- Firmware 2.40 brings the PS3 closer to a fully-fledged system, but there are still problems with the system software and features that are missing.
In this article, we detail some of the problems faced by the existing system software and what additional features can make it better. While not everyone will agree with the problems and improvements features in this article, it just goes to show how many flaws the system has and how far off it is from perfect.
Don't get me wrong here. I love my PS3 but there is always the need for criticism.
Current Problems (and possible solutions):
The friends list takes long to load - if you have over 50 friends, your friends list can take a while to load, in addition, it takes some time for their online status to refresh. One way to solve this problem is to cache the list and reload it as needed. Currently, it seems that the list is loaded fresh every time the console is started.
Lack of supported video and audio formats - only a limited number of video and music files are supported by the PS3. While the recently introduced DivX compatibility makes it easier for some people, there are still many formats that are missing. Currently, the PS3 cannot be classified as a "media center" without better compatibility.
In-game XMB is slow - while the in-game XMB is a nice feature to have, it can be slow and clunky. With a whole SPU dedicated to the XMB, it's the memory that is causing the problem, which is only 256MB for the entire system (thought there is also another 256MB in the GPU). One way to speed up the in-game XMB is to only show the features that can be accessed in-game, and hide the rest.
In-game music playback - Firmware 2.40 introduces in-game music playback, but is only compatible with titles that support the feature. It's up to the developers to make the feature available. Sony should allow the feature by default, and simply allow players to mute in the game's music by changing the game settings. This will allow gamers to play their own music while also leaving the sound effects in place.
Downloading while on power-save mode - you can only download content while the system is switched on. It would be great if there is a power-save mode (a mode between stand-by and full power) that allows you to download things while saving power.
Screensavers - if you leave your PS3 idle, the screen simply dims down or runs folding@home if it's configured to do so. It would be great if there were some actual screensavers or even an auto-off feature, something similar to that of the PSP.
Better flash player - the PS3 web browser is decent, but the flash player cannot support all flash content. It would be great if the flash player was in the same league as a PC or Mac.
Limited friends list - Firmware 2.40 upped the friends list limit from 50 to 100, but this is still very restrictive. My friend list is closely reaching this new limit and it could be months before they decide to increase it again. Why not just allow an infinite number of friends?
Online version of Player Profile - Player's profile has changed in Firmware 2.40, showing something similar to a "gamers card". Why not introduce an online version of this or at least offer an API for developers to create their own? People want to share their achievements and "now playing" statuses, so why not let them.
Better Remote Play - the PSP/PS3 cross-compatibility features are great, but there is still room for improvement. Why not let users edit their account (via Account Manager) from their PSP. Mirror the screen on both the PSP and PS3 rather than showing the "Remote Play in Progress" screen on the PS3.
Better messaging - the messaging system is good for sending messages to offline friends, but when you want to chat to someone online, IM would be so much easier if you don't have a mic. Adding IM to the chat room would allow gamers with no mic to still join in.
Allowing users to change PSN Name - currently, you cannot change your PSN name. Sony should allow users to change their name if they no longer like they current name, but limit it to once every six months to stop abuse.
Message list - prior to Firmware 2.40, clicking on a friends name would show you the message list between the two of you. It now displays the player's profile. It should be the way it was. Now you have to press TRIANGLE and then select [Message List] to see your messages.
New features to improve the PS3:
Cross game chat/in-game chat - for games that don't support chat, the XMB should provide an alternative, allowing gamers to communicate. Cross-game chat would allow gamers to keep in touch with friends playing different games.
Email to PSN (and vice versa) - allow users to send a message to your PSN account using a email address and vice versa could help keeping it touch with friends who don't own a PS3. A personalized email address like [psn_id]@psn.playstation.com would be great.
Message Notification - get an email sent to your registered email address when you receive a new PSN message.
Better online Profiles - allow gamers to add more information to their profile page rather than just "About Me". This would avoid duplicate questions like "how old are you?" and "where are you from?", as it can all be on the profile page.
RSS Reader - like the PSP, a RSS reader feature would allow gamers to subscribe to podcasts and photo feeds. Hell, why not also let gamers subscribe to their favorite news websites too.
Skype - again like the PSP, a Skype client would be great. Not only can you have voice conversations with friends, if you have the PlayStation Eye or Eye Toy, you can also have a video call with friends and from around the world.
Upscale PS3 titles - if you are playing a 720p game on a TV that supports 1080p, why not upscale games like you can upscale DVDs? Of course, this might make developers lazy.
Friend Finder - you may not always know your friend's PSN ID, so why not allow gamers to search for their friends using their email address. Even better is allowing gamers' to import their address books from Hotmail, GMail and Yahoo and auto-search for people they may know.
Login to multiple PSN accounts - you can currently only login to one PSN account at a time. Why not let gamers login to two or more accounts when playing multiplayer games. That way, both users can get points for playing games like Warhawk on split-screen.
Password Protection - anyone can login to your Local User account when they turn on your PS3. Adding password protection would make it much more secure. For example, it would stop jealous friends from deleting your gamesaves.
Admin User(s) - if you have younger siblings using your console, they can sometimes change settings or delete things without your knowledge. Having an "admin" account can prevent "non-admin" users from tampering with settings and deleting files. This is especially important with the System Update feature.
"Appear Offline" - signing into the PSN means everyone can see you online. But this is necessary to access the PlayStation Store and playing games. There should be a "appear offline" feature allowing you to appear offline to friends, but giving access to all the PSN features.
Keyboard Shortcuts - The XMB supports a keyboard, but there are no shortcut keys. Pressing "S" on the friends list should scroll down to the first name beginning with "S". Pressing "Del" on a video/photo etc. should give you the option to delete it.
Screenshots and Videos - gamers should be able to take in-game or even XMB screenshots and videos with the press of some key-combination. While video recording might affect system resources, image capture should be a lot easier to implement. This would allow gamers to show off their skills or easter-egg finds more easily. (Don't you just hate shaky-cam videos and blurry screenshots.)
Auto-download - if you subscribe to Qore, whenever a new episode is out it should automatically be added to your download list (in addition to appearing on your PlayStation Store download list). Similarly, you should be able to set "download all new demos" and let the PS3 download all new demos automatically.
Better multi-taking - currently, you cannot do anything else while installing a game. You should at least be allowed to view photos or surf the net while you wait, or do something else that doesn't use of system resources.
Better "now playing" status - the PS3 only displays the names of games you are currently playing. Why not expand this to display "Playing Video" when watching a video or display the name of the Blu-Ray title you are watching (and display the appropriate icon). It may stop friends from pestering you.
Message Attachments - you can only attach photos to PSN message. Why not let gamers attach bookmarks and gamesaves too?
Force developers to use the PSN ID system - Metal Gear Solid 4 is the one game that doesn't use the PSN ID system. Sony should force developers to use this system as it makes locating friends easier. The MGS4 Game ID just complicates things. Any add-ons should also be forced to appear on the PlayStation Store. Konami just screwed things up with the Konami ID and Game ID systems.
Better Back-up/Restore system - backing up your console means all your content is backed up. Allowing user to customize their backup would make it easier for gamers. For example, gamers can select "Games" and "Savedata" to back on those two, and ignoring everything else. This should also work when restoring a system, allowing users to only restore a subset if items.
Let's leave it there shall we? We could probably go on forever but whether any of the above feature see the light of day is Sony's decision. It's taken almost two years to get the PS3 this far and implementing even a few of the above features could take Sony another year. If you have any comments or suggestions, make yourself heard below.