Motion Sickness

28 06 2010

Perfection.

So, games industry… What the crap is wrong with these!? Sure, it doesn’t include everything, but the above picture works fine to show the natural progression of the controller throughout gaming’s 30-some year history. Controllers certainly have come a long way since the old Pong controller or the Atari 2600, which were little more than a way to move a single button. Many non-gamers draw the line at the NES model. Any more than two “action” buttons (I’m not considering start and select as action buttons since, come on. They paused/actived the menu for 95% of the games) and a d-pad is too confusing for them. I’m not trying to talk down to non-gamers in any way, just saying that’s what I’ve experienced in my life. A common complaint when I’ve asked my parents or other people who don’t game to try and play a game is that the controllers are too confusing these days.

Sure, controllers are more confusing but guess what? Games are more intricate these days too. You can’t play a game like Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, GTA or most any other game on the market without the controllers we have nowadays. We need the buttons to be able to change weapons, a second stick to control the camera, face buttons to do different attacks, things like that. The controller as we know it seems to have reached its peak with the PlayStation DualShock (Hey Sony: intercapping is dumb). It brought four shoulder buttons, two analog sticks that could be pressed in for two more buttons, a d-pad, and four face buttons. You add in start and select, and that’s 10 buttons if you include R3 and L3. The model has been around since 1996 and it’s worked great since then. However, leave it to Nintendo to change things up 10 years later with the Wii and change the whole damn game.

Fuck yoooooouuuuu!

The model we’d come to know and love was replaced instead by this… Oddness. Sure, we’re used to it now, but you remember how weird it was when you first saw it, we all do. There’s no second analog stick, the buttons were cut from 10 to 8 (admittedly, not too big a loss), with two of them (+ and – ) being awkward to use in most games, and 1 and 2 being pretty far away from the A and B buttons, and so on. The biggest change with this, however, was the motion control. The Wiimote not only had an IR sensor for pointing, but it also had built-in accelerometers to detect tilt, movement and so on. The nunchuck also had one, so developers realized they could swap normal button presses, such as attacks, with waggle.

To all hardcore gamers’ surprise, the Wii was an incredible success. I’m sure you all remember the launch. We were like kids. The possibilities were endless! You could swing the Wiimote and it’d be just like using a real sword! You could tilt it side to side, hold it sideways like a driving wheel to turn! It would revolutionize gaming as we knew it! Turns out we were right and wrong on that one. Sure, there were times when games would benefit from motion control, or at least the Wiimote’s IR capabilities. Zelda: Twilight Princess is a great example, at least in terms of the IR. Aiming your slingshot, bow and hookshot was a breeze with pointing and clicking. However, it wasn’t long before gamers realized that waggling… Well, it sucked. It was unresponsive at times, it definitely wasn’t accurate in your motions and it was tiring to do for more than 10 minutes, let alone an entire game.

Many gamers saw the Wii as Nintendo basically telling them, “So long, thanks for the memories.” It was easy to think that, too. The Wii became an instant hit among casual gamers while hardcore gamers moved to greener pastures. Shovelware was flooded to the Wii like flies to crap. The Wii became a running joke among gamers, who rarely touched it because it had so few games worth playing. Despite all this, the Wii sold like bacon-flavored hotcakes made of gold. To this day, it still sells amazingly well each month, despite having been out for nearly four years. It’s absolutely mind-boggling to imagine, so it’s no surprise that the other companies tried to capitalize on this by adding motion control gimmicks of their own.

First was Sony with their Sixaxis controller, which launched with the PS3. It was a total disaster. Its gimmick was an accelerometer that would detect when the controller was tilted to and fro. It was supposed to be used for controlling vehicles, certain attacks (allowing movement of the controller with the control stick) and other things, but it just didn’t work. Accelerometers are fickle things that often need to be calibrated and unless they’re very sensitive, have trouble detecting rapid movements like gamers would often do. The main thing is, we were used to using an analog stick to control our characters and vehicles, and we liked it. Gamers, for the most part, didn’t want motion control.

Unfortunately for us, we can’t always get what we want.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

Oh shit. Whether we wanted it or not, Sony and Microsoft wanted a piece of the motion control pie. Kinect (called Natal at its announcement last year) was revealed to be a controller-less gaming accessory that made YOU the controller. Move, on the other hand, is basically a Wiimote and nunchuck. Nothing more to it, really. So… Shit. No longer can gamers rest easy knowing the motion control fad is Nintendo only. Microsoft and Sony are hoping to tap into the casual friendly approach and grab some grandmas and moms to play casual games, just like on the Wii.

Kinect is especially intriguing to us gamers since… There is no controller. At least with the Wii and Move, there’s something you hold, something with actual buttons, while Kinect is just a camera and microphone. People are expected to play games by waving their arms around, kicking, jumping and generally acting like a buffoon. That may work fine if you have an entire stage or gigantic living room to play games in, but many gamers just don’t have that.

Derp.

So, yeah. It’s something most gamers aren’t really excited about. Us gamers are a lazy, stubborn bunch. We like being able to sit on our asses and relax as we game. Kinect sees that and is like, “Get off your fat ass, you whore!” Kinect tracks your entire body and, while it is interesting, it’s just not practical for anything other than off-shoot party games. Microsoft knows that, so you won’t see Gears of War 4 or Halo: Reacharound on Kinect, but the point is, it shouldn’t exist. It has no reason to, and it’s just stupid.

The Move, on the other hand, is basically a Wiimote and nunchuck. Maybe it’s a bit more accurate than those, but it’s the same thing. Move is supposed to be used with a camera as well, which is why the “remote” controller has the large ball- Sony claims it’s a motion-tracking ball like actors use on motion capture suits for movies.

It's like you're IN the game, dood!

Unfortunately, what this all comes down to is waggle. The thing everyone hated about the Wiimote is all the Kinect and Move bring to the table. They can offer 1:1 movement until the cows come home, but unless there’s some sense of feedback, some way of us being able to actually FEEL our swing stop when we hit something, it’s just going to be waggle. With motion control, there’s no way of knowing when a blow hits or misses. Sure, the Wiimote and Move can vibrate, but that’s not the same as the actual physical sensation of hitting something. On top of that, it’s very difficult to accurately convey a movement. The beauty of a controller is you press the button, the attack or action is done. It’s easy and, most of all, it’s accurate. We play games to relax, we play them to escape. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy myself when I flail around like an idiot and hope that one of my arm waggles will do what I want. When I’m drunk, sure, but when I’m trying to actually PLAY A DAMN GAME, no. Motion control doesn’t seem to be trying to replace the controllers we’ve come to know and love… yet. Who knows how long it’ll be before that happens though. All I know is when it does, it’ll be a sad day for all of us lazy gamer assholes.

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