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Opinion

Honey, I'm Home!

A year without online play.

When I first joined the writing team, I was obsessed with PlayStation Home. My first article was all about Xi and how it was helping the platform grow into something that was encouraging people to return every day of the week. Twenty four articles all related to Home were to follow, and I soon hit a rock. My wifi connection was blocking Sony’s virtual world. I was devastated, and it was around the point that the ‘large growth’ of Home began. When I moved to university, the campus internet allowed me onto the PSN, but not to play online games. So I’ve literally been without an online soul for over a year. I began filling my offline time writing The Question Mark, and Home fell off my radar.

It’s Summer Holiday for me already, and I’m back home with a new wifi router. Honey, I’m home. Sorry, did I say Home? I meant Mansion. PlayStation Home has grown and mutated into something so much bigger and beautiful since I last stepped in from the welcome mat. Getting online at first was a mission. I’m downloading forty seven rooms, not including those not on the navigator, and I’m lost amongst the new navigation menu. Nevertheless, Home is huge and I’m loving it.

My first reaction to having online play back on my PS3 was to go around all the online games I had, and anyone following me on twitter will have read what I was doing, live. Beyond all the updates and waiting screens, this was the first time I had played Uncharted 2 online. Well, actually, it didn’t work. I waited ten minutes twice for an error message to appear and return me to the homepage. Worms was another game that seemed to hate me, with games lasting as long as sixty seconds before crashing. I played on Killzone 2 online for the first time, which was very smooth – apart from the fact that I was a total noob. Having only played the campaign story mode for a few hours, entering online was like being handed your foot and told to eat and regurgitate. It was a total pwn-fest, and although I managed to get the hang of things towards the end, I still walked away feeling hard done by. If you want to rank up your score guys, invite me into a match.

But after all that, Home called me back and I spent the rest of the evening exploring everything that was new to me. When I left, Xi had just finished, and it’s a shame the Alumni rooms that stayed after have now gone. Nevertheless, there seemed so many new features that my tears were soon dabbed dry. To start off with, just being about to crouch or kneel instead of plain sit were pretty cool. I’d still love to see a feature where the player can ‘shuffle’ while sitting down, but that’s minor. The poses are also new to me, and while they’re pretty cool, I’d like to be able to set a pose to the default standing pose. But there we go, you see? As soon as I start enjoying something in Home, I’m already finding something negative to say about it.

It’s not that I had a particularly bad experience wandering around the new rooms. But Home seems to lack something. I didn’t stop to talk to anyone around me, finding everyone else more of an inconvenience rather than an opportunity to communicate. With games still being subject to queues, it felt very last-gen to be waiting for something that would ultimately be less satisfying than an actual PS3 game. I also think, that despite expanding Home to huge proportions, Sony have missed the one thing that it was meant for in the first place. Sure, there’s tonnes of things to interact with / wait for, but why am I not talking to the other people using the same world? Because they feel lifeless.

The Shopping Mall has unsurprisingly gotten bigger, with more items to customise your avatar than ever. But when entering a space, it’s a good few minutes until all the ghost avatars dissapear, and even on approaching a loaded avatar, it takes a long time to see them with their real face. Instead, you get this zombie-esque flat face staring back at you, making you wish they were just a name on a ‘users online’ board somewhere.

Home still has its problems, and I noticed the ‘Beta’ tag still firmly attached to the logo on entering. Having said all that, I still found myself coming back to it. There’s something amazing that’s happened in the last year that I haven’t been around to witness. The addition of rooms has managed to keep variety flowing, and the world is beginning to feel as though it’s met the original vision. Taking photos is new to me, and I found myself running around photographing everything just to make it my XMB background. If anything, I thought the loading time of the photos would have been because they were loading avatars fully rendered faces into the image – alas not. Nevertheless, this feature with all the mini-games available, such as the photograph game in the LittleBigPlanet space, keep me returning for more.

Now the real challenge comes. I’ve waited for about a year for all of these updates to appear, so if I were to return two times a week, would I notice Home as a very slowly developing world? It certainly feels as though it’s come on leaps and bounds since I last saw it, but the big gap has been a large attribute to that change. I remember Home as a world that moved incredibly slowly, and it was Xi that gave it that first push. The next few weeks will see me settling back into the comfy sofa and get to grips with what Home actually is now, and how the changes have affected the way we interact with the PlayStation environment.

Honey, I’m Home.

37 Comments
  1. Amphlett
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Very impressed that you have the time and patience not only to download and install all the new rooms (plus updates to the ones you already had) but to wait for them to load, sorry, transport you between different rooms.

    To me, Home feels like a PS One game where walking from room to room needs the new room to be loaded and rendered. When I get to the new room… boy is it dull.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 09:11.
  2. Lorcan
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Oct 2008

    Great article!
    It’s nice to hear how Home has come on.
    I just don’t have the patience to download it all. Maybe it would be better, but the fact you have to keep redownloading the same spaces over and over again just frustrates me.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 09:26.
  3. Spotter5
    Member
    Since: Forever

    btw, the XI alumni spaces have been taken down for maintenance.. They will be back eventually :) With added stuff.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 09:57.
  4. cheekyMcB
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    If you’re seeing ghosts for as long as you describe your internet connection must be on the slowish side,and if you’re being disconnected during games after such a short period you’ve got to question your ISP or router settings surely.

    The “ghosts” do still take a while granted but I think they’ve re-prioritised them in the coding download order so they space is properly loaded first.

