Home, Home on the range…

Sunday night I thought I’d try out Sony’s “open beta” of “Home”, their virtual world app where you create an avatar and wander around, essentially a closed version of Second Life.

I powered up the PS3 and selected the “Home” app.
Not surprisingly, the PS3 told me “a system update is required”. Sony’s system updates are slow, so I groan and hit ok.

About 45 minutes later, the update is done. The PS3 reboots, and I again select the “Home” app.
“You must install Home” it tells me. Ok, so the menu item for Home doesn’t actually have the app, it has to download. I hit ok.

Half and hour later, Home is downloaded and installed. I once more select the “Home” app.
“System update required,” it alerts me. Yup, ANOTHER one. I sigh and hit ok. Twenty or so minutes later, it’s installed. But now it’s time for bed. I shut down the PS3 and go to sleep.

So last night, I power the PS3 back up and select the “Home” app, and… you guessed it. “System update required.” I mash “ok” and wait another 20 minutes.

It restarts and I select the “Home” app. It actually launches! Or rather, it launches the EULA. After a lot of EULA stuff, it then tells me Home needs to install an update and reserve 3GB of space on the HD. Gah. I hit “ok” and after hitting “ok” a few more times to prompts like “Home will be using your HD, so don’t shut it down while it’s saving”, I finally get to the starting point of Home, building an avatar.

It only took a massive number of updates and patches, but I was finally able to build my sims-esque avatar. The selection of clothes was very limited (about 5 choices for shirts, pants, etc) – I knew Sony would do this, to try and get you to buy virtual clothing for your avatar. Once my fairly generic-looking avatar was done, it dropped me into my apartment, an extremely minimalist studio apartment overlooking the bay, with sailboats moored to the docks. It was rendered well enough, but very antiseptic looking.

I then went to a new location, oddly they have FarCry 2 and Uncharted locations, so I went to the FarCry 2 train station. The map took a little while to download, then I was dropped into the level. Other people have ghost-like templates until their models are loaded. I found this odd, shouldn’t the standard model textures be pre-cached? There aren’t that many options available…

There was very little to do on the map, except wander around. There was an upstairs, but that required another map to download. People were generally standing around going “**** you all!!!” or using one of the dance animations over and over (such as using the Metal fist-thrust to appear to be punching each other).

I then switched to the “movie theater” location. A bunch of people were dancing in the front, and there was a bubble machine there for some reason. On the screen was a giant progress bar, which took a long time to load. Seems instead of streaming, Sony chose a “download and play” model. Finally the movie was done downloading, and turned out to be a clip, maybe 5 or 10 minutes long, of some new CGI Resident Evil movie, which looked like an in-game cutscene but apparently is a direct-to-video movie. Once played, it started again.

Lastly, I took a trip to the Sony Mall, which offers a scant selection of items to buy for your avatar. There is an alternate apartment for $5, clothing between $0.50 and $2, and furniture around $2. There were no free items.

I shut down Home, probably never to return. Definitely not worth the effort of installing. It’s basically Second Life without the user-generated content, which to me was the main interesting thing about Second Life.

To sum up: yawn.

Eye of Judgement

I recently got Eye of Judgement for the Playstation 3. Actually, it’s the only game disc I own for the PS3 – I bought a few small downloadable games, but Eye of Judgement is the first “real” game I bought.

Eye of Judgement interested me for a few reasons:

  • It’s a card game along the lines of Magic, also by Wizards of the Coast
  • It uses augmented reality in a mass-market game
  • It comes with the Playstation Eye, the PS3 webcam

First off, the bundle:

On Amazon, it’s $45 for the game, which comes bundled with the Playstation Eye (PSeye). $45 for a game and a webcam is pretty cheap. I think if you buy the webcam by itself, it’s $30. It comes with the game, PSeye, game mat, stand for the PSeye, starter deck, and one booster pack.

Probably the reason the whole thing is so cheap is they expect to make it up in booster pack sales. As with Magic: the Gathering, it’s all about getting a bunch of good cards, and building a deck from them that works well. Booster packs are pretty pricey, $4 for 8 cards.

The setup:

You assemble the stand, attach the PSeye to the stand, plug the PSeye into the PS3, and lay the game mat under the PSeye. You want a well-lit area, since the primary premise here is that the PSeye can see which cards are being played, and have the game react accordingly.

This setup is easy enough in my bedroom, but if I ever want to set it up in my living room, I’ll have to hook up some kind of powered USB extension to reach across the room to the coffee table.

The basic operation:

The cards have two main features, as far as the PSeye is concerned: oversized black bars at the top and bottom of the card, and green triangles on the sides of the card. The black bars act as an oversized barcode to let the PS3 determine which card it is, and the green triangles allow the PS3 to know the orientation of the card.

There is a test mode, where you can hold a card and view it as a rendered pop-up. It shows the video feed from the PSeye, with a 3D model of the monster from that card overlayed on the video feed, scaled and rotated so it appears to be standing on the card. You can move and rotate the card and the 3D model updates reasonably quickly. You can tilt the card slightly from side to side, but since the marks on the card have to be clearly in camera, you can’t tilt it that far.

This test mode is the most traditional use of augmented reality, but in actual gameplay the entire video feed is covered, so isn’t such direct AR.

The game:

The game is played on the 3×3 grid of the game mat. The object is to have a creature card in 5 of the 9 squares at the end of your turn (thus controlling a majority of the board). Since there are only 9 potential places to play, the game play is much shorter and more strategic than a game of Magic, which could easily last over an hour. Typical Eye of Judgement games last about 20 minutes, though that’s just an estimate, I didn’t actually time them.

I won’t go into all the details of gameplay, but it’s very strategic. Each square has a type, and each card has a type, so where you play the card is very important. Creatures also have strong sides and weak sides, so the direction the card is facing when you play it is important as well.

So far, I pretty much suck. I’m playing against the computer on the easiest setting, and most of the time I lose. However, I only just started playing, so hopefully after some practice I’ll suck a lot less. =)


I just noticed the price on Amazon has gone from $45 to $65… not as great a deal, but still not too bad for a game and a webcam.