The PlayStation Home Beta

Admittedly I’ve been against Home from the beginning, but having spent some time with the beta a bit before it opens up to everyone, I have to say that I really can’t see the point of this. It’s bland, boring, soulless, slow, and I can think of a ton of ways that I’d prefer to interact with what community there is on PSN.

The character creation suite is the first port of call, and I’m afraid that I have to make the obvious comparison between Miis and Avatars here: Home has a serious case of the uncanny valley going on. While the other two offerings aren’t realistic in the slightest and yet allow you to make a fairly recognisable representation of yourself, Home takes a far more realistic approach, and as a result I spent ages working on it to end up with someone that doesn’t really look like me at all. It looks more like a real person than a Mii, but wandering around Home everyone pretty much looks like they escaped from the same Gap advert.

It’s early days still, but when there are so few clothing options for your drone/mannequin and it looks like any extra will need to be bought with real money, I don’t see it getting much better.

The monetary issue is a big one as well. I got a summer house free for being in the closed beta, which is a room with some stairs and a fireplace, and a nice view of a lake. It’s functionally identical to the harbour apartment that you start with, but Sony is apparently charging $4.99 for it, and that’s without the palette-swapped furniture that you have to pay extra for. I could understand maybe charging for the cool interactive stuff like arcade cabinets and the TVs that will presumably add in video sharing when that comes back, but the items in there now are just pointless.

The initial 77MB download is just the engine and your starting space, a spartan single-room apartment. If you want to leave the room and visit the Home Square, the central hub, you have to twiddle your thumbs while it downloads, and as it does this, there’s bugger all to do in your room. You want to leave that and visit the Shopping Centre? That’s another 20-odd meg to download. Ditto if you visit a clubhouse or the personal space of a friend who has a house type that you haven’t visited yet. I think I’ve literally spent more time downloading than actually doing anything.

Also, thanks to the dearth of people who have headsets, I’m reliant on text chat to communicate. This is something that I haven’t done on a console since Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast, and for a system that’s supposedly going to attract the Facebook crowd with its intuitive visual interface, it’s very reliant on using a virtual PDA menu – not a PSP or even a Sony Ericsson phone, shockingly – to do anything.

Mainly, though, it’s just plain dull and soulless. Everyone looks the same, for some reason that completely escapes me you have to queue to play the games that are available, and everyone’s as baffled about what you’re supposed to be doing as anyone else.

Tycho from Penny Arcade said today that, “this is what happens when your marketing department tries to make a game”, and that hits the nail on the head. There’s no interesting hook here, and when the big new content like game spaces and new sponsored areas – in other words: adverts – are what you have to look forward to, what’s the point?

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