Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Motion Gaming: Waggling with the Best of Them

So, between the new(?) rumors that the new Nintendo console's remote will have touchscreen, motion controls (Which....isn't news?  I mean, the first was talked about and the second is a given.  You're slipping, Joystiq.  Just because Kotaku shot themselves in the gut doesn't mean you can get lazy now.) and the announcement of the Razer Hydra PC Motion Controller with a Portal 2 bundle, the topic of motion controls is fairly fresh in the mindset of the news-minded gamer.

So first off, let's address something that bugged me from the moment I read about the Razer in the headline.  This thing is basically launching with this thing, yet, Portal 2 will not (er, does not yet, but, y'know, won't) support Move.  Come on, Valve, I was massively warming up to you; let's do something about this, yeah?  I want to like you more.  Anyways, that's just a little bit of a side-track.

Motion gaming is a thing.  Clearly, if it's even penetrated the PC market so seamlessly (ignoring all the Kinect hacks from months ago, since, well, I'm talking about controller-based motion gaming) then it's not going anywhere.  Despite the vocal out-cry against it, I imagine the support of Valve will speak volumes for it's place in the market and certainly solidify it as a staple, at least for now.  So now the question isn't "When is Motion Gaming going to die?", but more, "Well, what are we going to do with Motion Gaming now that it's around?"  Which is clearly the rub, here.

Besides some fairly creative uses, (I'm sure there are more, obviously) a fair bit of the actual usages of the respective Motion wands have been for shooting things.  Granted, while it makes it easier and more engrossing (I imagine), feeding the FPS overlords should likely be secondary at this point.  There's plenty of them.  There's going to be plenty more, and that much being given is a little, well, not disappointing or anything, it's just a thing.  Even when you consider, well, like Portal 2, that's still just an FPS game, though you're shooting portals instead of bullets.  (There's obviously more differences, but I'm talking in the context of motion gaming here.)

I'll be the first to admit I was nowhere near a champion of motion gaming when it was up-and-coming (Nor would I say that I am now, but I do see it as a thing that can be good) but after handling it a bit between the Wii and my Playstation Move, I'm more than willing to say that it is a viable platform to deliver something good, despite the stigma attached.  It's just something different.  Not better, not worse, really not even the same thing, hence, different.  I would even imagine the next gen, whenever it may be, will bring more and more to the table as it becomes a more accepted approach.

So, with all the focus on controller-assisted motion gaming, where does that leave Kinect?  Obviously it's not going anywhere, given the sales juggernaut it's been, but many, many would argue that it offers a fun experience (which could be argued is the only point that matters), it might not offer quite the best technical experience just yet.  Broad strokes, rather than detailed touches, if you will.  Which is not a damning statement of it, of course, but to say that it doesn't need to change anything for a future incarnation would be a flat-out lie, unless you simply just don't -want- it to evolve.

Honestly, I'm sure on some level, we all want what Kinect is supposed to be (insert JPEG of Minority Report here), and if it could deliver on that, it'd be accepted far more than it has been.  But it's just not -there- yet, which is sort of a shame, given the actual implementations such a thing could hold, but then again, it just gives us the hope for the future.  Though I'll go out on a limb and say that I just don't believe Kinect or any interface without a direct input (read: buttons) can get to as fine-tuned as necessary for practical gaming usage anytime soon, which is why I envision the next series of Motion Controllers being a hybrid of what we have now.  While they all have some degree of body tracking, Kinect's is by far the best, but for precision would obviously go to Move/Wii.  Having the best of both worlds just seems like a natural next step.

With any luck, we'll start seeing more and more varied usage of the motion gaming as it grows and extends its grip beyond its current borders, to PC, portable devices (touch controls as well), and to say we haven't yet is a lie, but seeing people excited for it for games other than point-and-shoot types would be a nice sight to become more and more common.

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