Gaming My Way

28 Jun

Musings About Motion Controls

The Wii has been out for a couple years now, and the vast amounts of shovelware on the system have convinced a number of gamers that the Wii Remote, or in some cases motion controls in general, are just a gimmick. However, I think these people are wrong. If you look at the good games on the system that make use of motion controls, such as Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles (an arcade style shooter) or the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (a game that scrapped its traditional control scheme for a motion based one, but did it well), you can see how motion controls can add to a game. Sometimes, using motion is more intuitive than pressing buttons, and also flows better in gameplay. Obviously, if you like to sit down perfectly still on the couch and just use your thumbs to play, motion controls of any kind aren’t for you. However, if you like adding immersion to the game, a feeling that you’re actively involved, they can be a great boon to the gameplay.

I’m not just here to defend the Wii today though. Project Natal seems to be drawing some of the same criticisms the Wii Remote drew. But I’m immensely excited to see more of Project Natal on the 360 and if it really delivers. The E3 videos I saw looked very promising, and if it turns out as good as it looks, I think it will blow current control schemes out of the water. Assuming companies take the time to develop high quality games for the peripheral. I’m not saying they can’t dump some shovelware in there, just that the quality games will be what determines if the peripheral can be successful. The shovelware will just fall on the trash heap.

The biggest complaint I’ve seen about motion controls is a lack of precise controls. Our hands make more precise movements than any other part of our body. That does seem to be true. And precise controls are important. However, I also know that the Wii controls have been as precise as I’ve ever needed in any well programmed game. I also know that if Project Natal works as advertised, I will be completely hooked on using full movement of my entire body to control a game, and it will do amazing things for how immersed I feel in a game. No longer will it be press the button to punch. It will be throw your fist at your opponent on the screen to punch. And, if done right, control will be just as precise… it’ll just be more tiring since you actually have to really move to make it work.

Now, I understand Project Natal has the potential to become a gimmick. All peripherals do. But it’s all about who develops the games for it, and how much time they take to make a game that is designed to make the best possible use of it. As this is supposed to be a big step for Microsoft, I expect we’ll see a lot of money and development thrown at it and the games developed for it. I hope and expect this will translate into high quality games that use it.

I think I’ve also heard about Sony working on a new peripheral, but as I haven’t seen anything big about it, I’ll reserve my comments about what they may be working on for now.

In any case, what I want to get at is that whether or not motion controls are successful or not has to do with two things: whether or not the controls themselves are solid, and whether or not there are games that make use of them in the best way possible through a game design meant to utilize said controls. Let’s not lampoon these awesome ideas unless we actually see them fail. And if they do fail, then it’s time to work on making them better, because I want to see gaming continue to move in this new direction. Nintendo has proven it’s possible, and now it’s up to all the gaming companies to keep pushing for new innovations here.

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