Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Motion Control: The Potential for Greatness or Failure

Disclaimer: I'm now trying my hand as cross-pollunation with the community blogs over at Destructoid. Hence i will be posting Monday Musings over there, and their blogging topic of the week over here. Now back to our regularly scheduled writing.

Motion controls get a lot of flak from a large portion of the gamer community. From the Wii to the iphone to Kinect and Move, they're either seen as annoyances or a cheap gimmick to pull in money from the uneducated casual masses (this statement is said with tongue firmly planted in cheek).

Personally I see them as just another tool in the developer's kit. When used well they can enhance an experience. When used to grab market share or not given enough time, they enhance this negative stigma they've come to possess.

It's time for some examples...

When the PS3 was first released, the Sixaxis was sort of a joke. Technically its reputation hasn't improved much as the years passed, and it's now been eclipsed by the Move as Sony's motion control device, but go with me here. Sure Warhawk used it decently enough, but the forced Sixaxis moments in games like Uncharted (and for balancing of all things) were a real turn off. I thought of the Sixaxis as a horrid gimmick. That is till i played Flower. Now as a game, Flower is in a league of its own to start with, but the controls just felt right. It's obvious ThatGameCompany spent a lot of time and effort to fine tune the controls for the most fluid experience they could deliver. Inversely, the Sixaxis segments in Heavy Rain almost made me snap my controller in frustration.

Let's move to the Wii. As always, Nintendo show how their crazy new hardware works, and i still hold that 4 player Wii Tennis is some of the most fun you can have with friends on a console. The thing is, Nintendo only release one or two games a year, and really the 3rd party support for the Wii has been pretty abysmal, with most titles feeling like cash grabs for the new audience the Wii opened up. Some get it right however and I'd like to talk about Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, and No More Heroes. The controls on RE4 were incredible. Moving and shooting was a breeze, and aside from the quick time events, an example of what motion controls can deliver. No More Heroes is an interesting case. It's an example of using motion controls sparingly and in creative fashions. I'm sure everyone remembers furiously recharging their beam sabers, and the quick swipes to finish off an opponent were always satisfying.

The iphone is an interesting case as both its control schemes are unconventional for gamers. Many games let you have a choice between touch screen or motion controls, and a lot of the time, it is a 'lesser of two evils' decision. Still some developers really take the care with games like Tilt to Live and Labyrinth 2, as both incorporate incredible finesse via tilting the device.

So yeah, motion controls. These are just some personal examples of different systems utilizing these control schemes for amazing game experiences. As for Kinect and Move, while i don't own either, i have heard Dance Central is the reason to own Kinect, and i have to admit that Echochrome 2 looks absolutely fantastic.

While Sony has been somewhat successful with the Eyetoy, it was the Wii that really launched motion controls and since then, they've exploded through videogaming. Like every other control scheme, peripheral, or technical tool, they have the power to be amazing or terrible. It's all up to the design, the development, and the care these titles are given.

Till next time, happy gaming all!


  1. I have to agree. The few games I've played that use the Sixaxis were pretty abysmal (apart from Flower, as you said). And what is with that name anyway? There are only three axes in 3D space... It technically should be called the Twoaxis, as it can only sense rotation in two of these. ANYWAY....

    I also agree that the Wii uses motion controls pretty well, but like you I also lament the lack of good "proper" games that use it. It's almost as if every game developer looked at the Wii and said "We *must* release our games on this system and we *must* use motion control... but the only things that we can think of to use this technology are quick-time events and mini-games - lets just package up a collection in one game and put our famous IP on it"


  2. Yeah. I think with the Wii it's most likely a cash grab (as most big game studios go the safe route to get a return on their money)... but it also could be a stubborn way of thinking.

    I remember when the DS was first released, it seemed every game had to make use of the touch screen and stylus. Not all of them did it well either.

    As for the name Sixaxis, well with game names like the WiiU and Vita, i'm not gonna raise too much of a stink about it :)