Thursday, February 21, 2008

Home Beta gets a significant update next week

Wow, where to begin. We've just received an email detailing a huge update to the Home beta next week. The update will bring the version number to 0.8.3 (taking us ever closer to its release at v1.0.0) and the information comes from the beta message board on the official PlayStation site, so we're certain it's legit. There's a lot of stuff to go over, so we'll pick out the most interesting bits and paste the full patchlist after the break.

Improvements to the UI and graphics engine mean that Home will look much prettier and be more functional from here on out. You will be able to check who's online from your friends list as well as who is in Home right now. A bubble machine has been made available to all beta testers, to test the new "Home Items" system. Video streaming is now made possible too, so you don't have to wait for a video to download completely before watching it.

The most exciting part of the update is the unveiling of the Marketplace in the main square. The Marketplace is stocked with clothes and furniture as well as other, undisclosed, content. We can't wait to see what's there. Game launching is also now available, though it is currently limited. Games can be started within Home, however the party will not be automatically generated within the game. Also, players with different versions of a game (such as American or European) won't be able to start a game together. The patch notes clearly state, however, that this is only temporary and will be fixed before launch.

There's so much more included in the update, but we're running out of room! Check after the break to see the full patch list.

New user interface

The UI has undergone a major change (our graphical artist calls the new interface "Home CS" [Home Chip System]) and it's not just there to look good; we also believe it improves the logical flow of your interactions.

Other UI changes include a new vector based font system that improves text clarity and improvements to a range of different icons (for example the loading icon under your character's feet now gives a sense of something happening).

Another nice addition is that people on your friends list in the virtual PSP are sorted by three different states: "Offline", "Online" and "Online in Home" - these are colour coded too.

The Virtual PSP has undergone considerable changes. We have changed the structure of the menus to try and make it easier and more logical to navigate. There are also new icons for all of the options and new backgrounds available to customise the look. In the past an option that was unavailable to you was simply invisible; but now the option will remain visible but be greyed out instead.

Finally when people on your friends list send text chat their name will appear in green in the chat log.

Major graphics engine changes

We now use an HDR approach to lighting and bloom so the glowing halos around bright objects have been toned down and things should look sharper overall. We've also improved the water shader so all of the water should look noticeably better. The new engine also provides more stable frame rates in very crowded areas.

Support for 1080p is also back.

The wardrobe

Character customisation has been unified under a new wardrobe system where both clothing and physical characteristics can be modified from the same place. Some of the key changes in this area include:

- The wardrobe is accessible from any location, not just your Home Space.
- A selection of pre-set characters is available with more coming.
- Jewellery is now available for both sexes.
- Improved the look of skin on all characters.
- Your avatar is well lit and has a mirror behind to make customisation much easier.
- The standard list of clothing has been reduced to our intended starting pack.
- More clothing is available from the new Marketplace (see below!).
- Save & Load! You can now save your character in 9 different setups.
- Extra clothing will be added soon to test our update system.

The Marketplace

The mystery building in Home Square can now be revealed and it's not a Flamingo Factory as US tester NO FEAR!! recently guessed.

In the Marketplace you'll find stores with all sorts of things for you to add to your character and Home Space such as clothing, furniture and even... well, why not explore it yourself.

Home Space

Not only have we improved the view from your balcony but we have also added a whole new Home Space for you to test - it is available from the Marketplace. Welcome to your very own summer house.

Another change is that our intended starting pack of furniture is now available for your Home Space. This is quite different from what you had available before. More furniture is available from the Marketplace and extra furniture will added in the coming weeks to test our update system.

Both the lamps available as furniture for your Home Spaces now have working light switches. These dynamically light your space and guests in your space can also turn your lights on and off.

Finally we've moved the entry point to your Home Space in Home Square back inside the building in front of the lifts so you have access to the seating areas either side.

Game Launching

Many of the problems that stopped Game Launching from working properly have been fixed; however there are still some temporary issues that you need to know about before you try it:

- Groups formed in PLAYSTATION® Home for Game Launching are not currently preserved into the game. This means that you can all get together and form a group but when you launch the game you will not arrive in a session together. It will not stay like this - we are working with game developers to integrate full support for Game Launching into a range of games. However as stated before, we really wanted to get an early version of Game Launching out so that you could test the menu functionality and see how it works for you within PLAYSTATION® Home.

- Game Launching currently only supports grouping up if you have identical versions of the same game. For example the EU and US versions of Motorstorm may not work together at the moment and there may be problems between the installed and disc version of Warhawk. Again it will not stay like this and eventually all versions of the same game will work together properly.

New streaming video system

Previously to watch a video you would have to download the whole thing before it would start to play. We've now changed to a streaming video system which allows you to start watching almost straight away. Additionally the Home Theatre has some new streaming video channels in it courtesy of Crackle. Once inside an auditorium here you can get more information on what you are watching and control playback by pressing the SQUARE button.

Regional support

Whilst the legalities, policies and practicalities of regional travel are addressed we have temporarily disabled the ability to switch between the European, US and Japanese regions via your virtual PSP.

Support for more languages has been added bringing our complete list up to: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, traditional Chinese and Korean.

Home items

We needed a way to test our new Home items system and therefore we are proud to present our first one... (Drum roll)... the bubble machine! You can find it in your virtual PSP under Personal> My Inventory. Place it down anywhere you like and blow some bubbles.

Sound system update

A lot of new sound effects have been added throughout PLAYSTATION® Home and we have also made some changes to voice communication so that it should be more stable with large groups of people.

Bug fixes

- Fixed the problem where you could appear in a location and some other characters there would be invisible.
- Fixed the floating pool balls.
- Fixed the levitating avatars.
- Fixed the issue that led to C967 errors.
- Fixed the inconsistencies between the view inside and outside different locations.
- Fixed the positioning of the PSP in your character's hands.


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