Is motion control good for gaming?
Motion controllers have grabbed the spotlight at the E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles this week, leaving some hardcore gamers feeling a little uneasy about the future of their favourite hobby.
The much-loved first person shooter genre is rarely catered for on Nintendo's Wii, while complex role playing games and real time or turn based strategy titles don't even get a look in. Many gamers, particularly those formerly of the PC persuasion, will be wondering whether the Kinect motion control system for the Xbox 360 and Sony's Move for the PlayStation 3 are going down the same track.
Kinect (formerly Project Natal) uses an RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone to let players control gaming action using nothing more than their own body movements and voice. That all sounds well and good, but the system will need to have a high degree of movement tracking accuracy to succeed.
The motion sensing and tracking on the Wii has always been a deal breaker for me -- it has never provided an experience superior to that of a keyboard and mouse on a PC or a conventional controller on the Xbox 360 or PS3. I have not yet had the chance to try Microsoft's system hands, but if it is not vastly more accurate than that of the Wii, it is bound to fail.
To attract the hardened gamers, it will also need to cater to games with a bit more oomph than Kinect Sports, Dance Central and the Kinectimals virtual pet stroking game on show at E3.
The Kinect's main competition, the PlayStation Move, is similar in appearance to the Wii Remote, with the addition of a strange glowing orb on top. The Move controller is combined with the PlayStation Eye to track movements side to side and forward and backwards (some have criticised Kinect for its depth tracking). I got some hands-on experience with the device at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year and it's fair to say it has potential to be much more than just a casual gaming gimmick.
The Move maps movements far more accurately than the Wii, but the most impressive element of Sony's effort was the type of games that will be available for it right off the bat. Sure there will be casual table tennis and sporting titles, but the fighting games and shooters should give hardcore gamers a reason to believe motion control isn't all bad.
In games like Motion Fighters players can hold a Move in each hand, allowing the system to accurately track their punches, blocks and even sways (the PlayStation Eye camera can map a gamer's head in relation to the sensors in the orb of the Move controller). By allowing gamers to use the accurate Move controller with a sub controller called the Navigation Controller, which again is very similar in appearance and function to the Wii Nunchuk, Sony has opened the door for shooters.
At the GDC Sony illustrated that using Socom 4, which allowed gamers to target and shoot using the Move and walk around using the mini-joystick on the Navigation Controller. That could already be done on the Wii, but the Nintendo motion control system's huge relative lack of accuracy would let it down.
With all that said, the Kinect appears to be the more groundbreaking system and it's easy to understand why it has been getting more media coverage this week. But groundbreaking or not, the accuracy of the Move, combined with the available titles, makes it the more exciting proposition, at least for hardcore gamers.