I'm currently at the Develop Conference 2008 in Brighton, UK. It's a games developer conference and I am interested in seeing where the web world and the games world are colliding/merging
The guys from Sony showed us PSN Home. Much of this was old news having seen the beta, but the occasional bit was interesting. Here are some of my thoughts.
The whole thing looks very real life to me. A bit like The Sims. I hope that there are no limitations on what could be created as personally I don't want to create an online apartment that looks like a Ikea catalogue. It feels very consumerist to me, but maybe that is what users want. They say that furniture can be "anything that will fit into an apartment" which sounds promising. The avatars are human shaped and can be clothed or styled with custom (developer produced) content such as hairstyles.
PSN Home Rewards are linked to a Home Object. Following a Lua scripted event a player can be given a ticket. This ticket is then exchangable for a Home Object such as a t-shirt or could be used to unlock hidden areas or entire Scenes.
Standard 2D PlayStation rewards can be displayed on a player's apartment wall. 3D rewards will be implemented specially for Home later.
Starting games with people that you have met is one of the USPs. Home doesn't attempt to take functionality away from the game but instead communicates with it. A Game Launch Object is created within Home which can be scripted using Lua. It creates an XML file describing the people who want to be in the group game. This is then passed to the game, the PS3 resets and the normal multiplayer launch follows. It made me wonder whether the same XML could be created from a web layer viewed on the PS3.
There are common areas such as shopping malls, so I asked a slightly mischievious question about what would happen when the shops started to get full, would we then be paying rental for real estate. The answer was more about the consumer experience than the Game Publishers so I remain wary that Sony will be charging the equivelant of leaseholds a la Second Life.
They also talked about instancing and the "as any of your friends as possible will be in your instance" so maybe there are problems to be solved there.
Home can display similar media as the PS3/PSP, i.e. jpg, png, mp4. The metaphor used is that of TV screens attached to the wall of the apartment which didn't seem very innovative to me. I think that i'd prefer to have a 2D screen that can apear in the middle of the air on command, but maybe this is possible but not implemented yet.
Develop 2008 Keynote: "PlayStation Home: Why Is a Virtual World Important to Gaming and How Can I Get Involved?" Darren Cairns, Liam Wickham; Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.