Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The PSN Playstation Network niggles

I mentioned some time ago that I'd finally managed to hook up my Playstation 3 to the internet and was happily chunking through it with some few niggles on Sony's own Playstation Network site. The release of Wipeout HD and Megaman 9 tempted me to go back to the store and this has prompted me to elucidate on my previous statement.

The basic interface is simple as befits use by a console controller and I can't fault it. The home screen has the main sections buttonised along the right hand side with graphic splashes to the left highlighting whatever Sony wants to hawk today.

To navigate simply use the d-pad to move around between the sections or splashes and press X to confirm. For most of the topics you'll be taken to a sub-screen with yet another set of sections and a graphic splash, yet mirrored with the splash on the left and the buttons on the right. Due to the number of sub-sections possible the buttons have been shrunk, arranged into 5 column rows, and now use icons to distinguish them. Fortunately if you don't want to memorise the pretty pictures the splash changes to provide more information as to the currently highlighted item.

This pattern is repeated throughout each subsection - so for example from the Home page you can choose "All Games" and move to the sub-screen, then the icon representing "Shooters" (a bullseye) and then to "Resistance: FOM" and then pick some extra downloadable maps all using the same visual format. However it is in these first sub-screens that the first niggle lies.

As I mentioned the icons are now columnised and where possible appear in alphabetical order, so the first row may be A, B, C, D, E and the second row F, G, H, I, J. As this order is kept new items can appear amongst the old ones and thus it pays to step through them sequentially to see what's available. Using the d-pad you can thus move left off the splash graphic to A, then continue through to E, at this point you find you cannot move left to jump down a row to F, instead you have to simply move down to J and then work back. Seriously people this isn't hard to do, when I get to the end of a row I want the movement key I've been using to take me to the beginning of the next row and not just halt.

The next very minor niggle occurs when you're looking at a big list. The currently displayed list may only show items from A-F, to get to S you need to click down through every row. Yes there's an A-Z option on the previous screen so you can jump to S, but you would then have to scroll down through every S game to get to "Sw". A page up/down perhaps mapped to L2/R2 would be nice.

Okay on to the biggest niggle of them all the product display screen. Once you've chosen an item you're taken to yet another type of screen. On the left hand side you have a column giving you the title of the item, who it's by, how much it costs and two buttons Download or Add to Cart. On the right you get the bigger screen which tells you what the item actually is, that it runs in 720p/1080p/whatever and the full blarney of legal crud.

If you click on Download Now then depending on what it is it'll ask you where you want to save it; to help it shows the storage options available with the amount of free space they have. Choose one and you then may have the option of downloading it in the background so you can carry on browsing or even head out and play a game. The screen behind this option is your shopping trolley showing the item in question, its size, and price.

So have you spotted the problem? Until you state that you want to download or add the item to your shopping cart you have no idea what size the item is; none, zip, zero, nada. This of course makes a mockery of asking where you want to store the item "Hmm 3Gb free is that enough?"

For some completely inexplicable reason the actual size of the file is missing from any of the information presented on the item information screen. I've scoured the screen to make sure I'm not missing something I've tried various buttons to see if some hidden information will appear with no success.

Okay if you're someone who just leaves their Playstation on all the time running Folding@Home then the amount of time might not seem a hassle until I point out that the downloads are sequential. That means if you've picked a few items to download you won't get to see that 32Mb video until that 600Mb demo has downloaded unless you manually head into the Download manager and stop it then restart it. For those of us who switch it on and off, sometimes as a quickie before heading out elsewhere, finding out that the demo you've set to download weighs in at over 1Gb can be a little annoying.

The store itself is fine and has expanded with items in even the short time I've been on it, but it's just... gah I just can't believe that anyone could produce a store front that sells and give things away electronically wouldn't have this information as a standard part of the description; especially when it's something that's known and easily slottable into the existing template.

This is just going to get highlighted even more when they start streaming movies and television shows through it here in the EU.