No place like Home

The only “gaming” I did last night was running around in Playstation Home, since it was announced that all the free junk in beta would turn to “paid for” junk in Open Beta. I fervently hope this isn’t true, because if it is I think Sony is in for a big surprise.

Would you pay real money for a virtual ottoman for your virtual apartment? I know I wouldn’t, and I hope a lot of these ‘basic items’ remain free.

Overall, to say I’ve been underwhelmed with the Home beta would be an understatement. I think its a train wreck, and this coming from a Sony Fanboy. I greatly prefer the PS3 over the XBox 360 or Wii, but this…service. I don’t get.

Everyone gets a big sterile empty apartment that they can decorate and do nothing in. Or you can go to the Central Plaza, which is a big, sterile open area for you to do nothing in (though I understand they’ve added a game to this area in today’s update). You can go to the mall to shop for the aforementioned virtual items, but when you attempt to pass through the doors into a store you get a big menu pop-up. There is no actual store to walk around in. There’s a movie theater that, for me at least, takes longer to download the “movie” (trailer, really) than it does to play it.

And there’s the bowling alley, the one tiny pocket of fun in the service. You can play pool there, or bowl, or access an arcade machine. I’ve only done the latter and it was ok.

As for the avatars, they are universally creepy, in that “uncanny valley” way. Also they all feel completely generic. You have a ton of analog controls to set cheek height and mouth width and brow protrusion and on and on, but everyone still ends up looking like a 20-something mallrat dweeb. I feel that both the XBox Avatars and the Nintendo Miis allow a better “reflect my personality” experience with their virtual creations.

The bright shining hope for Home comes from Red Bull. There’s a Red Bull Pavillion that’s going in (maybe today?) that, from the previews I’ve seen, looks visually interesting and has some activities to do (flying a stunt plane). But the ‘out of the box’ content for Home is sterile, boring, and pointless. If it had just showed up it would’ve been fine (given that its free, after all) but after the months and months of hype, launching this is just another example of Sony shooting themselves in the foot.

But everyone is getting it, so I’d love to hear what I’m missing. Please leave a comment telling me what you’re enjoying about Home.

Here’s some footage from the Red Bull sponsored area. More areas like this one would make Home a fun and exciting product. I really hope this is in for launch.

8 thoughts on “No place like Home

  1. yaiks… I was kinda hoping this would be a neat thing. Even though I have no ps3 I like to hear that advancements are made… but that doesnt sound like advancement.

  2. I never understood this either. Walking an avatar around is a pretty crappy interface to ‘get things done.’ I’m just not sure what the use of it all is.

  3. i’m the opposite of you then, Pete. I prefer the 360 experience over the PS3 & I find everything that is PS3, ‘sterile’. The 360 has more warmth to it for me…

  4. @DM, my feelings about the 360 might be different if I hadn’t been a launch customer. My first one was really, really loud, ended up breaking (and not a red ring, so that repair cost me $100) and I was without it for a month. My second one was still pretty loud and started freezing up randomly, so I had to send it back, too (though that second repair was much faster, about 2 weeks). Happily it was still under repair warranty so that didn’t cost me anything. My third one is quieter, but not as quiet as my PS3, but by then I’d already picked my “favorite” of the two, if you know what I mean. (I also prefer the XMB to the 360 interface when I’m streaming videos or watching movies – the PS3 is my main DVD/Blu-Ray player.) Add to that years of paying $50 for online functionality, and my general dislike of all things Microsoft, and I choose the PS3.

    But not to the extent that I’ll turn my nose up at a great game like Fable 2 just because its on the 360.

  5. I thought that I had aleady picked my favorite in the PS3 & surprised myself by how much I’ve fallen into the 360 world. I can understand that owning a console that ‘fails’ on a regular basis would put you off – I just hope I never have to experience that one!

    If I had a blu-ray player before my PS3, I doubt I would have gone for it at all but that’s based on hindsight.

  6. But does that 50 bucks a year pay for a better online session? I do know my 360 connection is a lot faster and smoother than the PSN one. If a dollar a week is what gives better service than I am all for it.
    I tried to play around with HOME today and just gave up in frustration. It seems everytime I went to a door I had to wait for a download that took way way too long for the small amount of data that was coming down and I do agree about the avatars. I could not get one close to my appearence.

  7. “But does that 50 bucks a year pay for a better online session? I do know my 360 connection is a lot faster and smoother than the PSN one.”

    Define what you mean by “your connection.” When downloading, or when playing a game? When playing a game, the speed of the connection depends on you and the other players: it’s a peer-to-peer connection once the ‘matchmaking’ servers hand you off into the game. Your $50 isn’t impacting that at all. And anyway, for actually playing games with others, PSN has been just as good as XBL for me (though I’ll admit I very rarely play console games online. LBP sometimes, Motorstorm every once in a while, Tiger Woods on XBLA once in a blue moon).

    If you’re talking about download speeds (downloading games or videos or whatever) then I’d point out that I can download stuff like this from the internet plenty fast without paying an extra $50/month to anyone.

    I’m not debating that XBL is a lot faster that PSN to download from. But I think if a company is SELLING you content via direct download, it is their responsibility to offer sufficient bandwidth to make that a quality experience.

    The fact that Sony falls on their face in this regard doesn’t suddenly make it great that MS charges $50 for what we should get for free. If the Steam service throttled its bandwidth unless you paid a $50/year membership service, would that be ok?

    The last time I paid for gold membership, for my $50 I spent about 20 minutes playing XBLA online over the course of the year. That’s $2.50/minute to play. Then I got access to some demos I guess (my XBox 360 was broken for most of the year so I didn’t do much downloading, plus my hard drive is so tiny I don’t have much room on it). Now I need a gold membership if I want to watch Netflix, and I have to pay Netflix as well. This bandwidth never touches MS’s servers. It goes from Netflix’s servers to my XBox. Why require a gold membership for that?

    If you spend 100 hours/year playing online, then $50/year is trivial. But I was talking about my personal feelings, and to me, $50/year is a terrible value. I could pay monthly (and just sign up when I want to play online, or get a “Gold Only” demo), but the cost goes way up doing it that way. Or I could stick to PSN and just d/l stuff overnight while I’m sleeping. It’s inconvenient, but its free, and I’ve never died from having to wait until the next morning to play a demo.

    Really its more the principal of the thing than the actual money. *shrug*

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