I’ve been playing home! Yep there you go i’ve done it. I’m out of the closet. It’s true I’ve been playing Home on the Playstation 3 and I’ve been enjoying it. Regular readers might recall me questioning the value of Home only a few months back, so have I changed my mind?
In part yes… I have been playing Home and I have been enjoying it. But there are caveats: I still don’t think it’s an effective way to launch games (and lets face it you can only currently launch 5 at the moment) It’s still not the most streamlined way to chat to your friends… but let’s leave all that aside.. let’s get to the meat, what’s good about Home?
Well since I last wrote about Home a number of spaces have been added, including popular venues such as the “Burn, Zombie Burn” space and some more low key favourites such as Fry Cry 2. EA have also introduced a number of spaces including a very popular and busy Poker room. There’s still not a tremendous amount do in some of these spaces in terms of traditional game play and you never really forget that you are in an “advertising bubble”… but maybe that’s not so important… this is after-all a social tool and nobody seems to complain about the adverts in Facebook.
Oddly enough its the people that can make Home I say “oddly” because many of the people you will meet can be an unruly, rude and often an offensive bunch, but given time you’ll meet a few like minded chaps who you get on with and are happy to fire up a game of Warhawk, have a “virtual party”, join a quiz night, start a space wide dance line or just engage in a simple game of Chess or Draughts in Home Square… a £300 next-gen console and I get my kicks playing Chess…? I know it makes no sense!
So given that I’ve now embraced Home to a certain degree do I still have any criticisms? Sadly yes… Not everything is Equal in Home and different regions get different spaces and features, whilst I understand that certain licensing and copyright issues are at play but take the “Beach” that Japanese and Asian users get… it’s a beach… why can’t Europe and the US have it? Similarly I struggle to understand why Europe can’t have access to the Ghostbusters Firestation or the clothes that the US players get. As a result of this inequality many users I meet have created accounts for the Japanese and US versions of Home using bogus names and addresses, its something that is frowned upon by Sony and the regional managers… yet it’s their inability to understand their customers frustrations that leads to the practice in the first place.
Pricing seems a little excessive too: a virtual t-shirt can cost you as much as £1.79 (hardly a “micro-payment” in my books) and it soon stacks up if you want a complete Ghostbusters outfit and each item costs you 79p – you can easily spend £5 on the entire get up! compare that to the price of a log cabin (£3.99) and it just doesn’t stack up. And it sounds even worse when you compare it to the price of an iPhone app, an iTunes song or even some of the downloadable games in Playstations own Store. Of course I understand that Sony and it’s partners need to pay for this service… but surely lower prices would encourage more sales?
It’s still difficult to get into mini games at time, the Burn, Zombie Burn maze game is notorious for this and it’s not uncommon to see large groups of players queuing to get into a game. Top Tip: wait until the wee hours of the morning!
Home development seems to crawl along at a snail’s pace, eight months on and things like user editable picture frames, TV’s and other electrical appliances are not available, few games support game launching and the lack of spaces in the EU version feels like a slap in a face for EU customers. Yet most Home users are able to put aside these issues… I hope for them that Sony do deliver the goods.
If you are not tempted by Home yet then perhaps the forthcoming September update , which promises to overhaul the software with across the board game launching and introduces novelties such as shrinking potions, remote control hovercrafts and inbuilt cameras might tickle your fancy. Though beware as perishables such as shrinking potion at least will be a pay-per-use item and it’s rumoured the RC Hovercraft will be for “Hire”
Home was envisaged as a place to meet new people, explore new games, communicate and game launch… It doesn’t fulfill all of those effectively as it could – but it’s still well worth the look for those who are used to social networking applications. However the introduction of new spaces alone isn’t enough and Sony really do need to get their heads down and introduce some of the previously promised features to make Home a truly worthwhile experience – at the moment for most it’s just a frivolous extra, not the integral PS3 component that Sony insists it will be in the future.