The PlayStation 4 has been out since November in many parts of the world. Over the last 5 months, gamers around the world have logged thousands, if not hundreds-of-thousands of hours on the machine, and many have come away feeling that as great as the experience that Sony’s new black box provides, there are ways it could be made better.
Looking over the internet there is demand for quite a few new features. It seems a way categorize content on the home screen into folders instead of having everything in a single line tops the list. Second would be DLNA support which would allows users to stream content from a PC and other devices through their PS4 and onto their TVs; turning their PS4s into the centerpiece of the living room. And trailing in at third might be demand for a standby mode that actually holds your place in a game.
I have faith that Sony will patch solutions to most of these shortcomings through firmware updates; after all, the 2.10 Vita update that went live in April 2013 added folder support, which was one of the most in-demand features for the machine at the time. The Standby feature has been touted since before the launch almost half a year ago, so I think it is safe to assume that will be included at some point. The only question mark is over the inclusion of DLNA support, as I’m sure Sony would rather you use their content streaming services, Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited. Still, don’t rule it out altogether; Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida has already paid lip-service to the potential future inclusion of the feature.
It isn’t surprising that so many people want these features included; they’re sensible additions. After all, the PS3 already separated different content types from each other and included DLNA support; to not have these features would be a step backwards.
But there are other changes that the more obsessive of us would like to make the cut. The systems I would like changed are not system breaking, or even purchase breaking considerations for the PlayStation 4. They are simply pet peeves; things we know shouldn’t bother us as much as they do… but they do, all the same.
1| There is no way to jump directly to newly unlocked trophies
One of the smartest UI design choices of the Vita is how you can instantly check the details of a trophy you have just unlocked. You’ll be in the middle of playing a game and suddenly a notice will pop-up in the top-right of the screen, notifying you that you have just unlocked ‘The Dog’s Balls’; a rare golden trophy. Just hit the home button and tap the trophy unlock notification and you will be instantly whisked away to the trophy’s description page, telling you how you earned such a prestigious award.
On the PlayStation 4? Yeah…not so much. Hit home, go to the notifications page, select the last trophy you unlocked… and the PS4 will pull up the entire trophy list for that game. It’s happy to guide you as far as the haystack, but after that you’re on your own.
I don’t want to have to trawl through every trophy the game has. I’m already preoccupied with finding out what the trophy is all about – I don’t need to look at everything else I am yet to do. Did I unlock this trophy for collecting 100 pairs of canine testicles? Maybe it’s a clever reference to that penalty shoot-out mini-game where all the players were replaced by dog mascots?
I don’t know, and not being able to find out quickly and easily distresses me more than it reasonably should.
Sony, your handling of trophy navigation on the PlayStation 4 is dog balls.
2| There are no trophy filters
Being led to a giant list of trophies when you just want to pull up the details of that one trophy is bad enough; what makes it worse is that you can’t simply hit the Options button and bring up a filter option. For example, imagine if you could simply organize trophies to appear in reverse chronological order, and then locate the trophy that way. It would make life easier for the gamer, but the filter functionality simply isn’t there.
One of the best parts of the PlayStation 4 experience is being able to see just how rare the trophies you’ve obtained truly are. It
gives you valuable insight into the way most people approached the game. It’s illuminating to see that you are part of the 10% of people who have completed it on Normal difficulty or higher, or that only 0.6% of players cleared the game with non-lethal takedowns. When you are that 0.6%, you feel good about your time spent in the game.
Not having a filter options means that there is no way to see trophies in order of descending rarity either. You are stuck having to
go scroll up and down through the trophy list to work out your rarest trophy for yourself, then your second rarest, then your third and so on.
Players who patiently piece together the rarity of their trophy collection should get a trophy just for taking the effort. I’m sure these players would be happy to show Sony where to stick it; in the appropriate place in the trophy list that is organized by descending order of rarity.
3| Viewing Captures is an ‘Option’
The DualShock 4 has a lot of interesting quirks. Gone are the ‘Start’ and ‘Select’ buttons of yore, and in their places are ‘Options’ and ‘Share’. I’m actually okay with this, as it makes a lot of sense when you consider that pressing Options while navigating the PlayStation 4′s interface brings up, unsurprisingly, a list of options. Likewise, pressing Share captures your media so that you can share it later.
You quickly catch on that if you want any supplementary information on what you’re looking at—update history, file size, game instructions—that pressing Options pulls those options up, leaving the X button free to interface with content directly; starting, pausing, activating, enabling, etc. The Options button is for information; The X button is for actions. These buttons know what the other does and they respectfully keep from treading on the others’ toes.
It’s simple, elegant and most importantly, intuitive.
But there is one hive of scum and villainy hidden deep in the recesses of this UI where common-sense, simplicity and intuitive design do not exist – the Storage Management for Captures.
Let’s put aside the fact that you have to dive through 3 menus to access your Captures; at least you can access them; the fact that the PS4 has no dedicated media viewer application for viewing your Captures is simply bad.
