When life threw its challenges at this player, Home was the best place to go.
From the Beginning
Ellie wasn’t always much of an avid gamer. Relying on her brother’s system and schedule to get in game time, her PS3 experience was limited. Her discovery of Home went a little like this:
“I want to say I was in middle school. At the time I wasn’t that much of a big gamer. A little bit I was, but more so my brother. He had a PS3 and you know he’d let me hop on sometimes when he went over to his friend’s house or something and you know I was just browsing through and saw the PlayStation Home icon just lingering there.”
Something about the icon drew her in, and it took her completely off guard. It wasn’t Call of Duty Black Ops 2 or some other FPS shooter, it was “mellow”. Surprisingly so. No one was really doing anything. In fact, there was a whole lot of nothing going on.
“Just walking around the Hub, then the mall and seeing people just hanging out and I thought ‘Okay this is pretty chill!’”
The lack of urgency appealed to Ellie and is part of what hooked her.
“I just liked the fact that while I wasn’t playing something so competitive, I could go into PlayStation Home and just chill and hang out with people and talk and stuff like that.”
In her downtime from competitive gaming, she enjoyed sharing life experiences with her fellow gamers. Connecting with other gamers through Home also helped to bring Ellie out of her shell and become a more outgoing person. We suppose you could say Home helped her to “blossom” ;)
Hanging out was just one aspect of Home that appealed to her. Another was the amount of shopping that was available.
“Of course I was kind of a sucker for shopping for clothes and stuff like that when I realized you could do that. I loved being able to customize my character and all that. That was a lot of fun.”
So far in the No Place Like Home series, character customization has been a common thread for favorite aspects of Home and we don’t expect that to change any time soon. Home offered plenty of variety in its shops to achieve distinct looks and to match your avatar to your own personal style.
We talked briefly about Home’s use of micro-transactions.
“I feel like looking at it from a business perspective from them, they saw that it was a pretty big money maker for them.”
Being a huge Fortnite fan, Ellie advocated for the inclusion of skins. This led us to discussing some potential branding opportunities, such as releasing skins for PlayStation IP characters such as Kratos, from God of War. Ellie believes that this could be a “gamechanger” for PlayStation. We agree.
The Rise of Party Royale
Ellie being such a fan of Fortnite, we couldn’t avoid the elephant in the room, Party Royale.
“Basically it’s just people hanging out and they can just throw tomatoes at each other and have little paintball guns and just hang out and do their dances and stuff. It just reminded me so much of PlayStation Home.”
We’ve seen plenty of comparisons to PlayStation Home from a variety of sources reporting on Party Royale. It provides a sense of hope that the concept Home built itself on will somehow live on, even if it’s through airborne fruit in a Fortnite lobby.
The funny part about it is that Fortnite broke ground in the battle royale genre along with PUBG. Fortnite has been wildly successful, though the game runs on a fairly basic concept, and now as it seeks to provide something new to its players, it decides on something like a lobby where players can sit without their flashy weapons and talk. It sounds like a weird direction to go, but any fan of 3D virtual social hubs will tell you that it’s a great idea. Heck, we’re telling you it’s a great idea. But it seems so counter-intuitive.
However, this is exactly how Home got its start. It was meant to be a game launcher where players met up to find groups and play other games. Instead of booting up these other games, though, players decided to stay in Home. It turned into something completely different where people were like “Well I don’t really feel like playing anything, I just want to walk around and see what’s up”. And that was successful! A concept doesn’t have to be complicated to find a home in gaming.
The Return of the Queen
Ellie took a break from gaming until she purchased a PlayStation 4 in 2016. During her time on Home, she used a different account so she lost contact with the people she usually hung out with. When she dove back into the gaming scene, her first thought was to check out what was happening with PlayStation Home and, to her dismay, found out it had been discontinued.
“That was so sad, I was looking at videos on YouTube of people like recording their last moments and it was so sad. They should have kept it around!”
