While many features of the XMB won't be fully accessible whilst in a game, there are many things players will be able to do. For example, fully interacting with a friends list is finally possible. No longer do you have to quit the game in order to check a friend's message. You can add friends, check and send messages, and adjust Bluetooth settings on the fly. However, you won't be able to initiate a voice chat. You also will not be able to use music from your hard drive, unless the game is specifically programed to take advantage of the feature. Unfortunately, no games will be able to take advantage of in-game custom soundtracks when the firmware update goes live. (However, future games and game patches can enable this feature. It depends on whether or not the developer chooses to include it in their game.)
Unlike the Xbox 360's Dashboard, triggering the in-game XMB runs without any delay. You will be able to bring up the XMB instantly and use its features as easily as you would outside of a game. If you want to bring up the usual power options, to turn off the controller or system, simply hold down the PS button for a bit longer.
The other big feature of firmware 2.40 is trophies, PS3's answer to Xbox 360's achivements. Those familiar with achievements on Xbox 360 will find many similarities here, especially with the interface implemented. Under [Game] on the XMB, players will be able to find their Trophy Collections, which shows all the trophy-compatible games played. By clicking through, players will be able to see all the trophies they unlocked, and what trophies remain. Details on how to acquire each trophy are available -- although some will be hidden, similar to Secret Achivements on the Xbox 360.
Each trophy has a different value, represented by its Gold, Silver and Bronze color. Each of these trophies add to a gamer's "level," a representation of how many achievements they've unlocked. Each game can only offer a set amount of level, so each developer must allocate how many Bronze, Silver and Gold trophies they want to offer. The intent is to make each colored trophy of equivalent value -- a Gold trophy in Resistance 2
, for example, should be as difficult to earn as a Gold trophy in Motorstorm
. If players are able to earn all the trophies in a single game, they'll unlock a valuable Platinum trophy, which will add an incredible amount to a gamer's level.
The first games to take advantage of trophies will include Super Stardust HD
and PixelJunk Eden
. Games that have been released before this firmware update must be patched to take advantage of trophies. For example, Super Stardust HD
will be patched "within hours" of the firmware's availability. Obviously, future Sony first-party titles will all support trophies, but third parties are also planning on taking advantage of this feature. For example, Bioshock
will include trophy support.
Developers will have to choose whether or not to include trophy support. However, if any previously released titles get patched (a la Super Stardust HD
), players must essentially start anew to get any trophies. Trophies will not
be retroactively awarded based on save data.
Also new to firmware 2.40 are expanded gamer profiles. Previously, looking at a gamer's profile only revealed their avatar, phrase and languages spoken. Now, players will be able to see the most recent trophies you've acquired and your gamer level. Of course, players will able to see your information as well. Both of you will be able to compare the trophies you've acquired. Just like Xbox Live, you can see all the games both players have played, and you can see when each trophy has been unlocked. See an example here
.A Few Other Things ...
A few small things have also been added to the upcoming firmware. Now, you'll be able to see the time on the top-right hand corner, just like you would on your PSP. Also, the recently added Google search of PSP firmware 4.00 can now be found on PS3. (Be grateful that this firmware update features much more than its PSP counterpart.) Finally, you can now have up to 100 friends on your Friends list. Wait ... that's already available!
Honestly, we cannot wait for firmware 2.40. What we've detailed so far should give you a good idea of what to expect from the upcoming update. Of course, it's not like this will be the final update for the system ever -- we can be pleased in knowing that even more awaits us in the future. There are a few features that we need, like persistent voice chat -- but with the addition of achievements and in-game messaging, we're pleased to say that PS3 and PSN offer almost everything Xbox Live can, without the pricetag. The folks at Sony told us they'd thank the enthusiastic support of the fan community -- they listened to your requests of in-game XMB, and they've finally made it available to you. Undoubtedly, they'll continue to listen to PS3 fans and add even more functionality in future firmware updates.