10:30 a.m.: We've taken our seats, but the press is still milling about. Coldplay is playing over the sound system, a PlayStation logo is on the screen, and giant props from the just-announced-this-morning LittleBigPlanet flank both sides of the massive screen.
10:32 a.m.: On the left side of the stage there's a large tree--pretty much life-size--that looks like it's made out of a glob of clay, the right side has a gear rotating, about the same size as the tree. Is it a water wheel? Colored lights glaze across the ceiling in maroon, greens, and blues.
10:33 a.m.: The room fits about 5,000 people, it will be full. A many-iterations removed remix of an LCD Soundsystem song is playing
10:38 a.m.: They've just brought out giant bouncy soccer balls, which the crowd eagerly bounces above their heads. We've just been told they'll be throwing out additional balls through two "goals" on the left and right side of the auditorium. Camera people grab their precious gear while we nervously guard our laptops. The balls are obviously from LittleBigPlanet ... or maybe a next-gen soccer-sim for giants.
10:39 a.m.: The two screens flanking the stages show scores for Team A and Team B. Ohhhh, they're aiming the soccer balls into the goals. Team B has 4, Team A has 2. We're right in the middle, maintaining our neutrality in this war. Team B has 6; they're machines.
10:40 a.m.: The beats of Daft Punk's around the world fuel the audience's new found appreciation for Brobdingnagian soccer.
10:44 a.m.: Lights fading. Dialog beginning. The music has stopped, the crowd is clapping, and a disembodied voice says something. GDC's Jamil Moledina takes the stage.
10:46 a.m.: "This is a great time for developers in which all of the platforms are coming to GDC with all of the information and tools coming to their systems. This year's keynotes focus directly on empowering developers
Today's keynote speaker is Phil Harrison, President of Sony Computer Entertainment worldwide studios."
10:47 a.m.: The soccer ball game was an example of audience participation and emergent gameplay ... well, played Sony. Well played. "We're here to talk about some of the things you've just demonstrated in the pre-conference entertainment, mainly audience participation and emergent gameplay. There was a magazine front cover late last year which I thought a pivotal moment in the internet age, in which Time said you were there person of the year."
10:49 a.m.: The now famous Time Magazine YOU cover hits the big screen behind Phil. Web 2.0, that's all of you! Go ahead, pat yourself on the back. Really. A medley of logos surround the words Web 2.0 -- eBay, YouTube, MySpace, Amazon, Wikipedia. Game 1.0 slide -- The disconnected console, the static game disc or cart.
10:52 a.m.: Social, community, localization, localization also (note the spelling, Phil's British!)
Emergent entertainment is the buzzword of the day ...
The XMB has an additional icon for Home. He selects it and it launches what appears to be a separate app. The producer for Home takes the stage to walk us through all the new features. The screen behind them appears to have frozen ... the audience giggles just slightly.
10:53 a.m.: Another apparent glitch affects the machine they switched to ... but then they get past it. The Home service comes up, and they're met with a "Usage Policy." The audience laughs as Phil clicks Accept. WE can't wait to read this thing!
10:55 a.m.: "You will be able to download additional clothing from the PlayStation store to extend and expand your experience. The games themselves will unlock content that will allow you to wear a T-shirt ... Allows you to express yourself and your personality. You can also customize your face ... you can see we have a great deal of control ..."
The virtual PSP looks just like a PSP, XMB and all. The avatar creation tool has dozens of options, from clothing to faces.
Phil continues, "So rather than spend a great deal of time focusing on individual face customization, let's look at some presets that we've made already. So where can you go in Home? As we walk around, you can see our banner ads reall y are banners."
10: 57 a.m.: Unlike Nintendo's relatively spartan Mii creation tool (seriously, no redheads?), the Home customization tools offer a nearly unlimited amount of faces. He scrolls through some precreated faces to display the range. Impressive.
He shows off advertising in the world, with ads from games like Resistance and HD video playing back on screens in the world, in 3D. The world looks more than a little like Second Life, The virtual keyboard is ... He accidentally types "Ho" instead of "Hi." The audience appreciates the mistake
They chat with an Sony employee to show off the voice chat. Sound quality is a little tinny, but that's to be expected.
10:58 a.m.: "A games lounge. This was invented to create opportunities for social interaction ... To meet to share to get to know each other while playing very easy, simple games. And then we have our pool table, where you can just walk up and play. We can also walk over to our bowling alley and have a quick frame of bowling. Scott's going to show us his misspent use. Clearly he's spent far too much time in the office."
10:59 a.m.: The camera swings around when you activate the pool table. You're still inside the 3D world, but the interface becomes concentrated around the pool table. Same with bowling and the Arcade games. The screen gets taken up by a helicopter rescue game, until he moves his head around and are reminded that you're actually in the Home world. He activates a menu to take them from the public space to a private space.
"The arcade machines are actually user definable. You ca select which games you want to play and download them into this space. While you play this simple little game, you can also break out the virtual PSP and look around the space all the while maintaining the immersion...communication...being able to chat with other people. We've talked about the public spaces, let's talk about the private spaces. Everyone has their own private apartment."
