PS3: My Top 5 Wishlist

The PS3’s a wonderful machine, make no mistakes, but it’s not perfect. Despite incremental improvements to the system over the years, there’s still a little way to go if Sony want to make the PS3 the ultimate gaming machine.   In this article I present five things that I believe the PS3 still needs to have before it can rest in peace, some of you will probably disagree but hopefully you’ll see that I only have the best interests of the console at heart.

And no, none of the things are ‘cross game chat’.

Background patch downloading: I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth re-iterating again whilst I’m thinking about it.  To me, one of the PS3’s biggest bugbears is the quite often large amount of time it takes for a patch to download, and then install, especially considering an equivalent update on the Xbox 360 is normally much quicker in comparison.

I don’t know why the patches are seemingly much bigger on the PS3, or why they need to be downloaded and then installed, but I wouldn’t care at all if the system was doing all this in the background.  If my PS3 is idle, and it knows which games I own (perhaps checking for a save game in the last month) then why can’t it download any updates in the background?

Firmware updates themselves are bothersome, too – if there was an option to enable the console to ‘preload’ such updates in advance of their release (with just a flag pushed out from Sony when it’s ready) it would solve my personal issues with the way the console stops whatever you’re doing for 15 minutes whenever the system software is updated.  Still, they’re exciting, aren’t they?

Cache the game installs: this works two ways – firstly, I’m fed up with games requiring a twenty minute install because the developers have lazily ported over another version of the game and not taken into consideration the PS3’s Blu-ray drive, and no amount of backstory or trivia about the game’s lead character will make that wait any more pleasant.

But the opposite is true, too – if a game’s coding means there’s big load times whilst the data is agonisingly dragged off the drive, at least give us the option of an install so we can alleviate the boredom if we choose to sit through the game install screen just so we can actually enjoy the game.  Bayonetta, for example, was much improved with such an option.

The ultimate way around the above, of course, is to ensure the game is optimised for the PS3, or better still do it in the background with an expanding cache like Oblivion does.  For some reason first party developers are better at this than anyone else, Heavy Rain’s cute origami tutorial aside the likes of Uncharted 2 and God of War III really do show other studios just how it’s done.

Streamline the XMB: a contentious one, perhaps, but I’m still smarting over the recent-ish changes to the PS3’s menu system even though Sony have clearly gone out of their way to listen to their public and make some improvements.  The truth is, though, that I prefered the XMB as it was when it launched – minimal, clean and without fuss.

These days it feels like Sony are pushing the Store stuff much more and under as many columns as possible – it’s really not needed and although I’ve heard anicdotal evidence that being on the featured grid does improve sales, I’m of the opinion that this is only because it’s not clear there’s a ‘proper’ Store icon under the PSN column.

It’s also getting slower, too – I’ve got loads of PSN games on my XMB and it’s taking longer and longer for the system to draw up all the folders and icons, and don’t get me started on those infernal Trophy lists and how long they take to appear.  Actually, now you mention it…

Open up the Trophy system: let’s be honest, Sony’s introduction of Trophies was a genius move.  It might not have been plain sailing at first, but once developers and publishers had gotten into their stride with the silverware there was no stopping them, and Trophies have become an integral part of the PS3 gamer’s mindset.

But there’s still some issues – the lists take too long to load up, ages to compare with a friend and although syncing now works, it really should be automatic.  I don’t see why the whole process has to be manually pushed up to Sony and then manually pulled down onto your Portable Network ID – that’s two steps too many for me.

Sony need to open up their system too and establish an API – the Xbox 360’s Achievements system is everywhere you look, yet anyone wanting to get at the Trophy database needs to find a sneaky backdoor rather than just utilising the tools Sony really could be giving away.   There’s a few apps on the iPhone, but nothing like the web presence your Gamerscore has.

And finally, let me make games for it. I like to code, I’m working on a Minis project right now and if it works out I’d like to work on more, but if there was a hobbyist way into the console, like there was with the PS1 (Net Yaroze) and, to a lesser extent the PS2 (with Yabasic) that would at least be a starting point.

But what I really want is something like the 360’s Indie Games service, so I can sell my ideas direct to the PSN market.  Indie Games is an incredibly inexpensive way into games development, with the software to produce the games being free and the ability to actually get your games published on the Marketplace hardly breaking the bank.

It’s true that there’s a lot of fluff on the 360’s Indie Games, but there’s also some absolute gems on there too, and I’m sure we’d see a lot of great games on the PSN if Sony offered a similar platform for people like me with ideas bursting out but only ‘official’ routes to get them to a published (and buyable) state.

What would you like to see changed on the PS3?