PlayStation Comes to South By Southwest

Austin, Texas, March 11th and 13th

I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 SXSW PlayStation events this past weekend, and I’ll start by saying that the three main games being showcased (Resistance 3, Ratchet and Clank All 4 One, and SOCOM 4) were all playable and are all delivering on their developer’s promise of amazing gameplay and beautiful visuals.

Sony spared no expense in making the event a treat, with free drinks, food, and enough game lounges to accommodate the large turnout.  But they didn’t stop there.  Jeff Rubenstein (from the PlayStation Blog) was on hand to give away out some great prizes, and by the end of the event, a handful of Killzone 3: Helghast Special  “Special” Edition (you, know the one where the Helghan eyes actually glow) were given away to lucky winners, and still a few others went home with PlayStation 3Move Editions Systems.

But the real joy was in playing anticipated, upcoming, titles with other fans.  And since Insomniac was on-hand to talk with fans of Resistance 3 and Ratchet and Clank (not to mention challenge players in Resistance 3 multiplayer matches), there was plenty of back-and-forth, with gamers expressing their opinion on the games and learning about some of the new features.

Resistance 3 definitely wowed the crowed, but Ratchet and Clank All 4 One was one to keep an eye for as well.  As a huge Ratchet fan, I was a bit leery when I initially saw the running footage of All 4 One, having ventured in the Ratchet world in his traditional third-person view and blasting aliens with third-person controls.

After sitting with 3 other players and spending some time with the game, I was extremely happy to say that, the boys are still packing heat, still fun to control, and the puzzle element of the game will make for some great times with your buddies, as you try to figure out this title’s unique way of making you work together.  The game felt like a healthy cross between a dungeon-hunting game, like Champions of Norrath (for PS2), and Little Big Planet.  Still, All 4 One breaks its own mold, particularly with the inclusion of Ratchet and Clank’s traditionally “badass” weaponry.  About 5 minutes into playing, we were completely familiar with the play mechanics and were helping each other across chasms and using Triangle to whip ourselves to the nearest player.  This will definitely be a title to keep an eye on, especially if you enjoy those great times, with friends, pizza, and a co-op game.

Of course, Resistance 3 was there to blow you away with updated visuals and gameplay.  They had a few systems running the game in a multiplayer game against the Insomniac guys.  But they also had some single-player campaign running, and the new weather effects and Chimera animations were nothing short of spectacular.  As mentioned in the PSNation podcast, trees were swaying in the wind and dust covers the screen during intense battles that must be seen to fully appreciate.  Chimera climbed up on roofs with animations that look frightening and amazing at the same time.

SOCOM 4 impressed as well, and while I have never been a huge Socom player, I was amazed by the updated visuals.  The game was also easy to pick-up, with a familiar control-scheme, while maintaining a paced gameplay that the series is known for.  The game was running in 3D on one monitor, and another station had gamers trying out the PlayStation Move Sharpshooter attachment.  Despite it being a new method of playing, gamers seemed to be doing quite well with the Sharpshooter.  Yet another monitor had the single-player campaign running, and if the visuals were stunning in multiplayer, the campaign looked even more amazing with detailed foliage and organic environments that breathed life into every corner of the screen.

Near the entrance to the event, I saw a curious monitor with a familiar guy hopping from ledge to ledge.  “Drake!”   While Uncharted 3 was not playable (as in I couldn’t actually control Nathan), it was being played live by the friendly Victor Harris, Assistance Producer for SCEA.  While most of what can be known about Uncharted 3 at this point has already been reported, I was able to ask Victor about the implementation of 3D into Uncharted 3.  Mainly, I wanted to know if any visual sacrifices had to be made in order to implement 3D into Nathan Drake’s new adventure (since making 3D possible involves rendering the image twice, and Uncharted 2 already looked to push the PS3’s abilities).  Victor explained that since Uncharted 3 was developed from the ground up with 3D in mind, they developed the Naughty Dog Engine 3.0 to accommodate the 3D visuals.  What this means is that Uncharted 3 loses none of the graphical integrity that Naughty Dog games are so well-known for, while running in 3D.  The proof was in the glasses.  While I could not take the controller from Victor (much as I wanted to), dawning the 3D glasses was enough to see that Uncharted 3 will be the showcase peice for 3D gaming, if there ever was one.  I played the entire Killzone 3 campaign in 3D, and have been playing Motorstorm Pacific Rift’s 3D update on PSN, and while those two titles engulf you in the gameplay with their 3D implementation (with Killzone 3’s sniper laser pointers coming out of the screen at you), what Uncharted 3 gives you is foliage in 3D.  And lots of it.  Every little plant, every crack on the wall, every spiderweb has its own subtle depth, and while it looks amazing, 3D in Uncharted also gives the player an edge when platforming.  Remember how you couldn’t always make out which bricks on the wall were reachable?  Well in 3D, those little bricks and exposed wood beams stand out.  Pillars that caught on fire were eventually engulfed in flames and became destructible.  Wallpaper caught on fire, melted as the flames overtook the entire chateau. Victor Harris confirmed that all modes in Uncharted 3 would be playable in 3D (which includes multiplayer).

I also had the opportunity to speak with Jack Buser (Director for PlayStation Home) and Cade Peterson (Home Community Programs Specialist) about Home’s new upgrade and a program called the Home Community Volunteers.

One of the concerns Home visitors have had, particularly relating to purchasing personal spaces, is that not all residential spaces have picture, or video, previews. So unless you go online and search for examples, you are pretty much buying a personal space based on a written description and faith.

The Home team has been working on an interesting little program to help when deciding which personal space works for you.  As someone who is currently looking for a real home, this idea was intriguing to me.

Basically, PlayStation Home has Realtors (or Home Community Volunteers, as they are referred to).  Interested in the new Mansion Personal Space?  Send a PSN message to one of these volunteers and they will use their provided code to let you into the space and give your a personal tour before you decide if it’s right for you.  Sounds like a new reality show waiting to happen.

This has been received with a huge response, as Home users are not only able to see their potential space, but walk around in it and learn more about it.

Cade Peterson mentioned that, at the moment the Home Community Volunteers are in a transitional phase as they begin the process of recruiting anywhere from 15-20 folks to conduct these tours.  Those interested in touring a personal space are encouraged to check the PlayStation forums or Home Community FAQ for a list of volunteers.  Send them a message on PSN and schedule a tour time.  Just make sure an inspector takes a look at your personal space before committing to buy.  I’ve heard that the LittleBigPlanet Pod Penthouse might have a termite infestation.

PlayStation Home 1.5 is coming soon and as many of you have read, this will bring enhanced technology for game developers.  While this won’t be initially noticed in the main areas of homes, games like Sodium Two will pioneer the way into a new level of gaming within the Home community, and as more developers hop on board, we will begin to see some amazing games in Home.

Overall the PlayStation SXSW event was a great success and gave us the opportunity to see the games that people have been craving to get their hands on, while giving gamers the chance to meet and greet some of the developers in a casual setting.  Hopefully this becomes a common SXSW yearly occurrence.

Check out the highlight video of the event below, brought to you by PSNation:

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