Archive for March, 2010

You like to move it (Move it)?

Posted in Video Games on March 11, 2010 by halbard100

I have been a very bad blogger and geek lately, A) Not knowing how to post something, bad boy, and B) Not following the GDC as closely as I should be.

So where does that leave me? We’ll behind the curve a little shall we say and trying to keep up, which segues perfectly into my topic for today: the Playstation Move.

Speaking of being behind the curve, Sony officially (we all saw this coming and some of us saw patent application leaks nearly 2 or 3 years ago at this point)  debuted the name of their entry into the sex to- I mean motion controller and game market with the Playstation Move. This is pretty old news yeah, I mean, its already been what 12+ hours, that’s practically a life time in internet time! All kidding aside, the talk and anticipation surrounding the new controller has been, shall we say mixed. I personally have liked what I’ve seen in the past E3, keeping in mind that was a tech demo. But I have heard a lot of people comparing it, probably rightly so, to the Wiimote as simply a copy cat move. The “subcontroller” really doesn’t help alleviate this too. Still, I really don’t think it matters what the thing looks like, but how well it works and what it does, and from what we’ve seen, it does a fair amount. So if you saw the tech demo at E3 and have gotten a look at the GDC footage, check G4TV,  then you’ll know what I mean. The touted 1:1 movement tracking offered really seems to be coming into its own in the few games they show compared to the old tech demo. So the set up, instead of a Wiimote we have the Playstations Move and instead of the Wii bar thingy, you know what I mean, instead you have the Playstation Eye. This offers some interesting opportunities Sony has been sure to advertise and show off: Lots of precision. Now I don’t own a Wii, yes I’m one of those half dozen, but I have used one many times, mostly for Smash Bros. Brawl, I use the Wiimote on its side, no nunchuku. My biggest problem is the fact I feel I’m getting carpel tunnel using the thing because of constantly trying to keep it targeted to that sensor bar, and trying to keep my movements synced is a big pain. Now I haven’t toyed with the Wiimotion Plus yet so that might alleviate part of my problem, but the pointer tracking is still limited by getting the IR lined up between the bar and the mote. With the Move, you have the Eye tracking the movement, which opens up a lot more area of motion first off but I personally think is a higher quality device, since it’s designed to take in color information and process it into a picture. That coupled with how the Move is designed, that giant glowing “puff ball” as a friend of mine calls it, allows a much tighter tracking that seems to let people move much more naturally and less restricted. This is perhaps one of Sony’s biggest selling points.  The games look more like games, maybe its the veneer of better graphics, but they just seem more fun, even if they are just juiced up graphics over Wii Sports stuff. There was the mention of the natural progression from the Wii to the PS3, I don’t know how true a statement that is but the PS3 is starting to live up to its slogan “It Only Does Everything.” If this motion move is done well, good software, good price point, I think Sony might have something here, its a really solid seeming piece of hardware. But Sony has been playing catch up since the PS3 launched and with the PS2 turning 10 officially, they’re going to have to getting pushing and the Move might be part of the engine behind that. But, saying that, I’m not sold on the whole motion thing, yes Wii has been doing it really well, but honestly I like the feel of a controller. There’s really nothing more enjoyable to me than that. While motion gaming might catch on better and be more wide spread than 3D, I’m not even going to talk about Sony’s stuff on that, but I don’t think it’s going to be anything more than a niche. While Sony’s Motion does seem to be trying latch onto that tactile edge with their Move, even seeing Socom 4 being played with the Move and subcontroller combo still gave me flash backs of trying to use the Wiimote and nunchuku to play Twilight Princess for class, mild confusion, frustration, and a desperate need for a “real” controller. Part of that was probably caused by not getting a good angle on sensor bar (There was no real good place to put it rather than at a severe angle up from where I was) but hopefully Sony’s combination will work much better.

I won’t be lining up to pick up the new Move kit when it launches but I do want to play around with it, it looks more robust in use than the WiiMotion Plus, and coupled with the shear horsepower the PS3 is pushing I think Sony might have the edge if they can get people to buy and try the new thing.

-Halbard100

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Evolution? Standards v Principles

Posted in A Philosophy of Design, Video Games with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2010 by halbard100

So I made this wordpress a few months ago but never really thought of anywhere to go with it. Recently I’ve read a collection of blogs about MMOs and how they are or aren’t evolving and various related musings.

