PS4 interface, user account features and social functionality detailed at GDC

Sony went into a deep dive on the PlayStation 4 during a session at the 2013 Game Developers Conference today, giving attendees details on the console's user interface, account features and social functionality.

Chris Norden, senior staff engineer from the strategy team for developer services and support at Sony Computer Entertainment America, showed off the console's interface and pointed out that it will show information about a game — including comments from other players and downloadable content — before you boot up a game.

A "digest" screen tells you what your PlayStation Network friends are playing at the moment, and you'll have the option to use their real names, which will show up in games. If you link your PSN account to your Facebook account, you'll be required to use your real name (or, presumably, whatever name is on your Facebook account). If some players haven't linked their accounts, then everyone will have to agree to use their real names in order for all players to see them.

In a game, you might see a player's real name overlaid on a part of a race course, for example. According to Norden, Sony wants to put players' real names into games wherever it makes sense. User accounts are tied to a player or controller, not a single PS4 console. And Norden said that Sony is increasing the PSN friend limit — PlayStation 3 users are limited to 100 friends.

Sony wants to put players' real names into games

The spectator mode enabled by the Share button on the DualShock 4 controller is built into the PS4 hardware, so developers don't need to code it for every game. Users can send comments while they're spectating on a game. And a long press on the Share button will take a screenshot. The light bar on the controller will be illuminated in a color that represents which player's controller it is: blue for player 1, red for player 2, green for player 3 and pink for player 4 — like the X, circle, triangle and square face buttons.

As for the face buttons, they'll be digital buttons instead of the analog, pressure-sensitive ones that were in the DualShock 2 and DualShock 3. According to Norden, few PS3 developers bothered to make use of the analog buttons. The DualShock 4's touchpad features a 1920x900 resolution, and it will click when you push it down.

Remote Play with the PlayStation Vita is also baked into the PS4, and both the handheld screen and TV will mirror each other, instead of the TV showing a message telling you to look at the PS Vita. Since the PS Vita doesn't have triggers like the DualShock 4, a default controller mapping for those buttons will be available, and developers can customize that layout. The new PlayStation Eye, a depth-sensing device with two cameras, plugs into the PS4 with a proprietary connector, not through USB.

the PlayStation Eye uses a proprietary connector

Toward the end of the session, Sony demoed a PlayStation App that will be available on iOS and Android. You'll be able to browse the PlayStation Store and buy games through the app; they'll start downloading immediately, and once you get home, you'll have the ability to play the part that's already downloaded.

Matt Leone contributed to this report.

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