PlayStation Home is moving its social network toward the gaming space by releasing a real, honest-to-god video game through Home. Meet Sodium, "an arcade shooter in an MMO wrapper."
The game launches today, featuring a new game space accessible through a teleporter in the Plaza. If any of you regular Home users were wondering what that tank in the Plaza was, here's your answer. Home Director Jack Buser and several members of Sodium's development team from Outso were on-hand to give journalists a little taste of what is now out there for all you Home users to enjoy.
Buser's hinted before at his intentions for Home to become a gaming platform as opposed to a virtual world tacked onto a gaming platform. He's used the words "mini-MMOs" to describe what he envisions the spaces within Home becoming. We've seen the beginnings of it in places like the Uncharted Nepal space (also developed by Outso) and now we're getting the first bite of Buser's ultimate vision for Home.
Sodium can best be described as a Facebook game. No, seriously – any of you who've played Mafia Wars or any of the "freemium" games where microtransactions drive gameplay will know exactly what they're getting into when they discover that only the first five out of 50 levels of Sodium are free. Sodium features a futuristic sci-fi setting where players pilot tanks to shoot up other tanks in an arena setting. There are other quests, too, such as stomping neon coloured scorpions or a drinking game called Desert Quench – you'll have to check with the cyborg non-playable character Vicky to get them. Some quests are isolated experiences where you blow up NPC tanks; others are social games where you work cooperatively with other players to, say, squash a certain number of scorpions. Also, the developer said there were tower defence missions and proper boss fights at the end of each level.
Within Sodium, there are also social spaces that look a lot like the rest of Home – or any tavern in a fantasy MMO role-playing game. There's a big stage for where the developers plan to have live music events, a bar where you can buy virtual drinks in funky shaped glasses and even a VIP section where only tank pilots can go. (And tank pilots are always going to be people who paid for the game – the dudes with special colours on the sleeve of their jumpsuits to denote rank.) The whole setting looked like a cross between Burning Man (which turned out to be a major inspiration for the developer) and Dune. As in David Lynch's take on it with a lot of neon.
What makes this interesting from a gamer's perspective is that it's freemium gameplay on a major console. There are smaller, 3D games that have existed before Sodium on PC – like this game Korean shooter I used to play in college – but I'm hard pressed to come up with anything like Sodium on Xbox Live that functioned purely on microtransactions.
From a purely intellectual perspective, I find Sodium interesting because of what it will do to Home. I've talked before about how Home isn't as static as Xbox Live because when you go in, everything is instantly changeable. But if you've got a network of people who only log into Home to play these games – and their appearance changes in the game based on how much they've played or how much they've paid for – will it make Home more static?
Static or not, Home is definitely still growing. Buser was proud to announce that since the last time I spoke to him in November, Home has shot up from 8,000 users to 10,000 and the number of virtual items has doubled to something like 2,000. Home celebrated its first birthday just last Friday.
And now for a Sodium trailer:
Sodium Two is already in the works for sometime early-ish next year.
P.S. Also, Monty Python and the Holy Grail costumes are on Home today. Send me pics!