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Walking Through the PlayStation 5 User Interface

The next-gen PS5 operating system promises several innovative functions never seen before on a game console

Denis Cangemi
Oct 17 · 6 min read

The Japanese console giant has finally revealed the PlayStation 5 user interface. What we saw wasn’t just a pretty new UI, either. Sony is demonstrating a clear intention to build a machine that is faster and leaner than its predecessors — not just in terms of the launch titles, but in terms of numerous features that impact the day-to-day use of the console. Here’s an overview of the key elements of the PlayStation 5 operating system.

Putting players at the center

The driving force behind the new interface is to meet the player’s needs, and to put them at the center of the experience. The player’s time is valuable, and it should be meaningful. Sony’s design emphasizes the player both in terms of the solo experience, as well as the moments when they are connecting with the broader community. Immediately after booting up the console — and after the appearance of the PlayStation logo — we move to a user selection screen with icons slightly reversed in terms of visual design (but not too distant from the ones we’re already familiar with on the PS4).

What’s truly interesting is the way in which the PS5 OS overlays with the in-game experience. We saw numerous examples of these interactions during the Sackboy: A Big Adventure gameplay.

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In the above image, it’s possible to appreciate one of the PS5’s major novelties — the Control Center. It’s an overlay dashboard that doesn’t require you to leave the game in order to access a wide range of options. From here you can see other online players, the status of downloads, manage your controllers, and access numerous other system-related functions.

The Control Center contains several tabs designed to improve interaction with games. The first is dedicated to information from the PlayStation world, with trailers, news, and other updates. Other tabs incorporate multimedia components like photos and videos captured during gameplay.

The most fascinating sections are undoubtedly those dedicated to what Sony call Activities. These are features that directly interact with the game experience on several levels. In the Sackboy example, you might instantaneously jump to specific levels. Or you might want to keep an eye on all the information related to a certain portion of the adventure, such as the items you haven’t yet collected or the tasks to be completed. Sony demonstrated numerous assistance features here, too. For example, you might be on a level and you can bring up a picture-in-picture video that explains how to overcome an immediately-relevant challenge.

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The PS5 can even estimate the time required to complete a certain activity. If you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber, you can consult official guides that can all be accessed without ever leaving your game. They can even be pinned to the side of the screen so that you can follow the instructions step-by-step. The entire experience has been designed to avoid the need to leave your session and consult guides and tips on the web (which is also handy if you want to avoid spoilers!)

Endless gameplay

The central pillar of Sony’s PS5 strategy — at least as far as the moment-to-moment experience goes — seems to be all about never taking the player out of the game. Even invitations for voice chat can be accepted extremely quickly without interrupting gameplay. The State of Play presentation also clarified that a party can be formed with players who are on the PlayStation 4 or even via the official mobile app. Bear in mind too that the PS5’s DualSense controller has a built-in microphone, which can be activated according to your preferences — it’s useful for chatting with friends without needing to connect a headset.

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Once you’ve joined a party, you’ll be able to share a livestream of your game. At the same time, you can view your friends’ gameplay in real-time all without pausing your own game experience. Even better, you can directly control the visual interface (for example, you can place your friends’ livestream PIP windows anywhere on the screen and even selectively mute audio from different streams).

In addition to the above, you can quickly access a friend’s game in order to instantly start a multiplayer session. Capturing screenshots and video has become lightning-fast, too, and all content can be captured in up to 4K. Captures are placed in a dedicated “Activity”, where they can be edited and shared on social networks and within parties.

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Dynamic dashboard

The unique new Control Center is perhaps the jewel in the PS5’s OS crown. But Sony also showed off the new Dashboard, which is essentially the PS5’s home screen — it’s where we’ll be spending a lot of our time in between gaming sessions.

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Its appearance seems to be more evolution than revolution. Both the size and layout of the on screen cards have been revised to improve the user experience. As you switch between games, the wallpaper changes dynamically. The lower section of the screen contains various options to view content, DLC, and other information for a specific title. Many of these specific features are already available on the PS4, and it’s nice to see the concept continued through on the PS5.

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Alongside the games list is the Explore tab, which is dedicated to all official Sony communications as well as the topics that players follow. This particular feature won’t be fully-functional at launch, however. It will only launch after an initial test phase in the United States.

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Of course, there’s an entire section dedicated to the PlayStation Store — here, we’re faced with a total change in direction. The digital storefront is integrated directly into the Dashboard, meaning it is no longer a standalone application you have to launch. This should mean that searching for relevant games will be easier and faster, while the content on display will update based on the player’s interests. Hopefully this will help developers — especially indies — to be more discoverable than they are now.

So, here we are, at the dawn of a new generation of consoles. Sony’s vision for next generation console gaming is certainly compelling: between Activities, Official Guides, and the new multiplayer components, the console gaming experience looks set to change significantly in the coming years — the ability to access a wide array of functionality without ever leaving your game is pretty compelling. Thanks for reading!

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