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Sony Teases The Masses With Vita's Online Features

With Playstation season fast(ish) approaching, Phil Rogers, R&D Manager of Sony Europe, recently graced us mortals with a few tidbits of Vita goodness, explaining some of the system's core features. Much of it is old news, but much of the information expands on what we already know, and does serve as a helpful refresher for those who haven't been following news about Sony's upcoming handheld.

Near, often compared to Nintendo's SpotPass, allows for location-based fun and frolic while your Vita slumbers lazily in your pocket. From Phil Rogers:

"Imagine user A visits locations one to ten through that day, and they get home and sync with the server and it uploads to the Near server your ten locations that you've been to. User B comes along, does the same thing, but at some point in User B's day they passed User A's location five, which means they're now able to collect gifts that that user's dropped. That comes into the Near application and then in-game they pick up those gifts."

Different factors can be put in place, such as the likelihood of a lucky soul finding your treasure, the distance one must be from the location where it was dropped, and the duration for which the gift will be active. These goodies stay with you as you travel about, and users are given one "gift box" per game. While each box can contain multiple gifts, there is a 100K data cap per box. Exactly what these gifts are is rather hazy; "challenges and even in-game gear" were mentioned - Rogers used the example of a rare vehicle in WipeOut - and for those wishing to express gratitude toward their prospective gentleman caller, the Vita will allow the recipient to write a thank you message to the person that left the gift.

Read more after the jump!

Then there's the Party feature, which allows gamers to form groups of up to four people, in which to chat away about this or that through either voice or text. The interesting thing is that the chat works regardless of what everyone else is playing, unlike the PSP's limited voice chat, which works only within a particular game. Should you feel inclined to join your friends in a rousing bout of your favorite Multiplayer extravaganza, "you can also launch Vita games from within Party and your friends there can click a button and quickly join you," according to Eurogamer.

Lastly we have the Live Area, a welcome departure from the PSP's rather dull Xross Media Bar. This is the interface through which gamers navigate the system - playing games, viewing trophies, etc. - but rather than the fairly static game profile of the PSP, which plays little more than a looping preview video of the title, the Vita aims to broaden the scope with updates from developers, allowing greater customization through updates. Taking a nod from social networking, players will also be able to comment on the goings-on of their friends, as well as sending messages.

Rogers also divulged that developers and publishers will be able to locate users' locations, "either by GPS on the 3G model or triangulation of mobile phone cells," though owners of the wi-fi versions will still give developers a limited idea of their location as they connect to wireless networks. Presumably this alludes to pub/dev-provided location-based services, or at least something along those lines, but the details remain unknown.

Thus far, it sounds pretty promising - at least on paper. Despite the whole "tracking you wherever you go, all the time" thing sounding like something pulled from 1984 fan fiction (Playstation Vita: Now sporting crystal clear Telescreen technology), location-based services seem to be the new thing, and any company would be wise to take advantage of it. As I've mentioned before, one of my largest complaints with the PSP is the lack of multiplayer support. Yes there are some exceptions - MGS Portable Ops and Siphon Filter being notable ones - but for about 99% of my portable gaming life, I find my wireless switch firmly locked in the off position. Hopefully the Vita will buck this rather unfortunate trend; at the very least, the Party feature, dynamic LiveArea environments will give users a reason to care about Vita's online capabilities. Add to that the facebook-style comments and messages, and we have a system that seems as though it will gracefully integrate light social networking into its strategy, thus giving the system some long-term appeal. As always, I'm crossing my fingers that the Vita will live up to at least some of our expectations. Just don't get in over your head, Sony.

As an aside, I apologize for my conspicuous absence for the past week. My service was knocked out by a storm, resulting in a five day delay before a tech could be dispatched. I don't want to name names, but the provider's name has a spelling remarkably close to "Quest." After a torrent of white-hot rage that shook the heavens and very nearly rent Gaia in twain, I decided to switch providers. So I return once again as your humble and obedient servant, begging your collective pardon, and with a renewed zeal to provide you guys and gals with up-to-date news, biting commentary, and all the thinly-veiled d*ck jokes you can shake a stick at - or as my English majors would probably say, "at which one might well shake a stick."

Oh yes, and I missed all of you.

via Eurogamer, VG247


Randofu said:

I really worry what all of these features are going to do to the Vita's battery life. My favorite thing about the PSP is that it lasts for like 6 hours if I'm playing a downloaded game with the wireless off.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Randofu on Sony Teases The Masses With Vita's Online Features: I really worry what all of these features are going to do to the Vita's battery life. My favorite thing...

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