PlayStation Home, a community based service created by Sony Computer Entertainment’s London and Cambridge studios, launched to the public in the fall of 2008. Since its inception, it has received a massive amount of new spaces, updates, and features. One of the most robust spaces, EA’s Sports Complex, has attracted many Home users in part because of the assortment of mini games and free content that they offer. Today I am glad to announce that I have the Lead Producer of the EA Sports Complex with us to answer some of our questions.
I would first like to introduce you to Rob Burnett, Senior Producer of EA Sports and Lead Producer of EA Sports content in Home. Rob Burnett was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.
Now let’s get to the interview shall we?
TheGamerAccess.com: I think the EA space is by far the best, what other things do you have planned for the complex and is there anything soon that you can reveal?
Rob Burnett: On July 30, we had another update and we have a few new features. The poker community has grown so fast on Home we want a way to allow people to play and get recognized at their level of play. We launched the black high roller table upstairs in the EA SPORTS Golf Complex. This table pays out a whopping 100,000 points for the winner of an 8 player game (this is ten times the previous maximum payout.) If we ran a single leader board the top 10 would be filled exclusively with black table players. So to make sure players at the beginner and intermediate levels also have the ability to compete we are creating three separate rankings; one for green, red, and black. The season for each of these rankings systems can also be set separately for each level of play. The green tables will see the boards get reset every 2 weeks, while the black tables score boards will run for months.
TheGamerAccess.com: Do you plan on making an EA apartment that users can purchase? Maybe multiple apartments geared towards specific games?
Rob Burnett: I think a personal space with a sports theme or even a skybox would be a great idea! The first step in this process actually happened on July 30 when we launch the EA SPORTS Pro Shop on the first floor of the EA SPORTS Racing Complex. You can now visit our space and pickup a complete boxing outfit for you avatar to celebrate the launch of FIGHT NIGHT Round 4. In the future we plan to launch new content including personal spaces.
TheGamerAccess.com: Your mini games have been really fun; do you plan on making spaces for Madden and NBA Live?
Rob Burnett: We do .. but we will need to make sure we have time to do them right!
TheGamerAccess.com: How do you feel about game launching in Home? Do you plan on supporting this feature with future EA titles?
Rob Burnett: We are looking into this now. Turns out this is much harder than it looks for our sports titles since they offer so many options and requires a large amount of assets and resources to do it properly.
TheGamerAccess.com: If you guys ever do utilize game launching, can we ever expect to see tournaments held through Home for games like Fight Night, Madden, NBA Live, etc…?
Rob Burnett: We are actually doing early development work on a tournament system for Home now. This system will be implemented around the Poker game in Home so we can flush out all the details and user flows.
TheGamerAccess.com: Do you feel that Home is living up to its initial expectations? Do you think that can or will change?
Rob Burnett: Our participation in Home has exceeded many of our expectations. The poker game in particular has garnered a very loyal following and has generated much more traffic than initially expected. It is because of this that we have continually engaged the community to find out how to make the experience better. It is great to be able to work in a living environment like Home and not be restricted by annual publishing windows for updating the experience. Our development team for Home spends a much great percentage of their time focused on game play and game tuning, and we are afforded the luxury of handing off environment, rendering, sound, and avatar animation to the Sony Home team.
Home will also continue to evolve. The platform is extremely powerful and we are learning new tricks every day to improve the experience in our spaces. The most important aspect of Home is we are learning about how our community wants to interact with each other in this space. As Sony has said Home is a 3D social community and this is very true in relation to our games as well. Our poker game would be a very different experience if bystanders didn’t exist. The community that exists around the tables can be even more fun that playing the game on the tables. I visited the space a couple days ago and the players on the red table were actually using the chat system to play ‘Name that tune’ with the bystanders around the game. It was hilarious!
TheGamerAccess.com: How has Sony helped with the development of the EA Home space?
Rob Burnett: Sony has been very supportive of our work in Home. They have done a great job creating development tools, and iterating on them to improve functionality and stability. The Sony Home teams in North America and Europe have both made themselves available to help develop launch and maintain the Home content. Another important task which Sony takes very seriously is moderation of the space. Sony does a great job responding to issues. It can be very tough to manage a virtual community with such a diverse audience. Not only is running in Asia, North America, and Europe but Home also appeals to a very broad demographic reach. Young students, ‘work at home’ mom’s, professionals and hard-core gamers are all getting sucked into this beast.
TheGamerAccess.com: If you could change one thing about Home, what would it be?
Rob Burnett: I would add more muscles to my avatar, my guy is way too skinny!
TheGamerAccess.com: Have you guys at EA ever thought about integrating your games with Home in ways such as winning so many online games in Madden may unlock a football jersey/uniform?
Rob Burnett: We have a number ideas being both floated and developed internally, … but nothing I can talk about yet.
TheGamerAccess.com: Have you ever thought about using the EA Home space as a hub for other games that may receive their own space?
Rob Burnett: If I understand the question we have actually started doing that already. The vision for EA SPORTS in Home really has 2 development phases. The first phase focused on the creation of a general space which could be used to support all products in our catalog. The second phase is to start creating title specific spaces. The first of these spaces is the Club Fight Night arena. This space was built using assets taken directly from the PS3 hit game. We have even worked with the Fight Night team to include 6 music tracks form the game in the space. The interior of the club is split into 2 zones; the left half features 3 tracks from the game, and the right half features 3 different tracks from the game.
In the future we are looking to build out additional spaces that focus specifically on individual titles. These areas will all include a combination of mini-game interaction and game information. These spaces will be a great place to go to find other sports fans with similar interests.