Posted by Reuptake (23 posts) -
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What an epic tale Sony makes for. Here's a company that was the undisputed king of consoles during the last generation that has been doing everything it can to sabotage its own success since the release of the PS3. Like Hamlet, Sony's strategy regarding its latest console seems to involve the death of everything associated with it, followed by flirtations with suicide. The latest player in this Shakespearean drama is none other than the greatly anticipated Home, touted as a virtual nexus of sorts for all of the PS3 denizens to gather, play games, watch streaming content, and design their own homes. Sort of a "Second Life" for the console crowd. Have two years of development and God knows how many millions of dollars invested been worth it?

Following a relatively brief initial download you have to go through a standard EUA and then you're prompted to create an avatar. The process is surprisingly limited in terms of options. There are several base models you can pick to represent your virtual self, but the options for fine-tuning those selections are relatively weak. You can manipulate a few specific parts of your anatomy such as your jaw, lips, etc., but in the age of the Sims and Second Life, to name a few, I honestly expected greater degrees of customization. I wasn't even able to create an avatar that looked remotely like myself, and I'm a decidedly average looking guy. Even worse are the options for hairstyles (bald, anime, goth, and punk are the only real options), and as far as facial hair goes you're out of luck unless you want a mustache that makes your avatar look like a 1900s villain who ties damsels to railroad tracks.

After you create your virtual self you're dumped into your own little studio apartment overlooking the ocean and a marina. To be fair, the graphics live up to a healthy standard. Everything looks like it should on a next-gen console, though the animations are a little stiff. For some reason in the dystopian world of Home the sun never sets, but unlike the British Empire this phenomenon is quite literal. Perhaps the world of Home is set in one of those small regions of the Earth where it's always daytime for six months, but it'd also probably be bitterly cold, and none of the avatars seem particularly well dressed for that kind of climate. After wandering around my tiny apartment for a bit the tutorial prompted me to visit the central meeting point for Home users, a nexus that connects the populace to a mall, a theater, and a bowling alley. Not one to want to disappoint the tutorial gods, I followed instructions dutifully, and was then prompted to download the nexus which took a good 10 minutes. What the hell? I just installed the damn program and all it provided me with was my own apartment? But whatever, we'll roll with it. After the lengthy download, I then had to load the actual nexus, which took another minute or two, but finally, I thought, now my patience will be rewarded.

After loading into the central meeting point I wandered around some more (detecting a theme here?), occasionally bumping into a crowd of equally perplexed Home citizens. This could be my fault, but I was unable to figure out how to get into the theater, but I recovered from that stinging defeat and managed to wander into the mall... after another download and loading session. After bumping into a few more avatars I went to the virtual clothing store and browsed a bit, eventually stumbling across an ugly cowboy hat that I could purchase for $0.49. And then it hit me... Home is entirely about micro-transactions. You can leave your tiny studio apartment and purchase a summer home for five bucks, and then pay $20 or so to furnish it. When browsing the furniture and nick-knacks store I noticed that a tiny model airplane decoration cost another fifty cents of real money. Who the hell pays for this shit? I'd be ashamed to show off my well-furnished house in Home that probably cost me tens of dollars to my friends - it'd be like having a neon sign nailed to my forehead that says, "I'm a consumer tool. Will you be my friend?"

Speaking of friends, during my jaunt at the mall I only noticed two people attempting to have a conversation, and it must have been using hunt-and-peck text entry through the controller, because the conversations looked more like text-messages fired back and forth through cell phones, "u r hot." There were a few dance troupes engaging in an informal breakout session, their virtual bodies tearing up the mall floor to the ambient, easy-listening-esque elevator music that flowed through the mall's invisible speakers. Off in a corner there were a few male avatars simulating oral sex with each other. This was truly worth the wait.

I can just picture the execs at Sony:

"Hey, I have a great idea - let's create a free virtual world for people, ala Second Life, only there'll be no user-created content and we'll soak the users with a Mississippi River of micro-transactions to do anything remotely fun."

"That sounds good - but we should have fun, free activities for users too. Throw in some arcade game ports and bowling."


"Ok, but only on the condition that we make the users stand in a virtual line before they can play."