    Maybe everything is running slow because you were background downloading everything? Surely your not going to be visiting all the spaces in one session and certainly not straight away so why cripple the speed by having them all downloading….pick a few and give your connection a breather.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 10:13.
    • BioEye
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Forever

      Good point. I’ll see what it’s like after they’re all downloaded.

      Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 11:07.
      • cheekyMcB
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        Your welcome. Fingers crossed for you.

        Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 11:47.
  5. Apnomis
    Member
    Since: Sep 2009

    You’ve hit the nail on the head there – it has lot’s of nice spaces and is much faster now, but it still seems lifeless and there is a lack of social interaction.

    I personally think part of the problem is the language barrier between all the EU nations, it seems to get much more use by the Europeans so every time I go to Home it feels like I’m visiting a foreign Country!

    By contrast on the USA Home it is much easier to strike up a conversation and there in general seems to be much more interaction. It also feels like they have more Home Reps hosting themed events to get people interacting, whereas in the EU Home we are mostly left to fend for ourselves, again probably because of the language problem.

    To be fair Home still lacks to the tools to have proper interactions though – we still can’t share our media in our personal spaces, and game-launching is still very limited. Although queuing is a problem I actually prefer this method to the one where everyone can play at once on their own – the closest thing I got to interaction last time I was there (I go every couple of months to check out the new spaces) was in the FIFA area where there was a big crowd watching people play penalties, and when it was my turn having real people watch you really adds to the experience (you should be able to leave an area and remain in a queue though!). By contrast the World Cup result picker in the same space was a souless experience as that is one for those where many people do it at once but you are taken out of the Home world to do it…

    I have met a few ‘friends’ on my Friends List through Home, but it’s few and far between (although you do get the odd random PSN message from some people). Last time it happened was during one of the organised events where you had to work together with a team of people (something our Home lacks – again lanuage barriers). We got chatting about Modern Warfare 2 preorders, and he ended up being the guy I did all the Spec Ops missions with to get the Platinum (incidently he still plays MW2 every night!). So it does work… sometimes!

    Did you try Sodium while you were in Home, that was a sequel project to Xi (although you do need to pay a modest amount to unlock the full experience).

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 10:20.
    • cheekyMcB
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      Whilst I agree in principle with the queuing idea the problem is that spaces take a bit of time to load back into so you would be potentially holding up the queue with people in the actual space waiting additional time for you to load.

      The current prompt when you come to the end of waiting in a queue says something like “Game is now available for you, do you want to play?” with a counter counting down from 20 seconds. Given it could take 15-20 secs to load up (& I mean load up NOT download) the delay is there for everyone in the queue.

      What they should do is alert you when you are number 1 in queue and ask if you want to go back to space in preparation or lose your place in queue.

      Oh and Sodium isn’t a sequel as it’s
      a) not an alternate reality game (ARG) i.e. the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions (definition source Wikipedia)
      b) it’s not in the same universe
      c) although it’s allegedly a MMORPG or sorts you cannot collaborate with anyone in the game, just s few mini games
      d) it’s produced by a different developer

      Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 12:01.
  6. BIGAL-1992
    Member
    Since: Jan 2009

    Now you know Bioeye, why I’ll NOT stay on the campus in uni when I start in september, as I want to play online.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 10:36.
    • BioEye
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Forever

      It might be different for you. I know some people living on a different campus for the same uni as me were getting connections fine.

      Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 11:11.
  7. DrNate86
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I think you will be disappointed when you return. Once you have dabbled with the different mini games available there is very little else to draw you back. I was addicted to Home during the Xi saga (though missed the conclusion as I was in Africa, damn!) and didn’t return for some time after that ended. But when I did I, like you, found this rich world full of things to do. The only problem is, once you have done them, it becomes functionally useless, as what are you going to spend your time doing, replaying basic minigames that you have to queue for, or playing real games on the PS. The amazing thing is, there are always people on Home, no matter what obscure little space you visit, so something must be drawing them back! Fuck if I know what it is though.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 10:50.
    • cheekyMcB
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      You can watch the “ending” to Xi on Youtube. Oh and by the way they are 2 endings as you have to make a choice.

      Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 12:05.
  8. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I re-installed Home last week but i didn’t download all the spaces, just the new ones i hadn’t seen before.
    I miss the public voice chat, that was cool. It’s been a sterile experience since they removed it.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 10:52.
    • cheekyMcB
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      Given there are some really immature users out there (a small minority but they are there) who can spoil things for people using just text chat I’m glad you can’t hear people. At least the text is easier to ignore completely. Private voice chat would be OK though should you wish as an option.

      Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 12:08.
  9. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    I got really fed up with having to download everything all the time, and for what? A largely sterile atmosphere, with not much to do – some mini games which are no where as good as free Flash games, and then having to download everything again.

    For me it is a red herring for Sony, and if they’d have poured all of Home’s development time/maintenance man hours and money into XMB development or Sony infrastructure and network optimisation, gawd knows what we’d have by now, but whatever it would be – it would be awesome for all PlayStation owners, and not just the select few who can be arsed to download updates for bland spaces with empty atmospheres & sub-standard minigames.

    Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 11:05.
    • cheekyMcB
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      Fair enough on the atmosphere or the games themselves but you don’t have to redownload every time, only when they update/fix a space. I have my Home space allocation set to the bare minimum and I don’t have to redownload them very often, they just load up (and a lot quicker now since a recent update, though not fast enough granted).

      And if you aren’t visiting Home very often it’s a lot more likely there has been an update/fix to the space so you shouldn’t be surprised you have to redownload it.

      Comment posted on 28/06/2010 at 12:14.

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