Learn All About Vita's Near, Party, LiveArea and Activity
Posted by James Newton
Wireless functions explained
It's all well and good being able to play Vita games on your own, but the machine is designed to help you connect with other users too, whether you know it or not.
Sony's R&D man Phil Rogers explained the machine's capabilities at the recent Develop conference, detailing the console's LiveArea, Party, Near and Activity modes.
Party mode is the Holy Grail of PlayStation gaming — cross-game chat, both text and voice, with the ability to launch games with regular groups of players in a clan-like function. Rogers explains:
You can have different Party groups for different games or genres. Maybe you've got a first-person shooter group that you can all chat and go into.
Parties will be accessed through your friends list but won't be compulsory: not all games will use them, but those that do will offer you the option of swapping to the chat channel for the game you're in instead.
Near is a little trickier to explain. Operating a little like the StreetPass function in Nintendo's 3DS, you'll be able to build up a picture of who's nearby, what games they own and any gifts or challenges they've left you.
Rogers' description makes it sound like a cross between social networking and user-to-user marketing:
What Near does is it allows users to discover each other, leave gifts for each other and essentially find out more about games. You can see where people are in relation to your location, their five most recently played games and also gifts that they've registered. 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.
LiveArea and Activity
According to Rogers, "LiveArea is where you go to launch your PlayStation Vita day" — from here you can check out any updates from the game's publisher, latest scores from your friends, DLC and more. LiveArea also lets game content providers track your location, opening up the possibility for location-specific gaming — PSP veterans may remember some characters in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops could only be recruited when connecting to WiFi hotspots in certain locations.
As for Activity, that's a log of things you've done with your Vita — Trophies earned, games you've rated, people you've met and so on. It's a personalised messageboard for your console of sorts.
If you want to see some of these features in action, we have a PlayStation Vita home menu features video for your eyes to drink in.