While it may have been delayed almost to the point of silliness, anticipation is still quite high for PlayStation Home, Sony's trump card in the online gaming stakes.
Offering much more of a community approach than it's counter-parts, Home is full of different levels of customization which will allow you to live with your friends in a virtual world of sorts, where you'll be able to hang out and easily launch into the game of your choice with the mere touch of a button, among other things.
At our recent trip to PlayStation Day, we got a chance to play the game for a bit, and we have to say that the amount of detail is impressive. What we found during our short time with Home is that on one level, it's very simple as to not scare off the casual folk, but has many elements that will take some exploration to really get a grasp on.
Wandering around and chatting is certainly easy enough to do, but the experience is really a 'you get out of it what you put in' type of scenario, where people who really spend a lot of time with the product will find many intricacies that others may not notice.
Is an emphasis on community going to change the way we play online?
We sat down for a brief chat with Creative Director Ron Festejo, and Lead Artist John Venables about how everything is progressing, and what they feel about the future of PlayStation Home.
PALGN: The anticipation for PlayStation Home is high; internally, is the anticipation or expectation there that it's going to really make an impact on the mainstream, non-gamers? The type of people that use Facebook, for example.
Ron Festejo: When you talk about it from a social networking point of view, the foundations are there for Home to become that. Right now our core audience are gamers, and in that sense, we are managing their expectations.
'Game launching' for example is something that gamers are absolutely expecting, and people were quite surprised when we showed it off, as it's something not currently available on the PlayStation 3. For people to see that is really good.
From a social networking point of view, we've held event evenings where we invite the community in together and show them activities... and looking at it from that point of view, where strangers start talking about it with each other, like 'have you played the latest version of this' and then start striking up conversations with people who are like-minded - people who like the same kinds of games or movies or whatever, and they make friends that way.
We're still looking at expanding the friends list, because people are already maxing out their friends list in the closed beta (which is currently set at a maximum of 50 people). When you mention something like Facebook, it's similar. In the future, we'll be expanding the social aspect of Home, but it's very wise to appeal to the core gaming demographic right now at this early stage.
John Venables: The other thing about social networking services like Facebook: they never release with a 'boom'. It starts small and a few people start using it and it continues to grow and grow over time. That's what I'd expect to happen for Home. I don't know for certain, but I think it'll grow more along those lines than a standard game release. It'll grow organically.
PALGN: There's no doubt that Home is, at least for console gaming, raising the bar in socializing and getting people together. Do you feel an extra pressure because you're raising the bar to a different level?
RF: Yeah it's kind of odd when we announce that there is going to be a delay in getting the service out and people are expecting so much. We know we're raising the bar, Home looks really good, but it is really just about managing our expectations and listening to what people want. I think we're managing to just give people that, and to have the time to tweak things based on feedback is really important.
JV: From a team perspective, I think the team enjoy this sort of pressure. I'd rather that than people not having expectations at all!
PALGN: What are the long-term plans for Home? Obviously there are going to be further updates after the initial launch...?
RF: Sure, we have servers where we can test new features in a closed environment, similar to what we have now with the closed beta.
JV: Yeah, we'll always have that.
RF: We're not going to build something and then just throw it out there, we'll always have that testing environment with more things in the pipeline and be testing out new features and ideas.
JV: And I think it's always a process, with an initial version, then we'd respond to community feedback with a newer version and eventually the feature in question would mature and become more robust over time.
RF: There are major features planned for the future; it will grow and become into a higher method of interaction. You can imagine a whole shop environment where you purchase from that service. We're doing things like that right now, where we'll invite people and do specific testing. There is plenty that you've yet to see when it comes to Home!
"So this is that 'modern art' they keep talking about?"
More pics can be seen at the link up top of this article!