Sony's Phil Rogers offers more Vita details

Sony has gone public with a few more details about the on-line modes that will be included with the PlayStation Vita hand-held console, including Near, Party, LiveArea, and Activity.

A press release from launch partner AT&T revealed the details behind Near early last month, outlining a location-based sub-game built in to the system which operates a lot like the StreetPass technology built into Nintendo's 3DS console.

StreetPass works by keeping a Wi-Fi eye out for nearby consoles, and exchanging details about the player such as high scores for certain titles. Unlike StreetPass, Near allows users to tag a physical location with a 'gift' which a passing user can pick up, even if the sender is no longer in the area.

"The virtual items can include content unlocked from games, such as character costumes, weapons and treasures," AT&T explained.

Speaking at the Develop Conference, Sony's manager of research and development in Europe Phil Rogers took a swipe at StreetPass by pointing out that Near gifts don't rely on physical proximity of consoles in order to operate. "You can see where people are in relation to your location, their five most recently played games and also gifts that they've registered," he is quoted by Eurogamer as telling attendees at the conference.

Rogers also detailed Party, a multiplayer gaming feature that allows for up to four players to join up and use text and voice chat to communicate, even when playing on different games. The Party mode will include one-click joining of games in progress, too, like Microsoft's Xbox Live service.

Finally, Rogers introduced LiveArea, an on-device portal where gamers can access news and details in a cross between the What's New section of Sony's existing user interface and a social networking service. Users will be able to browse the progress their friends have made in particular titles, send messages to each other, comment on a user's activity, and view game-specific news such as the release of new downloadable content.

Interestingly, Rogers indicated that the location-specific functionality of the Vita will work even on the Wi-Fi only version. "We work with Skyhook," he explained, referring to a company which retains a map detailing the location of wireless access points around the world in order for mobile devices to ascertain their locations without the use of mobile mast triangulation or GPS.

The PS Vita is expected to launch in November, priced at £249 for the Wi-Fi only mode and £299 for the Wi-Fi and 3G version.