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.