11:00 a.m.: "Let's bring in our friend Adrien over into our apartment.... First thing we can do is change the wallpaper. This is a basic apartment, but very quickly we can change the look and feel. You could have something like Resistance: Fall of War wallpaper. This can become your clan's clubroom. All the communication functionality works everywhere in home. Now you can also download additional furniture. It will either be free, premium items, or it could be linked to particular games as well."
11:01 a.m.: The menus used to change the wallpaper look elegant and flexible, just like the character creation tools. No word on whether this furniture you can download will be free or not. We imagine a variety of models could be used. We especially like the games chair ... we certainly can't afford one in real life. Let's hope the virtual counterpart is more affordable.
11:02 a.m.: "... it's also physics based.... you can pile all of your furniture in the corner if you so which you can take any content that's yours on your PlayStation 3 hard disk drive and display it. Let's put in some pictures that we have from our hard disk drive. Here we have some wonderful slides that we've been showing. Scott, point to different parts of the slides. Yes, here we go. (Laugh audience) If you will forgive me, I will quickly take your photograph. If we can take the house lights up a little bit, Everybody smile.
"Let's take the memory stick out. And pop this back into the PlayStation 3. There we go. Oh it's on machine four, I'm putting it in the wrong machine. Imagine if I took your picture and you just saw it in there. "
11:03 a.m.: The picture frame they placed on the wall shows some slides from tonight's' presentation. Phil takes a camera out, take a picture of the audience, loads the Memory Stick (of course) into the PS3, and a picture of the audience should pop up. Unfortunately, they're on machine 4 (remember that glitch earlier?), so he used the wrong unit. The audience appreciates his lighthearted tone. Phil laughs.
Phil: "Let's go to another apartment.... a more advanced apartment. An apartment that you could extend the available space by buying a bigger space. It's more upscale. It's got a pool table. You can have these premium items embedded as well. Now music that we play in our PlayStation 3 hard disk drive can be streamed to other users in our space, but also video. Let's position a Sony Bravia TV in there as well .We can walk up to the TV and very simply customize the content."
11:05 a.m.: "Here we can put the Casino Royale trailer running live on our TV. ... We have proximity-based audio, so it gets louder as you walk closer." The television notably doesn't break, so Phil takes the opportunity to note that Sony's televisions are well built.
"Now you can see that just like in the real world, in the virtual world, the Sony Bravia is a reliable device. And the video continues to run. This is the Home Cinema. Let's go into the movie theater and see some content that's made by motion picture studios, TV studios, and also users themselves."
"The television notably doesn't break, so Phil takes the opportunity to note that Sony's televisions are well built."
11:06 a.m.: The movie theater space has a large screen in the middle of the room. Just like in other home spaces, the view adapts to the medium. The view zooms into the Spider-Man 3 trailer.
"You can see the trailer there. And we can go back up in to the personalized space. Now what we are able to do here is one of two things. We are working with Grouper... who are one of the leading providers for user-content.. in this 3D space. We also have specific movies and television shows that can be accessed by walking into the door. This is a great way to build a community around media content at the same time. So Home is not just about Sony brands and Sony games. It is a much wider network of connected spaces."
11:07 a.m.: When switching between locations, a loading screen says "relocating" and a progress bar fills up. It takes but a couple seconds, but we don't like being taken out of this other world. The sports location looks like an ESPN Zone on steroids. The Hall of Fame. Looks like PS3 is finally getting it's Achievements.
"The final part of the home experience that we would like to share with you is something called the Hall of Fame," he said. "You decide which trophy you want to position in the premium cabinets and you can share these with your friends."
Note, Phil is careful to not use the word "achievement" to describe their new feature. That's okay, we're just glad to have 'em, regardless of what they're called.
11:11 a.m.: The space is a virtual trophy room (think Predator spaceship). When he looks over the balcony, there appears to be hundreds (thousands?) of additional trophies lining the walls. The system doesn't slow down for a second. You're able to see what other trophies are just out of reach (or, in this case, way out of reach).
"It's not just about the games that you own. It's about the entire network of games that's available for PlayStation 3. I think this gives you a sense of where this might go in the future as hundreds and hundreds of titles are added. You can check out the trophies and that give the users an incentive to go and buy your game as well. It's a unique real time 3D community for the PlayStation network."
11:12 a.m.: "In the future, we'll allow you to have pets in your apartment." Pets, you say? "In future, we'll allow you to have more sophisticated clothing as well."
This service is already in a private beta now (not that private, eh anonymous leakers). Public beta comes in April.
11:13 a.m.: Singstar takes the stage. The menu is fast, polished and elegant. The screens drill down as you move further into the service.
"I'm going to focus not on the singing part of it, you'll be pleased to know, I'm going to focus on the online part of it."
11:14 a.m.: The SingStore lists 144 items -- we're sure they'll have more when the service is moved live. Remember, Sony owns their own record company.
