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PlayStation Home Impressions

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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.

2 Responses

  1. Soren
    | Reply

    I completely disagree with most of this review; I just got it earlier today, and I think that the potential for this already great experience is exponential. There are things still missing, but it’s a beta- not the full release. Not only that, but the full game will always an ever-changing experience. I was easily able to play chess, which is simple and elegant, without hardly a wait. The character creation, I believe, is absolutely brilliant, sans the fact that it needs MORE, not less, detail, etc. (I can’t put a beauty mark on my guy? And only one type of normal glasses?) It only took me about 5-10 minutes to make my avatar, not unlike my Wii Mii. The mini-games are a nice addition, and it’s all free aside from new houses/furniture. The graphics are stunning, the control system is fairly intuitive, and the community is open, safe, and friendly. I was making new friends within minutes- friends from Slovakia.

    The few features absent for now are far and few between, but better be included in future updates. You should be able to get a television in your apartment so that you can sit on your couch, invite friends over, and watch media stored on your HDD together. The same goes for the still-to-come radio, using your stored music.

    And just a note about comparison to the 360 and the Wii, I believe that even with the new menu system for the 360 (the old dashboard was beyond crappy), it does not even compare to this new addition to the Playstation’s already impressive features. Maybe I don’t want a stupid cartoony guy that looks nothing like me and doesn’t actually do anything besides do a little dance. Maybe I want an avatar that actually resembles me, represents me with good graphics? The Home system is a game changer.

    By the way, he God of War space should be awesome when it is eventually released, as will be the LittleBigPlanet space.

    This is by far worth the download, and I think it is a real selling point for the PS3; I wouldn’t be surprised if it helped Sony’s sales, and rightly so.

  2. Forge
    | Reply

    Actually his impressions are bang on. Home, in its current state, is a colossas waste of development resources when they could have been working on the functional things that are missing on the ps3 such as voice chat consistent at the OS level, that does NOT cut out between games

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