Aug 24, 2011

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PlayStation Home Redesign Coming Soon

PlayStation Home Redesign Coming Soon

PlayStation Home was first envisioned as an end-all social networking service for PS3 gamers. However, the virtual hangout has failed to break into the mainstream and attract users beyond its small but dedicated community. Sony hopes to change that with some big renovations coming this Fall. PlayStation Home is being redesigned from the ground up to offer core gamers a streamlined experience that gets them to the content they care about faster. Jack Buser, director and visionary behind Home, detailed what this evolution means for the service on the official PlayStation Blog. Home as seen the most success with its exclusive games, and Buser explains that these opportunities will fuel the change:

“. . . we’ve been working hard to fill PlayStation Home with hundreds of games – everything from pool tables and dart boards to full-on space shooters like Novus Prime: Escalation, zombie slashers like Dead Island Zombie Survivor, and massive online racing games like Sodium 2: Project Velocity . . . we are excited to announce a complete redesign of the heart of PlayStation Home to reinforce our evolution into the ultimate social game platform on consoles today. This redesign will connect you with the world of hundreds of games in Home faster and better than ever before.”

The renovation starts with the physical layout of Home. The world of Home will feature a “hub and districts” design that separates all the gaming into areas by genre or theme. Meanwhile, one central Hub acts as a zone for socializing, shopping, and enjoying an ever-changing lineup of entertainment and games. Part of the Hub experience will be dynamic quests with branching narratives that players can take on at any time, or player-created events that foster a real sense of community. The Activity Board will always show what’s happening and any rewards that can be won from playing games, completing quests, or attending events. While Buser stayed mum on what kind of quests would be offered, he did promise “huge, branching narrative adventures” and “frequently updated community activities”.

While the Hub is an ambitious redesign of the familiar Central Plaza, Sony’s plans for the districts surrounding the Hub seem to echo the game spaces that populate Home in its current form. Small spaces loaded with game content and visual detail for titles like Uncharted are a neat idea but ultimately fail to make many repeat visitors. For its redesign, Sony will instead be offering a select few districts that each depict a unique environment. Players can then find stuff they may like by visiting the district that suits them. The offerings go far beyond mini-games and trailers. For example, the Sportswalk area features immediate score updates and highlights from real life matchups on top of sports-related games. Buser confirmed that the following four districts would appear in Home this fall:

  • Action District – With a gritty, urban aesthetic reminiscent of a first-person shooter level, it’s the perfect destination for gamers looking for action, shooter and horror games.
  • Sportswalk – This area has an outside-the-stadium feel and features up-to-the-minute major league sports scores, headlines and highlights, and sports-themed games.
  • Adventure District – Enter a lush beachfront jungle full of sights to see and adventure-themed games to discover.
  • Pier Park – This is your destination for carnival, puzzle, outdoor and arcade games, featuring a waterfront boardwalk, Ferris wheel and a fun party zone that is linked to dedicated indie and arcade game spaces.

Buser also confirmed that a core client overhaul would debut alongside these changes. The upgrade will provide faster access to all of Home’s content, likely by streamlining the user interface. This is excellent news to me; I’ve long thought that Home’s XMB-like menus made navigating its many areas a mess. Still, it’s going to take some very compelling incentives to get the majority of PS3 users onboard with their flagship social network. Special events like this year’s E3 2011 virtual booth and fantastic apps like Scribble Shooter prove that Sony knows what gamers like. Can they deliver enough of that content in a slick enough package to establish Home as a social network to be reckoned with? Only time will tell, but these ideas have me excited for the future.

Sound off in the comments below on what you’d like to see come to PlayStation Home, and stay tuned to Vivid Gamer for more on this massive update – including our impressions.

[Source: PlayStation Blog]