They say you can’t go home again. Of course, the “they” in that equation was author Thomas Wolfe who probably wasn’t much of a gamer, what with his passing in 1938 and all. For the rest of us that are PS3 users you can very much go Home again, and Sony is attempting to make it as appealing as possible to do so.
The Home in question is the PlayStation Home, the social gaming platform accessible via the PlayStation Network that launched back in December of 2008. Since Sony turned on the lights in Home, the platform has continued to grow and expand. Events are commonly setup and prizes are given away. Networking and entertainment areas are available, and users can decorate their avatar’s personal space to match their tastes. Those are just a few examples, and as the program continues to expand so to do the possibilities.
But first and foremost the platform is designed as a gaming service. Several games have already appeared over the years, and earlier this week Sony announced that three more games are on the way—the three biggest yet. In addition to the new games, a new district called the “Adventure District” has also been launched.
“When we did the redesign back in November, that’s really when Home became a true platform for games,” Chris Mahoney, Senior Business Manager for PlayStation Home said. “Since that time we’ve been working really hard to fill that experience with games that fit the hub and genre based districts.”
This week sees the first of three games coming to Home. The three upcoming titles will mark the biggest and most expansive games available, as well as the biggest investment in Home from Sony to date. There will be different premium features and content associated with each, but all three will be free-to-play. The first of the three games will be titled Cutthroats: Battle for Black Powder Cove, and it is available now.
In Cutthroat, you are part of a team that takes to the seas in a massive 24 player game, making it the largest multiplayer game on Home. Each gamer will join one of six ships as either the Captain or a gunner, and teams of four will man each ship. Once you leave the dock, you will immediately be thrust into battle.
Tactics and better equipment are what will win the day. If you want, you can attempt the tried and true tactic of attacking the other ships in a Leroy Jenkins meets Horation Hornblower style and go full broadside along your opponent. Of course, as you are raking them with fire, they will be returning the favor.
As you play, you earn experience that unlocks more powerful weapons that you can either wait to earn or unlock and purchase using coin packs. You can pick up a few new weapons for just a dollar, and to put it in perspective, you could drop $20 and unlock everything. The unlockable content includes new equipment for your ship including things like armor and other defensive bonuses.
Cutthroat is available now, but it will continually be updated and content will be added over the next several months.
“All three of these games we’ve planed from the beginning to actually have the launch of the initial game be the beginning, not the end of the product.” Mahoney said.
The game has been in development for over a year by the UK based deverlopers, VEEMEE. Described as “PS Home’s most ambitious title yet,” NML is designed to appeal to AAA shooter fans. Using cover based mechanics, the game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and will debut with two maps at launch, and more to follow. The gameplay features 4v4 team play as well as a deathmatch mode.
This is definitely a game to watch for in the coming months. The financial investment Sony has made in this game exceeds any other Home game out or on the horizon. NML will follow the same pattern as Cutthroat when it comes to premium content. If you wish to upgrade your character, you have two options–you can grind it out and earn experience through play, or you can purchase the content at any time. There will be weapons that are specific to whatever option you choose, grinding or purchasing. The game itself though, will be free.
The third title due out is titled Mercia, and it is significant for two reasons: it is the first multiplayer RPG on Home, and it will not have any loading times as it continually streams new content.
The world of Mercia takes you to a fantasy realm that is unique and original. There will be cities you can interact with, and dungeons you can enter to complete quests. You will begin at the bottom and work your way up, earning experience and gear by completing missions and objectives. You will also be able to create your own character, choose your classes, and join parties to complete tougher missions.
The game will also feature the same free-to-play options, allowing you to grind your way up to the best weapons and equipment, or you can purchase items right from the start. Mercia is due out this summer, and more details should hit within the next few months.
Also debuting this week will be the “Adventure District,” which joins the casual, sports, and action districts. It is available now, and features a brief playable segment of Cutthroat.
The free-to-play trend is one that is gaining strength all the time, as evidenced by the slew of high profile, relatively big budget free-to-play games on display at GDC this year. It is also a trend that is a perfect fit for Home.
“It is something that is adding additional gameplay options and additional games to a spectrum of content that is already available,” Mahoney said of the free-to-play movement. “I think it’s a trend that is here to stay. It just gives people more options of how they play and what kinds of games they play.”
While the games and the new district themselves are intriguing and interesting, they also signify a continual look at what may be at least one part of the future of gaming. With 27 million active users, you can expect Home to continue to grow and evolve–and the platform will give back what people put in.
“At the end of the day, our users will tell us what they want. We’ll build some of those experiences, then they tell us how they’d like those to evolve. ‘Always-on,’ immersive environments like Home give us the ability to iterate on that,” Mahoney said. “That’s pretty exciting.”