You look out over your Captures, align your cursor with the thumbnail of that badass screenshot. ‘How does it look blown-up?’ you wonder. So you hit the X button anticipating action, as codified by the Gods of the PlayStation. These are the scenes you will be confronted by:
This is the only place in the PS4 UI where the tacit understanding between Options and X breaks down. The X button pulls up information on your Capture, and Options pulls up the option for the ‘Preview’ function. This is straight-up wrong.
And that’s not even getting into the fact that the option labelled ‘Preview’ should just be called ‘View’. This is a complete misnomer, since the functionality doesn’t pre-view anything that the thumbnail hasn’t already shown you.
At this point nothing is sacred. There are no rules. It’s the fucking Wild West out here; it’s all hopeless and humanity is doomed.
4| You can’t see the time and battery level on the same screen
Enough has been said about the poor battery life on the Dualshock 4 so I won’t berate it here. Suffice it to say that you will find yourself checking up on how much juice your controller has quite often as it only just about gets through a single session.
As I get older (and more responsible) I find that life gives you certain freedoms. These freedoms include things like letting you play videogames all day, letting you eat as much ice-cream as you want and even staying up to whenever you please. Freedoms they may be, but you soon learn that these freedoms must be respected otherwise you’ll end up fat, diabetic and sleep deprived. So you’ll do the responsible thing and reel yourself in; reading books, eating candy floss and checking the time on the PS4 dashboard quite often so you don’t stay up too late.
Here’s the catch; you can stay up late and run down your controller to your heart’s content – you just can’t view the time and the controller’s battery status on the same screen. It simply cannot be done.
You can view the time on the dashboard (press the home button) or you can see your controllers’ battery status on the system’s Administrative Functions screen (hold the home button). The fact that you cannot see both on the same screen is a step backwards from what the PlayStation 3 managed. Maybe Sony felt that this feature wasn’t ‘next-gen’ enough to make the cut, as with vibration feedback. Either way, this feature is sorely missed.
To add insult to injury, the Administrative Functions screen doesn’t have the decency to pause the game you are playing. If you have to access the dashboard to pause the game you are playing (where the time is visible) on the way to opening the administrative functions screen (where the battery is visible), then why not just have the time and battery read-out on the same damn screen and save yourself the effort?
Oh, and you can’t take captures of the Administration Functions screen so that is why you aren’t seeing it here.
5| You can’t view pointless download progress information
Installing games on the PlayStation 3 is a slow, laborious process; if you’ve ever had the misfortune of turning a PS3 on after a few weeks of inactivity to play an old game you know what I’m talking about. The grueling process of downloading and installing new firmware, games and patches is something that we all endured.
It was bad enough with the 20-30GB games, but if you happen to be downloading something in the 80GB region like Uncharted 3 there is a good chance that you might succumb to the effects of aging before the game is ready to play; you’d die bitter over how you squandered your dreams, ambitions and goals because you couldn’t walk away from the install screen.
On the PlayStation 4 this nightmare scenario simply doesn’t happen; games install in a order of seconds, not lunar cycles. Patches download themselves and are ready to install by the time you are ready to play. On top of all that, you don’t even have to download an entire game to start playing; sometimes you only need as little as 4GB of data to get you going. You can then rest assured that the remainder of the game will download in the background as you play…
If you take a look at the Downloads section of the PlayStation 4′s UI you’ll discover that once you have the prerequisite 4GB downloaded, you can no longer see the download status/progress of the game in question. There’s no information that tells you that you have 4/80GB. The PS4 simply lists the game as ‘Ready to Play’. Yeah, maybe for you, Playstation 4, but I have needs; like needing to know just how ready the download is.
Oh, but you can still check the download status it you really want; just take a trip down to the dreaded Storage Management, and you’ll be able to pull that information up for yourself.
This begs the question – why would you have this information readily available, but not readily accessible? Would it have been that confusing to simply change the text to green or add a tick icon to show that, yes, my download is still going (along with download speed information), and I can play it right now should I choose to?
I step back and take a few deep breaths, reminding myself that normal people don’t care about these kinds of things. To be honest you will probably live a healthier and longer life if you are normal and these things don’t bother you. But for some of us, these pet peeves are a matter of (shortened) life and (improbable) death.
In all seriousness, I’m sure that Sony already have a huge list of secondary features they want to implement that seem far more important than the gripes mentioned in this list; a dedicated Youtube app, Playstation 1 and 2 emulation and Playstation Now just to name a few. These are big features that go marketing boom; they can be arranged in bullet point form and pitched to the nearest prospective consumer.
But the micro-experience of using a UI is also important—we don’t hear about it because much because when a UI’s guiding hand gets everything right it becomes invisible, making silence the biggest compliment a UI can get. But even though you probably won’t notice when a UI gets the little things right, you might when it gets them wrong.