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Sony Keynote Offers Hope For PlayStation 3 Fans 361

Once again, the stage was set for Sony to try to get some good will directed towards its next-gen console. Recent weeks especially have seen PR frustrations and setbacks for the company. Today was Sony's day to deliver: and in my opinion they did with flying colours. By the end of the keynote attendees were laughing and clapping with glee at the goodies that the company is going to be bringing to the PlayStation 3. Finally, finally, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the console. Read on for my notes on the keynote, as well as links to other coverage of the event. Note the first: There may finally be a great reason to buy a PlayStation.
Taking a page from the PAX playbook, the first notable event of the Sony Keynote was the introduction of the huge soccer balls into the audience by gleeful PR wags. Front row attendees seemed to delight in targeting photographers, beaning several unobservant cameramen with the huge inflatable spheres.

Jamil Moledina introduced Sony's Harrison, saying that this was a 'great year' for the conference. With all three console out and the tools in place, GDC is focused on 'taking control' and charting the future of gaming. With words about SCEA's future being linked to the developers here, Jamil hands the keynote off to Phil.

Opening with talk of 'audience participation' (ala the big soccer balls), Phil launches into a discussion of Games 3.0. The Time magazine 'person of the year' last year was referenced, as was the Web 2.0 philosophy. The reality is that the concepts are worthless without actual products. So, Sony is now moving in the direction of a new '3.0 philosophy'.

Games 1.0 = disconnected consoles. 2.0 games are connected, but with static content on the disc. 3.0 games are all about social interactions, community, customization, emergent entertainment, with the audience members at the center of the entertainment experience. Open standards are mentioned as a definite possibility.

PlayStation Home will be launching from Sony later this year. (video clip) There's just a new icon on the media bar, allowing access to the new content. Phil introduces Scott Walgerman, producer of the service to do a demo. The service begins with the words 'entering the online world'. When you enter the service, you are in the central lounge. Your avatar is customizable, and extremely detailed. These is *not* Miis, these are better than Second Life quality digital characters. A virtual PSP allows you to teleport around and customize your character. Clothes are added to your wardrobe by buying games. Heavenly Sword being played on the console means you have a Sword t-shirt in your bag.

Dynamic advertising is pushed into the space via banners around the world, and in billboards. HD-quality video is running on the billboards. Users are communicating around the demonstrator, with chat, voice, and emotes.

Other public spaces exist to allow opportunities for social interaction. There's a games lounge with easy games like pool, bowling, and arcade titles. The pool and bowling titles are physics based in the world. The arcade games are customizable, and ... perhaps this is the venue for indie games?

Every avatar has a private apartment, an opportunity to make a statement in the world and a place to hang out with friends. Everything is customizable, and more furniture/wallpaper is downloadable. Unsurprisingly, some will be for-purchase. More interestingly, everything is physics based. Picture frames can be pinned to the wall, and any content on the PS3 is postable up there. Phil demonstrates the ability to do 'user created content' by taking a photo of the crowd, slotting the memory stick into the PS3, and then loading the picture into the picture frame.

Moving to another apartment, which can be purchased and is quite a bit larger. Premium items like the pool tables, arcades, can be put into place. Video can be put into place as well via televisions. Scott demonstrates by putting the Casino Royale trailer onto the display.

We teleport again, to the Home Movie Theater. There's a trailer running in the foyer, and dynamic posters on the walls. The avatar moves up to 'user customized spaces', where they introduce grouper content. By walking into theaters, you can watch the content and chat with friends. Not only Sony brands and big named movies, then, but YouTube like user-created content in this world.

Porting again, we head out to locations based around game publishers. We zoom to a 'sports lounge' with information and views of minigames. Harrison says it's very simple to make these spaces, and thinks that many developers will be happy to make such areas.

The final area they go to, the hall of fame, shows off Trophies that you'll earn through play. You can place them in cases, completely 3d and physics based. It's also possible to show off defining moments from your gaming experience on video screens. The avatar then walks out onto a balcony, revealing a Star Wars senate hall style area with hundreds of other user spaces and displaying hundreds of other trophies.

