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Bidaux: Home won't sell PS3s, but has potential

Thomas Bidaux had some rather opinionated things to say about PlayStation 3's Home MMO during a recent interview with NCsoft's director of product development said that while Home is very interesting, it will need to offer something more significant than avatar customization, or it will remain quite limited.

We're not quite sure where Bidaux is getting his information from, but Home will offer gamers much more than changing their in-game character's appearance. However, some of Bidaux's comments did make a little sense. "I don't think you can say you will sell more PS3s because of Home, but if the PS3 had the right penetration in the market, then yes - Home will be very interesting," he said.

We don't believe anyone ever claimed Home to be a PS3 system seller, but if all promises are kept, it will certainly go a long way in helping the PS3 gain back its lost market share.

SCEA creates in-game advertising group, keeps Home free

How does Sony manage to keep stuff like Home free? Seems they decided to create a new in-game advertising business unit to assist in the cost and upkeep of the new "virtual space". Darlene Kindler was appointed to be in charge of the in-game advertising strategies, along with the partnership with Nielsen Media Research from July. As revealed in a recent job posting, in-game advertising is something Sony's serious about. The two companies will share network data from our PS3's and the PSN and work advertising into our virtual lives.

What can we expect? Just about any sort of "dynamic, relevant advertisements" you can think of. SCEA will make sure they're just like ads in real life -- billboards, posters, images on shopping bags or soda cans, things on your TV, and more. While this is a neat concept, we don't know how well it'll actually work. Sure, we could customize our avatar to drink Coca-Cola, but will that really make us want to go buy some? Who knows. Still, promotions like those will undoubtedly let free PSN services thrive.

Two Home videos detailing more customizations

As if you could get enough of Home footage, we've got even more for you. There are two videos -- we've cleverly disguised the other one to appear after the jump, but they go over more customization options for your avatar, the wallpaper feature, some video playback implementation in your Home apartment, and a small tour around the areas available (which we're familiar with by now).

What's there to be said that hasn't already about this stuff? We're interested to see the final build, but the limited options available to beta testers doesn't exactly give off the most accurate representation of what to expect. Still, we'll consume whatever footage of the beta we can get, since it's interesting to see how it's evolved from the very first trailer shown a long time ago. Check out the videos and leave your thoughts, but be warned, combined you'll be sitting through ten minutes of Home, so grab a soda or something.

[via N4G]

Continue reading Two Home videos detailing more customizations

Tourist Trophy provides surprising origins for "dress"

Sony's admittedly-lackluster TGS keynote provided little on the newly announced "dress" expansion for the now-delayed Home service. While the name doesn't lend itself to a very masculine image, it actually comes from a very surprising place. According to IGN, PS2 racer Tourist Trophy sparked the origins of the project: "The product came about from Tourist Trophy's riding wear coordination system, where players could dress their virtual biker counterparts in branded riding gear."

"dress" will take advantage of a unique avatar system that operates separately from the regular Home interface. Sony will be working with real-world fashion brands to provide your virtual avatar access to the latest fashions in Dress Town, which is supposed to recreate the feel of buying clothes in a real-world store (yay?). Of course, should your creative spark hit, you can create your own designs through Dress Studio.

It's not something that will grab the attention of the hardcore gamer. However, it appears that Sony's also attempting to widen its appeal to a typically non-gaming audience through this Home expansion. Maybe we'll see some other ideas hit Home in the future -- for example, a "Predator" mod that turns Home into a massive PvP battlefield?

[Thanks, Kspraydad!]

Sony still looking for Home producers

Those that have been following the development of Home should not find it surprising that the ambitious online program was delayed to next year. Troubling signs from the beta suggested that the project simply wasn't moving as quickly as it should. Even more telling, a quick look through Gamasutra reveals that there's still a crucial job opening specifically for Home has still been unfilled.

The Home Content Producer will be responsible for:
  • Developing content strategies for Home to achieve Home business objectives.
  • Coordinate development efforts of Home content.
  • Act as a liaison between first and third party game publishers/advertisers and external developers of Home content.
It appears that this is a serious position that is crucial to the development of Home. It's interesting to note that not only is Sony concerned about getting the service out to the masses, but is focused on getting third party content (including advertising) into the platform. Qualified individuals can apply for the job here.

TGS07: Home delayed until Spring 2008

PlayStation 3's social MMO Home has been delayed until Spring 2008, according to Kaz Hirai during the Tokyo Game Show press conference. A previous progress report from an anonymous beta tester gave the indication that development was behind schedule, so we're not too surprised. However, we would love to know if any updates have been implemented in the last month, if anyone in the notoriously secretive beta would like to speak up.

