This (northern) spring, Sony's social networking platform PlayStation Home will graduate to version 1.5, bringing with it "real-time multiplayer". That update is designed to make fast-paced video games, racers and first-person shooters, playable in Home.
The next big PlayStation Home upgrade will introduce new development tools that include "an improved physics engine, refined animation and graphics," according to Sony's announcement. Home 1.5 will see "augmented control over collision, mass, velocity and other physics elements", features that Sony says will add new layers of realism and "more intricate gameplay."
New animation technology designed for games and "significant" graphical updates, including a boost in frame rate, may make Home a more viable platform for making video games built on Sony's social network.
PlayStation Home director Jack Buser said at a GDC briefing that "providing games in Home has provided a big impact in user retention and revenue". He touted Home's latest user figures, boasting of 19 million users globally, more than 8000 virtual items and an average Home session lasting 70 minutes. Buser calls the 1.5 update to Home the "first time that we've done a client update that is so focused on games".
To show off some of that new gameplay-focused technology, Sony and developer Lockwood Publishing showed Home game Sodium Two: Project Velocity in action, a sequel to 2009's Sodium One. The futuristic racing game played at speeds on par with a WipEout racer, with a Home avatar racing against ghost data and what appeared to be support for up to four racers.
Sodium Two is designed with a "freemium" microtransaction model in mind, offering three race tracks and downloadable game modes and tracks available for purchase.
While Sodium Two appears to have a smaller player cap, Buser says the games designed in PlayStation Home can range from two-player head-to-head games to "massive" player counts. There is no announced cap, Buser says.
The new PlayStation Home technology coming to version 1.5 won't, however, have a major impact on the performance of Home as you know it now. For games to take advantage of those features, software must be developed with the new update in mind.
That update and Sodium Two will come to the PlayStation 3 sometime in the coming weeks.