The whole thing is free. There's a large-scale Beta trial beginning in April of this year, with the service launching in Fall of this year.

Phil then moves on to Singstar. Sold 7 million units on PS2, and they're now looking forward to taking it to the PlayStation Network. He demonstrates the online capabilities of the game, showing recent song additions and what your friends have been singing lately. The store is also very easy, adding songs to a cart with the push of a button. Songs download in the background, which Phil notes is a 'good feature'. If you want to, you can videotape your performance and share it with your friends. They can then be rated. That sounds ominous. May/June release in Europe for the game, with a release 'later' for the states.

The next announcement: PlayStation Edge. A set of core tools and technologies that they've used on first party titles, and will now be shared with PS3 devs. Later today they'll be talking about it in a session. One is a graphics tool, allowing best use of the chipset. The other is an optimization set, allowing 'best of breed' technology use. To be shared via the support network after GDC.

And another announcement. LittleBigPlanet. (video clip) It's the guys who did RagDoll KungFu.. Mark Healy and Alex Evans are brought out, and show off the title, which is all about 'creativity.' Alex beings by saying they'll show how easy it is to make stuff in the game world. With just a few controller elements, they make a block, add a gear, and then set it moving with physics. It looks exactly like the toolset from Second Life, only useable. Everything is very intuitive, and the avatars are adorable. Little brown felt creatures. They then begin adding images to the walls with 'stickers'. There's all sorts of weird little things, and everything is completely customizable. Content on the HDD is addable to your space as well. The two demonstrators collaborate by adding elements to each other's creations. They're even able to add elements to each other's avatars.

They then drop down to show a much more customized area, where Phil and another demonstrator join them. The new demonstrator has a really excellent dragon scarf that flows realistically in the wind behind the character as he leaps through the air. This space is a game. It's a platformer, entirely within the gameworld. They all collect little oranges, knock over blocks, and generally chaos their way from left to right. They can also collaborate to help each other across puzzles by manipulating physical objects. It's amazing. The audience is laughing, clapping, and talking amongst themselves, and the entire thing looks fantastic. There's dynamic lighting, intuitive gameplay ... as interesting as the Home stuff is, if these elements are for real, this is the reason to buy PlayStation 3. The demo gets a huge ovation, and there's a decent amount of cheering. It's just crazy. They then show a quick video showing the way your creations can be shared. It's debuting sometime this year via PSN, on Blu-Ray next year.

"The industry is on the threshold of a new era of communication and innovation." An opportunity for the industry to expand the horizons of gaming. He wraps it up with a wish for good GDC, and the audience response is very positive.

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Sony Keynote Offers Hope For PlayStation 3 Fans

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  • Some Questions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:20PM (#18267340) Homepage Journal

    I have a few questions about this article.

    First question: Why couldn't you mention that this was a keynote at GDC? It doesn't have to be in the title, but it would have been nice for it to be in the first paragraph so it would show up before clicking in.

    Second question: did they reveal what kind of bandwidth you're going to need to walk around a virtual world with HD video streaming on billboards? I don't want to have to run a DS3 into my house to see the latest Sony advert. Not that I'm even buying a PS3.

    Third Question: Playstation Edge. I assume this is only for licensed developers, yes? Meaning that there's STILL no way for a hobbyist developer to make anything like full use of the hardware?

    Finally, regarding LittleBigPlanet, how is this different from, say, half-life 2 with garry's mod? (Besides that it might not crash every couple hours...)

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:22PM (#18267366)
    The whole thing is free. There's a large-scale Beta trial beginning in April of this year, with the service launching in Fall of this year.

    So is Second Life until you buy shit.

    Every avatar has a private apartment, an opportunity to make a statement in the world and a place to hang out with friends. Everything is customizable, and more furniture/wallpaper is downloadable. Unsurprisingly, some will be for-purchase. More interestingly, everything is physics based.

    So you will be purchasing stuff in this.

