Dan Hill, manager of the forthcoming PlayStation Home, chats to eu.playstation.com about the future of this exciting, online, community gaming service.
You've been demonstrating Home to the media at E3, what have you been able to show them?
At E3 we've been showing some new game spaces, as well as game launching from within those spaces. We've also been running a Q&A session with developers from Insomniac Games and Sucker Punch Productions in the new Home Events Space.
A space is an area within Home based around a theme, such as a particular game, publisher, developer or another third party, and it includes things to see and interact with based around that theme.
There are also the shared Home spaces such as Home Square, the Home Theatre, and Games Space, where our users can meet, chat, play games, watch videos or just hang out together.
Can you expand on what you mean by game launching?
To give an example, you could be chatting to someone in Home about MotorStorm. You will then be able to set up an online match with them without leaving the service, setting parameters such as the number of laps or choice of track. When you're finished, you'll be able to reconvene back in Home to discuss the game, and plan new ones.
How are third party developers responding to these new opportunities?
We are currently in discussions with many third party developers and publishers about their involvement in Home. Obviously our goal is to have as many games as possible supporting Home functionality, whether that's through game launching or the development of fully interactive game spaces.
Home has been generating a lot of attention for some time now, but it's only recently that we've been able to show developers just how powerful it will be - they can see the possibilities and our vision for the service, and we're currently engaged in many exciting conversations about how best to bring this to life.
Does the success of the service depend on the developers, or is it more down to the users?
It's a bit of both. Home is a community service, designed for the ever growing population of PlayStation gamers who demand the best in entertainment; our first and third party developers, as well as our non-game content partners, provide this. So I think that the variety of the spaces, the quality of the content and the activities our users can participate in are what will make Home a truly unique and, above all, a fun experience.
Home is currently in its closed beta stage, what has the feedback been like?
Very positive. It's fair to say we've had our teething problems - I want to be honest about that - but broadly speaking, everyone understands our vision and is excited. We're looking forward to populating and evolving the service over the coming months.
How do you plan to gather feedback from your users once the beta opens to the public?
We're looking at a number of different mechanisms. One is that we send members of our community team into Home to quiz them about their experience in real time. Another is that we organise feedback sessions within the Home Events Space. It could be a combination of different methods. One thing I will say is that whichever methods we employ, talking to our customers is an extremely important process and one we take very seriously.
What have been the greatest challenges in creating Home?
Well it's a global service for a start, so we need to take into account the different needs of people from around the world. The actual design of Home has also been a complex job; it's an extremely rich, detailed environment and the visuals are a testament to the excellent work of the designers and artists. And thirdly, we're the only games console manufacturer doing anything remotely like this, so we have been learning as we go along, but it has been fun and I'm pleased with how things are going.
Will the user be able to influence which people enter their instance of Home, selecting people who have similar taste in games, for example?
You can invite your friends back to your Home apartment or into your clan, and assuming members of your friends list are online, you will be able to go straight to them via Home's relocation facilities, but at this stage the user won't have direct control over who joins them when they enter the world. However, we are honing and refining our friend finding systems on an ongoing basis.
How customisable are the avatars and apartments?
With the avatars you can finely adjust everything from the size of your feet, to the length of your nose, and the style and colour of your hair. And we're coming up with new clothing, shoes, hats, jewellery and accessories everyday. It's a similar case with the apartments; you can place furniture wherever you like, change the flooring and the wallpaper, and much more. Also, our partners will be producing exclusive content for us, so I would say the possibilities for customising avatars and apartments is limitless.
How will trophies be implemented?
Trophies will be a part of Home. You will be able to walk up to any other user and view their profile, which will then display, amongst other information, a 2D representation of their trophies.
Finally, how important to the games industry will user generated content become?
I think that giving people the opportunity to create and share their own content and interact with a massive community of gamers like we have, for example, is extremely powerful. It's a topic that has come to the fore as companies are becoming smarter at generating and utilising UGC in innovative ways that positively enhance the experience of their customers. It's something that's important to us, too.