Playstation Home First Impressions

By Mike on 6:00 am

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What's my first impression on Home now that I can write about it? Well, I'm not sure how I can put it delicately so I'll just say it: it sucks. Of course, first I should tell you a little about what Home is. Basically, it's Sony's foray into social networking. Pundits have dubbed this type of online interaction as Web 3.0 since it allows you to navigate the web, or rather a small chunk of it for now, in a 3D environment. Home is, in essence, yet another Second Life ripoff. Right from the get go, Home has its problems. Now, we do have to keep in mind that this is a Public Beta release. For those who don't know, a Beta is a piece of software that is in its testing phases before general release. Coders use betas to track down and eliminate bugs before the final product is shipped. A public beta is a program that is still in beta that the public can use and test. They usually represent the late phases of program development but are not the finalized product. The first problem I encountered in Home was difficulty logging on. One time it took me four attempts before it would connect to the Home server.

When you first start the game, you'll be prompted to create an avatar. That is, a virtual you. You can select from a wide variety of parameters including facial features, sex, eye colour, race, hair colour and style, body type, clothing, and accessories. There are preset face and body types or you can fine tune them to more accurately represent yourself, or whoever you want your avatar to be. Not one to falsify myself online, I picked out an avatar that looks like me. Currently, clothing styles and accessories such as facial hair, glasses, clothing, and jewellery offer vary limited choices. Once you're done selecting your avatar, the game drops you into a vary sparse looking beach front apartment. It's basically a bland empty room with a few pieces of bland furniture. The game from here guides you on how to use Home. From there, you can leave your apartment and visit other areas. Home's city doesn't have cars or a bus for some reason so expect to do a lot of tedious walking around. When you enter a any new environment for the first time, you'll be prompted to download it first. Only the apartment is included with the initial download so everything else has to be obtained separately. Each area weighs in at about 35mb. Loading times for area seem unnecessarily slow. As for places to visit, there's a mall to buy (overpriced) stuff, such as furniture for your apartment and accessories, but selection is vary limited right now. There are also arcade games, which are pretty dull, and game specific rooms (ie the Uncharted Room) that really don't serve much of a purpose. There are arcade cabinets in the game that offer vary basic titles, but they can only be used by one person at a time, just like in the real world. So if someone is hogging it, you're SOOL. Chat is slow and tedious since few PS3 owners have keyboards, PS Eyes, or Bluetooth headsets hooked up to the system. This begs the question: why would I want to talk to strangers in a virtual world in the first place? It has come to my attention that there are actually people out there with less of a life than myself. I know, hard to believe isn't it. I guess that's what's been fuelling Second Life and World of Warcraft all these years. Needless to say I just had a look around and didn't talk to anyone. If the Home visitors are anything like typical online gamers, they're probably mostly obnoxious, snot nosed teenagers. Most people in Home don't seem too talkative anyway. They're mostly just wandering around aimlessly like I was.

Home is one of those products that has been in development for what seems like forever. Next to in-game XMB, it was 2008's most coveted PS3 feature. However, despite the long wait, Home just fails to impress. It feels like an empty world devoid of anything really fun or useful. Granted the Xbox and Wii offer something similar but I just don't think a console is an ideal platform for this type of service. Social networking sites are a dime a dozen these days. As on IGN pundit put it, it's much more enjoyable to share the social gaming experience with friends on a Wii than it is to entre a virtual world with only robotic 3D facsimiles of people to talk to. That said, it's not like Sony is charging people to use Home so that maybe its one saving grace. All PS3 owners should automatically have Home on their systems now provided it is connected to the internet.

Update: The folks at Penny Arcade sum up my feelings towards Home pretty well. lol

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