    Why do we need a $600 device to play what's already available to anyone that has a computer? It's not like the target audience of the PS3 are computerless individuals. I don't see the point.
  • HAHAHAH (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zebra_X ( 13249 ) * on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:29PM (#18267458)
    Seriously, nothing but hype for the PS3, and it totally under delivers. Now, the promise of this awesome online service. The thing is, it takes years to get the usability feed back from users to really make a UI powerful and intuitive. That's years of experience that Sony just doesn't have.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:31PM (#18267490)
    Okay, first of all they rip off Second Life and The Sims--only with annoying ads flashing everywhere and the "opportunity" to give them money to buy virtual crap for your generic apartment, with no REAL customization (i.e. letting you build your OWN stuff, like in Second Life). Then they tout it like THEY discovered this whole idea (as if about 100 other online worlds hadn't been doing it for YEARS). Then, for a topper, they throw in their obvious knockoffs of the "Mii" and the 360's achievements.

    I tell you, Sony's arrogance is truly something to behold. The irony is that they're competing against MS, which had traditionally been known for stealing ideas. This time, it's Sony who appears to be stealing everything. And they don't even appear to be implementing anything particularly well.

    Like MS with the Zune, they know that something is cool. They know how to do a superficial knockoff. But they just DON'T GET IT.


  • by WndrBr3d ( 219963 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:34PM (#18267546) Homepage Journal
    I think this is an attempt to combine the Nintendo Mii aspect of personalizing an online gaming persona with the gaming prestige aspect of the Microsoft Gamer Score.

    My biggest problem with Sony's implementation of these new enhancements and roll out of new features is that it's a little late in the game to be doing so. The console has been on the market now for roughly four months, things such as online markets and features like the Sony Playstation Home should have been completed at launch much like the Nintendo Mii and Microsoft XBox Gamer Tags.

    Rolling out major features like this after launch makes it seem like Sony just rushed to release the PS3 with a, "we'll add things as they're finished" mentality. Call them 'catch-up features'.

    Although Nintendo has had several 'catch up features' added, such as the Wii channels finally being completed months after launch, I have to give it to Microsoft in that the changes to XBox Live and the dashboard have more or less just been an evolution over the last year and a half since the 360 was introduced. Sure, much more content has been added since it's inception, but nothing radically new has been added.

    So my hat goes off to Sony for being able to spin these new 'features' in a positive light, but I guess the question should be asked, Why weren't these features released with the console when the competitors already had them in place?

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:37PM (#18267584) Homepage Journal

    This "feature" will be on after the price drops.

    But for how long? Eventually Sony will stop maintaining it and this feature will go inert.

    SCEA has made a lot of noise about how the PS3 is supposed to last you forever (or at least longer than a typical generation in gaming) but I guarantee that they will either bring out a new console around the time Microsoft brings out the next one, or be destroyed. So how long after that will the service still be around? They'll probably create a whole new service like it for the next console (because integrating them will be difficult if you want both types of user to have the best possible experience) and drop this one in short order thereafter. So it's a nice bonus for current owners, but I don't see it as much of a selling point. As you say, it adds more value after the purchase. But I don't think it will sell many machines, although I am willing to be proven wrong.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:42PM (#18267648) Homepage Journal

    I think that, given the fact that this is a developers' conference, they were more interested in showing new technologies, platforms, and tools, as opposed to actual games. Content at a developers' conference is usually geared more toward the developers, and not the consumer.

    Having been to GDC, I can say that I am highly surprised that they did not announce any games for their console at their keynote, at least as an aside. In order to keep developers excited, or at least publishers to whom they are accountable, you must keep the gamers excited, and the lack of interesting games is definitely contributing to a lack of excitement.

    I mean, there is plenty of excitement around the PS3, but it's pretty much all angry. "What?! Six hundred fucking dollars!? What?! Probably too cheap!?!?" etc.

  • Re:Next! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:44PM (#18267664)

    I recently got so fed up with being just a "cog in the wheel" that I dropped my WoW account, cancelled Steam, and went to a library. It's gotten so that the only place I can escape ads is in my own head.
  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:44PM (#18267670) Homepage
    So... they're seeing what their potential customers want and giving it to them, right?

    And you call that arrogance?


  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @05:50PM (#18267744) Homepage
    No, what he/she is calling arrogance is Sony releasing features that both MS and Nintendo already have (and have had since launch) and also releasing features that seem to be like a mini-Second Life and then saying it like they were the first ones ever to think of doing it.

