Sony's Home Service Preview
Sony's Home Service box art
System: PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Sony 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Sony 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Q4 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: Unlimited 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: N/A 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Sony proves that you can go Home again
by D'Marcus Beatty

March 13, 2007 - Depending on what camp you sit in, when you hear about Sony's Home interface, you'll either think they are incredibly innovative or blatant thieves, but you'll still be unable to deny the appeal of Home. Taking some of the best elements from games and applications like Xbox Live, Nintendo's Mii Channel, Second Life, and The Sims, Home is probably going to revolutionize the way that Sony's PlayStation 3 is viewed.

Sony's Home Service screenshot

"The Central Lounge is the large social meeting space and is your initial starting point in Home. Communication is key in Home, and there are many simple ways to get to know people. Emotes are animations that get your point across fast. You can access short phrases using Quick Write, or if you have something big to say you can type with a Virtual or USB keyboard, or talk with a Bluetooth headset."

Home is the name of the new interface Sony is going to utilize for the PlayStation 3, and it's as accurate a name as any. In a stroke of pure genius, Sony has analyzed what makes both interfaces for Nintendo and Microsoft so appealing and offered the same, then multiplied by one hundred. One of the biggest perks to the Home system, however, is that it is going to remain free. Take notes, Microsoft.

The Home experience begins by allowing the player to create an onscreen persona to represent themselves. In this respect, Home is similar to the Mii Channel, although the persona is far more realistic than the cutesy Miis. The Home Avatar can be customized in a number of ways, including clothing, skin tone, height, head shape, etc. Expect to be able to alter all of the normal elements in a create-a-player mode, although the experience only begins there.

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Your avatar is started with a place to stay, which Sony admits will likely be a simple apartment. However, the apartment is also customizable, allowing the player to choose and place different furniture and appliances. Everything is physics based, so the player can toss furniture down stairs or around the apartment and expect it to react realistically. Even better, the player can upload images to place in photo frames, making the apartment uniquely yours by putting images of family or whatever you choose around your domicile. Videos on your PlayStation 3 hard drive can be played on Virtual Television sets, streaming seamlessly from the hard drive to the virtual environment. Even virtual stereos can stream music from the PS3 hard drive or memory sticks to be played in the game world. Interestingly enough, the sounds in the virtual world are location based, so stereos sound louder the closer the avatar is to the virtual speakers.

Sony's Home Service screenshot

"Your Home Space is your private apartment where you can invite your friends and family. Your free, initial apartment can be decorated and upgraded to the height of luxury with furniture, accessories, pictures and videos from your own collection."

While most of the content will be free, those wishing to differentiate themselves from others do have the option of paying for premium content. This includes exclusive clothing, living conditions, and furniture. The player can pay for a larger living space, increased square footage, the number of floors, the look of the furniture, etc. Sony has also revealed that the player can alter the view out of their windows as well, making the perfect view as they see fit. This means that if the player is willing to pay for luxury, their apartment can become a two story penthouse-esque pad. It remains to be seen, however, exactly how much Sony is going to charge for the premium content, although hopefully it is enough that everything doesn't have a mansion and not so much that only a few can afford luxury.

Another interesting idea Sony plans to implement is the inclusion of game specific content. By playing certain games, the player can unlock different items related to that game. This means that after playing Resistance: Fall of Man, the player might be able to access Resistance wallpaper for their living quarters or even a Resistance T-shirt. There are also trophies that can be earned and displayed in the player's Home by achieving milestones in games, similar to Microsoft's Achievement Points, although with a virtual representation instead of a simple Gamerscore and text. Some of these trophies even have different audio and visual effects to show off, emphasizing your achievement and simultaneously thumbing their virtual nose at Microsoft's Achievements. Sony is even toying with the strangely Nintendo-esque idea of using the player's avatar in certain games, although this idea hasn't been finalized.

Sony's Home Service screenshot

"The Hall of Fame is the space where your game accomplishments are stored as 3D Trophies and video for public and private display."
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