When people hear the words "Motion Controls", a wide array of responses can be expected.
"Neat", "Awkward", "Revolutionary", "F*ck this Sh*t, gimme my Call of Duty!"
The prospect of motion gaming has generated its own images in the minds of gamers, hardcore and casual alike. The quality of the technology is measured on a personal level at times, with responses based on what the individual person feels they have experienced on the given hardware/software combination. What needs to be acknowledged however, is not necessarily what is "possible", but instead how it is used in application within the capabilities of the technology.
At the forefront of people's minds when the words "motion controls" are uttered is the Nintendo Wii.
Essentially, the wii offered the first contemporary motion control experience to this generation of platforms. What needs to be addressed is how people reacted to this. When the wii came out, it was something unique, never before seen. It became the must have item that you could never find in stock, even months after its release. The new motion controls enthralled consumers with concepts of being truly one with the game. This includes the swordplay of early titles like Red Steel and Twilight Princess, all the way down to Wii Sports Bowling Leagues in the retirement homes. Suddenly Grandma was playing games with the family, and I was personally waving my arms around like a lunatic to finish off hordes of enemies in Zelda. These experiences were unique and fun. They were not, however, always perfect. As many can attest, a lot of third rate titles emerged from the new technology, games that had no place being in the world of the hardcore gamer. Over time people grew to despise the wii and left it to gather dust. Complaints emerged of faulty response to the controller's actions and overtime, people grew weary of it. Likewise, people who would never have picked up a controller beforehand were now playing the games casually with the family. Essentially the world flipped over. Too many games relied heavily on the motion and made you look like an idiot when playing. Inversely, the casual gamer thrived on the wii with families taking advantage of it for things like game nights and parties.
As forementioned, what needs to be addressed in regards to quality is how the developer addressed the systems limitations and capabilities, and then worked with them to create a quality title. In the past, this would consist of things such as sound quality on a gameboy cartridge, or addressing framerate issues on a console title. With this console, this generation of games, it was addressing how to perfectly balance what the motion controls COULD do, and how to implement them into a game so that they would not overpower or break the experience. Two games come to mind when thinking of how this balance was achieved- WarioWare: Smooth Moves, and No More Heroes.
WarioWare: Smooth Moves was a very early title in the wii lineup, and essentially offered a solid tech demo of what the motion controls could do. At the same time, it better than any other game implemented them to the fullest extent, prompting players to hold controllers in all different ways, to master the controller and complete the quality microgames that tested your reflexes. What makes that work was that each microgame was unique enough to justify your physical exertion, with the same control style prompting you to fly a plane also being used to control an elephant. The game was moderately forgiving, and completely approachable, resulting in a perfect example of how the capability of motion controls, within a brilliant direction, can provide a timeless experience, even when they take center stage. That's right, I said brilliant direction.
It is not easy for me to address "motion control" games more worthy of praise than No More Heroes.
Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture under the genius of Goichi Suda (aka Suda51), the game was a response to the starving hardcore audience, with a fully unique plot, characters, and experience. Additionally, this was one of the few "Mature" titles to ever hit the system. The game utilized the individual features of the controller, using the A button to swing your sword, and simply requiring you to tilt the controller upwards or downwards to adjust your swing. When you would finally deal your finishing blow, you would be presented with an arrow, prompting you to swing your controller in that direction for a rewarding slash that would cut your enemy in two. Furthermore, when your Beam-Katana needed recharging, you shook the remote in a vertical (suggestive) fashion to kinetically charge it like a flashlight. Aside from that, the game included subtle nuances such as using the controller's speaker to hear what someone was saying over your cell phone. Essentially the game achieved quality by addressing the fact that there were motion controls without relying too heavily on them, focusing instead on the overall experience and how they could be applied without fully taking over.
(It's worth noting that this game will soon be multiplatform)
At this point in time, the wii is no longer the sole carrier of motion controls. Sony and Microsoft entered the fray with the Playstation Move and Xbox Kinect.
The Move is often addressed as the Playstation Wii, with its almost identical controllers. Its existence has not really taken off like Sony had intended. Still, some games include the optional functionality that when balanced, work fine.
The Kinect however is a juggernaut in the Motion Control Market. Initial Sales saw this item skyrocketing off of shelves. People had to have it. It was just as the wii before it. What set the Kinect apart from the competition was its policy on controllers; you didn't need one. Suddenly people were finding themselves on their TV screens and they couldn't get enough of it. I personally work at Best Buy and see people on a daily basis in awe of this machine and what it can do. In the spirit of this blog, the Kinect also is an application of genius- when in the right hands. From a gameplay perspective, just as the wii before it, not every game is perfect. Quality titles do exist, but at this point in time the overall catalog is small. Most find salvation in dancing games such as Dance Central.
What is also praiseworthy is the way Kinect is implemented in non-motion based titles. As shown during E3, games like Mass Effect 3 will include subtle Kinect functionality for things like issuing orders through its built in microphone. Others like Ghost Recon: Future Soldier allow for training sequences using the kinect as a way of assessing your arsenal. Sometimes a subtle touch is all it takes to make something just right. What really sets it apart though is what it is used for outside of the game world, for real-life purposes, such as Lightsaber duels!
Jokes aside, the endeavors of teams such as college students has shown that the kinect can be used for real world applications. It even has potential for medical science. Skynet anyone?
In closing, Motion Controls offer a unique gameplay experience that can be turned into gold. Like all other hardware, they can also be applied poorly. What does not need to be addressed is the fact that they are motion controls. At this point we should view them as simply part of the experience. I'd like to close with this thought. If you take anything from this blog, make it this: balance is key. Just because you have the power to do something, does not mean you should always do it. You can tack on any gimmick to something you want, but if it doesn't need
it, it will come across as too flashy or just unnecessary. Instead, spend that time and money on more useful resources that will create overall quality.