PlayStation Home gets an extreme makeover

“One of the big pieces of feedback we got from new users in Home is they would come into Home, and they couldn’t figure out what to do,” says Home’s director, Jack Buser. “There were so many different things to do that they were just overwhelmed, and unless you were an experienced user it was often difficult to figure out what you should do based on your interests. The questing system that we’re building in the new core experience is targeted at solving that problem.”

Above: Goodbye, Central Plaza. Hello, Hub

Welcome to the brand-new Hub. As soon as residents arrive, they’ll be welcomed into an area that, unlike the Central Plaza, “screams” games, Buser promises. At the center of the Hub, for example, is a kiosk with a rotating assortment of games, starting off with the indie darling Cogs. The Hub also acts as a homepage of sorts: from here, a visitor can exit to any of the four main districts, each of which is built to help denizens quickly find the kind of content they crave.

Also in the Hub: an activity board that’s continually updated. But these aren’t just one-off minigames (though those will still exist). Home will soon include a persistent questing system. “We have a very robust system that will allow us to do a variety of different quests, from very short, fast quests all the way to extremely long, narrative-driven quests that are branching and take weeks and weeks to complete,” Buser says. “And we do everything in between. Through that spectrum, we can use quests to send people on unique experiences that weren’t possible before in PlayStation Home. Or we can use quests to drive different kinds of content that’s relevant to them.”

Buser demoed for us one quest that involved an alien invasion. After spotting an alien mothership off in the distance, we heard a siren, followed by a newsflash warning us of an impending attack. A quick peek at the activity board then revealed a quest to defend Home against the mothership; we had to hoof to one of the side districts to board a boat, then use it to pick up floating ammo crates (from a destroyed ship) while dodging enemy fire from above. Next, we stopped off in another district to use the ammo we collected in a turret shooter, blasting away at alien scrubs before taking on the mothership itself. While these were fairly straightforward minigames, Buser promises these quests will often build upon each other, creating multiple branching paths and unlocking new games and new rewards.

Above: Head to Pier Park puzzle, arcade and indie games. And a giant Ferris wheel

“With this new system now we know what you did,” Buser says. “We know that you beat the mothership, so maybe when you come into Home later the questing system knows, ‘Ah yeah, you’re the guy that beat the alien mothership. Now we’re going to provide you with an exclusive experience that you wouldn’t get otherwise.’ It’s that kind of persistency that matters.”

The new Home includes four districts. Pier Park is the family-friendly setting, good for fans of games like Ratchet & Clank. The Action District is the rough neighborhood, built in large part for shooter fans. Sportswalk, naturally, caters to sports fans, and includes everything from sports trivia and real-time tickers to live broadcasts of sporting events. And the Adventure District is designed around games like the Uncharted series.

Above: Cozy up to the bar for some trivia, or watch a live game in Sportswalk

It’s all part of the effort to help gamers quickly find everything Home has to offer. “We have been working extremely hard to bring games to Home, to the point where we now have hundreds,” Buser says. “This new core experience is going to immediately tell people who are willing to give us another chance that this is a place for them.”

The new Home to will be released sometime this fall.

Aug 23, 2011