So I go away for a week and in the meantime it appears Sony have actually announced something to challenge Microsoft’s Xbox Live as the dominant online console space. During his keynote at GDC Phil Harrison unveiled Home, an avatar driven world where you can mingle with friends online and eventually launch into games together.
The core components seem to be an extension of both Microsoft’s Live and Nintendo’s Miis, in terms of online connectivity and character customisation, but with an added twist of Linden Labs’ Second Life, an MMO where users can customise the very world around them.
Users (or “players”, I can’t decide) will be able to walk around a 3D world chatting with others that they meet, wandering into arcades to play pool, taking in movies at the local cinema and comparing trophies earned in an online showcase. When bored with interacting with the others you find in your world, why not retire back to your fully customisable flat which you’ve furnished with objects available at the store and media found on your hard-drive.
This seems an incredible leap for a platform that has been so resoundingly knocked from all angles due to the poorness of its online capabilities, and an exciting leap at that.
The prospect of such a system puts me in mind of the main city areas in World of Warcraft; there was always someone there trying to say hello, people constantly had wares to sell and individuals looking for others to play with. In other words, there was always something to do and fellow users to interact with.
Now while this basic interaction is why I enjoy Live (I still leave my 360 on even whilst playing Wii just to be connected), I can foresee that there would be times when a thriving, population-based, online system could get annoying. If you’re trying to get from A to B to just to start a game with a friend and you have to traverse a fully realised world rather than just select a menu option, my patience could start to wane. Let’s hope there are shortcuts for those times when you just don’t want to socialise.
With the appearance of Home I’m not yet ready to fill in my PS3 pre-order but I will be keeping one eye out at how online things develop.