How PlayStation 5’s user experience is built around the player

PlayStation 5 is launching in less than a month, and yet we still know so little about it. Well, Sony is looking to fix that with their latest State of Play. They dedicated 11 minutes to a full walkthrough through the PS5 user experience, which in all honesty has more features than you might think. They are rethinking the way you interact with the console, and they say this new UI is built “around the player” as opposed to being built around the game or media.

What’s that mean? Let’s take a look.

General look

The PlayStation 5 interface is, of course, designed for 4K TVs, which means even more sparkly particle effects on the startup screen. Just like PS4, you will assign accounts to controllers as you turn them on and will have a chance to set specific player options before you hop into the main UI. The main screen has two parts: cards in the middle and a toolbar at the bottom. The toolbar will give you access to all of the console’s technical options, from controller and settings options, PSN account management, sound management, timers, party and voice chat, and much more. The background of the menu is whatever game you are currently playing.

Cards

The cards are the most interesting part. This is the primary experience that is supposedly “designed around the player.” They appear to be designed around things you are doing or would like to do, rather than specific games.

The news card (which includes upcoming news and press releases from Sony) and the “create” card (which is all about screenshots, video, and other pieces of media made with the create button) were mostly glossed over.

Activity cards are the big new feature. They demonstrated their functionality with Sackboy: A Big Adventure. Activity cards don’t just show a game to play, but show things that you have been doing or can do within the game. For example, the adventure cards for Sackboy pointed out certain levels and goals such as trophies. By clicking on one of these cards, you can immediately begin a level, without even traveling there in the game itself!

Each individual card will keep track of your progress toward the card’s goal. They will tell you how close you are to completing said goal in terms of percentage completion, and an estimated time based on your gameplay so far. So if you only have 10 minutes to play before going to work, choose a goal that says you can complete it in about 10 minutes. Each card seems to act as a save state, so as long as you put your PS5 in rest mode instead of turning it off, you can resume play whenever you like.

Opening up a card will show a list of objectives. These objectives can be the main parts of the game or optional objectives themed around side-quests and collectibles. Your objective list will update itself as you complete more and more of the goal. However, if you are a PlayStation Plus member, you can click on any particular objective to bring up a spoiler-free guide and walkthrough for the objective. You can also decide how much help you need, from simple tips to a full video showing you exactly where to go and what to do. You can keep these hints and videos up onscreen while you play in numerous layouts such as picture-in-picture or side-by-side.

Cards will also note when your friends and party members are playing online multiplayer games. At any time you can click a multiplayer card to join a game your friends are playing, provided their match has open slots. This will be a great tool for giving a small surprise to your shooter buddy who thought he had to play with randos or your fighting game buddy who is waiting forever to find a match. When you are done, you can then click back on the card for the single-player game you were playing and resume play. This effectively makes each individual card something like a save state.

Pop-ups

Any important system messages will pop up in a small window in the upper right over your gameplay. You can press the PlayStation button to immediately interact with them. For example, if someone attempts to join in a voice chat, you will see the notification and by pressing the PlayStation button you can join without ever leaving your game.

Sony is designing parties on PlayStation 5 to be something you simply stay a part of, like friend groups. If one of the members of your party starts sharing their screen, once again you can begin watching with a simple tap of the PlayStation button. You don’t have to stop playing your own game to watch or chat and can layout your party’s gameplay wherever you like on the screen.

The create button

Much like the share button on PlayStation 4, the create button gives you a direct link to capturing your gameplay. While they didn’t have time to play a full match of Destruction All-Stars they did have time to completely ignore the gameplay and take a screenshot… something everyone will hate you for doing in the middle of a match so don’t do it.

PlayStation 5 is constantly capturing recent video, so you can always scroll back in your timeline to pick out the perfect shot that just came about organically. However, you can also pose and compose a shot as well, taking a screenshot in the traditional way. Screenshots and video can be captured in up to 4k resolution on PS5.

You can edit your screenshots and videos, share them to linked services like Twitter, or send them to parties. Yes, this means your party members will pester you with memes basically all day. Instead of content with spoilers being completely blocked, you can now send spoiler content to your friends but they will see a warning first and can choose for themselves whether to unlock it.

Interesting to note, you don’t have to use a keyboard for PS5 text input anymore. You can dictate what you want to say directly into the controller’s microphone.

The home screen

All these cards and activities and stuff? That’s not where you launch your games from. That’s what just shows up if you press the PlayStation button while inside a game or if you power up your PS5 from a rest state.

If you power up your PlayStation 5 from a powered off state or want to play a different game, you will go to the home menu which looks a lot more like a traditional PS4 menu. Menu items are shown in a bar at the top of the screen showing games you can play, services you can use, and more. Much like PS4, you can highlight a game to then see who is playing it, who is streaming it, what activities you can participate in, available DLC, and more. In fact, these features even work on backward compatible PS4 titles.

One tab on the home screen is the “explore” tab, which basically is an aggregate tab that will tell you what Sony thinks you want to know. This includes news from developers you follow, videos, screenshots, and streams of games you play or watch, friend activities, and more. Explore is still in the testing phases and not everyone will have access to it on day one.

The PlayStation Store is now completely integrated into the firmware. It’s not a standalone app, so you can browse, purchase, and download new games without needing to close any other software. Once again PlayStation 5 will recommend you PS5 and backward compatible PS4 games through the store based on your gameplay habits.

Watch the entire presentation below: