Next-Gen is All About Socializing

Twitch streaming, a console OS inspired by Dark Souls and a PS4-hosted talk show: modern gaming's all about being connected.

News by Pete Davison, .

The sixth generation introduced Internet connectivity to our consoles; the seventh generation made it widespread thanks to Xbox Live and PSN; the newly launched eighth generation makes it an integral part of the gaming experience.

Yes, like it or loathe it, connectivity is a huge part of the new generation of consoles. Even Nintendo, who have historically been resistant to implementing online features in any sort of user-friendly way, have been getting in on the social action thanks to Miiverse on Wii U and, soon, 3DS. But it's arguably Sony who are leading the way with PlayStation 4's integrated social features and streaming functionality.

Speaking on the PlayStation Blogcast recently, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida admitted that the new console's social features were, in part, inspired by two of his favorite games of the outgoing generation: Demon's Souls and Dark Souls.

"Lots of things Demon's Souls and Dark Souls did, like leaving the message to other people asynchronously -- so if you were connected, but not connected at the same time -- all these things inspired us when we were designing the system features for PS4," he explained. "I enjoy so much watching people playing Dark Souls on YouTube. This game is perfect to learn from other players how to attack the same situations with very different strategies."

PlayStation 4 has three new means of socializing and sharing with others: Twitch streaming, game video recording and image sharing. Each of these is playing an important part in how we look at games in the new generation -- so much so that the Xbox One's lack of Twitch streaming at launch is being seen as a dealbreaker by some.

One of the most innovative uses of Twitch streaming we've seen so far comes in the form of The Spartan Show (above), a call-in talk show hosted on Twitch and streamed via the PS4 using the pre-installed Playroom app. Since Playroom is an augmented reality app that fills the majority of the display with what the PlayStation Camera is seeing, it's an almost-ideal solution for those who want a quick and easy way of broadcasting a live show from their console without having to talk over game footage. Admittedly, you have to contend with various Playroom toys bouncing around the screen while you're broadcasting, but there's a certain '90s kids' show charm about that.

The Spartan Show has been enjoying a regular stream of phone-in guests since it started broadcasting, including PlayStation US publisher and developer relations specialist Adam Boyes, who phoned in to say what the husband-and-wife team behind the show was doing was "pretty rad." Eventually, the plan is for The Spartan Show to be a regular feature with reviews, interviews and giveaways; for now, the stream is more a proof-of-concept than anything else, but it's a pretty convincing example of the potential offered by integrated streaming -- and clearly something that Sony didn't anticipate.

And it's proving successful, too; at the time of writing -- after a heroic 15 hours of continuous broadcasting -- nearly 5,000 viewers are watching, contributing to Twitch chat and phoning the show to speak to the hosts. The channel that houses the show is closing in on 200,000 subscribers, too.

Twitch streaming isn't confined to consoles, of course; PC gamers have been doing it for a while now, but in order to stream many games at the best balance between quality and frame rate you need a reasonable degree of technical knowledge. However, more and more games are starting to integrate Twitch streaming directly into their game clients -- the recent free-to-play Diablolike Path of Exile is one, for example, but a perhaps higher profile example is Mojang's sandbox classic Minecraft, which integrated Twitch connectivity with its most recent snapshot update. In other words, it's still being tested and, in Mojang's words, "may be a little buggy," but should include at least basic functionality. Find out more here.

If you've never got involved with streaming before, it can be a great way to meet new people, discover new games, show off your skills -- and perhaps even enjoy a few minutes of "Internet fame." And, as The Spartan Show is demonstrating, it's a potentially very exciting new means of broadcasting in real-time and interacting with your audience. Why not give it a try for yourself?

Check out The Spartan Show on Twitch, or follow the team on Twitter once they start tweeting.

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Comments 6

  • Avatar for pjedavison #1 pjedavison 4 years ago
    @lonecow I must confess, I'm not all too enamored with it all myself despite what I've written here -- though I do think The Spartan Show is a legitimately cool idea.

    I think it's one of those things that you really have to try for yourself for a protracted period of time to get a good feel for. I just haven't really had the opportunity yet; perhaps my feelings may change when I get my own PS4.
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #2 touchofkiel 4 years ago
    @lonecow I agree. It sounds neat in theory, but it's just not for me. I'm in the same boat - an RPG fan with friends who, if they game at all, are into pretty mainstream stuff.

    I probably would have loved this kind of stuff in my first year of high school, where pretty much half my class played Halo 2 together on a near-nightly basis. Now I just want to be left alone with my Etrian Odyssey, damnit.
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  • Avatar for PK-Strawstorm #3 PK-Strawstorm 4 years ago
    I'm not angry about this, but I too have no interest in it and hope that it won't impede the single-player experience for future software. Demon's Souls-style interconnectedness? Cool. Watching people play Demon's Souls-style interconnectedness? Who cares.
    The only "Let's Play" type thing I watch is Game Center CX, but that's because it's heavily edited into a single hour, interspliced with other segments, and hosted by a professional comedian. I'll also pop by the Mario 64 speed-runners, because they are providing a unique, impressive product with their bizarre obsession.
    As much as I love Retronauts, though, I can never get into their streams, as they just make me want to play the game myself. This whole new generation of people watching other people play games - and watching people with far less insight and far more swearing/rape jokes than Retronauts - is simply beyond my realm of understanding.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #4 metalangel 4 years ago
    Passing complete strangers on the 3DS is fine (as is seeing someone playing one on the subway and trying to work out later which of the ones arriving at my Plaza Gate are) but forcing too much of this stuff on me is not good.
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  • Avatar for donmilliken #5 donmilliken 4 years ago
    The social stuff is nice if you're into that, but I'm in it for the games and the PS4 is set to get some really good ones. That's all I need to get me excited.
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  • Avatar for alexb #6 alexb 4 years ago
    It seems the point of this social stuff in the new consoles is to try to force you to buy or participate in things you normally wouldn't due to social pressure. I'm not a fan of the trend.
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