Premium Themes on the PlayStation Store– I suppose new content like this is good as there’s always going to be someone out there with money burning a hole in their pocket. Personally though, themes don’t appeal to me. I like the clean, elegant XMB that is there as default. I’ve even got rid of my wallpaper. Just too distracting. See also, TheSixthAxis’ report.
In-game XMB Is Coming- I’ll believe it when I see it. There’s been many rumours over the past few months. Of course I’d like this rumour to be right, because it’d be a much-needed update for the PS3.
I would have posted this as an aside, but I wanted to include the a picture of the new visual style of the store:
(Click the above image for high-res goodness)
The update to the PLAYSTATION Store will be around mid-April, during which there will be a firmware upgrade required for the PS3 in order to use the new store. This is because the store will be software-based, and not a website, as is currently the case. There will be no content updates due to the store between now and the update.
Visually the store redesign seems to have taken a page off the SingStar Store, which is no bad thing. Seriously though, this is great news. Whilst the old store could have said to have fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, the new design doesn’t seem to have any critics (so far).
Who benefits from the update? Only PS3 users at the moment, although the PC version of the store will probably be updated sometime in the future. The new store should be very fast, compared to the old store, due to its software-based nature. I have to admit, whilst browsing the store, it has felt like wading through treacle.
Anyhow- here’s to more good stuff coming from Sony! (And to some extra content for the store after the redesign). Yet what I’ve noticed on the official forums, has been an ever-increasing demand for the release of Home and the long awaited in-game XMB.
Forget firmware 3.60, this is the real deal! You may recall a while back now, I recommended that firmware update 3.51 was pointless. Therefore, I have now upgraded my system from 3.50 to 3.70, and I’m expecting a large number of new features with such a version jump in the firmware. What’s going to make a look at this firmware interesting, is that I’ll be looking at the changes on an original PSP (PSP-1000). Let’s get cracking…
When updating, you’re presented with the following change log:
- You can now set custom themes in [Theme Settings] under [Settings].
- Support has been added for assigning buttons in [Remote Play].
- A scene search feature has been added under [Video].
- Sequential playback is now supported under [Video].
- Simultaneous playback of content under [Music] and [Photo] is now supported.
However I want to see exactly how this works, and whether there’s more features (as I never installed 3.60). I’ll start from right-to-left, beginning with [Network]. The 1st thing I notice is a new funky orange and black logo for PlayStation Spot. What is PlayStation Spot? It’s a wifi spot set up by Sony in certain public locations for you to download game demos, trailers etc. Anyhow, on the PSP, clicking on PlayStation Spot creates a new wifi connection: ‘PS Spot’. Apparently, if you are in range of a PlayStation Spot, you will also be able to access the Internet for free and browse the web, and even play multiplayer games in infrastructure mode. So that’s the PSP Spot.
Moving to [Game], I thought I could delete the 3.70 file, and quickly move onto exploring what else is new. However, on hitting [triangle] to bring up the menu…something has changed. On the menu, I can either start the update, delete it, or find out information about it. However, on the ’start’ option, there is a graphical PSP ’start’ button. I’m guessing the aim of this change is to expose extra functionality, and different, perhaps easier ways of doing things. Anyhow, there’s nothing else new under [Game].
Onto [Video], as I hover over a particular video for a while, a little guide pops up in the bottom-right corner of the screen saying ‘[triangle] options’. Which again, is exposing functionality that may not be obvious to a new PSP owner. On hitting [triangle], there is again another graphical PSP ’start’ button next to ‘play’. So, I hit ‘play’ and immediately as the video started another pop up guide says ‘[triangle] control panel’. Looking at the control panel, the PSP system again exposes secondary button options that you can operate without using the control panel such as play/pause, next scene etc…
THE coolest new feature under video is ‘Scene Search’. It is a revelation; simplicity itself to use, and very very useful. It appears as a new icon top-right of the control panel, or alternatively you can hit [square]. What it does is dynamically create scenes into the videos you’re watching which is very, very handy. You can press up or down to select anything from 15 second intervals to 5 minutes (on a short video), and left and right to ’scene search’. I’ll now try the same with a UMD film. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, which is a shame because some UMD films don’t have a chapter menu, meaning you have to keep hitting [R] once you’re watching the film. Anyhow, the ’scene search’ still undoubtedly a very nifty feature.
I’ll now cover both [Music] and [Photo] together, as they now share a new, very cool feature. Now, I’ve known for sometime now that if you hit the ‘home’ button, you can jump out of the current track you’re playing, and you can view other songs you might have, and even browse the main XMB menu. However, the moment you tried to access anything else other than music, the music would stop playing. That is still the case, but now if you go into [Photo] the music keeps on playing! I have noticed one thing though, if you want to view a set of photos with the music playing, it is best to use the slideshow mode at its default setting as my system was unable to cache both the thumbnails and pictures if quickly flicking through them. Maybe that’s just because I’m using a PSP-1000? With the added RAM of the PSP-2000, those users may not experience this minor thing. Again, the pop up guide and secondary button options are present throughout.
Onto the big one- [Settings]. I find myself both disappointed and intrigued by what has changed. Under [Theme Settings] there is now ‘themes’ where you can set background, colour and most importantly… icon design! At the moment, there is only ‘original’ theme, which shows a screenshot of the XMB with a mysterious new icon between [Video] and [Game]. It could be something to do with the Japanese TV tuner, and the screenshot has got left in other regional firmware OR it could be something to do with the upcoming TV tuner for the PS3. My guesses though, are only speculative at best. And now for the disappointment- PSP-2000 users get new colour backgrounds, but it seems like we PSP-1000 users do not, which is a shame.
Under [Video Settings] there is the new ‘Sequential Playback’ feature that was mentioned- useful, but nothing spectacular. And that, my friends… is it!
If you spot any mistakes, please let me know, and remember- I have only looked at this update with the PSP-1000.