Retro interview: Phil Harrison 13 years ago

Edge: Was the machine’s development a long and laborious process?

PH: Yes, but it was also a very interesting process. The very first thing I had was some written specifications which were, at that time, half-reality, half-blue sky. I just remember the first time I read through those specs and I thought, hang on, this must be a misprint! This can’t be real! Then the next thing I saw was a videotape and that was about two years ago. That videotape was just a first inkling of what PlayStation was all about. It had some demonstrations actually coming off the chipset in prototype. This chipset was running about 30 per cent throughput and it was staggering, unlike anything I’d seen before. And then we had this first 30 per cent hardware prototype in at the end of 1993 – a great big box about the size of a desktop photocopier – and it was all grey metal and very, very ugly. And it had two huge fans inside it to keep it cool – it sounded like the thing would take off when you turned it on!

Edge: That must have been around the time that developers got to see it…

PH: We showed it to about 100 developers in December 1993. I remember reading the article in Edge [issue 6] and smiling at your frustration because no-one would tell you anything about the machine. We had everyone sign a non-disclosure agreement before we let them see the presentation. I invited the cream of the European developers to our office where we’d taken over an empty floor in the building and gave this presentation about the technology and the objectives we had for the business. It was great to see the best programmers and designers in the country with open mouths thinking exactly the same as I had when I’d first seen the technology – excitement mixed with a big dose of disbelief. We had to prove to one well-known developer that the demos ran off a real prototype and not an SGI.

Edge: Now it’s in the high street, is its superiority over the competition quite as pronounced as when it was still a secret?

PH: Yes, completely. While PlayStation is clearly the most powerful technology, the real supremacy is the fact that the games are the best and that there are some really amazing games starting to appear over the horizon. I’m even more confident now because the reality of games like Wipeout, Tekken and Total NBA proves it’s not hype. And it’s not just me saying this any more – the whole industry is saying it for us now.

Edge: So what in your opinion is the most impressive example of the PlayStation’s technical abilities so far?

PH: There are two. Total NBA is the first game nearing completion from within our in-house development studio in London and is a real tour de force when you consider the sheer volume of polygons that are being drawn and the speed and smoothness of the motion-captured animations for the players. I also can’t resist a smile whenever I see the dinosaur demo. I know we’ve been showing it for ages but it still stops people in their tracks.

Edge: Has any game on the PlayStation truly lived up to your expectations?

PH: I suppose Ridge Racer – mainly because the arcade game set such an obvious benchmark for everyone to use as a comparison. Although the polygon count is slightly lower on the PlayStation version, the gameplay is actually better than the arcade, and that’s what counts – Namco did a fantastic job with the conversion in a very short period of time.

Edge: Do you think that Japanese companies have irreversibly taken over as the world leaders of videogame design?

PH: No, I don’t. At Sony we’ve taken a global view of the software development investment in PlayStation and are working hard on three continents. I think the UK has the finest design talent in the world. Peter Molyneux is the best example, but Geoff Crammond, David Braben and Dave Perry are all British and can comfortably sit alongside the best in the world. There’s also a host of unsung talent in this country who will find themselves added to the list.

Matt Cundy
I don't have the energy to really hate anything properly. Most things I think are OK or inoffensively average. I do love quite a lot of stuff as well, though.