Sony Computer Entertainment America has announced the anticipated sequel to their hit series LittleBigPlanet is now exclusively available to PlayStation 3 owners. LittleBigPlanet 2 was developed by Media Molecule, and provides SackFans with new ways to play, create, and share their user-generated content. According to Sony, this type of gameplay has never been seen before, specifically in regards to level control and customization features.
“Since the launch of LittleBigPlanet, our online community has uploaded over three million levels to the PlayStation Network, with creations popping up everyday that continue to amaze,” said Scott A. Steinberg, vice president, product marketing, in a statement. “With LittleBigPlanet 2, players now have the ability to create actual games across different genres, so it will be very exciting to see what our community can come up with. LittleBigPlanet 2 also boasts a brand new story mode for Sackboy to explore that, coupled with the millions of user-created levels online, provides an endless entertainment experience that can be enjoyed by the entire family.”
The newest iteration of Sackboy’s adventures begins with a completely new story mode that provides users with a feature rich reshaped world to play in and explore. 40 story levels across 6 different themes make up the campaign, with each level influenced by cultural points in history, and presented in a visually rich environment provided via a completely revamped graphics engine. Play themes include:
- Techno Renaissance
- Steampunk and Cake
- Neon Propaganda
- Fluffy High-Tech
- Designer Organic
- Hand-made Arcade
In other words…if you thought LittleBigPlanet I was eye candy, wait until you get your eyeballs on v2.
In create mode, Sony has taken cues from previous user creations, and allowed for users to create their own games, no longer just levels. Players can completely customize their experience with the ability to reset controller buttons for any object and change the rules associated with any level using the Controlinator. New multiplayer abilities really open of the potential of social gaming, allowing for any type of game play imaginable (and creatable) including racing games, flying games, shooters, puzzle games, sports, etc. With LittleBigPlanet II, players are bound only by their creativity.
And last, but certainly not least, LittleBigPlanet II’s sharing features. The new sharing experience allows gamers to spend less time searching and more time playing…millions of new levels and games created by fellow LBP players from around the world. To facilitate this, Sony has introduced LBP.me, a new social networking platform dedicated solely to LittleBigPlanet players. Each and every level and/or game that is created within LittleBigPlanet, receives it’s own page on the site, thus allowing users to quickly and easily find and play content. But that’s only one half of the story. Players can peruse content at LBP.me from the office, the campus, on the go, etc, and add it to their queue. Once connected to the PlayStation Network on their PS3, users will see this queue, and can instantly jump to their pre-selected content.
Naturally, Sony’s tossed in a few new features for Sackboy himself to enjoy, including a Grapple hook that allows him to swing across large gaps and pulling small objects towards him. The new Grabinator can pick objects up and throw them, and the customizable Creatinator can produce just about anything under the sun.
And just for added measure, LittleBigPlanet II now features a Music Sequencer, allowing players to not only compose their own music, but to connect in-game objects to these musical compositions. Budding Mozart’s now no longer need to be pulled away from their favorite title.
For the first time ever, fans of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue will no longer have to view their favorite bathing beauties on the pages of their Sports mag, but in stunning 3D video. The 3D eye-candy is part of an exclusive deal signed between Sony Network Entertainment and Sports Illustrated, and leverages Sony’s unique technology, content, products and services one-two punch.
Launching in conjunction with the print version, the SI swimsuit 2011 issue hits streets and screens this coming February 15th. The 3D Swimsuit video will be available for rental or purchase via the PlayStation Network’s video delivery service on the PlayStation 3 (PS3), as well as their “Video On Demand powered by Qriocity” 3D compatible and network enabled BRAVIA HDTVs and blu-ray players. While aimed at the 3D market, Sony ensures that a 2D version of the video will be available, as well as a free three-minute sneak peak will become available later this year.
“Just when you think the bar couldn’t get any higher for the Swimsuit franchise, we’ve raised it once again with our partners at Sony,” said Mark Ford, President of the Sports Illustrated Group. “Swimsuit in 3D has extraordinary potential and we’re thrilled to deliver its millions of fans a new perspective through the exciting world of 3D video.”
And if smokin’ hot ladies in binikis isn’t enough for you, Sony has tossed in the entire kitchen sink, with 12+ hours of additional footage available for rent or purchase. This additional content includes a 1 hour “Making of” segment, as well as four 30 minute shorts featuring the 2011 Swimsuit photo shoot locations, presumably, in case you’re ready to make some hot shots yourself. These additional features also focus on the history of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue. PS3 owners can purchase SI swimsuit focused Dynamic Themes that cover iconic SI model photos from the 1990s (mmmm…Elle MacPherson).
“The combination of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit brand with the amazing 3D capabilities of Sony’s network-enabled devices makes for a great consumer entertainment experience,” said Tim Schaaff, President, Sony Network Entertainment. “We strive to deliver unique content to our users, and are delighted to offer this first-of-its-kind high definition 3D Swimsuit video.”
Fans of Polyphony Digital’s long awaited 5th installment of their Gran Turismo series have something to cheer about. While it’s not the first time that Sony Online Entertainment has promised delivery of the real-life driving simulator, it looks like they mean it for real this time.
Over it’s history, Gran Turismo has shipped over 56 million units worldwide, and has been lauded as the authority on driving simulators. GT’s real life graphics, authentic physics technology and design have all led to revolutionizing the racing game category. Driving the Gran Turismo series is none other than professional racing driving and video game designer Kazunori Yamauchi. In addition to giving gamers a high quality racing experience, Gran Turismo is also seen as a highly desirable platform for auto manufacturers to showcase their cars and accessories on.
