April 16, 2013 by nrbontha
In 2004, Nintendo announced its new console, code named Nintendo Revolution. The Revolution was eventually renamed and released as the Wii in 2006 and proved to indeed be revolutionary. To put this in context, the early 2000s had been largely dominated by the Sony PlayStation 2, which is still considered the best-selling gaming console of all time. Microsoft followed up on its original XBOX console by releasing the XBOX 360 in 2005. While Sony and Microsoft marketed mainly to the “traditional” gamer, Nintendo’s goal was entice families and casual gamers with their new Wii console. To accomplish this goal, Nintendo took a huge risk and dedicated much of its resources to developing the WiiMote, the first console controller ever to have motion control technology. Nintendo’s big bet paid off; the Wii attracted its target audience and out-sold both the PS3 and the XBOX 360. Since then, Sony and Microsoft have released their own motion-control hardware, the Playstation Move and the XBOX Kinect. While Sony’s Playstation Move closely resembles the WiiMote, the Kinect is only a motion sensor that detects the player’s movements in real time. Since its release, not only has the Kinect sold more units than the Playstation Move, but the Kinect has also proven to be the best motion control solution available today.
The lack of a physical controller is actually the Kinect’s biggest strength. Using a sophisticated array of cameras and sensors, the Kinect captures the player’s skeletal movements at multiple points and translates these movements to actions in the video game. In Child of Eden, for example, the player uses both hands to attack enemies. The player can lock onto enemies by waving his or her right hand over the enemies. The player can then fire missiles simultaneously at all of the targeted enemies by moving his or her right hand toward the screen. Additionally, the player can use a machine gun-type weapon by moving his or her left hand toward the screen. Lastly, if the player moves both arms above his or her head, the action triggers a massive explosion that destroys all on-screen enemies. Since the Kinect version of the game requires the player to use both arms, the game as described can only be played on the XBOX 360. The PlayStation Move version of Child of Eden is similar to the XBOX version, but is ultimately hampered by the Move controller. Unlike the Kinect, which tracks all of the player’s body movements, the PS3 can only track the movement of the Move controller. Instead of using your left hand to fire the machine gun in Child of Eden, the player pushes one of the buttons on the Move controller and moves it toward the screen to perform the same action. Thus, the Move substantially detracts from the gameplay experience of Child of Eden because the player can’t use his or her entire upper body to play the game.
The Move controller is relatively awkward and difficult to use even with games that are specifically designed for the system. In Heavy Rain, the player moves the on-screen character with either the PS3’s Dualshock 3 controller or with the optional Move Navigation Controller (similar to the Nintendo Nunchuk accessory). The problem with Heavy Rain is that the player can’t easily use both the Move controller and the analog stick simultaneously. This means that the player has to perform a somewhat lengthy list of commands to do even the simplest of tasks in Heavy Rain. For example, the player must perform several steps in order to open a door in the game. The player has to use the analog stick to walk to the door, stop using the analog stick, correctly position the Move controller, and then carefully maneuver the Move controller in the appropriate direction. In the case of opening a door, the player has to point the Move controller’s light ball toward the screen and then move the controller away from the screen. This may not sound too cumbersome at first, but the truth is that it’s easy to make mistakes during any of these steps. If the character is not completely facing the door, then the player can’t open the door with the Move controller. Similarly, if the player doesn’t correctly position the Move controller or doesn’t pull the controller back far enough, then the character can’t open the door. If Heavy Rain was ported to the XBOX 360 for the Kinect hardware, the game would run much smoother. The only issue is that the game in its current form requires an analog stick. If the game allowed the player to use a traditional XBOX 360 controller, then he or she could move around with the controller’s analog stick and then perform the motion control actions with his or her right hand. In this setup, opening a door would be fairly simple. The player would use the analog stick to position the character next to the door and then use his or her hand to perform the relevant action. This would enhance Heavy Rain’s gameplay because allowing the player to use his or her hand would more natural and therefore simpler than using the Move controller stick.
The Wii may have introduced the world to motion control gaming, but ultimately the Kinect’s controller-free setup is the future of the platform. The Kinect brings players closer the game by almost removing the controller altogether and translating real life movements into the game itself. However, the WiiMote and the Move controller shouldn’t be completely ignored; both can provide unique gaming experiences (such as WiiSports and Datura for the PS3). Nevertheless, the ceiling for the Kinect is much higher because it can track many different points of movement compared to just one point of movement. As a matter of fact, some of the most highly-praised Kinect games are dance competition simulators such as Just Dance 3 that can track each player’s unique dance moves. The PS3 and Wii versions of Just Dance 3 are simply just not as accurate when it comes to tracking the player’s movements because both can only track one point of movement. Occasionally, the player may need to use controller-like accessories in order to play certain games (such as a gun controller or some sort of analog stick), but overall the motion control experience provided by the Kinect is still the best on the market.