PlayStation Vita cross-game chat, online modes detailed

By Andrew Yoon, Jul 25, 2011 5:00pm PDT

PlayStation Vita has a number of online connectivity features. However, with all the buzzwords being thrown about--Near, Party, LiveArea, and Activity--it may be difficult to understand exactly what Sony's next generation portable is really capable of. Thankfully, Sony Europe's Phil Rogers' clarified exactly how to use some of Vita's online features.

Most notably, he makes it very clear that cross-game chat--currently the most requested feature on the PlayStation.Blog--"it's there and it's on Vita."

Cross-game chat is part of the system's "Party" feature. It allows up to four systems to form a party, regardless of what they're doing on the system. As with Xbox Live, parties can quickly join games together.

The "Near" features is not unlike SpotPass on the Nintendo 3DS. Described as "a location-based gifting system," it enables Vita owners to find other players, exchange gifts, and learn about recent games they've played. "This is fairly cool because it exposes users to games they might not have heard of and you can see how popular those games are and how people are rating them," Rogers explained at the Develop Conference 2011 (via Eurogamer).

Unlike SpotPass on the 3DS, users don't necessarily need to be physically near one another to use Near. So long as you visit a place that another Vita user has visited that day, you may be able to pick up a gift:

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.

Some games will allow users to specify what kind of gifts they want to broadcast, and how to receive it. You may be able to gift items, "dropping" it virtually for someone to pick up. You may be able to leave a challenge to other players at a certain location. Each game allocates up to 100KB of data for Near.

Vita abandons the XMB for a new interface

All of this functionality will live on the main hub of the Vita, a curious departure from the standard XMB of previous Sony products. Called LiveArea, this hub also features Vita's new social feature, currently dubbed "Activity." Like Facebook, Activity will create a feed of your friends' latest updates and accomplishments, such as Trophies and ratings. And like on Facebook, you'll be able to comment on your friends' gaming updates.

LiveArea will be updated with new content related to the kind of content Vita owners are playing. If Game Adventure X has DLC, LiveArea can notify you of a new release. Publishers will have control over what kind of data to send users, but Sony notes that "it's important not to spam users too much and to use it sensibly."

Well, there goes my plan to make a PlayStation Vita game about a Nigerian prince.

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