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.

Simplifying the “home theater”

So my project for the day was to re-do my ‘home theater’ setup. I put that in quotes because we’re talking, y’know, the living room, not a dedicated home theater in a separate room. My goal was just to get components plugged in so that I could turn them all completely off, rather than have everything in ‘standby mode.’ Good for the environment, and good for the electric bill, right? But of course I didn’t want the DVRs turning off, nor the hubs.

Once I started pulling stuff apart…I was pretty amazed. I ended up with a huge pile of gear I really no longer need to have hooked up. First, my ancient Laser Disk player. I haven’t turned that on since I moved into this apartment a few years ago. Next, VCR. Can’t remember the last time I used that. DVD player? Just collecting dust, since the PS3 upscales DVDs so nicely. I found out I had a wireless bridge running that was supplying ethernet to the XBox. Not the XBox360, mind you…the old XBox. And speaking of the old XBox, tear it out and stick it into storage. I don’t have time to play all the new games I want to play; I’m never going to get around to playing those old XBox 1 games.

Now I was really getting into the spirit of things: I pulled out the #2 Comcast Box, and the Tivo that was hanging off it. I never watch Tivo anymore because I can no longer tolerate SD content delivered through an s-video cable (the best my Tivo Series 2 offers). I’ll either put the 2nd Comcast box in the office, or turn it in and save the $10 or $12 that Comcast charges me every month. I did end up re-connecting the Tivo just to see if it gets its podcasts (like Cranky Geeks) via ethernet, or if it somehow is pulling them now through the cable. I can’t imagine how it would be… anyway that still might end up going. I had an Airport Express out there to stream music from my computers to the stereo, which I last did about 18 months ago. And I never print to the printer hanging off of it. So out that went.

Suddenly, a brace of switch boxes and y-cables were no longer needed, so I got rid of those, several of which were powered. Which mean fewer plugs and so fewer power strips.

That whole side of the room looks so much neater and uncluttered now. I’m using 3 power strips. One will be ‘always on’ and has the Tivo, the Comcast DVR and the single remaining ethernet hub on it. One controls the receiver and the XBox 360. And one (plugged into a different circuit) controls the TV, PS3 and Sub-Woofer. So when I’m turning out the lights at night, I can just toggle off those power strips and all that energy going into keeping all this gear on standby no longer gets wasted.

Now my big challenge is… where to store all these gear I tore out!!?