    Pretending to be the pioneer of something that your competitors have already done, ESPECIALLY when you have already copied one of your competitors once...that's arrogance.
  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crabpeople ( 720852 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:09PM (#18267970) Journal
    This looks interesting. I can only hope someone ports the giant penis attack from second life.

    A public chat room of console users? With interactive objects and importable pictures and video? Man, thats gonna be nothing but porn, goatse and 13 year olds screaming racist obsceneties! Should be hilarious for the first week or so, especially if its unmodderated. Can you even imagine? 10 000 12 year olds all vying for attention.. Man I just gotta see the cess pool of prepubescent circus freaks that it would create. It's the same feeling I would get from watching car accidents I think.

    I predict that this will be a huge hit. People love playing with dolls. Its vanity. I have this friend who plays ps2 basically all day (unemployed). He likes things like dressing up his characters in gta, picking the perfect paint scheme for a car, and he likes showing that shit off. This service is going to be HUGE, and will quite possibly save the console.

  • by king-manic ( 409855 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:11PM (#18268016)
    You know, another highly successful company is similiar. Blizzard brings nothing to orignal to the table but is widely successful. Innovation is not the key to success. It's a mixed bag of polish, hype, FUD, marketting, production management etc... Sony hasn't done a great job but the PS1 was a great product the PS2 was over promised but again was a good product (comparison to dreamcast are often wrong on technical details. It is a stronger machine btu has weak points which DC did not.)

    Tiem will tell. Sony did stumble a lot but they're a big faceless borderline evil company just like MS and the big N. Remember Nintendo was a tyranical licencer too and Ms has a lot of their own skeletons. Choose your evil.
  • by rainman_bc ( 735332 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:14PM (#18268066)
    $600 is the current and near future price. This "feature" will be on after the price drops.

    Just to point out that Sony's been saying there won't be any PS3 price drops for a year.

    Not that I believe anything that comes out of Sony...
  • by CronoCloud ( 590650 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <noruaduolconorc>> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:21PM (#18268168)
    It might be a killer app if they ever decided to port it. Second LIfe is a small download, doesn't require a huge space on a hard drive because content is streamed.

    I wouldn't be surprisded to find out that their avatar stuff is based on SL code.

  • Re:Some Questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:27PM (#18268242) Homepage Journal
    I fully realize this, but at the same time Sony lists it as a selling point for their console, while the reality is that if you really want to even USE the console's full capabilities, you have to buy a dev kit. I don't blame them for not giving us the full access, but if they want us to take them seriously when they say that you won't even need another computer, besides putting 512MB of all-purpose RAM in the system, they're going to have to give us all of that access. My complaint makes much more sense if you consider it in the context of the statements actually made by Sony.
  • Re:Some Questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @06:49PM (#18268584)
    It's also accurate to say that they make money by charging developers for access to mindshare of their console. Hobbyist games are:

    a. Likely to attract more users to the console, especially older, more wealthy users feeling nostaligic about Digger.
    b. Are not likely to be sellable for $10+ profit
    c. Are not likely to keep people from buying a professionally developed game.

    In the other words, let people develop for PS3, but require them to release their work, including game date, under BSD-style license. This will also accelerate development of commercial games, as they would be able to reuse freely available code.
  • Re:So basically... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @07:20PM (#18269006)
    No my "denial" is based on the fact that the avatars in the Wii are not "system wide". Only a few games choose to use them and the rest don't and can't. On top of that plenty of games, and other software has featured customisable avatars including customisable features way before the Wii turned up. Furthermore, the Wii avatar is just a computerised Mr Potato Head. There is no virtualised world to roam, no significant interaction, no emoticons and very little else in common with Sony Home. To claim that the Sony is "stealing" from Nintendo is utter nonsense.

    You would have more of a case to claim Sony are stealing from Second Life, but even that is just an extension of an idea which has been around a very long time. Customizable worlds and avatars have been knocking around for 15 years or more.

We all like praise, but a hike in our pay is the best kind of ways.