The PlayStation Home Open Beta is out, and it's simply the best way to taste what Sony has in store for the PS3 over the coming years. Here are the ten things you should know.
1) PlayStation Home is out, but in Open Beta status. If the world of Home feels sparse or buggy, Sony wants you to remember that it's not really out yet, even though it's actually been released to the public. The final version of PlayStation Home with all of the features Sony has teased is promised for next year.
2) It's not a firmware update. So to download PlayStation Home, don't go searching around System Update for the software. The option to download Home is built right in to the XMB under Network. And while the initial download is just 77MB, each area takes another 10-20MB. The system requires that you reserve 3077MB of storage for all of Home.
3) Chatting has mixed results. Talking to others is fairly mediocre in quality but is interestingly proximity-based, just like in real life. So if someone is speaking near you, you hear it, whether you want to or not. (Luckily, I was able to mute the idiot shouting "I'm a venereal disease" over and over.) Also of note, if you have friends in a different territory than you live, they won't be seen in public spaces, but you can invite them to your apartment to "chat."
4) There will be microtransactions, lots of 'em. Diesel is the partner Sony has been most vocal about for the time being, with pieces of their branded clothing available for $US1-$US2. And if you want to expand beyond your base apartment, a Summer House will be available for $US5.
5) There are lots of dudes. Lots of them.
6) Free Games! PS Home features free bowling and billiards along with a few choices in arcade games. Your avatar actually walks up to a particular arcade cabinet before playing games like a Breakout clone or a gimped version of Echochrome. Interesting in theory, so-so in execution. And only one guy on a machine at a time.
7) Game Spaces will be limited for now, but available in the Open Beta. These are the themed areas for your group to meet before loading a game. The only two spaces accessible at launch will be 'Far Cry 2' and 'Uncharted.' Each also features puzzle-like objects to interact with and strategic objects like maps for strategic pre-planning.
8) Video sharing is not yet available. The Open Beta will be missing one of Home's potentially coolest features, the option to share your media with others to enjoy virtually. Whether it's technical or licensing issues that are holding Sony back on this feature is unknown.
9) The theatre works great...for an ad. You can sit down to watch a movie...if there were a movie. For now, you can watch a loop of a preview for Twilight and an accompanying music video. The quality is that of typical flash video, though the video screen does render smoothly into the 3D background.
10) PlayStation Home is not Second Life. You cannot create anything in PlayStation Home. You can only buy it. Sure, you have your apartment to decorate as you see fit and you can choose the clothes your avatar wears, but these options are based upon preselections—preselections that Sony has complete control over. There are five shirts available to men in Home and you can't change the colour. If Home were Second Life, not only would there be more shirts, but those shirts would be covered in animated dildos dancing to the beat of a live vocalist.
Home could be a great platform one day, but Sony needs to provide the content to back it up. And right now, anything short of more advertising is lacking. In Home, I feel like a prisoner—my uniform matches all the other inmates as I walk around beside the other inmates endlessly with nothing to do.