Friday, 9 September 2011

Making More of Motion Controls - The Power Pad was Doubtless Bad, but Can it Lead to Better Gaming?

Myself and a friend (you can hit up his own blog for his postings on many various topics, by the by) were talking last night about how motion control and motion capturing devices seem to have a somewhat limited user end spectrum: most of the time you seem devices mapped for sports games, or perhaps FPS's via use of various peripherals. It's not often though, that you see them used - let alone successfully - for games like action titles or RPGs or the like. Certainly there are cases of them being used, like for the Wii version of Twilight Princess, but many people commented that the inclusion of motion controls (which still also used the joystick for movement) made the game somewhat clumsy, so the difficulty overall had to be toned down due to that fact.

The game that got him, and alternately me, thinking about motion controls is Gunstringer, an on rails shooter that's eventually going to be out for Kinect. Now, I'm not a fan of the on rails experience myself, but looking at the trailer I had to admit that both the premise and the actualization of the controls intrigued me. One hand functions as the gun, while the other hand was used to control some of the actions. Due to the fact that you're partially taking on the role of a puppeteer in the game, holding you hand and using actions like flicking your wrist to make the Gunstringer jump over obstacles seems a lot more intuitive than some of the other methods that motion controls have made.

This got me to thinking though, about how one of the largest (at least to me) issues with motion controls currently could be handled: movement. Right now, most motion controls are used to swing something around, whether it be a bat, a sword, a gun, or whatever else, but the Wii still primarily uses the joystick located attachment for the nunchuck for facilitate movement around the given game world. The Kinect has no controller at all, and for some games does register movement as such, but also has a lot of games that are on rails or use certain motions to move through areas. My question is, why not use something to register the movement of a persons' feet and have the in game character react accordingly.

Now, this is hardly the first time that such technology would have been used. We've seen the among the earliest of the incarnations in the Power Pad, a large mat based controller for the original NES. While it was a clumsy and limited, the potential is certainly there to make a more intuitive version of it for the current generation. Surely, something where you can take a step forward, then keep lightly stepping in order to move in that direction. something almost akin to a DanceDance Revolution gamepad, but with some minor changes, could do wonders for freeing up the hands to do more dynamic things without being distracted by the movement issue. It's not a perfect solution, but I believe that it would be a step in the right direction.

Perhaps the biggest problem would be the fact that it would take up a lot of space, and in the heat of the moment if you fall or slip or run off the mat then there's going to be problems. The latter can be averted of course by having a sensor indicate whenever you might fall or leave the pad and automatically pause the game.  There is also the fact that it's simply not going to be as intuitive as using a controller. That is an issue that only time and increasingly progressive technology can sort out. Really, we don't even need a pad at the most rudimentary levels: you can lean in the direction that you want to go in: it's less to think about for most of the same results. The point is that it's something that can be done but seemingly hasn't been so far. It would be infinitely more complex for some games, of course, for games that require things like quick dodging and fancy footwork, but without these first small steps we'll never make the journey anyways.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty much. The leaning bit hadn't even occurred to me, actually. That's a good point. It's possible with the Kinect without any other peripherals, but with the Move and the Wii it will require some sort of pressure sensitive foot dealie, which kind of takes one out of the immersion.


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