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.


Clinton -- said...

Nice overview, Josh. I am watching the development of PS Home with great interest.

Since I only have the time and budget for a 360, I'm not quite sure what the impact of a success for Home would mean to me. Sony has certainly been following Microsoft's lead on a number of innovations this generation. Achievemtns vs. trophies comes readily to mind. However, it would also benefit everyone if Sony showed MS a few new tricks as well.

As slick and usable as the NXE is, the act of making new friends is still based off of meeting players via multiplayer games, or getting involved with an indie gaming community. If Home can enrich the PSN user community and foster more friendships, it will go a long way towards helping Sony mature their online services.

Josh said...

Thanks Clinton.

I agree that Sony has had to do alot of the "Me too" sort of rally cries and while this isn't exactly a new concept (a la Second Life) it's well executed and I've had a lot of fun with it thus far.

I have seriously found myself with alot of new friends now just from playing Bowling or pool with them online. Even just wandering around the plaza and mall has garnerd me a much more rewarding experience with my PS3 gaming and social interaction.

Further to your point of the NXE launch. I found myself vastly underwhelmed by it. Ohhh...Pretty avatars and a slightly more user friendly dashboard. I like the idea of the Netflix streaming but I'm one of the people out there who is on a very limited bandwidth service and I buy my movies. I haven't rented anything in over 8 years. So it doesn't do much for me.

Unless they add newly released films that are still in theater on there which, I fear is still quite far off, I'm not that intrigued.

To me there was nothing wrong with the blade dashboard anyway.

Paul Hunter said...

I've found Playstation Home to be engaging and have spent an hour or more in the virtual world from time to time. It really is fun doing things like going to the bowling alley and playing the arcade games and a round of pool. I do think the graphics within Home are excellent. On a few occassions I found myself looking into the distance just admiring the scenery and watching some of the big screen videos. As long as Sony keeps it fresh and entertaining than I'm hooked. By my second experience using Home I already met a few people online who added me as friends. I never would have expected meeting people to be so easy.

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