Not only did Ellie lose a favorite pastime in the discontinuation of Home, but she also lost some friendships. As is the case with many other users. The videos that have circulated about the last seconds of Home don’t just show the end of a game; they show the end of the road for a lot of relationships. A tether severed, gamers drifting away from each other.
But Ellie didn’t give up hope. She found another game similar to Home called Avikin Life, made by Lockwood, her favorite Home vendor.
“I know they’ve branched out and done their own little social thing called Avikin Life. I did play that for a while because I loved their items and stuff and I kind of hoped they would come back to PlayStation Home because that was a big money-maker for them, too.”
It just isn’t the same, however. Ellie still holds hope that if another Home does come around, that Lockwood will revitalize some of her favorite items and create content for it again.
While on the subject of content creation, Ellie expressed interest in community creation options.
“With all the creator options in games, that would be good to implement that as a feature. Maybe even become a creator for Home.”
Whether it’s designing your own personal space from scratch or creating items of clothing to share with other players, Ellie believes that adding the ability to showcase user creativity is a valuable feature to consider.
Ellie’s Favorite Memory
Ellie’s favorite memory includes one of her favorite spaces: Pier Park.
“One of my favorite ones was Pier Park. With the big Ferris wheel. I loved Pier Park, I loved going on the Ferris wheel.”
Pier Park was a simple space, with the Ferris wheel being its centerpiece. It was the one interactive piece in the area and provided an awesome view, perfect for chatting with a friend or two. Other than the awesomeness that was the Ferris wheel, Ellie also enjoyed observing other players and taking in the space as it was.
“They had that place where people could just go sit down and talk, dance. I would join in sometimes but I enjoyed sitting down and watching everyone talk. That’s how mellow it was.”
Tucked away in the corner of the space was an area that players frequently gathered in to mess around, dance, and talk. You could step into this corner and see plenty of conversations moving at a mile a minute, the colored text bubbles rising like balloons at a party. It was probably the most active spot on the map, a great space to enjoy the traffic (and eavesdrop on strangers).
Ellie’s Favorite Personal Space
One of the spaces that sticks out to Ellie clearly is the Hollywood Hills apartment.
“It was a really nice house with a pool in the back, sliding glass door in the back. There was a little TV and you could set up a dance floor and play your music.”
Plenty of our own memories were made in this very same apartment, dancing on the dance floor, swimming in the pool, and watching some horror movies with friends. Ellie also loved being able to watch movies in her very own personal space.
“The one I had had a movie theater so my friends could come and we could sit down and watch a movie together. That’s another thing, too. That was so much fun to be able to watch a movie inside PlayStation Home. I think they had Crackle at the time? Yes, I really miss that. That was so much fun.”
Crackle was Sony’s streaming service at the time which was fully integrated into PlayStation Home. Movies and shows were available for group streaming and there are few joys greater than grabbing some real popcorn to watch a virtual movie in a 3D space with friends. Hopefully we see a return to Home on the PS5 that allows movie streaming and VR. Now that would be lovely.
Some Praise for the Community
Ellie is nothing if not passionate and supportive. She loves to share the praise and encourage those in her community in whatever they are doing. In this case, she wanted to talk about some fan art for a PlayStation Home concept on the PS5.
“I don’t know who did the concept art for it, but someone showed the future PlayStation Home pictures of spaces you could go to. It had the little PS5 logo at the bottom and it was just a collage. I thought that was really cool that someone did that. I was thinking of doing a Google reverse search to see who did it because that was so awesome.”
We’re not sure who did it, either, but if you happen to be reading this, we love you and appreciate your effort in creating that vision and sharing it. We all need a little more of that! Ellie especially loves it because it lets her know that “Home hasn’t been forgotten”. We think it’s safe to say that it certainly hasn’t been.
Home’s Impact on Ellie
The impact Home had on Ellie was one of hope, optimism, and community support. She felt that Home showed her someone always had her back.
“It kind of opened up this sense of feeling that you know there’s always people that are going to care about you. I was introverted at the time, kind of shy, didn’t really know how to talk to people. But they made you feel welcome.”
