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PS3 Fanboy preview: PlayStation Home

David Craddock

It's Friday night, and if you don't mind us saying so, you're looking rather snazzy: spiked hair, blue jeans, black hoodie, and brand new sneakers. Your cell phone rings. You pick it up, greet your friend, and tell him that you'll be there in a few and to meet up by the pool table in the back corner. You disconnect and slip your phone into a jacket pocket, but instead of grabbing your keys and heading out the door, you hop into your favorite chair, grab your DualShock controller and power up the PS3.

A couple of button presses and analog stick flicks later finds you in the local Game Space of PlayStation Home. An avatar waves as he notices you approaching the pool table. "What's up?" appears above his head. "Not much, Jeff. Where are the others?" you reply, just as the rest of your gang -- Mike from across the country in Ohio, and Andrew who's currently teaching in Japan -- run over to the table. Greetings and the prerequisite smack talk are exchanged before you finally pick up a stick, challenge Jeff to a game, and catch up with Andrew as Jeff breaks -- quite poorly, too.

The camaraderie between gamers, the ability to meet up with friends for some evening fun despite all of you being dozens, hundreds, or thousands of miles apart... that, according to SCEA's Jack Buser, is what PlayStation Home is all about. With hundreds of free and purchasable customization options, meeting areas, and activities, Home promises to be both a social network where people can hang, and a way to exponentially expand your PS3 gaming experience. We recently met up with Home director Jack Buser and received a guided tour of Home's more notable features. Join us, won't you?

Jack's avatar materialized in the central plaza, a common area where players from a certain region can meet. Jack informed us that this region is for SCEA and will most likely undergo several changes before Home's release.

As Jack slowly turned to give us a panoramic view, we pointed out a group of people standing at the top of a set of stairs leading up to a building. Each member of the group was garbed in blue sweatshirts and khakis. The step two stairs below the group was lined with small green machines that spat bubbles into the air, creating a curtain of shimmering reflecting sunlight. A large sound system thumped and vibrated behind them as they danced in a line, each set of arms and legs going through identical motions. Most curious of all was the red top hat sitting on each and every head.

Laughing, Jack ran over to give us a closer look. The red hats weren't hats at all but afros, a trademark accessory worn by each member of the Red Afro Revolution, one of many cliques that Jack promises will pave their own path in Home. Jack began to slowly step closer, taking the stairs one at a time. Soft music reached our ears upon his first step; the next step caused it to grow louder still.

Like the Revolution's sound system, all sounds in Home will be proximity-based: conversations carried out via Bluetooth headsets, music, videos, and more can all be carried out without disturbing anyone nearby.

Apparently overcome with their groovy tunes, Jack pressed a button on his controller, which summoned a virtual PSP onto the screen. He sifted through options before quickly locating an action menu, from which he chose Dance, then Robot. His avatar stiffened before stiffly bending one arm at the elbow, then the other, and so on. "Red 'Fro Revolution Forever!" Jack typed before again calling up the action menu and selecting nod. Jack's avatar nodded even as his body continued its mechanical contortions.

The music faded away as Jack moved away from the Revolution and recommenced his slow rotation, asking us what we'd like to see next. Our "ooh!" of delight at seeing a movie theater seemed to give away our request to Jack, and he immediately headed in the direction of the theater. The marquee above the entrance proclaimed "Now Playing: Wipeout HD trailer." Jack headed inside to nab a front-row seat to the brief show.

The interior was what one would expect from a theater: plush red carpeting covering aisles that dipped as they progressed from the back row of chairs to the front. Though this theater only contained a single screen, Jack promised that multiplexes will be featured in the completed version of Home; the single-screen room had been created for the express purposes of testing the theater to make sure it functioned properly. He also hinted that more than game trailers could be featured in movie theaters, causing us to imagine meeting up with friends to watch something longer in length.

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