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PlayStation Home Open Beta's Troubled Launch

Sony launched the PlayStation Home virtual community on Thursday, and while the closed beta has been up and running for quite a while, gamers are experiencing issues with the public new version.

The biggest issue with Sony’s PlayStation Home program thus far is actually connecting to the virtual environment itself. Gamers click on the icon via the XMB only to get a popup box saying “Network Error, The connection to the network was lost, C-991.” Meh. The problem just doesn’t happen once or twice; it’s usually over and over for quite a while. At the time this article began to take shape, there was no official word as to what the problem really was, only speculation that Home may be experiencing a loading issue. It seemed possible that the Home servers were completely overworked, that Sony didn’t anticipate the huge load of connections despite teasing the PlayStation 3 community with bits of Home information since the console first reared its head, thus is now scrambling to set up more bandwidth or whatever it takes to get screaming complainers off their backs.

Unfortunately, the initial load issue is only one of Home’s current problems. We discovered that, once permanent connection to Home was actually made, another issue immediately arose: an area refused to load. In fact, the Apartment was the culprit, and the virtual avatar remained stuck within the apartment complex entrance, unable to move forward or backward without another connection error popping up like some virtual middle finger. The Apartment eventually loaded, but only through the handy, virtual PDA. The loading error was quite embarrassing actually, as other avatars tried to pass through the door. “Umm yeah sorry I’m a loser, stuck in a door” was the apologetic explanation offered to other users.

If connection issues were not enough, gamers wandering into the virtual Theater were somewhat sour by what appeared on the silver screen. In the closed betas, Sony threw up a SOCOM documentary that was somewhat entertaining to watch. Unfortunately, the Theater only played that one movie, initially downloaded when the gamers enters the theater for the first time and thus repeating it continuously. But now the SOCOM documentary is replaced by a short teaser trailer from the vampire movie Twilight, followed by a cheesy Twilight music video. Needless to say, Theater visitors had nothing positive to say about the showing, complaining that it wasn’t worth the long download, and popcorn would have flown like fluffy darts had there been any to pop (some third-party developer should create tomatoes or something else to throw at the screen).

Sony certainly has a way to go in setting up a stable environment for the multitudes of PlayStation 3 owners, but it’s somewhat surprising that Home users are experiencing connection issues with the public release. Actually, it’s surprising that any issues of the sort arise considering the overall development time and the extensive closed beta testing. Home has certainly changed quite a bit since the last closed beta client; the developers even overhauled the main plaza, adding a shallow pool and redesigning some of the surrounding buildings. Fresh new content have hit the in-game display screens, and Sony even implemented virtual arcade machines featuring the PlayStation Network favorite, Echochrome.

Thankfully the cries of PlayStation Home users have caught the ears of official Sony minions, including one Patrick “I-cannot-comment-on-that” Seybold , Director of Corporate Communications and Social Media. “We are aware that some people may be experiencing difficulty in accessing the PlayStation Home beta at present. This is due to overwhelming demand for the service as people access Home for the very first time since it became Open Beta and appeared on the XMB."

"While we prepare solutions to ease the problem, you may continue to experience difficulties accessing Home," he added. "We kindly ask for your patience as we work to meet the incredible demand for this revolutionary service.”

So indeed, Home is suffering from a flood of gamers as originally speculated, overloading the network and causing mass hysteria. Looking back, PlayStation Home is actually acting like a fresh MMORPG just birthed from the developmental womb, quirky, whiney and unable to pick its nose until it discovers a hand. Until then, Home users will have to stick a passie in their mouth and suck up the annoyances until the bugs are ironed out and short-term players find something else to flood.