Monday, March 2, 2009

Something Useful Hits Home, Playstation Home that is!

I've been thinking for awhile to write about Playstation Home, the Second-Life lookalike service built by Sony but that really is more about generating ad revenue than letting people build flying penises to disrupt virtual conferences (I wish it had that feature though, seriously).

Basically Home lets you design a character with a pretty decent amount of customization in terms of facial features, and you can then run your avatar from your insanely real-world expensive apartment to other areas of the Home, including Home Central, the mall, bowling alley, movie theater and other areas designed by game developers to promote their games.

It looks great, but so far Home is a French Poodle that just won a dog show in Zimbabwe, i.e. looks like a million trillion Zimbabwe dollars on the outside, but is starving to death for food, I mean content, and content is (surprise!) the lifeblood of anything that has value. Yes, they did finally add clothes and furniture in the mall you can buy via microtransactions, but selection is pretty limited. In the mall you can also play chess, which is kinda cool, but like the arcade games, bowling and pool in the bowling alley, can only be played if there is actually an empty seat for your avatar. It's dumb to be that realistic as it defeats the whole advantage of a virtual world, but at the same time I like it for boldly daring to be so ironically annoying.

The movie theater is another place that could be cool, again, if they had content god dammit. all that plays on the single screen (what a crappy theater!) are a few trailers for games, over and over and over. Whoopity fucking do, how about we play a MOVIE in the MOVIE theater. Sony, you're a fucking distributor, why don't you have any rights to show MOVIES in the MOVIE theater? Worst execution of any concept in Home.

In the town square, called Central I think, there's not a lot going on either. The most popular activity I've seen so far is the music system which I under duress admit is kind of cool. It's cool that people can vote on what song should come next (I just typed suck instead of song by accident--typo or truth?), but the song collection is guess what limited as hell and mostly to crappy techno beats. At least you can make your avatar do various gestures, including a surprising number of dance moves. Makes me think the developers knew how barren Home would be and were looking for other ways to spice it up.

Well, guess what, somehow this idea succeeded, maybe because every other has failed so far, because you'll see a few dozen people dancing it up on the stage pretty much all the time. Bangin their heads doing the Rock n Roll gesture, or getting their robot on. It sure is fun. (note: periods can denote sarcasm)

the few outside companies that probably paid some pittance to get space in Home have created what I'll call "content" rather than content since it mostly sucks. Red Bull's space has some plane racing game that somehow has something to do with lethal caffeination overdoses, and some rooms in Far Cry and Drake's Fortune lands contain game environments but few or no interactive elements. It seems pretty worthless to me unless you're an obsessed fan of the games or on an extreme caffeine buzz.

This might all be beginning to change, however, if Warhawk's new Command Center and Sand Table have anything to say about it. Basically it's a war room, a place where you can see maps from the game and strategize, and meet others to start a game (one cool feature about Home--hopping into games with fellow lovers of the same game is pretty straightforward). The war room looks awesome, from the video on 1up's site:

You can actually place markers on maps representing different units in the game to plan out different strategies and whatnot. This is so much better for one reason and one reason only--it makes playing the paid-for game more fun (and teaches you how to kill better, who doesn't want to know that?). It's also good for game makers because it'll get people more interested in Warhawk, and probably help drive sales and yadda yadda yadda. But for us gamers, the important thing is that it makes the real game more fun, and that really should be the underlying mission of any of the video game related content in Home.

(thanks kotaku)

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