Home video shows off huge changes to the beta

Wow, a lot has changed in Home since we last reported on the beta's progress. There's not much for us to say except "watch the video, it's the bee's knees" and all that cutting-edge jargon kids today use, but we'll blab about it anyway. You start off in your room with a nice oceanic view, sit in your chairs, stare at pictures, then head out into the big open square. The square, as far as we can recall, has always been an indoor arena with trees, but this area (which may or may not be a new addition, just new to non-beta-ers) is very nice. Sort of like a shopping arcade you'd find in a Florida resort. You get to check out the games available (chess, pool, arcade games, bowling, etc), then see the movie theater briefly. That's really the nuts and bolts of it, so give it a watch and get pumped to find Home on your XMB in the coming months.

Sony's public Home beta is actually quite private

We knew there was supposed to be a public beta in addition to Sony's invite-only private beta for Home, but we thought it was going to be similar to an open beta, where most anyone could join in and report bugs. Not so. Sony's own Jamie MacDonald described the scenario as this: "At the moment the closed beta is employees, trusted third-parties and people like that. An open beta will be a wider audience but it won't be open to everybody ... We haven't worked out the exact way of doing it but it will be invites to people to ask if they want to be part of it, and then depending on what the response is, we'll have to have some way of deciding who can and who can't take part."

So the next stage of Home will still be invite-only, but it'll reach a wider audience. After that beta concludes, the program will simply pop up on our XMB's after what we assume will be a low-key firmware update. MacDonald implies this by saying Home isn't the typical game, so it won't get a typical launch. "There isn't going to be this 'big bang' launch. That's how you do it in the web 2.0 world, if you're familiar with the launch of Gmail or something like that." Initially scheduled for an October release, with a public beta not yet out, we're estimating that Home will get pushed back to November. We could be wrong, though.

Sony denies Home release date

Although Kotaku is claiming that Home would be released on October 11th, Sony has a few things to say against that. A Sony spokesperson told that the list on Kotaku is "not an official release schedule. None of the dates on the list have been confirmed at this time."

"I don't know where Kotaku have taken them from or why they're claiming 'SCEE have clarified dates' as we haven't sent them anything, and neither have our Central office."

The popular gaming blog is famous for revealing Home to the masses, but has also misled readers with an inaccurate portrayal of what the PSP redesign would be. More details on Sony's PSN service will be forthcoming at TGS, but considering the fairly sparse support that the Home beta has received, we predict that the service will need a lot more time to develop into something truly worthwhile.

Home beta still lacking key features, says insider

Not a lot of people got into the private beta of Home, and the public beta has gone missing. Since the user base is so small, any inside information is really difficult to come by. One beta tester revealed to IGN, under a cloak of anonymity, a few details.
  • So far, the beta just has four areas: your apartment, a lobby, the movie theater (with 10 rooms), and the game room (6 pool tables, 4 bowling lanes, 10 arcade machines).
  • As of yet, no support has been utilized for in-Home game launches -- that is, you can't invite people to play games from Home yet.
  • Facial creation is the most detailed, but hair and clothing is still limited. Recently, body size was added, but it's not as detailed as the facial features.
  • No music, movie, or photo integration with your apartment made it into the beta. There are some generic samples, but nothing you can upload yourself. Heck, TVs and stereos aren't even available as pieces of furniture.
  • You can walk into your apartment, but you need to get invited and warp into a friends' place. That's the only way to get into another player's pad.
  • Even though a lot of things are missing that are promised in the "final" build upon public release, what is there works wonderfully. The arcade games promote communication and placing furniture is simple. Physics work well.
  • Home supports headsets and keyboard -- you press/hold R2 to talk. Instead of having one standard volume, your voice is loud relative to the people around you. So if you're in a crowded lobby, you can still have a one-on-one conversation while everyone else sounds like a murmuring crowd. That's pretty cool.
While a lot of features seem missing, a cause of concern since the October launch is approaching fast (if that's still the plan), Home is said to work well. It's very open and easy to get into and talk to people. We're glad to hear it, but we'd be a lot happier if Sony kept on top of updating the build so we could get some insight into the more advanced features detailed at E3.

Sony's four C's of online gaming

At the Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival, SCEE's Jamie Macdonald gave a talk entailing the world beyond "social gaming" in the land of PS3's Home. It's probably important to describe the four C's as soon as possible, so they are: community, competition, creativity, and commerce. These four ideas, Macdonald said, would assist in making Sony the dominant force in social gaming. He thinks creating quaint, parlor games for cross-generational groups and friends is an important and untapped piece of gaming culture Home will try to capitalize on.

