Sunday, December 14, 2008

First impressions of PS3's HOME

Center of Plaza

Eventually I managed to log into HOME (open beta) - playstation 3's new virtual world - at 5am GMT on the 12th Dec... until then it seemed the PS Network was taking a hammering.

My initial response was to compare it more to Twinity, than a true Second Life alternative... ie. private apartments and group spaces, linked to a central hub world, no 3D or scripted user generated content (yet) , and a lack of sophisticated camera controls that will make it a pain to create interesting machinima with its beautifully rendered world - ( but hey, that's part of the challange of machinima )).
Its a very sanitised experience, perpetually a bright midday summer's day ( which actually gives me a migrine ), avatars that can only be human and in peak condition (ok I'll grant you can be slightly chubby and have worry lines ) and a controlled branded experience of Sony and partner products ( which was to be expected. )

My curiosity of this new Virtual World has been peaked for several months (watching the lucky ones running around in a closed Beta), and I was always interested to see if it offered any educational benefits or opportunities. Particularly it was the Group tool and Clubhouse space that caught my eye. As this offers the opportunity of creating a small community within HOME.
Initially you are given a private apartment ( a lovely oceanside flat ), but this is a space only you can manage, not give shared control.

A Club is an option you can purchase for £3.59.. this gives you administration of a group title ( choose wisely - as you can't change it later ) - to which you can invite or people can request to join. Along with the group, you are given a default Clubhouse, where your friends can meet, even if you are not online.
When you purchase, Sony imply that in the future, there could be monthly costs to running a group.. but during this open beta ( till end of march '09 ) its a one off payment.

At present, the default clubhouse is a dojo style interior, but from the greyed out option in the clubadmin tools, it looks like in the future you will be able to purchase new spaces.
It also seems you can only create One Club per avatar which you have ownership of, so again think before you create. I have yet to see if there is a limit to the number of other clubs you can join, in Second Life it is annoying that you can only join 25 groups, so I wonder if the same is true here, but at the moment, it's free to join someone else's club.
As admin you can allow other members to help administrate the group and content of clubhouse. ( similar to flatmates in a Twinity apartment )

Furniture Limits in Home Spaces

Within the clubhouse, you can add furniture, to a limit of 40 items... this could easily be used up, particularly as I'm interested in using the Clubhouse as an Art Gallery, and I can foresee that I will need picture frames for each photo or image I upload into the space.
At present you can't purchase any media or image frames ( I'm assuming as this is the start of an open beta, Sony are probably wanting to present a positive image, so avoiding the user's opportunity to post copyrighted material up in spaces, or the inevitable clubhouse or private space full of Porn Pictures, or simply they are trying to avoid the server's been jammed up with content. ), but I have seen images from the closed beta that show their existence - linky to a photo from edpredator -

Within the Clubhouse, you have a bulletin board tool by default...
Bulletin Boards in Clubhouse

Sadly the bulletin board is a tad disappointing. Posts are limited to a subject line of 32 characters, and a message of around Twitter length. Only admins can post messages to the board, so at best its more like having sticky notes on a fridge, or a simple way of announcing group meetup dates.
The Posts are also censored - you can only used approved words - ie. no swearing, and it also denies you posting up Telephone numbers.
I tried putting in web links, which appear, but are not clickable. So you can't use the bulletin board as a portal to web content.


I'll reserve a final judgement, as the Open beta rolls out new 'Appliances', 'Picture frames' and new content hopefully over the next few months.

Things I would love to see appear in the future are :

Use PS3 webcam to send a videostream into the Clubhouse, be a simple way of presenting a conference or similar.
Stream Audio, or at least play audio content that's uploaded. ( I'm assuming a PS3 Internet Radio Station is on the cards, if not - they're missing a trick ) - a pragmatic solution is to use the pre-existing voice chat for now.
Objects or Tools, to link up outside webpages.


Anywho - if you're an educator exploring HOME - my avatar's name is Annabeth

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