“Gran Turismo 5 is an ambitious project, with challenges and complexities which have made it our version of the Apollo Space Program!” commented Kazunori Yamauchi, President of Polyphony Digital Inc. “When we created the original Gran Turismo back in 1997, we wanted to set a completely new precedent for the racing genre. With the technological leap onto PlayStation 3, our objective with Gran Turismo 5 was to create another great revolution which would not only satisfy our own high expectations, but would meet or even exceed the anticipation of the fans.”
GT5 will feature the world’s most famous racetracks, all rendered in gorgeous high definition, with Polyphony Digital claiming that it’s, “as vivid as the real thing.” Classic circuits including Autumn Ring, Deep Forest Raceway, and the Grand Valley Speedway have found a home in the newest version of the Gran Turismo franchise, as well as real-world courses including the Nurburgring and Laguna Seca.
Over 1,000 cars will be on tap, ranging from legends of yesteryear right on through to today’s bleeding edge of automotive technology. Starting November 24th, horsepower hungry gearheads can get their hands on the Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce, the Lexus LFA, and the McLaren MP4-12C.
“Satisfying the loyal Gran Turismo followers is at the heart of all of our efforts, which is why it was such a difficult decision to delay the release of the game, and one which we did not take lightly. I can only apologize to everyone for making you wait so long, and I hope that when you try out the wealth of driving experiences available in Gran Turismo 5, you will not be disappointed,” adds Yamauchi.
More info and full car and track specs can be found at gran-turismo.com.
Sony Music Entertainment has officially launched Ariama.com today. The new portal is an online store dedicated solely to classical music. Harnessing the power of today’s web (and algorithms) Sony promises that Ariama will revolutionize the way consumers discover and acquire classical music on the web.
As with all things Sony, when they do something – they do it right! They’re kicking off the service with over 50 major and leading independent labels, all designed to provide consumers with an elegant, one-stop destination for CD’s, high quality MP3s (320 kbps), and lossless digital downloads (FLAC).
One of Sony’s boasting rights when it comes to Ariama is via their powerful search engine. Search and discovery tools are designed allow users to expand their current classical pallet. Extending beyond track, artist, title, or album filter options, Ariama’s tools also include composition, period, instrumentation, conductor, ensemble, and soloist.
“We are thrilled to announce the beta launch of Ariama.com,” said Thomas Hesse, President, Global Digital Business, US Sales, and Corporate Strategy, Sony Music Entertainment. “We think classical consumers are an important under-served segment of the music buying population, and we have designed Ariama as the answer for fans experiencing an increasingly difficult time finding compelling retail options for classical CDs and downloads. As a company that is home to one of the world’s richest classical music libraries, Sony Music understands the unique requirements of the classical music consumer, and we have tailored Ariama to meet them.”
My Ariama experience
As of today, Ariama is in beta, and still has a few kinks to be worked out. For example, I received a “Ooops, something’s broken,” message upon creating my account at Ariama, however, jumping back to the home page revealed that I was in fact logged in.
The search functionality is neat, but nothing groundbreaking. Yes, the have conductors, performers, orchestras’, etc. listed, but it’s really nothing more than a nice way of saying that they’ve categorized the items in their site nicely, read: tags. I do like how they’ve provided a bit of background for each artist, orchestra, work, etc. as it gives the end user a bit more knowledge about what they’re viewing – but wouldn’t they already be a halfway educated consumer? I.e, I’m not going to go looking for Steve Reich’s music, if I didn’t already know a bit about Steve Reich? With that said, I did learn from Ariama today that Reich played jazz on weekends while studying at Cornell.
The feature that I found most helpful was the “Recommendations” section. There’s obviously been a lot of listening going on at Sony, and while searching Herbert von Karajan, I am in complete concord with Ariama’s recommendations, as I believe his 1956 recording of Der Rosenkavalier to be one of his very best – so hats off to you Sony.
The one thing that I found missing from Ariama was a bit of social features. Again, Sony’s recommendations, at least with von Karajan and Reich were spot on, but if they’re touting the platform as a revolutionary new way for lovers of classical music to discover new works – why not let users tell other users’ about it? For example, when searching Eduard Elgar, Ariama does serve up the 1932 EMI recording of Elgar himself conducting his violin concerto and enigma variations, but doesn’t list it as a recommended recording. However – if there was a user to user connection, I’d love to see a note in there that points out that Sir Eduard Elgar was 75 years old at the time of recording, AND the violin concerto features a 16 year old Yehudi Menuhin.
All in all, I applaud Sony’s move to give classical it’s own platform, specifically targeted to classical music buffs. Now if they’d only give me a way to interact with all those other fans….
One final drawback that I saw to the service is the availability formats. While Ariama is keen to point out that they’re offering 320kbps MP3′s and FLAC lossless audio – as well as CD’s that usually ship within a day, the vast majority of the recordings I was interested were offered up sans MP3 or FLAC formats. In other words, what makes the service so convenient failed me on numerous occasions. If I’m hunting for the 1991 John Eliot Gardiner recording of Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem Op.45, I’d have to wait 24 hours before the CD ships. Then wait the 5-7 business days it would take to get to me (more like 2 weeks, as I live in Austria), and then spend the time ripping the file to a 320kbps file in iTunes – where I may or may not have to tag it myself.
With that said, I don’t want to be too hard on the fledgling music service, as there were plenty of other searches that I did where I could (and did) easily download a beautiful high quality MP3. In case you’re wondering, it’s the 1930′s recordings of Maestro Pablo Casals’ Bach Cello Suites. Go buy this. You’ll thank me.
And I can’t let this review in without mentioning the other classical music service on the block, Passionato, who’s been doing some really neat things since their launch in late 2008. Two competing classical music outlets you say? I don’t see anything wrong with it, so long as one has what the other doesn’t and vice-versa. Either way, at the end of the day both services are sure to provide a win for today’s digital downloading classical music lovers.