In addition to Macdonald, Home's director Peter Edward gave a short talk also. He spoke of plans to have a fully-functioning social network within Home in the coming years -- less like MySpace, more like OurSpace, if you know what we mean. Another interesting tidbit was the fact Sony will "be giving out tools to allow scripting, java minigames and so on." We doubt this implies anyone can make a java game to slap up on Home, but in the coming years, perhaps such tools will be made available to users. That's our imaginations at work, not Edwards'.

What Edwards did imagine was revenue sharing -- allowing certain company's or brands to advertise in your personal room for a small slice of profit. Perhaps they'll stick a few dollars in your PS Store account or something. Would you guys be up for that? If you were given a few dollars to have a certain brand in your personal room, would you do it?

[via N4G]

How Sony plans to keep Home secure

Don't be a bad boy (or girl) while sitting in Home or else big daddy Sony will punish you! Anyone with a sheltered childhood, wishing to escape with a new virtual persona via Home, will be saddened to hear that Sony is going to crack down on Home abusers with a mighty ban hammer -- suspending their use of Home and perhaps even locking their PS3 system from getting online.

Home's boss Peter Edwards doesn't mean to say Sony will become a hardcore policing force on the program, rather "it's a hard line to draw because we don't want to be walking around telling everyone off for saying 'bloody' so we've got to strike a balance there," but if you do something incredibly inappropriate (think MySpace inappropriate), then you'll get locked away from the PS3's internet for good. Keeping certain lobbies for certain games cleaner depending on the age demographic therein (no sex jokes in the Barbie Coliseum or whatever) is key, basically. Hopefully we all don't mind holding our tongues outside of our personal rooms in Home and hopefully we all have moderately pure intentions when talking to others. Anyone hot and bothered by this announcement?

Home may completely replace the XMB

We've got a few more details on the upcoming release of Home for you today. They aren't the biggest announcements, but they're things that you're absolutely better off knowing. Some of them are disappointing, some of them are ambitious, but all of them deserve mentioning in a fancy bulleted list.
  • Home is currently capped at 60 people per room, for frame-rate issue reasons. If we can put in our two cents, we recommend a Phantasy Star Universe approach for the rooms -- players, you know what we mean.
  • Travel between zones is more straightforward than originally planned. You can run as well as walk, or just use the magical PSP interface to warp wherever you want.
  • Many organizations desire Home to completely replace the XMB. That is, when you boot up your PS3, you start off in your room in Home.
  • Work on Home will continue well into next year, so the product we get in October is in no way the final version of the program.
These are all ambitious claims and we're looking forward to seeing what even the incomplete build will be able to do. Then we can gauge how well the other points will work out. How do you all feel about Home perhaps someday replacing the XMB altogether? Would you prefer the option, at least, to start up into Home upon turning the PS3 on?

Japanese Home vid shows off the ability to dress like Phil

The embedded Japanese Home trailer above shows off some of the new outdoor environments displayed at last month's E3 and a couple other features as well; mainly, the ability to dress up like your favorite Sony executive. About halfway through the video, during the character customization portion, you see a pretty wide variety of clothing options including shirts, pants and suits modeled after the clothing that Phil Harrison, Kaz Hirai and Jack Tretton wear.

That's right, you can run around the Home world in a Ratchet hat, a custom blue Phil Harrison t-shirt, and Jack Tretton's pants. Now who amongst us can say we've never dreamt of that? Right now, it's unknown if this is just a Beta feature or something that will go into the full release this fall. We can only hope it stays in, since dressing up like Kaz Harai and running around yelling 'Riiiiiidge Racer!' is just too fun of an idea to ignore. So which sexy Sony executive would you dress up?

Home development kit version 0.1 in the hands of devs

The development kit for Home has been in the hands of the developers for a few weeks and will allow them to develop super awesome environments, trophies and games for the Home platform. Eventually. Currently the dev kit is at version 0.1 and contains basic tools for creating scenes. Right now it only supports models created in Maya, though that will no doubt be expanded to other 3D graphics packages, such as 3D Studio Max and Softimage XSI.

This information comes from a lecture given at the Develop Conference last week by James Cox from SCEE. He laid out the plans for upcoming versions of the development kit, saying that version 0.8 will allow 3D game creation for within Home spaces. Version 1.1 will be the first time the exporter for trophy achievements will be made available.

We're a little worried at just how functional Home is going to be this Autumn, if the kit currently has such limited tools. Will all the upcoming titles for this year support trophies, minigames and Home spaces? That depends on how quickly the new versions are shipped out to developers. Sony is still determined to release the Home platform this year.

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