolled into the Mushroom Kingdom packing a whip, bombs and a grappling hook.

Rise to the challenge

Like Mario, Spelunky’s cast of plucky adventurers never gain experience points or permanent upgrades. They never level up; you do. Spelunky only gets easier because you as a player develop the skill and expertise to make it so, using the experience earned every time you die. It’s tempting to succor new players by claiming that Spelunky is fair and balanced enough to avoid frustrating you, but it’s not true—you will be frustrated. You will die countless times to learn the patterns and peccadilloes of the traps and monsters that wait for you in the depths.

Life in Spelunky is precious. The easiest way to gain it back is to rescue a male, female, or canine damsel in distress and carry them to the level exit. In return, they’ll reward you with a sloppy kiss and an extra health point.

Stick with it, and you’ll find the satisfaction of accomplishing something momentous in Spelunky—reaching a new area, unlocking a shortcut or a new character, beating the final boss—is commiserate with the time and effort required. Even better, as you dig deeper you’ll discover new depths, figuratively and literally, to Spelunky’s design.

Here’s an example: I’ve been playing Spelunky irregularly since it was released in 2008, racking up almost a hundred hours played across both the PC and the Xbox 360 versions. I can brain vipers with a well-aimed stone from across the screen, dodge giant rolling boulders with aplomb, and find the secret entrance to the Black Market. Yet while playing the Vita version of Spelunky for review this weekend I discovered, to my complete surprise, that you can run through spike traps.

Now, that’s hardly a game-changing revelation for an experienced Spelunky player; heck, the mandatory tutorial level practically forces you to run through a set of spikes, so it’s not inconceivable that you might learn in the very first level that these thickets of blades, which bring instant death to anyone foolish enough to land on them, are completely safe to walk through.

Wait, you can just walk through spike traps?!

Yet somehow, I never did. In almost a hundred hours of play I never bothered to question my (totally logical) approach to circumventing floor spikes, which was to stay as far away from them as possible. I played it safe in Spelunky, wasting a lot of time gingerly leaping about like a fool that could have been better spent enriching myself with the gold and precious gems scattered throughout every level.

Believe it or not, I learned something about myself from this experience. My real life is sorely lacking in the gold and precious gems department, but other than that it pretty handily mirrors my experience playing Spelunky: I’m cautious, presumptuous, and I waste time playing it safe when I should be chasing my dreams. This game helped me better understand my own weaknesses, and that alone makes it well worth the $15 asking price.

Bottom line

Spelunky is a difficult game to criticize because it never purports to be anything more than what it is: a roguelike 2D platformer with randomly-generated levels and a panoply of enemies, traps and items that react with each other in predictable ways. It is all of these things and more, a challenge engine that never pulls punches and never wastes your time with cruft like cutscenes or quicktime events.

In short, it’s a brilliant game that respects your time and your capacity for self-improvement. Everyone should play it.



Vita makes more money for more devs, says Sony

Handheld maker pushing system as an attractive alternative to iOS and Android development.


With its growing catalog of indie games, PS4 compatibility, and just-announced price cut, Sony is trying to breathe new life into the PS Vita. Part of that effort also includes convincing creators to work on the platform, something Sony reps and Vita developers discussed recently with Polygon.

In the piece, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe senior business development manager Shahid Ahmad pushed the Vita as an alternative to the mobile and tablet markets, suggesting that the handheld’s user base is more engaged and willing to spend money on games than their counterparts on other platforms.

“More developers make more money on average on Vita than they do on mobile,” Ahmad said. “When people buy a Vita, they want to purchase games. I tell developers, if you’re trying to build a business, then building your game and bringing it to Vita is a great investment. If you want to play the lottery, then putting a game on iOS is more like that. You’re scratching that and hoping you get discovered, hoping that a lot of people talk about you. Whereas Vita, every week when there’s content coming out, people buzz about it and it spreads like wildfire, because everyone’s firing that console up every day to look at the content and talk about it.”

The sentiment was supported by Ripstone co-founder Phil Gaskell, who has released a number of multi-platform titles that showed favorable results on Vita.

“Our Pure Chess title has sold more units on PS Vita than on PS3,” Gaskell said. “Our line drawing game Men’s Room Mayhem sold more units on PS Vita in its first month than on iOS and Android combined. It seems like a perfectly good platform to us, and we’re continuing to support it in the future.”

Sony is also expecting the Vita’s PS4 features to spark interest in the system. Sony Computer Entertainment America VP of publisher and developer relations Adam Boyes stressed the importance of Remote Play, which will let players play some PS4 games using the Vita.

“We’ve said internally that it’s going to be the greatest peripheral ever made for a console,” Boyes said. “I can’t wait to have my PS4 in my living room and being able to play Watch Dogs in my bedroom while my PS4 is downstairs. That’s going to generate more interest in the platform in general.”



Rainbow Skies Coming to PS3, PS Vita in 2014

Hi RPG and indie fans! We’re excited to announce that Rainbow Skies is coming exclusively to PS3 and PS Vita in 2014.

Rainbow Skies on PS3

Rainbow Skies is an indirect sequel to our RPG from last year, Rainbow Moon, which was nominated as the “Best Indie Game” in the PSN Gamers’ Choice Awards 2013.

Rainbow Skies on PS3

Taking a lot of fan feedback into consideration, we’ve been working on Rainbow Skies for nearly a year and are now eager to tell you more about the project. First, Rainbow Skies is a new game that takes place in a new world, with new characters, monsters, and a story that isn’t linked to its predecessor. The world of Rainbow Skies stretches over two parallel worlds, with strong visual variety, and 50 dedicated background music tracks.

Rainbow Skies is more than just a sequel. We’ll be introducing many new features, including monster taming, an advanced battle system with new combo attacks, new dungeon action elements, a new dialog and emoticon system, new treasure hunt quests, an improved side quest system, explorable buildings, and new mini-games.

Apart from providing the new content and features, we’re absolutely staying true to our roots. Fans of traditional RPG play can once again look forward to turn-based battles, free world and dungeon exploration, extensive character development, and lots of optional goodies. Including the ability to play across both PS3 and PS Vita.