Sony Has Strong Showing at GDC ’07

While the majority of “gamers” have been having a ball with their unsubstantiated, uninformed and impatient Sony-bashing since the PS3 launched (and the months prior), with many already declaring the PS3 doomed when it’s only been out for a few months (and has had a better launch than the 360 did if you ask me, despite the supply shortages and mass-criticism) those who’ve actually purchased a PS3 or understand Sony’s long-term plans for the system will know that the console, despite what the mainstream press will tell you, is a fantastic piece of hardware with a tremendsouly bright future. Sony has no doubt made numerous PR stumbles along the way, and yes, the current game library is meager at best — though games like Resistance: Fall of Man, Motorstorm and Virtua Fighter 5 are worth owning the console for alone in its early life — however the system OS is improving with regular firmware updates and the outlook for the rest of the year and beyond is exciting, unless you look at it with a biased eye like most seem to be doing right now.

Today summarizes my point, as Sony had quite a compelling showing at this year’s Game Developers Conference, bringing to light a bevy of new features set to contine the PS3’s long-term evolution into the next-gen era. As part of Sony’s new “Game 3.0” vision, SCE Worldwide Studios President Phil Harrison laid out some major plans, mainly in regards to the PS3’s community capabilities, with its newly announced online service dubbed “Home” leading the way. Set to become globably available this fall (with closed beta taking place in the spring), Home is a 3D game/community service that takes all the great elements of the 360’s achievement system and the Wii’s Mii system and expands upon them even further, enabling PS3 owners to create and personalize their on 3D avatar and explore a real-time virtual community, ala Second Life, all while interacting and communicating with others, shopping, joining online games, sharing content, playing mini-games and more.

Home

Continue reading to find out more about Home and other Sony GDC developments…

After creating an avatar, players will be assigned an apartment that can be personalized in many ways, afterwhich they can invite their friends over to hang out. Users will be able to add new furniture, art, electronics and other furnishings to their apartments, and even display personal videos, pictures and music stored on their PS3 hard drive. Players will also be able to communicate with one another via text, voice and/or video chat, with avatar emotes also thrown in for fun. Apparently, the Home service will generate its revenue based on in-game advertising, along with optional content that users will be able to purchase, but additional details on this are yet to come. The service itself will be offered as a free download over the PlayStation Network though, which is definitely good to hear, and once downloaded it will launch directly from the PS3’s XMB interface. Additionally, Sony will also be offering public homes where third-party publishers and other companies can setup special branded areas with company-related activities, though these companies will have to pay for their spot of course.

Home

Another feature the Home service will bring to the PS3 is an Xbox 360-like achievement system, with a few subtle differences. Similarly to the 360, players will be able to shoot for special goals in their PS3 games, and by accomplishing these goals special 3D trophies will be earned and stored in a player’s trophy room located in their apartment, where they can then show them off to friends. This sub-service of Home is being called “The Hall of Fame”, and in addition to the individual trophy rooms there will be an actual hall containing display cases of 3D trophies that are available to unlock, whether you’ve played a particular game or not. The only thing left unclear at this point is whether or not Sony will now require developers to implement trophy goals into each and every game once the service launches, but hopefully they do so.

Home

“This is a significant step forward in the area of user community services and emergent entertainment experiences,” said Izumi Kawanishi, Corporate Executive and CTO Software, SCEI. “While the 3D graphics demonstrate the power of PS3 and the PLAYSTATION Network, the most impressive feature in Home is the variety of ways in which multiple consumers, as well as our third-party partners, can experience the next generation of communication by interacting and sharing among each other. I feel strongly that this unique blend of community, user-generated content, collaboration and commerce will expand the future of computer entertainment.”

Along with announcing the Home service, Sony also unveiled another new (and free) community-based downloadable title called LittleBigPlanet. In the world of LittleBigPlanet, players will physically interact with the environment around them, clearing obstacles, collecting items and solving puzzles using teamwork. As a player’s skills grow, they will then be able to create and modify their own levels and objects to fill it with, thusly generating user-created worlds that can then be shared with others. Once a level has been created, players will then be able to invite others to explore their world, and both online and offline multiplayer modes will be on hand for cooperative and competitive activities. The full version of LittleBigPlanet is currently scheduled to be released in early 2008, with a “fully-featured” demo version set to release on the PlayStation Network this fall.

“We were confident that PS3 would be the platform to lead the way in creative gaming, and LittleBigPlanet brings this concept to life spectacularly,” said Phil Harrison, President of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios. “By giving players the power to shape and share an entire virtual world via PLAYSTATION Network, we’ve created the space for PS3 owners to realize their creativity and craft their own unique gameplay experience.”

Here is a gallery of LittleBigPlanet screenshots released with today’s announcement:

LittleBigPlanet_1.jpg LittleBigPlanet_2.jpg LittleBigPlanet_3.jpg LittleBigPlanet_4.jpg LittleBigPlanet_5.jpg LittleBigPlanet_6.jpg
Surely, these developments aren’t likely to change the minds of diehard Sony/PS3 haters, who are already out and about around the web spewing their nonsensical dismissals of these upcoming services, but as a PS3 owner and one of its seemingly few defenders I’m very pleased with the direction Sony is taking the console. There is still plenty of work to be done for sure, but the future of the PS3 is looking brighter all the time if you ask me.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!