At GDC 2007, Gamasutra sat down with Sony worldwide studios president Phil Harrison to discuss his thoughts on the newly announced Home, its similarities (or lack thereof) to Second Life and Nintendo's Miis, and the value of having talented yet expensive developers like Dave Jaffe making PS3 downloadable games. After a slight diversion into a discussion of Turrican, Harrison shares his thoughts on Blu-Ray's importance to the PS3, and the price of the console in Europe and the U.K.
Gamasutra: What made Sony decide to go with PlayStation Home?
Phil Harrison: It started life on PlayStation 2, actually. It was something we were working on to create an interactive 3D lobby that would become a launchpad for a number of online games. But, the PlayStation 2 -- great platform though it is -- was coming up against some technical limitations in some of the user-created content that we wanted to put into the space, because we didn't have a hard drive in every PS2, and we didn't quite have the 3D processing power that we wanted. So, we thought that this would be better off on PlayStation 3, and we've been working on it for about two and a half years.
The decision to do it was to create a rich 3D layer that would sit on top of or around the existing PlayStation Network platform, without trying to change that functionality, but just present it in a very immersive way that would resonate well with our audience and also develop this conducive opportunity for them too.
GS: So does this supplant the existing PlayStation Store?
PH: No, it's deliberately distinct and separate from the Xross Media Bar in the PlayStation Store.
GS: What has been the influence of Second Life, or Nintendo's Miis, or things like that? Have they influenced your design at all?
PH: I wouldn't say "influenced." We're obviously aware of some of the other graphical interfaces that exist on other systems. But, we've done some things in Home which can only be done on the PlayStation 3 because we have a hard drive, because we have a consistent rendering platform, and because every PS3 is the same, so we have that predictability of clients' experience in the network that you wouldn't get on other systems.
Having integrated some of the network functionality into the machine from the beginning on the design of PlayStation 3, it meant that every user would ideally be a connected user. So it wasn't really an influence because we knew that we could do some things in 3D better than other systems. That was our goal: let's create the most rich media interface, let's create the one with streaming video, let's create the one with complex environments. I'm really happy with the way it turned out.
GS: It seems a bit like a Second Life-style idea, but done in a more user-friendly sort of way. I think that was the big limitation toward Second Life being adopted by a lot of users. So is that a big part of this? Not necessarily the comparison, but the casual nature of being with the user?
PH: The unifying theme of Home is entertainment, and the fact that users are connected together in a 3D world, and that they can communicate and cooperate together. Everything about Home has to do with the PlayStation experience, be it PlayStation games, or movies, or music. It's very much focused on the digital entertainment that you would want to get out of your PlayStation 3.
We're providing the experience. We're providing the network of spaces. So that means we can invest in making them look beautiful and making them look cool. As you know, the approach that Second Life takes is that they just provide the tools, and that they are entirely server-based. It's a very different approach, and it's really inappropriate to make any direct comparisons with Second Life since we're in a very different space.
GS: So there won't be too much user-created content aside from your avatar and your house at this stage?
PH: We want to enable user-created content, but in a way that still maintains high production values and a predictable experience for all users.
GS: Then that's more of a future-looking thing?
PH: Well it's not so much for the future, but it's something that you have to be careful with. Second Life brilliantly does user-created content, but that's all they do. They don't do anything else other than that -- and I really like what Linden Labs has done, so I shouldn't be critical -- but Home is much more high production-value, because we are able to control that channel much more effectively.
GS: Does the Hall of Fame mean that there will be Xbox Live-like Achievements in all games from now on, or is it still very much up to developers?
PH: The Hall of Fame is something that we are consulting with our third parties on at the moment, as to what they want out of it. We've shared the concept with a few of our third-party partners, and they all love it. They all think it's very cool, and they all think it's a great innovation. But the exact rules and policy about how it's supplied is something we're still consulting with them about, and we'll come back to them with more information.