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Home » Featured, Views

Top 10 Things Missing from the Home Beta Avatar Generator

Submitted by on Tuesday, 9 December 200811 Comments

For the lucky few out there who are participating in the Home beta the following list may induce some knowing head nodding or perhaps the wry smile of empathy.

You’ve noticed these “quirks” yourself. You’ve scratched your head and tried to comprehend why the tool was set up in such a way but you know it’s free, still very early in terms of the service’s life-cycle and Home itself is intriguing enough for you to give the shortcomings found in the Avatar creation tool a pass.  And, hey, he or she does kinda look like you.

Therefore, consider the following not a shopping list of gripes or disparaging negative criticism but a constructive collection of areas where we believe the tool needs improving. And let’s not forget, the tool has evolved since its original presentation and we have no doubt that the Home developers will continue to enhance and update it going forward. Check after the break for a descending list of things we believe are missing or in need of tweaking.

Note: we are fully aware that the avatar available in Home is not necessarily meant to look like you. In fact, you may choose to completely go a different direction and fashion a guise that is the exact opposite of your actual appearance. The fact that the developers of Home have presented such a complex and extensive generator however would suggest that, if you so desired, the ability to form an avatar that is instantly recognisable as the real you should be obtainable.

10. Lack of Content

We get it. We understand the idea. People buy new shirts and pants and whatnot as part of Sony’s micro-transactional profit model and everyone is happy. That said, the initial selection of threads available is exceptionally meagre. With only a handful of garments on offer, the Home population is strikingly homogenous. If I see one more person wearing my chic blue Home shirt …

The recent opening of the shopping centre stores (with their limited period of snatch-and-grab free for all zero prices) has helped somewhat inject a modicum of individuality into the population but only time will tell if the avatar creation tool will be saved from “clone-itis” when new content materialises.

9. Gender specific content inspires jealousy

We also understand that certain content is meant for one side of the gender divide but we believe the designers have missed an opportunity here to make some of the wares unisex and therefore increase the range of apparel on offer (see #10). There’s also the extroverted guys out there who we’re sure would love to get there hands on the mini-skirt or halter neck top.

Of course, we recognise that technically the designers would have to create two versions of the same garment for both sexes in some cases, but for other items such as jackets and coats, we’re sure the complex morphing technology on offer could accommodate clothing that was designed for one but used across both genders.

8. Lack of custom traits would make all the difference

There’s no doubt that the number of faces creatable from the numerous ‘feature tweakers’ is almost innumerable. It’s the distinctive personal traits we all have however, and missing from the facial creation tool, that results in the visages created being close – but no cigar.

Do you have dimples? Cleft-chin? Different coloured eyes? All these (and many many more) instantly identifiable markers are flagrantly absent and result in the doppelganger staring back looking very much like you – but probably like a million other people out there as well.

The presence of freckles in the skin tool is brilliant. Now, if we can just see some other more specific facial feature traits introduced we’re looking at the scary prospect of creating an appearance that, though hardly photo-realistic, actually truly looks like you.

7. Body Shape

People come in all shapes and sizes but, if you were to believe the Home developers, body shape can be determined simply by the mere ratio of height and weight distribution. You can depict being tall(ish) or short(ish), and you can even make your avatar a bit chunky (but not morbidly obese) but being super thin seems to be completely out of the question.

Ignoring the great social question about weight and acceptance amongst others, it’s the austereness of this element in the creation process that is a little disappointing. You go into the Face section and you’re bombarded with a dozen or so sub-areas that allow you to tweak every part of your features from neck wrinkles to the ability to twist the offset of the nose but in comparison the body area gets severely neglected. So much time and effort has been granted to the facial area that it’s just disheartening to see the entire body form covered with two variables – height and weight.

There’s no way to increase the size of your arms; something I’m sure a lot of guys would like to do. Or your chest (which I’m sure both girls and guys would be interested in). There’s no way to make yourself very tall (like 7″) or, if you so desired, quite diminutive in stature. This area is so devoid of options that it’s difficult to know where to start with suggestions. We just hope someone takes a look at the body shapes out there in real life versus the (mostly) svelte creations jogging around the Bowling Area and realises that this is a section that needs considerable improvement.

6. Only basic eye and hair colours are available

What colour is your hair? Maybe you’re like me and it’s dark brown. Good luck trying to find this shade in the Home avatar tool. You can have black or you can have brown. Oh, and the brown looks like auburn. Same for the eye colour option with only about six colours on offer. The last time I checked, people’s hair and eye colour is varied and subtle. We’d like to see a palette option made available allowing users to choose the right shade of colour for them. It really would make a difference.

5. No Photo Upload tool

This doesn’t feature higher on our list purely because we appreciate the fact that we’re dealing with a beta here and this bloody thing has taken long enough to see the light of day. That said, a lot of the tweaking and second-guessing (“Hey, check the back of my head, does it look like THIS one or THAT one?”) could be replaced by facial recognition software. Upload a photo and, Ta-da!,  the application creates the avatar for you. Sure, you’ll probably still need to touch it up a little (note: touching yourself is not promoted on this site) but it would be a great step towards what we believe the Home developers are attempting: the ability to create an avatar that actually resembles you.

4. Presets vary from a few normal people to a lot of mutagenic freakazoids

When you start designing your avatar’s head, one of the first options you’re faced with is regarding its structure. There are eight presets on offer but, and I admit this might be a personal thing, only two or three actually look human with the rest being wild variations of freakish were-people I only hope do not actually exist in the real world. As I say, maybe I’m wrong here but I truly believe we would be better served in the quest for avatar-likeness if some of the presets were a little less outlandish. It should be noted that the ability to customise and merge the eight presets into one amorphous abomination is a nice touch. I’ve created some real ugly people that way.

3.  Width of Mouth

Such a basic thing to get wrong but it makes such a stark difference. I don’t have a freakishly small mouth (you could review this article and posit that I have, in fact, an exceptionally large one) but, even at the narrowest of settings my avatar’s mouth is too wide. This needs tweaking, and soon.

2. Hair Styles available are perfect for weirdos. Not great for the rest of us.

Similarly to #4, the amount of (normal) hair-styles available is shockingly limited. I don’t really expect my particular do to be exactly available in Home but it would have been nice that, instead of the cornucopia of wild and wacky coiffures on offer, some more normal styles were available. All that work on my beautiful face and I’m stuck with a hair-cut that I “kinda” had back in 1989.

1. Beards. Where are the beards? What the …

Honestly. What happened? I want to hear the logic in this one. I really do. All of the above, from the mutant heads and the punk hairstyles to the width of the mouth are all forgivable but to not have beards available in the facial hair section is downright criminal; especially if you consider that there is an eclectic range of stupid moustaches on offer. Does Sony not realise that a significant percentage of their audience sport face-fluff? Come on guys. We want beards and we want them now. I don’t even have a beard and I can see that this is a gross oversight.

There you have it: our list of tweaks, missteps, gripes and suggestions. Agree with us? Think there is something more flagrantly wrong with the tool that we’ve glazed over? Let us know in the comments.

And for those of you who are not in the Home beta we have a special prize on offer. We have a Beta key up for grabs so, if you want it, answer this simple question: What is the one thing can you not wait to do in Home when it launches?

Funniest answer gets the key.

(Please note: this key is for a U.S. account so do not enter if you can’t access the U.S. Store.)