PSN Preview – The New PlayStation Home

PlayStation Home has come a long way since its open beta first launched in 2008. With the recent announcement of a major overhaul to come, many of you may be wondering just what is in store when the redesign launches. PSLS recently sat down with PlayStation Home Director Jack Buser and his team to preview just a small sampling of the new experience, and we’ve got our impressions right here.

The Central Plaza that Home users are used to is being removed, and in its place is a more welcoming space called “The Hub.” It features a game and the new “Activity Board” front and center as soon as you enter. Now, while some veterans of Home may not like the drastic change to their usual hang out spot, there is not much cause for concern as the space is easily large enough to support big groups of people. Much like when social networks such as Facebook make a huge change to their homepage, there is initial public outcry followed by acceptance and appreciation of all the new changes.

A major new feature throughout Home, the “Activity Board” essentially turns Home into one big game, as Jack Buser put it. You can select from a list of quests, which can vary from simply visiting a certain space to playing one of Home’s hundreds of games. Return to the Activity Board to complete your quest, and you can be rewarded with virtual items of all sorts. The community is also well supported here, with the ability to have user-generated quests. This will make meeting up with a group of friends or people who have the same interests easier, and ensures that you always have something to do within Home. It’ll be interesting to see how creative the community can get with the Activity Board.

Launching alongside the new Hub are four districts, as revealed in the announcement last month. During our preview, we took a look at the Action District, Sportswalk, and Pier Park. Each district has these new teleportation hubs, which just beg to be walked towards as they glow a cool blueish white. They can direct you to other related spaces, and can help the new player to Home who may not know how to bring up the Navigator. Each district has many different things to interact with, some of which will be locked at launch but will open up at later dates, depending on the community. This means some areas, such as a yacht in the Pier Park or a mansion in the Action District will open up only when certain criteria are met, or when they are discovered to be open without a grand announcement from the PlayStation Home team. It adds incentive for people to explore the new world of Home, since you will never know what you may find!

The PlayStation Home community has made one thing abundantly clear, according to Mr. Buser, games are the “killer app” of PlayStation Home. As such, this new revamp will launch with dozens of games, with more of course already in the works. We were able to see a couple of these games in our demo session. The first of these was “Home Hold ‘Em” as it was called (name likely subject to change), where you play in a pretty standard looking lobby which is filled with poker tables. As you walk around, you can observe a game for as long as you like, and may join any non-full table at any point. This has the effect of working much like real life, as you watch a table and the players on it to get a feel for how the action is shaping up, and learn which table is particularly hot or cold. However, if you’d rather skip the waiting and just jump into a game, there is now a quick join feature which gets you to an open table as quickly as possible. Much of the emphasis on the new PlayStation Home does, in fact, seem to be on getting the player into a game as soon as they want. A leaderboard is in the front of the room, and shows who has the most chips – you start with $1,000 and can receive another thousand if you ever run out of chips.

Another game which we saw during our preview is one that really surprised me. Dubbed Bootleggers ’29, this is PlayStation Home’s first full multiplayer FPS. You move with the left stick, aim with the right, bring up sights with L1, shoot with R1, pick up weapons with L2, and more. The game is set in the Action District, and has a Mafia theme including the weapons and setting. However, one key difference between this and any other FPS out there is that this takes place within Home. You don’t play as yet another military grunt or mafioso. Instead, you play as your Home avatar! So get ready to fight all the different people you would normally see walking around Home. It controlled like a traditional shooter as well, and it is pretty amazing to think that this was all taking place within Home.

The two games shown to us during our demo are completely free. The intention here is to give gamers plenty of free things to do within Home, with premium items for those who want to personalize their Home Spaces or avatars with unique items to set themselves apart from the crowd. Loading times were within seconds, and Jack Buser let us know that his team has been working tirelessly to get those loading times lower and lower with each new version of the Home client. The FPS alone is going to draw in an entirely new crowd of gamers, and it also ensures that when you and a couple of friends have PS3s, you automatically have hundreds of the same games that you can play together, without worry that one of you can’t play due to not owning a particular title. Change can be an alarming thing for people already used to a certain setup, but in this case it was made clear to us that change is coming to PlayStation Home in one of the best ways possible. Take a look at some of the new spaces and games in the gallary below!

PSLS would like to thank Jack Buser and his team for taking the time to show us these new features.