While it’s true that PlayStation Home has come around a bit later than many PS3 owners would’ve hoped, we have finally gotten a look at the innovative and immersive online community via closed beta test. As we have emphasized before at PSXE, Home will release in open beta form and that’s exactly how one should view it: as a beta . It still has a long ways to go but you can bet this application will make great strides over the next few years, continually undergoing updates and enhancements and ultimately becoming the revolutionary service it was purported to be.
The beta feels a little bare, but it clearly shows what Home users can expect when the open beta launches in a few weeks time. Well, we assume it will release in a few weeks; Sony continues to hold to their statement that it will be available before 2008 is over, which means if this is to remain true, everyone should be going Home before the holidays have gone by. Anyway, for those of you who have been in the closed beta since the beginning, we’re not going to say anything you don’t already know, but if you’ve never stepped foot inside Home, pay attention. The first step, of course, will be to create your virtual self for use inside this dazzling interactive world, and this is quite the scientific process. You can alter every tiny aspect of your character, from the length and size of your eyebrows to the depth and length of your skull. We only had a few options for outfits and clothing, but we attribute this to the beta phase, and to the fact that you can buy new threads in the Mall (or at least, you’ll be able to in the open beta). Once you’re happy with what others will see, you will move on to your default Home space.
In the closed beta, the default space is the Harbour Apartment, which may or may not change for the open testing. This apartment only holds a few basic pieces of furniture, but the amazing view seen outside the floor-to-ceiling windows is breathtaking. You can step outside onto the deck, where you will notice the stunning high-definition visuals; you appear to be somewhere in the Riviera, and there’s a millionaire’s yacht down by the docks, with an impressive building (perhaps a hotel) to the left. After drinking in your environment – and briefly wondering how you acquired the money for such a swanky pad – you can fiddle around with some of that aforementioned furniture. You can move everything around to wherever you want it, and when you’re finally able to purchase new pieces for your place, you’ll of course be able to place them in the desired position. Decorations will range from wallpaper to lighting fixtures to a myriad of accessories, and if you saw the recent in-world tour of Home in Qore Episode 6, you’ll see the diversity and variety in potential decoration combinations.
You learn a bit about how to communicate, too. There are more than a few set commands that you can select from by pressing the Triangle button, and you will also be able to use your headset as well. After practicing your dance moves and basic emotional reactions, you can move on to the central hub of Home, which is known as the Central Plaza where you can access several new areas. It’s a relatively large space, complete with a video theater (it was playing a special video that featured an interview with real SEALs for SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation ), bowling alley (bowl, play pool, or even test out old-school arcade games), and the Mall. The latter is where you’ll go to purchase new clothes, items for your apartment, and even new Home spaces. You will be able to own multiple spots, although we’re not sure if there will be a limit… In the closed beta, none of the stores are open, but you can wander about and explore a little; there’s a small place to play chess upstairs, although it’s obvious that the stores will remain the primary focus. Oh, and expect this Mall to expand as Home moves forward; the possibilities are almost limitless.
Everything is very pretty in brilliant high-definition, and just checking out our surroundings was pleasurable. It’s easy to talk to anyone wandering around, and you can invite anyone on your Friend’s list to congregate in your current location; it could be the Mall or it could be your own personal space. There really aren’t any technical issues to speak of, although some people may not like the loading times between each Home area (the bigger the area, the longer the load time), and you have to wait a little while for everyone in that space to fully appear. At first, they all look like see-through, electronically drawn outlines (kinda reminded us of Tron , only without the flashy color), but they will soon become completely finished character avatars. Obviously, the application needs some time to load every user on the screen, especially because each one is entirely unique, and there are thousands of appearance possibilities. Everything else seems to work just fine. The videos and trailers you can watch are perfect, those arcade games are fun, and the backdrops are beautifully designed. There’s some light hitching and jerking going on when the area is still loading characters, but it’s not a big issue.
All in all, our experience with PlayStation Home has been mostly positive, if a little underwhelming. But then again, that’s exactly what we expected: we’re fully aware that we’re examining a launching pad for what should be a fantastic online application, and in that respect, we love what we see. Just seeing the options for Clubs, launching multiplayer games from within Home, and issuing any number of Invites to anywhere you wish is enough to excite us, and we look forward to the future. Remember, that’s what Home is all about…the future. And our judgment thus far is that the future is bright .