My curiosity for Home has been fired up since I heard about it, but I've never before looked into it and have rarely heard anything more from it other than the occasional news story. Most of the time when I ask a PlayStation user about the virtual world, he'll just sort of shrug. It was about time I saw it for myself!
In a world like Second Life, a player can avoid a lot of the issues that come with ugly or mismatched content by becoming familiar with the in-game search. It acts like a miniature version of Google and will lead players to amazing spaces, all created by players. In Home, it can be a bit more challenging to find incredible zones to explore because there really aren't that many. The game utilizes instanced zones that are loaded as the player visits them, and many of the zones are open to all and so have a more consistent feel to them but also a lot less variety in that content. I can see the reasoning behind creating Home. Sony wanted to create a virtual space for hanging out and meeting up with friends, but the company wasn't trying to create an actual MMO. Instead, Home is just a small something to be enjoyed while you're chilling out on the couch.
More recently Sony announced that it was adding features to Home that would make it feel more like an MMO, but it didn't go far enough. In this age of actual, open-world MMOs like DC Universe Online and Free Realms existing on the same device (and made, technically, by the same company), Sony should just go all the way and create a free-to-play and (more) open world for players to play in. As it is now, Home is sort of stuck between an open world and instanced bits of content that can take much too long to download, even on a killer connection like the one I have. I can imagine a future Home that acts more like There, a social MMO that allows players to create content but puts that content through an official filter. Or, if player-created content must be left off or cut back, I would love to see Home on the PlayStation 4 invite players to explore beautiful areas more than it does now. Most of the time I spend in Home feels like visiting a shopping mall rather than a virtual world. The world needs more exploration and less monetization, something that I truly believe would result in more money being made. Relaxed players relax their wallets.
Luckily, Home's player housing is cool. It's not unexpected but is certainly better looking than housing in most social MMOs I have played, and it also feels more solid. My default beach house overlooks an amazing town and marina, and I can only imagine how nice it would be if I could actually explore that town below. Many of the housing units come with beautiful scenery attached, but that scenery remains background imagery only. Again I am picturing the more-powerful PS4 and the possibilities it might bring to exploration and more complex personal spaces.
"The prices are quite fair, but I am so used to seeing those prices hidden behind virtual currencies that I forgot what real prices were."
Home has been a lot of fun so far, even with the loading times. If the launch of the PS4 includes a relaunch or upgrade to Home, the device would be almost worth its price just for Home. There are quite a few players on every time I log in, but I guarantee that there is some seedy stuff going on. Again, though, any social game world fan is used to getting some bad apples with the bunch. Luckily Home provides tools for reporting and ignoring others.
Home and the PlayStation console are not providing me with an extraordinary experience. I can find all of the same types of fun on my gaming PC or even my Chromebook or tablets. The advantage Home and the PS3 has over my gaming PC is portability and ease of use. It would be nice to see some modern updates to Home, of course, but for now I'm having a lot of fun exploring and shopping.
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!