We Need a Mutant MMO
The Innovation Paradox
Thats a Terrible Idea: The Immitation Rut
We’re Working Backwards
WoW is the iPhone, not Walmart

For me the best and easiest place to start is WoW, everyone mention its and you have to — its gotten to be the standard that every other MMO is and will be judged for a while. But in terms of evolution, look at the environment and style of pre-WoW and post-WoW. Pre-WoW we had games like Ultima Online, Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, and City of Heroes and one of the biggest things about these are that they are all different, sure there are a lot similarities but they all take that base knowledge and ran with it in different directions. There was nothing to say, “Okay, that is what we have to beat out right.” at least not in the same sense that there is today with WoW. But with anything starting development post-WoW, we see a lot of these elements that have become fairly standardized, from things as simple as using the A, D, W, and S keys for movement and User Interface, to elements as core as game play and interactivity.

When something becomes “standardized”, everyone pretty much expects it and generally, you don’t like it when something you expect isn’t there. Whether you realized it or not, we all tend to work like this, its where the idea of “People fear change” comes from. In many cases, standards are good, they lay a foundation that we can stick to and make sure that things never fall below a certain level of quality. The Con? These standards become closer to shackles. They can become so omnipresent that as soon as you reach them, your done; this continues, it becomes habitual. You spread this effect amongst large groups, and it spirals into the main stream. I remember something my English teacher mentioned in 8th or 9th grade about writing papers. We were required to have a 5 paragraph paper, and it always seemed a chore to get there, a relief to get there, and excessive to go farther. When we asked why that was the rule, her answer was that way back, students just wouldn’t stop writing and it was made to limit how much was written so we could keep our ideas concise, but after so much use, it actually became restrictive as we frantically worked to get enough sentences and girth to our papers to get to that point. Whats the point of my little tangent down memory (hell) lane? Its a similar reaction, a practice that came into place to improve things, end up hindering them.

If I was where I am today 6 years ago, I would have honestly said and believed, and I do believe it today, that when SWG came out, it was or was near the next generation of MMO. Looking at what it had, there were a lot of things that broke the mold — though being similar to UO from shared developers. No true levels, but instead skills. No restricted zones, but a sandbox world. Deep crafter and player run economy verse the merchant and loot based of the past. Going from some of the other blogs I read, that’s a mutation and ripe with innovation. And look at what concepts are being innovated in MMOs now: housing, more robust crafting, distancing from a leveling structure, etc. WoW took concepts that had been well established and loved and discarded those that were hated to make an amalgamation of those loved concepts covered with their own IP and were handsomely rewarded for it. WoW was the golden poster boy for everything that old MMOs to that point had done right. On top of that it showed that an MMO couldn’t just be successful, it was a good business investment and could explode. Ideally this should have set a standard for what an MMO should start from, and there was no where to go but up. Given the list of things that makes a successful MMO and shown that it wasn’t a gamble, the industry should have opened to innovation and to try new and different thing now that developers didn’t have to look for what worked. The actuality was we got nearly half a decade of so called “WoW Clones” from the big budget MMOs as developers hung to those standards and were scared, unmotivated, or just didn’t think about moving outside because those standards were in plain view and screaming at them constantly.

I’d rather that we would have principles instead of standards. Something that is less restrictive than “You have to have this” and be more “Something like this.” Evolution, innovation, or whatever you care to call it, is halted by a misconceived or misused notion of what a developer “has” to do, and only lately have we begun to get out of that rut. I feel its important to bring DOOM up in this discussion. Why? When DOOM first came out, it defined the FPS genre. Subsequent games were viewed as clones to DOOM but over the course of time, things differentiated enough and calling something a Doom Clone went a way, and we’re where we are today. With games coming out like Allods Online that takes the WoW model as a standard and builds on it, or Star Wars: The Old Republic that aims to really innovate and add something past what MMOs truly are, we could be looking at a shift to principles and not an adherence to a standard. Whether the industry will strive to evolve, mutate, and innovate out of it current shadow or will stagnate and simply collapse under its own weight of retaining an old method of thinking, only time will tell.

–Halbard100