So, the Home Open Beta has launched, and while it's another step in the right direction, I still find little to no reason to fire it up.
Here are some ideas that Sony should be considering, if they already aren't.
More Character Customization
What's there already is good, but it's next to impossible to create a character that looks even remotely like me, especially in the face area.
The sad thing is that the underpowered Wii can make a recognizable Mii of me, as can in-game editors in The Godfather and, what came closest so far, Fight Night Round 2. In fact, Sony should look closely at the Fight Night character creation, because I'm convinced that it can do anything.
In addition to this, allow our Home avatars to be used outside of Home - maybe in games like BUZZ! Quiz TV, or sports games, etc. just like the Xbox 360 avatars and Wii's Miis.
The limited options that currently exist for PSN account icons are ridiculous. There are 23 pages or so, most of which are crap. Allow us to set our PSN avatar to a headshot of our Home avatar, and this would solve that problem in one fell swoop.
Complete XMB Functionality
The XMB is fast, sleek, and simple and really, pretty bloody awesome. But Home is supposed to be this new thing where gamers hang out and whatnot in between games, no? If so, then Home needs to allow me to do most or all of the things that I can do from my XMB.
Allow me to buy games, add-ons, and demos from the PlayStation Store and have them download and install automatically while I'm inside of Home. I shouldn't have to exit Home to install a game.
In addition to that, let me launch a game, even a single player game, or downloadable game, very simply and quickly. Considering that the PS3 is a gaming console primarily, I shouldn't have to exit Home to start a game when I get the urge.
Allow me to look at pictures, music, and videos that are on my hard drive at the very least. However, for Home to even dare compete with my beloved XMB, it needs to also support media servers, because 95% of what I watch is stored on a PC with a much larger hard drive than what I have in my PS3 right now.
Give me access to a web browser. I use it surprisingly a lot, and it's basically replaced my PC at home, for the most part. While you're at it, give me in-game web browser too, so I can check my email periodically, or look up a walkthrough if I get stuck, all without having to exit a game.
Speed It Up
I find Home takes a long, long time to load each area. That time could be cut down. Also, download the areas automatically - we're online here, so an update to an area should be known as soon as we boot into Home, and it should just automatically download so that I'm not prompted when I try to head to that area.
When I launch Home, don't make me press buttons to get in. Let me launch it from the XMB, go and grab a snack or beverage, and when I get back to my screen, it should be done or nearly done loading into Home.
Make it easier to follow my friends. Give us a button to press which will give us a Dead Space-like or Prince of Persia-like indicator of where to run to find our friends, especially after using the Go To feature. I find it very easy to lose people in Home, and finding them after is a real pain.
In addition to this, it'd be nice to have some indication as to where our friends are at, before we click on Go To, or at least prompt us before making the load. Maybe showing them on the world map would be a good idea, too.
More Things To Do
The little games that are there are OK, but they're not something I'd spend much time with. Especially the bowling. If you have played Wii Sports or High Velocity Bowling, then you're likely to hate the Home bowling game, with its archaic control scheme. The Red Bull plane game could be cool, and the Resistance 2 mini-game sounds neat, but they're not available yet, and so I can only hope that they're actually fun.
Give us more music at the listening booth. It's always playing one of a handful of songs, and it's just not enough. There is no variety of genres in there either. Sure, blues might cause an issue with the whole dancing thing, but I don't understand why people are dancing anyhow - it really does nothing but waste time. Even so, there is an option to dance in a Rock-like fashion, yet there is no rock music. Get some Sony-BMG artists in there to flesh it out, at the very least.
More Game Spaces are coming, but we need more soon, and they need things to do, and they need to reward us with things like clothing or trinkets to put into our home space.
The theatre is basically pointless right now, as well. When you visit a threatre in real life, you generally get a choice of actual movies to watch. You buy your ticket, then you sit down and watch some trailers and then the movie starts. So why does the Home theatre not do anything remotely similar?
You go in and wait for a half hour or more as a video clip downloads, and then it just loops the same trailer and music video over and over. Why isn't it streaming this content, and why doesn't it play something longer than a 5-minute clip?
Get The Age Thing Straight
So Home is supposed to be for people aged eighteen and up, right? Well, there are a lot of young kids running around in there, so that whole 18+ thing isn't working well. Figure out a way to stop this, perhaps via moderators or something, or just open it up to all ages. And if the age is lower in North America, then perhaps making that even out would be a good idea. Why do young North Americans get special treatment?
While you're at it, get rid of the stupid language filter. It may be fine when it filters out properly, but when one of your chat preset words is "Hello" and you filter out the word "hell" it just doesn't work properly. If someone says a sentence like "beware that it's just a beta," then the filtering kicks in once again, and you see "beware tha----'s just a beta."
I appreciate the gesture, Sony, to protect us adults from cuss words, but seriously, what you've got in place now just destroys normal conversation for no good reason. Not to mention that there's nothing stopping people from cussing via voice chat, which makes the text filters all the more pointless.
When all is said and done, Home is off to a decent start, especially for people who want a 3D voice and text chat playground. But for people who outgrew that sort of thing in their teenage years, Home doesn't have much of an appeal right now. These are just some of the things that, should Sony implement them, would make Home much more livable for everyone. More PlayStation 3 News...