Move, Motion Control, and Me

The newest Playstation 3 was released in Australia a few days ago, and along with it was Sony’s answer to the Nintendo Wii: Playstation Move. I’m not going to explain this to you, if you don’t already know then you should go have a look at some gaming sites that can tell you far more about it than me.

I’m just here to gripe about motion control.

I’m very fond of my wii. It was, in a way, my first console. We’ve spent many lazy afternoons and late nights together. When my little brother bought Band Hero for my wii, it was all over for the old PS2 who has faithfully served as my DvD player for many years. My PS2 versions of Guitar Hero couldn’t compete.

But at the end of the day, I’m a lazy gamer. Couches aren’t very ergonomically designed, and even if they were, I’m not very ergonomically designed. I want to be able to slob around on my couch with my controller in my lap, but motion control won’t let me.

Motion control isn’t all bad. Used wisely, it can make a lot of sense. But so much of the gaming industry seems to be “what makes money?”, not “what is fun?” And motion control makes money (if the wii is any indication). But what if I don’t want motion control to invade games across the board? Is that not a reasonable request?

Take Ultimate Alliance, for example. The original game used motion control very sparingly. You could trigger different attacks by waggling the wiimote in one of the prescribed ways; but you also had the option of holding down the B button that brought up a mini-menu of attacks. Selecting an attack of the menu temporarily bound that attack to the A button (basic attack). Motion control was there, but it was completely optional; and although it technically made the game easier – if you knew what you were doing – it wasn’t forced on gamers who didn’t want it. Come to think of it, it was a pretty nice intro to motion control.

About this time last year, the sequel was released. Ultimate Alliance 2 didn’t really hold a candle to to original, in many ways, including the treatment of motion control.

I was pretty excited by the idea of the team-up powers, but I was pretty disappointed in the execution. I’m rather uncoordinated at the best of times, but asking me to aim my wiimote at relatively small targets on the screen, and then demand I do it with a time limit is just frustrating.

Motion control can work in many ways. The “new play control” version of Pikmin requires you to aim at Pikmin on the screen to summon them, or point where you want to throw them, but it makes a lot of sense. Aiming to throw is so straightforward that I can’t quite imagine how people were required to manage with just a game cube controller. The celestial brush in Okami is much the same. Painting on the screen – though frustrating as hell sometimes – seems so natural. Sure, I can’t paint a circle or even a straight line with any sense of consistency, but it’s still enjoyable.

It seems like there is just one way in which motion control doesn’t work: senseless wagging. Motion control isn’t all wildly flailing (though I did accidentally hit my brother in the knee on Thursday after he made the mistake of sitting next to me on the couch), the motions can be rather controlled, assuming you have the motor control to keep things in check. But it does change gameplay. Okami, which uses motion control beautifully with the celestial brush, apparently ran out of buttons and requires a motion control combat system (though your secondary attack is bound to the Z button).

After playing Okami for just a few hours, the next day when I woke up my arm hurt. In order to get the wiimote to render attacks, I often find myself “snapping” the wiimote – the game isn’t measuring the movement made by the wiimote, but rather where the wiimote starts and stops. In order to tell the difference between random motion and deliberate motion, the sharper the pull on the wiimote, the better it reads. And these motions are tiring. But worse, they’re not needed.

Fencing in Sonic and Mario at the Olympic Games was tiring. It was hard to get a hang of the right motions for parries and ripostes, but the movements sort of correlated to kinds of motions made when fencing. I just couldn’t play for long because I’m a lazy gamer and my idea of exercise is to walk to the shops two blocks away for more coke and chips.

But the attack system in Okami is just “move the wiimote from side to side”. Last time I checked, the C button wasn’t mapped to anything in combat, could I at least have the option of not using the makes-my-biceps-hurt-motion-control-attack-system?

So, this is my concern: with the Playstation Move on the market, and Microsoft’s Kinect on the way, am I going to see an increase in this pointless shoe-horning of motion control into places it’s not needed and it’s not wanted? Can we at least retain the option to not use it if we don’t like it? Would that be okay?

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~ by ghostwolfe on September 18, 2010.

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