The world got a little bigger with Home. She continued:
“It was just really cool that people from different places reached out and hung out with you, played games with you. That was the feeling that helped me open up and become a more open person. Open-minded and just treasuring those memories and stuff. It’s a good feeling. I’d like to experience that on next-gen, too, especially with the friends I have now.”
While Home is, for now, only a memory for Ellie, she’s looking to the future for hope to experience Home with her new friends. For Ellie, she hopes that the best is yet to come and firmly believes that Home is an experience that is needed as we progress into the next generations of gaming.
We all loved Home, but we can agree that it needs some updates when and if it comes back. Ellie’s first suggestion is graphics.
“I’d say graphics. They were decent for the time but seeing the next-gen graphics for the games coming out, Home could be beautiful, for sure.”
Her second suggestion is more in line with a huge gripe of the community: the load times.
“I think the loading times were the worst things I experienced in Home. I know they’ve mentioned something about loading screen connections for next-gen so we’ll see. I guess it had a lot of connection errors at times, too. Thinking about it now, Home never got out of beta. It was in beta the whole time we played it so it would be interesting to see them bring it back and improve on those things. The only thing I think could be improved is the loading screens, they were horrendous at the time.”
The load times were nearly unbearable, especially having to download each new space you traveled to. But, this could be an issue of the past as next-gen technology looks to flex its muscles.
A third suggestion is for a better camera system.
“They had that camera option but it wasn’t all that great. It was finicky a little bit but it would be cool if they incorporated something a little more elaborate. It would be cool to share your memories. Like with other games, you can share on social media, share your screenshots.”
Being in a world where social media is a huge driver for conversation around, well, anything, social sharing is imperative when it comes to any social application (we’re getting tired of the word “social”, too). Having the ability to post an image to your social media account straight from Home would greatly boost Home-related content and encourage users to capture awesome memories.
In a quick discussion of “cottagecore”, Ellie coined the term “Homecore” as a mix of the two. Home has the potential to make an immersive cottagecore environment, as well as immersive environments in general. To capitalize on this, Ellie has an idea:
“Like a space you could go to and take pictures of the environment and make these awesome collages. That would be the PlayStation ‘Homecore’.”
There you have it: “Homecore”. Remember her when you’re putting together your photo collages of pretty sunsets, flowers, and game attractions on the next-gen PlayStation Home!
Stay Golden, Ponyboy
We asked Ellie what she would want to stay the same about Home, and her answer aligned with her affinity for personalization and her passion for gaming.
“I loved the personal spaces. I think they had Little Big Planet and stuff like that, other games incorporated within Home. I liked that aspect a lot. That’s what made it so unique and different from everything else. Of course you could go in and actually play those games, but being able to get items to decorate your Home, I liked that. You could have Metal Gear Solid items and stuff, too, and I was really big into that. Getting little pieces of your favorite characters and stuff and putting it in your personal space. Or dressing up like your favorite characters.”
Maybe on the PlayStation 5, the trophy system could be implemented with Home, rewarding special Home items based on trophies. Just an idea.
Dear PlayStation, From Ellie
We asked Ellie to tell us what she would tell PlayStation if she were writing an open letter. This was her response.
“Dear PlayStation, PlayStation Home was such an amazing aspect of your brand because it allowed people to come together and just get away from everything. You face some things in life sometimes and you get down and you want to get away from it all. And that’s what Home was for me. Essentially with all the craziness of work and stuff like that, you want to come and just chill out. Sometimes you don’t want to get heavy into a game, you just want to be able to hang out and talk to people. See people running around and doing their own thing and being able to relax. That is one of the big things I loved about Home. I hope they’d look at that, and, especially during the pandemic, know that people need that communication and bonding and to be able to do it safely. That would be a good strategy to implement. I’m sure they want people to be safe and I would hope that they would bring it back just so we can be safe and have fun doing it, you know?”
Listen to the full interview here on our YouTube channel! You can follow Ellie @sugarxblossom on Twitter and Instagram.