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Sony Gives PS3 a Second Life

play second life ps3

SAN FRANCISCO — Could a Second Life-style persistent online world become the PlayStation 3’s killer app? Sony game chief Phil Harrison seems to think so.

Harrison, head of Sony’s worldwide game development studios, was set to kick off the Game Developers Conference Wednesday morning with a keynote speech unveiling of two pieces of PlayStation 3 software, both designed to let users create content and socialize online.

At a media preview event held Tuesday night, Harrison said that the future of games lay in “emergent entertainment, where we don’t define the rules as game designers. We’re putting the power back into the hands of the users.”

Firing up a demo of a game called LittleBigPlanet, Harrison then proceeded to pull off a rare feat: impressing a room full of journalists. Past Sony presentations have been characterized by awkward demos of lackluster games, but LittleBigPlanet looked like a surefire hit.

The game’s designer Mark Healey (creator of the critically acclaimed indie game Rag Doll Kung-Fu) first demonstrated how players could use a simple menu system to fill an empty environment with all sorts of objects and artwork, then immediately start playing in the world they created, taking control of a cute little character who interacted comically with the newly-built world.

Three other players then joined Healey, and they ran through an elaborate action game level in which the four characters had to cooperate to make it through a series of clever and bizarre obstacles — leaping over a giant soccer ball, or riding a giant skateboard.

The kicker, said Healey, is that the level shown in the demo can be created by a player, then uploaded for all to enjoy. Unfortunately for anyone who wants to get started right away, LittleBigPlanet won’t be released until next year, although a demo will be available in the fall.

The other game that Harrison showed, called Home, looked very much like a minimalist version of Second Life. Players can create realistic avatars for themselves, then wander around a 3D online world filled with fellow PlayStation 3 owners.

Players can meet up in a “game room” and play pickup games of pool, or select from a few arcade games, all of which are seamlessly integrated into the 3D world. Harrison said that game publishers will be able to create their own spaces in Home to preview their wares.

Each player will have a virtual apartment, which they can decorate to their liking, putting their own photos on the wall or playing videos on their in-room television while your friends hang out and voice-chat with you.

Players will also be able to visit a virtual trophy room where they and other players can view their accomplishments in PS3 video games — a system identical to Xbox 360’s “Achievements” program. (This represents an about-face for Sony, which told Wired News prior to PS3’s launch that they were not interested in pursuing such a feature.)

Much like LittleBigPlanet, Home won’t be launching until this fall. Harrison did say that a closed beta test would begin next month, but wouldn’t say how — or how many — players could participate.

When it does launch, all PlayStation 3 owners will be able to download the game at no charge. But nothing is truly free, Home included. For one, the version of Home that Harrison showed was positively slathered with advertisements — giant billboards that constantly looped video of new PlayStation games, a movie theater that showed trailers of upcoming Sony Pictures films. Even the television sets in the rooms were virtual Sony Bravias.

Harrison also pointed out that if you wanted any new clothes for your avatar, you’d have to buy them with real money.

source: – Chris Kohler