May 17, 2007 - When Phil Harrison unveiled Home at GDC there was a real buzz around PlayStation 3's virtual world and the possibilities it presented. However, at that point, we didn't have the opportunity to properly explore what it had to offer. Since then we've been hands-on with Home, creating our own apartment, as well as checking out the lounge to shoot a game of pool. We also hooked up with Pete Edward, one of the geniuses behind Sony's online world, to find out what we can expect when Home launches later this year.
IGN: Where did the idea for Home come from?
Pete Edward: It started off on PS2 and has been part of Sony's plan for a while and is something that has developed over the years. There's been a recognition that Sony needs to have an integrated and global network presence for its platform, which is not something we've had to any great extent previously. As far as the actual software is concerned, it's been about three years in the making but it started off very different, as an online component to an offline game. It then went through several evolutions - as a meeting place and as a lobby where you hang out and play mini-games - and eventually it's evolved into what Home is today.
Streamed movies like this Spidey 3 trailer can be watched in the theatre.
IGN: Would you say it's PlayStation 3's answer to Xbox Live?
Pete Edward: It's so much more than that. Home really is a 3D extension of the functionality of the PlayStation Network. Wherever possible, we're using all the same functionality, the same standards, the same systems, that sort of thing. For instance, cash transactions in Home will be made using the PlayStation Wallet, which is exactly the same as the PlayStation Network.
IGN: Does that mean they'll be a shop in Home?
Pete Edward: Eventually yes. There'll be a 3D representation of the PlayStation Network in Home that you'll be able to buy things through. It might not be a big shop, it might be a series of kiosks dotted around the place, but the way that it works will be the same as buying something through the PlayStation Network.
IGN: Is the lounge area a place where people from all over the world can hang out and if so does it have any limitations?
Pete Edward: Currently we're in a closed beta and that will be turning into an open beta before we go for the final launch towards the end of the year. Currently that is the global lounge, although there will also be regional lounges that will reflect regional tastes and architectural style. Although you will be put into your regional default lobby when you load Home up you will be able visit other areas, so if you're placed in the European lobby you can still visit the Japanese lounge.
As far as the number of people in an area goes, it's limited to 64 but it automatically spawns another iteration of the same lobby once it's full.
IGN: Let's say a user has just downloaded Home. How does it work?
Pete Edward: At the moment, you start in your apartment, which you can customise. You can then walk from there into the main lobby and around the other areas of Home. There is no geographical layout though; there are a few places where you can walk through from one area to the next, such as from the lobby to the sports bar, but most of the navigation will be done through the virtual PSP. From here there's a World Map from which you'll be able to search all of the different areas; you'll be able to go to publisher areas, genre areas like the racing game area, an RPG area, the movie theatre, that kind of thing.
The virtual PSP is used to navigate around Home as well as change your appearance.
IGN: So it's set up for players to meet like-minded people quickly and easily?
Pete Edward: Yes. Ultimately you'll be able to drill down to an area that's very specific but the way you get there could be from three or four different routes, so you could get to, say, the Midnight Club area via the Rockstar lounge or the racing game area.
IGN: Sony has said users will be able to watch HD movies in Home and then invite friends 'over' to watch them via online. How will that work?
Pete Edward: There are a number of ways in which it can work and a lot of that is going to be down to bandwidth. What we're not going to be able to do is stream HD content direct to your screen to be played straight away; we're talking about caching the material, so that's dependent on an individual connection. Precisely the way it's going to work out and the extent of what we can offer is dependent on the technical aspects of it and it's something we'll be looking at more closely during the beta trial.
Obviously there are DRM and copyright issues we need to take into account too and Sony is an owner of a lot of that copyrighted material so it's in our own interest to make sure we cover off those issues.