"You'll notice in the bottom-left hand side, the track is downloading. It's downloading in the background, which is a good feature." The audience likes his background downloading quip.
11:15 a.m.: The network is down temporarily ... we'll be back soon.
11:18 a.m.: Alright, AND WE'RE BACK!
"We're looking forward to working closely with the record industry to expand and extend the number of songs available. We will be sharing, later today, at 2:30, something that we are defining as PlayStation Edge. This is a sort of core tools and technologies that have enriched our first-party titles."
"Initially PlayStation edge will cover two key areas. GCM Relay. The second area is do do an SVU processing of geometry, compression, optimization. Anybody who's interested in PlayStation 3 game development... check out what all of that is about. Of course all of this technology and information will be shared."
Next up is another brand new product.
11:20 a.m.: You may remember a game called Ragdoll Kung-Fu. This was written by a very small team... They released this game to great critical appeal and great critical acclaim... They've formed a company and they've been working on an amazing product for the PlayStation 3 that I'm delighted to share with you for the first time. Mark and i want to introduce you to this awesome game."
The LIttleBigPlanet character on the screen is adorable (nicknamed "sackboy"). The graphics are surprisingly impressive. There is field of vision. The textures are incredibly rich. The inventory looks like an electric lasso that's grows out of the character. He creates a block of wood with a cog on it -- the same thing that flanks the right side of the stage.
"This is all about game creativity... we're going to show you two things. Basically how easy it is in this game to make stuff. This isn't about separate, complicated tools, this is about empowering players to do what they want."
11:21 a.m.: Alex grabs a controller and quickly joins Mark in world. His sackboy has an Evil Knievel outfit on. Classy. We're not sure if these outfits are user-created or not.
11:22 a.m.: You can create images using your EyeToy camera. We imagine whole worlds populated by vulgar images ...
"We call it communal creativity and I think this is going to be a big part of Game 3.0."
11:25 a.m.: They're able to control the arms of the characters in a really seamless way. Mark pets the giant orange they just created with his sackboy's left hand. He grabs onto the cog, hurls himself on top of it, and starts running as it spins faster. It's a little emergent logrolling game.
When they stop moving, the camera moves in on them and we're again reminded of the game's incredible graphics. They may appear simple, but the design coupled with the incredibly rich textures creates an environment that is very impressive.
"So what you've seen us doing is use some very simple, creative tools that allow you to make these very tactile, highly interactive environments."
11:27 a.m.: Phil and friend join Mark and Alex for a four-player game that's been user-created. The world has some depth, but the characters move in and out automatically as needed. They're tasked with collecting sponge while trying to manipulate their way through various obstacles.
"This is a great example of emerging gamplay. The designers have simple added an orange and a football. [Referring to the game at hand] We want to get to the right. We've got the orange and the football."
They need to make their way over a giant soccer ball (remember those?) so several of them cooperate to drag an orange over. One character pushes the soccer ball and uses the momentum to grab onto it and haul him up over the obstacle.
11:29 a.m.: Alex pushes the smaller orange, and does the same technique. Since the ball rolls faster, he's able to hurl himself over the soccer ball. Once over, they need to work together to get each one of them over a tree branch. One player holds it down while the others climb aboard. Once on board, their weight holds it down and they can all get on.
11:30 a.m.: Jet packs await them on top! All four players equip their packs, work together to lift a massive shell onto a lever, and are rewarded with a door that opens.
"Hooray, teamwork. Let's bring it back to Game 3.0. One of the things we had to do was support everything being dynamic in the entire world."
The camera zooms in again when they stop. They can control their arms and, if done fast enough, they can hit each other. C'mon, this wouldn't be a video game without a little bit of rough-housing.
11:32 a.m.: They climb a room on glowing stars. The lights reflect accurately off the walls and the characters. While three of them continue their ascent, one sticks around to throw some stickers.
"Even while you're playing the level, you can bring up the tools to start changing and creating the content experience."
11:33 a.m.: They climb onto a skateboard; the motion blur is fantastic. They fly through the air, pause for just long enough to get a snapshot and the audience erupts into applause! The four characters are lined up again, as if to take a bow after their very impressive debut.
"After you've created that masterpiece, clearly you want to share it with others all over the world. Let's show how that works."
11:34 a.m.: A video starts illustrating the concepts of creating and sharing in LittleBigWorld. The music and design are infectious; the world is full of possibilities. It's like a next-gen, playful version of ExciteBike but with ragdolls and the internet.
They show comments, friends lists, and a "highest rated" chart. Think YouTube or MySpace, but with LittleBigPlanet levels.
11:37 a.m.: Media Molecule leaves the stage to enthusiastic applause. The game will be available in demo form on PS Network this year, and on Blu-ray disc in '08.
"So let's go back to our final slide here. You've seen today the industry is on the threshold of a new era of creativity, collaboration, community, commerce... We think this represents tremendous opportunities for the game developers and the gamers... It's going to be a very exciting journey ahead of you and ahead of us."
Phil leaves on a high note. The audience claps, the music comes back up, and we're out of here!