Martijn Van der Meulen, a Producer on Home, has said that "it is a 100 percent guarantee that Home will be released by the end of this calendar year.
There had been concern that Sony may one day charge for PlayStation Home, but Meulen says that "there are no plans to charge for Home, even in the far future."
To quote in full: Home. We've been waiting for it for quite some time now and some gamers were beginning to think it would never arrive at all. But here at the German Games Convention, Home did in fact make an appearance at the top of a stylish, multi-tiered patio structure built into Sony's booth. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Martijn Van der Meulen, a Producer on Home, to talk about what's going on with the free software that promises to revolutionize the way PS3 owners interact with one another online.
First and foremost, Van der Meulen told me (without hesitation) that it is a 100 percent guarantee that Home will be released by the end of this calendar year. He has absolutely no doubt that this will be the case, so it looks like the long wait to come Home is finally reaching its conclusion. Van der Meulen also assured me, quite adamantly, that Home will always be a free service -- only premium content will need to be purchased. I know some gamers were concerned that once Home reached a certain user base, a fee might be applied to the service, but this is not the case. Van der Meulen says that there are no plans to charge for Home, even in the far future.
With that out of the way, Van der Meulen walked me through the basics of Home and showed off the most recent build that's running the extended private Beta. Everything looks extremely polished and well designed. We started off in an apartment space, where Van der Meulen explained that everyone will get a free Harbor studio apartment when they first get into Home and better apartments can be acquired down the line. However, it's hard for me to imagine an apartment better than that one, as the highly pleasing aesthetics of the building, coupled with the incredibly gorgeous view, make me want that apartment in real life. One can dream.
Van der Meulen also walked me through the Wardrobe tool which allows you to create and customize your character in a variety of ways, including simple things like clothing all the way down to the finest details. I was amazed at the level of control you have over character creation, because you can actually adjust sliders for things such as facial structure, skull width and other highly subtle attributes. Although several presets are including just in case you want to get right into the swing of things, gamers will have a lot of control over what sort of character they wish to create.
Van der Meulen said that items like clothing, furniture and other knickknacks can be unlocked and also rewarded through other external games. Games can communicate with Home, so if you beat, for example, God of War 3, maybe you'll unlock a Kratos t-shirt in Home to wear. These sorts of possibilities are definitely exciting because this gives developers another avenue to not only promote their products but give gamers a little bonus for playing their games.
Our next stop was the Home Square, a beautiful central area with trees, an open sky and several entertainment hotspots. From the Square, users will be able to access a bowling alley, theater, shopping mall and a monorail station. Again, everything in Home is looking really nice, especially for a totally free, downloadable service. I think my favorite aspect of the visuals is how everything is designed and meshes together into such a sleekly modern yet gentle space.
We also tried our hand at some pool and a few of the arcade machines. These worked really well and the arcade games are especially fun. Van der Meulen mentioned that players will be able to take arcade machines back into their private apartment so friends can play them without waiting around in line at the public venues. With so many spaces to worry about, some gamers were concerned that walking/running around through the world would take too much time, but you can warp anywhere you'd like using your virtual PSP, just by selecting the visual chip from the World Map. Just like the rest of the software, this interface is sharp and aesthetically pleasing.
The last area that Van der Meulen mentioned was the PlayStation Event Space, which some of you may have heard of before. In this space, Home users can watch live conference streams with other PS3 owners and even use the space as a way of communicating with developers. This, along with all the other spaces planned, should definitely add to Home's flavor.
I know some people are skeptical about the service, but I think Home has a lot of potential and could really personalize Sony's online service. I look forward to really getting into Home sometime this year. More PlayStation 3 News...