PlayStation 3's free virtual-world service Home is finally going to be available to all system owners today. To build interest, Sony reps were available to talk to the press about what's going to be in this Home open beta.
But in the great tradition of hyping an upcoming game-related project -- even one just hours away from release -- they were vague about some key things and full of teases.
Here's what I found out about money, rewards, music, cursing and some other key issues surrounding Home:
I asked about micro-transactions in Home, expecting that many items will be on sale for gamers to buy today. I wanted to know what they would be and how much they'll cost.
Answer via Jack Buser, Sony Computer Entertainment of America Home director, who assured me that Home users won't need to buy anything, but… "If you have some remainder of money laying around in your wallet, you may want to go and buy that cool pair of jeans that you love to rock in the real world so you can rock it in the world of PlayStation Home and really have that avatar represent you… The idea is that this stuff is priced so that people will want to buy it. We are definitely not pricing this stuff so people will have to think twice about buying a virtual item to represent themselves."
I wanted to know why today's launch is classified as a "beta" if it's going to be open to everyone. And when would a full launch occur?
"It’s still classified as a beta because it is a continuously evolving service."
Answer via a Sony spokesperson: "It’s still classified as a beta because it is a continuously evolving service. Rather than a static release, or even an initial release with one or two patches, PlayStation Home will be dynamic and growing. As Jack has mentioned, areas will be added/removed/modified depending on community feedback, popularity and other factors. As an Open Beta, SCE has the liberty to experiment and cater to these requests. As for what will change from open beta to an official full launch, that will depend on where Home stands at the time."
I was curious about what kind of rewards gamers might unlock in Home based on the games they've played.
Answer via Buser: "You could imagine that certain games are going to unlock certain rewards in PlayStation Home. These rewards could be very much like the virtual items that you buy inside of the store. But you're rewarded with these things based on your activity in a game or even in your activity in-world. And you'll see some of these rewards present on day one and can do certain things in PlayStation Home and suddenly -- bu, bu, bah! - you have some new article of clothing or some new piece of furniture that you didn't have before. Some of these things are going to be obvious. Some of these things are not going to be so obvious. That's part of the fun of PlayStation Home. A lot of these rewards you're going to have to go in and discover."
I was wondering if Sony was going to tell us how many people can be in a given "shard" of Home. And how would users in different shards of Home meet up?
Answer via Sony PR: "We aren’t detailing how many people can be placed in each 'instance' as we call it, as this is something that can definitely change as the service evolves. Every instance supports enough people that it won’t ever feel empty or quiet, but won’t be so crowded as to affect performance… which leads into your next question.
"Yes, each instance has enough of a buffer to allow you to invite friends to the same space you are in."
"A lot of these rewards you're going to have to go in and discover."
I needed to know: What about cursing and other M-rated behavior? If I can hear what anyone is saying in Home through their headset as soon as my avatar approaches theirs, how is Home going to be guarded from griefing and other colorful behavior?
Answer via Sony PR: "In public spaces, PlayStation Home follows the same rules and guidelines as the PlayStation Network with regard to age stipulations and acceptable behavior, and uses all the same age controls as the PlayStation 3 system software. Private spaces are not monitored or restricted, although users can still report abuses and violations. As an open beta, the specific terms of moderation and the ability to specify options for each users Home experience are all subject to change."
I was curious about which game-based spaces will be available today.
Answer via Buser: "[There will be] 'Far Cry 2' and 'Uncharted' Home spaces [today]… These are spaces where the online community based around these games can go, meet one another, strategize about the games. There will be secrets in these places where you can learn more about the games…. We're going to have an interactive map in the 'Far Cry 2' space that allows a group of people to talk about strategy and plan out their games together."
Will all of us American PS3 users of Home be able to interact with PS3 owners from other territories?
Answer via Sony PR: "In public, shared spaces users are group together by territory. SCEA users will see other SCEA users in the Central Plaza for example. However, you may invite friends from other territories (SCEE for example [Europe]) into personal spaces such as your apartment."