Two important announcements emerged from Games Developer Conference 2007, LittleBigPlanet and PlayStation Home. LittleBigPlanet arrived earlier this quarter and with the PlayStation Home service finally open to the general populous, I was finally able to explore this PlayStation branded virtual space. What I found was a mess void of feeling, function and most importantly, fun. As is, PlayStation Home looks to be a colossal waste of everybody’s time.
Nothing demonstrates the time taxing nature of PlayStation Home better than its avatar creation system. Whilst the Nintendo Mii and Xbox Avatars opted for the light hearted path of player representations, Sony walked down the path of meticulous realism. Laughs were had when I created my Mii. My Avatar for the NXE was also created with ease and smiles. But with Home? I felt like I needed to learn facial reconstruction. It’s simply not quick or painless. It’s a arduous task of grid and slider manipulation which in the end produces someone who could pass as your ugly and stoic relative.
Sterility and lifelessness is a common theme throughout Home’s disjointed online spaces. Using the in-game handheld device (which was originally supposed to be a PSP), I took the time to download a handful of the online spaces. The Uncharted and Far Cry 2 spaces were thematically relevant to their respective games, but I didn’t find anything a screenshot or a movie of the space couldn’t convey. The other online rooms were just too bland and since they insisted on allowing a limited number of “activity stations”, I didn’t get to try any of them — it just didn’t seem worth waiting for.
When you boil it down, the interaction between players feels like a tertiary activity — something I would do if I was in a MMO and bored. You could communicate with other Home attendees through gestures, voice or text, but that’s it; it’s just a chat room. The ability to launch games from within Home is absent from this build. Even if it was present, Sony has done nothing to help players of similar interests gather together. If the purpose of Home was to find other Call of Duty 4 players, how does one accomplish this? Is there a COD4 meet up area? No. I could spam the various online spaces looking for groups. Then again, the only people who would use such a feature are those who feel the need to see 3D representations of other players before getting into a game. See how ridiculous that is?
PlayStation Home could have been a worthwhile service if Sony managed to nail down the basics. The one useful function of entering multiplayer games via a party isn’t available yet. What we get instead are awkward 3D chatrooms where we can watch 3D avatars disco dance to bubble machines while a trailer of Twilight plays in the background. There’s also an obvious lack of polish and elegance to its construction. “Why did you give us PlayStation Home in its current state, Sony? What do you want us to do with this?” Even though this only costs 3 GB of hard drive space, I can’t help, but feel a bit cheated.
On the bright side, this isn’t being forced upon us.