"Done. Now how long will this take to develop?"


"Oh, about two years."


"Excellent. How much will it cost?"

"Millions and millions of dollars."


"Run with it."


This is what Sony has been working on? Not making a competent online service that can compete with Xbox Live? Not improving XMB functionality? Not working on across-the-board PS2 emulation? Every day it seems more and more that Sony is doing everything they can to lose this generation's console war, and I honestly hope that they don't lose it to the extent that they get out of the console business, because frankly the only reason the Xbox 360 exists and is in as solid shape as it is today is due to competition with Sony, and it'll be a sad, gloomy day when there's only one console left on the market - but I'll be damned if I help support Sony with an endless deluge of Home micro-transactions.

And then there's the inevitable comparison to Linden Labs' Second Life. For all the flack Second Life takes in gaming circles, the beauty of it is that you really can do whatever you want. Sure, this leads to a vocal minority of pervs and furries, etc., but that's what they are, a minority. Sometimes it's fun to just find an ocean area in SL, whip out a schooner or a yacht, and go sailing with real wind physics and day-night cycles. Sometimes it's fun to work on building additions to your house while chatting it up with some friends, and for the more entrepreneurial, you can make serious real life cash in SL by designing and selling items. I'm not being a SL evangelical here, but the point I'm making is that Home is just Second Life with none of the freedom while constantly being elbowed toward paying fifty cents for a cowboy hat.

Oh, and finally, some people may criticize the harshness of this review using the excuse "But it's only a beta!" To which I say "tish-tosh." It's an open beta, and the reason it's subject to my ridicule is that it was released purely so Sony wouldn't miss another release date and thus approach the three year mark of Home's development. Desperate to get Home out the door to the unwashed masses before the end of 2008, Sony opens Home up to critique.
#1 Posted by Reuptake (23 posts) -
caption
What an epic tale Sony makes for. Here's a company that was the undisputed king of consoles during the last generation that has been doing everything it can to sabotage its own success since the release of the PS3. Like Hamlet, Sony's strategy regarding its latest console seems to involve the death of everything associated with it, followed by flirtations with suicide. The latest player in this Shakespearean drama is none other than the greatly anticipated Home, touted as a virtual nexus of sorts for all of the PS3 denizens to gather, play games, watch streaming content, and design their own homes. Sort of a "Second Life" for the console crowd. Have two years of development and God knows how many millions of dollars invested been worth it?

Following a relatively brief initial download you have to go through a standard EUA and then you're prompted to create an avatar. The process is surprisingly limited in terms of options. There are several base models you can pick to represent your virtual self, but the options for fine-tuning those selections are relatively weak. You can manipulate a few specific parts of your anatomy such as your jaw, lips, etc., but in the age of the Sims and Second Life, to name a few, I honestly expected greater degrees of customization. I wasn't even able to create an avatar that looked remotely like myself, and I'm a decidedly average looking guy. Even worse are the options for hairstyles (bald, anime, goth, and punk are the only real options), and as far as facial hair goes you're out of luck unless you want a mustache that makes your avatar look like a 1900s villain who ties damsels to railroad tracks.

After you create your virtual self you're dumped into your own little studio apartment overlooking the ocean and a marina. To be fair, the graphics live up to a healthy standard. Everything looks like it should on a next-gen console, though the animations are a little stiff. For some reason in the dystopian world of Home the sun never sets, but unlike the British Empire this phenomenon is quite literal. Perhaps the world of Home is set in one of those small regions of the Earth where it's always daytime for six months, but it'd also probably be bitterly cold, and none of the avatars seem particularly well dressed for that kind of climate. After wandering around my tiny apartment for a bit the tutorial prompted me to visit the central meeting point for Home users, a nexus that connects the populace to a mall, a theater, and a bowling alley. Not one to want to disappoint the tutorial gods, I followed instructions dutifully, and was then prompted to download the nexus which took a good 10 minutes. What the hell? I just installed the damn program and all it provided me with was my own apartment? But whatever, we'll roll with it. After the lengthy download, I then had to load the actual nexus, which took another minute or two, but finally, I thought, now my patience will be rewarded.

