Dec 10, 2008

First Impressions: Playstation Home

Guest Post - First Impressions by: Josh McPherson

A week ago I got an invite to be part of the Playstation Home Beta. For those of you out of the loop or asking what “Home” is, it’s basically like Second Life and Sony’s answer to the online gaming community (PSN users in particular). You create a digital version of yourself and are immediately immersed into a virtual world where you can interact with other users and make friends.

After I got the invite I raced home after work and immediately started to mess around with it. I initialized the download and was immediately greeted with an error stating that I was low on space and needed to have 2.5GB of storage dedicated to Home. As someone who got screwed by Sony’s lack of inventory and EB Games’ inability to guarantee my console before January, I had to settle for the launch date 20GB console because I wanted my BluRay and PS3 immediately. Begrudgingly I began deleting files of my system to accommodate the space requirements.

The download was quick and smooth and took me no more then 5-10 minutes from start to finish. As soon as it was done I was thrust into an avatar creation utility that was surprisingly deep and detailed at this stage in a Beta form and after some messing around help from my wife I was happy with my results and continued on.

Within moments I found myself in a plain room with a view of the ocean. This was my new Playstation Home and it was pretty sweet looking but lacking something. I ventured forth into the brave new world and found myself in a central meeting locale surrounded by people who were all running around trying to make friends, and playing around with the controls. At one point myself and about twelve other people were just standing in a circle chatting. At first I used the built in keyboard and found it to be quite cumbersome so I suggest getting yourself a BluTooth headset or the Wireless keyboard attachment for the PS3 controller.

Suddenly out of nowhere I heard gunshots and explosions, I turned my Avatar around and saw an ad for FarCry 2 running on what would be a huge virtual TV Screen in the middle on the far side of the plaza. Next I decided to check out the Movie theatre where they had posted “Socom 3” in the now playing marquee. I decided to see what it was all about and was greeted by an error notifying me that I would need to download some files. It gave me the option to download them in the background while I waited so I opted to do that and immediately assumed that Mall and the Bowling Alley would require the same thing which they did.

While I was wandering around and making the virtual me disco dance like a fool to no music a few people came up to me and started chatting and asking me how to do things. When I told them I wasn’t sure we all just hung around for about an hour and figured things out and shared the information with one another. We all decided to go into the Bowling alley to see what was going on there. Once inside we got separated (presumably to different servers) and inside a series of bowling alleys, pool tables and some arcade machines to mess around on. I managed to get in on a few games of everything and had a really good time chatting with other users.

Personally I really hope to see Sony build upon this. The mall was by and large unusable due in part to nothing being available in the stores (Furniture for your Home and new clothing for you Avatar). I know that Sony wants to really drive this home as being a great community to meet new friends and generate revenue through micro-transactions in the stores (and without any doubt on demand movies in the theatre). My only wish is that Sony allows you to trade in “trophies” from various games for some of these little virtual possessions because I can’t see myself spending any of my money for fake furniture or clothing.

My first few experiences have been good and I have since made some new gaming friends which, let’s be honest, is really what Sony was hoping to do. With all do respect to Sony, I don’t think they could have screwed up the Playstation online platform much worse than they already had. Time will tell if this highly touted and much ballyhooed gamble pays off but I think they’re going in the right direction. I for one and optimistic for the future of Home and will no doubt visit often.