PS4-s Forgotten Feature That Sony Needs To Shout About
In this eternal battle of the consoles – as one internet nerd metaphorically measures his penis against his imagined arch-nemesis – it’s hard to truly know what is a ‘winning’ feature.
And, truth be told, both the PS4 and the Xbox One are so similar in terms of feature set, hardware capabilities and even games that there isn’t a clear-cut winner.
But with the announcement of Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition for PS4 there’s a reminder of Sony’s potential to have a genuinely industry changing idea.
And no, not because we’ve got a HD rerelease of a three year old game – however brilliant that game may be.
It’s the forgotten feature that has been available on PS4 since it’s launch, but only utilised by a handful of games. Namely, interactive broadcasting – or livestreaming that can take feedback from your viewers.
This shouldn’t be confused with Twitch Plays Pokemon, whereby the game is controlled entirely by user comments through Twitch.
With interactive broadcasting – or Broadcast+ as Housemarque has dubbed it for Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition – a developer can create ways in which your viewing audience can alter the course of the game while you’re playing it.
In the example of the PS4 version of Dead Nation, there will be situations where users can vote either to make the game easier or harder – the examples given being the opportunity for additional ammo and enhanced speed or extra zombie spawns and limited use of the sprint ability.
But this isn’t the only game to utilise the feature on the PS4.
Interactive broadcasts have actually been functional since launch, but very few games have used the option.
In fact Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition actually comes with the feature, which very few people seem to have picked up on.
During a livestream viewers will have the opportunity to either let Lara be revived or to die when the player suffers fatal damage; which is admittedly a little redundant – the internet is a cruel place, so don’t expect to be revived any time.
On the Japanese launch of the PS4, gamers discovered that Dynasty Warriors 8 also featured an interactive broadcast feature whereby users could gift a downtrodden player with beneficial items that could help them out in a fight.
And in Yakuza: Ishin (please bring this west Sega!) the number of comments you get in the stream also translates to a health regen buff.
These might not be mind-blowing additions to a game, but with interactive broadcasts Sony has something of an advantage when it comes to livestreaming.
It takes an increasingly popular entertainment medium and adds a whole new level of interactivity to it. Except that Sony isn’t telling anyone about it.
Whether you knew about this feature and the games that include it or not is irrelevant, since the wider community of gamers don’t – and this is a feature that really relies on that kind of interactivity.
If you have a PS4, just check out the interactive broadcasts section – there’s much more participation from the users than you get from plain, old boring livestreams.
But worse than all this, Sony isn’t making the option clear enough to developers.
There’s talk of Dying Light including such a feature – about ‘controlling scares’ and whatnot – but apart from that it seems to be an entirely forgotten concept. Even Sony’s first-party exclusives aren’t utilising the feature.
The PS4 manufacturer needs to make a strong case for the feature, because this is a hugely exciting concept that could provide a whole new element to the games we play – and even coerce other gamers into streaming.
Take Dark Souls 2 as an example: imagine a situation where viewers could unlock hidden or blocked entrances, create shortcuts or – more likely – activate traps that you had no idea existed just by getting involved.
Dark Souls 2 isn’t coming to PS4, but if it did the interactive broadcast feature would enhance an already intriguing multiplayer mode.
Or what about GTA 5 – again, not coming to PS4 – which could have Twitch users collectively play the role of Lester Crest, calling in bounties, affecting the wanted level, locating certain vehicles for you and even revealing certain players on the map.
Taking it a step further, maybe Twitch users could utilise Commander Mode in your game of Battlefield 4 and call out a particularly bothersome player – like the HVT system – and have them revealed on your mini-map without actually playing the game alongside you.
Or maybe in upcoming co-op shooter Evolve stream watchers could do a spot of reconnaissance, highlighting key areas best used to spring traps or highlighting some of the various wildlife that is scattered throughout the map.
It’d open up our games to a whole new type of multiplayer experience, one where you could be playing alone but get the same sense of interaction and benefits just by having people watch you play.
Hopefully you’ll agree there’s a lot of potential with interactive broadcasts, and if so you’ll probably agree that Sony should be making a bit more noise about the feature – if not to us, then to PS4 developers.
It could ‘win’ the ‘war’.