After loading into the central meeting point I wandered around some more (detecting a theme here?), occasionally bumping into a crowd of equally perplexed Home citizens. This could be my fault, but I was unable to figure out how to get into the theater, but I recovered from that stinging defeat and managed to wander into the mall... after another download and loading session. After bumping into a few more avatars I went to the virtual clothing store and browsed a bit, eventually stumbling across an ugly cowboy hat that I could purchase for $0.49. And then it hit me... Home is entirely about micro-transactions. You can leave your tiny studio apartment and purchase a summer home for five bucks, and then pay $20 or so to furnish it. When browsing the furniture and nick-knacks store I noticed that a tiny model airplane decoration cost another fifty cents of real money. Who the hell pays for this shit? I'd be ashamed to show off my well-furnished house in Home that probably cost me tens of dollars to my friends - it'd be like having a neon sign nailed to my forehead that says, "I'm a consumer tool. Will you be my friend?"

Speaking of friends, during my jaunt at the mall I only noticed two people attempting to have a conversation, and it must have been using hunt-and-peck text entry through the controller, because the conversations looked more like text-messages fired back and forth through cell phones, "u r hot." There were a few dance troupes engaging in an informal breakout session, their virtual bodies tearing up the mall floor to the ambient, easy-listening-esque elevator music that flowed through the mall's invisible speakers. Off in a corner there were a few male avatars simulating oral sex with each other. This was truly worth the wait.

I can just picture the execs at Sony:

"Hey, I have a great idea - let's create a free virtual world for people, ala Second Life, only there'll be no user-created content and we'll soak the users with a Mississippi River of micro-transactions to do anything remotely fun."

"That sounds good - but we should have fun, free activities for users too. Throw in some arcade game ports and bowling."


"Ok, but only on the condition that we make the users stand in a virtual line before they can play."

"Done. Now how long will this take to develop?"


"Oh, about two years."


"Excellent. How much will it cost?"

"Millions and millions of dollars."


"Run with it."


This is what Sony has been working on? Not making a competent online service that can compete with Xbox Live? Not improving XMB functionality? Not working on across-the-board PS2 emulation? Every day it seems more and more that Sony is doing everything they can to lose this generation's console war, and I honestly hope that they don't lose it to the extent that they get out of the console business, because frankly the only reason the Xbox 360 exists and is in as solid shape as it is today is due to competition with Sony, and it'll be a sad, gloomy day when there's only one console left on the market - but I'll be damned if I help support Sony with an endless deluge of Home micro-transactions.

And then there's the inevitable comparison to Linden Labs' Second Life. For all the flack Second Life takes in gaming circles, the beauty of it is that you really can do whatever you want. Sure, this leads to a vocal minority of pervs and furries, etc., but that's what they are, a minority. Sometimes it's fun to just find an ocean area in SL, whip out a schooner or a yacht, and go sailing with real wind physics and day-night cycles. Sometimes it's fun to work on building additions to your house while chatting it up with some friends, and for the more entrepreneurial, you can make serious real life cash in SL by designing and selling items. I'm not being a SL evangelical here, but the point I'm making is that Home is just Second Life with none of the freedom while constantly being elbowed toward paying fifty cents for a cowboy hat.

Oh, and finally, some people may criticize the harshness of this review using the excuse "But it's only a beta!" To which I say "tish-tosh." It's an open beta, and the reason it's subject to my ridicule is that it was released purely so Sony wouldn't miss another release date and thus approach the three year mark of Home's development. Desperate to get Home out the door to the unwashed masses before the end of 2008, Sony opens Home up to critique.
#2 Posted by super_machine (1930 posts) -

Home is one of those things that probably seemed like a great idea on paper. But the reality is, sony spent a lot of time and money making a 3D dance/chat room. I'll admit, I had a few good conversations in home, but its mostly people telling you to "fuck off", or dudes with chick avatars calling out suggestive phrases. I logged into the Japan home beta and it was much more serene, and the common area layout was a lot better design than the US home.  I only met  two people that I could actually talk with in Japan Home, (obvious reason). I totally agree, they should have focuses on improving other aspects of the PSN and PS3. While home is not terrible, it certainly is not the amazing feature sony needed to set their service apart from Live. This is still the beta, so maybe over time it can develop into something better.