PlayStation Home

This has been on the PS3 agenda for quite some time. However, more beta invites are would appear to be flying around as I got one today.

As Sony put it, PlayStation Home is a 3D social gaming community that allows PLAYSTATION3 users to meet, chat, plan, and launch into games together. You can create your own custom avatar, decorate your personal apartment, play mini-games, shop, watch videos, attend special events, and much more.

It’s clear that Second Life, the online virtual world on PC, has been an inspiration. Much of the format is the same, although with SL’s lack of progress over the last couple of years Sony has been able to catch up. Home looks like Second Life 2.0; the graphics take full advantage of the PS3 hardware and the experience feels much more polished, even in the beta.

The first thing you’ll see is the wardrobe, where you can customise your avatar’s appearance. Having recently criticised Microsoft’s limited NXE avatar customisation options, it’s safe to say there’s more scope here. Taking a similar approach to Second Life you can alter bone structure and shapes in a granular way. There’s a shortage of haircuts and textures at the moment, but once Sony adds more it should be possible to create highly accurate in-game representations of yourself.

In the beta there’s a few areas to explore, from your lovely harbour flat, to the square, shopping centre, theatre and bowling alley. There are some ‘living game’ rooms and, most interesting to me, an Uncharted one, though I’ve not seen how to access them during my first exploration.

The products have yet to arrived at the in-game stores. it will be interesting to see what approach to currency Sony take, whether to factor in real money or not – one would assume they would, in a similar way to Linden Labs did with converting cash into Linden Dollars.

A question mark also hangs over content creation and ownership. One of Second Life’s biggest successes was the way player’s could create artefacts and whole environments. Having noticed an estate agent store, it looks like customising your home’s location and contents will be a given, but I’m not sure the limits will extend as far as setting up an in-game business. Sony mention there will be special events, which could turn out be virtual concerts.

Some people will no doubt get very involved with Home. Its looking like a great virtual chatroom with distraction such as the bowling alley (good luck finding a free lane!), pool tables, outdoor chess and games arcade; in which there’s a great little game called Ice Breaker. It’s also great fun walking up to one of the game screens such as Wipout HD and dancing to music, with Running Man and Body Pop the perfect choice for most occasions.

This video is a bit older and isn’t centred around the beta’s offering, but shows you what to expect. After all, the beta is just the start.

What are your impressions so far?