With "DC Universe Online" debuting on both the PC and the PS3 sometime next year, gamers have been wondering whether or not they'll be able to play with their friends across platforms.
In a phone interview last week, Chris Cao, the creative director at SOE-Austin, told me that cross-platform compatibility was one of the development studio's highest design goals, and while it is technically possible, there's one particular issue that's giving them trouble.
"Right now there's no technological reason why we can't," he said. "We want you to play with your friends, so everything that we do tries to get people to play together."
So if the technology isn't the problem, then what's preventing SOE from committing to cross-platform compatibility?
"Going through the PlayStation Network and getting it to our console person is a lot different than getting it to our PC person."
It's actually about fairness he said, and not from a gameplay standpoint. "We actually think that 'DCUO' being an action game translates very easily across [platforms], and there's not really that many differences in the gameplay," he claimed. "But one of things with MMOs is that we update them; we add new stuff. When we add stuff to the PC side it's a different route; going through the PlayStation Network and getting it to our console person is a lot different than getting it to our PC person."
He explained that with PCs, it's easy to have players download enormous files, whereas on consoles, there are different requirements as to how much space the file can take. Cao also said it was partly a production process issue. To allow for cross-platform play, the company has to make sure to get updates out for both platforms simultaneously.
"We don't want the console guys to get [updates] earlier or later or either way," he said. "And since they're two such different systems, we really need to work on our side to make sure that [simultaneous updates] happen. But I think if anybody is going to do it and make it simultaneously seamless for people, it's going to be us. It's just that we haven't done it yet, so we don't like to promise what we haven't delivered yet."
"If you've ever been part of an MMO release right after you launch, there's quite a few updates you do to solve issues."
I heard the same thing from those working on SOE's spy-themed MMO shooter "The Agency," which will also appear on both PC and PS3. I recently spoke with the executive director of development of SOE-Seattle Matt Wilson, and he gave a few more specifics on the updating process. "The console requires a certification process for every one of its releases, and that can take a short period of time or that can take a long period of time depending on the schedule," he explained. "And if you've ever been part of an MMO release right after you launch the product, there's quite a few updates you do to solve issues."
For PC gamers who want to play with their PS3 friends and vice versa, here's hoping that Sony can find a streamlined process for updating the game on both platforms.