The State of Motion Control

With Christmas coming and new releases slowing, I haven’t had too terribly much on my mind (aside from trying to get the next episode done) and as such haven’t had anything to post about. So let’s take a look at my favorite topic: Motion Control.

As you should be well aware, I am very fond of the concept of motion control. I did an episode on why it’s actually a good idea and gave a quick review of the three controllers currently available. So how are the controllers faring now? Let’s take a look.

For starters, while the Move is easily the best of them from a technical standpoint, it’s basically dead in the water thanks to Sony. Yes, it appears they’ve practically abandoned the controller right out the gate. Titles like Time Crisis: Raizing Storm and The Fight: Lights Out, games that could be moving units, are seeing no advertising and comically small shipments. My local store only got in two copies of Time Crisis and numerous people have reported that The Fight is sold out in their area.

Let’s think about that last statement for a minute. The Fight is a game that requires two Move controllers to play and yet it’s sold out. This means there is some clear and definite interest in the Move yet Sony is doing nothing about it. Worse yet, from the reports I’ve heard, this is because of small shipments just like Time Crisis. Make no mistake, there’s no way they can compete with the 500 million dollar marketing scheme of Microsoft, but that’s not a good reason to just abandon your controller mere months after release! Nor is it a reason to short shipments so heavily!

The only up side to this is that when the Move finishes flopping, it won’t hurt Sony financially the way the Kinect would hurt Microsoft if it flopped. However, it seems that most of why the Move is flopping is because Sony is putting zero effort towards supporting the device.

On the other end of the spectrum is Microsoft. Though the Kinect is a severely limited controller with a high pricetag, it has been selling insanely well.  Thanks to their massive ad campaign, they’ve given the illusion that the Kinect is the toy to have this Christmas. In a very smart move, Microsoft made enough units that a shortage is basically impossible. As such we have the “big holiday toy” phenomenon without the murderous mobs of parents. The end result is money in the bank for Microsoft. However, remember that we’re talking about a five hundred million dollar ad campaign. Not to mention they’ve given away numerous units. So the real question is if Microsoft has made back their money. Not that it matters, of course, as they have cash to spare. However, it is still a question that must be asked.

That said, the bigger question is: How many will be returned after Christmas?

Let’s not mince words here, the Kinect’s game library is horrible unless you love dancing games. Dance Central and Dance Masters are great and I have heard good things about Kinectimals, but beyond that it’s a crap shoot. Kinect Joy Ride is a joke, Kinect Adventures is the worst pack-in ever, and Kinect Sports is often less impressive than Wii Sports and carries that $50 pricetag. Let’s not even discuss titles like Deca Sports Freedom. Thus far the best I have been able to find is Sonic Free Riders, whose controls don’t even work 90% of the time. With few post-Christmas titles announced and an undeniably long wait before releases like Steel Battalion and Suda 51’s new game, there’s a very good chance that Kinect users will grow tired of their systems. I guess the question then is: Will it be returned, or will it collect dust until the second wave of games hits?

I guess this then brings us to the MotionPlus. It hasn’t seen much support, but Artoon’s Fling Smash is sold for $50 with the MotionPlus packed in. In fact, I’ve yet to find a non-MotionPlus packed copy of the game! This highlights it’s greatest strength: it can be packed in with games cheaply. So, when The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword comes out, that will be it’s time to shine.

So there you have it. The Move is a fantastic controller that is tanking hard, the Kinect is selling purely off of it’s massive ad campaign, and the MotionPlus is packed-in with games when it needs to be. How will this all pan out in the end? Only the future knows.

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3 Comments on “The State of Motion Control”

  1. Fatpie42 Says:

    You mention that Zelda will be using Motion Plus. I’d completely forgotten about that. I have the Motion Plus for two games right now: Wii Sports Resort and Red Steel II. The former is great, though I could really do with a second Motion Plus and it actually costs a fair bit on its own, considering how few other games make use of it. Red Steel 2, meanwhile, is great for swordfights and has a gorgeous style, but the gameplay is overly repetitive and the story unengaging.

    Anyway, on Zelda, people would be buying it even without motion control. In fact, many preferred the gamecube version of Twilight Princess. Oddly, the thing I liked most when playing Twilight Princess on Wii weren’t always strictly motion control elements….

    1. One thing everyone loved was being able to swing the sword yourself. Not a terribly advanced motion control command, but very satisfying nonetheless.

    2. On top of this, the controls are quite intuitive in their design and this is actually partially due to the controller development going on with the gamecube and even back as far as the N64. Nintendo seem to have long realised that having two right-hand buttons is very handy. As such, even with the N64, in spite of having 6 buttons on the right hand side, the A and B buttons were made especially ready to hand. This carried on with the gamecube controls where the most used button would be the A button, with the B button a little further down, but with the other two (X and Y) nice and reachable above. The point of having one main button – and then another one. Is that one button becomes the go-to button whenever you are selecting anything while the other is the cancel button or “back” button. Then within the game there is inevitably one button you need to use a lot and one secondary function button.

    So, in Legend of Zelda when you turn into a wolf (sorry for the spoiler) you are wondering what buttons you should be pressing and generally finding that the buttons don’t do much. Inevitably you are going to realise at this stage that if ANY buttons are going to be work it is going to be most likely the A button and, failing that, the B trigger button under your finger. Meanwhile the even more natural first move, what with the motion controls, is to shake the controller. Rather neatly, this does precisely what you’d expect it to do. Not a specific action, but simply moving the dog. The way the panicked motions of the Wiimote are mirrored by the panicked motion of the wolf is both simple and clever. Excellent!

    3. Now this is the most unexpected benefit of the Wii controls. Two handed controls!!! All this time we gamers had been controlling out games by hunching over with all our energies directed into a single spot. It was absolutely amazing how liberating it was to find that our arms could be pretty much as close or as far from one another as we cared to make them. There was no reason why they needed motion controls to do this. It was possibly one of the most innovative changes of the new design because it seemed so alien to old control arrangements, yet so comfortable and user-friendly.

    I’m not sure how other control systems manage without something in your hands and I think Kinect is probably going to need hand-held add ons. Presumably when it does this, there will need to be one add-on for each hand where needed, so the freedom of being able to leave your hands far apart for the first time in gaming history will continue unabated. YAY!

    • GEL Says:

      The fact that people would be buying Skyward Sword even without motion control is EXACTLY my point! It’s the MotionPlus game that EVERYONE is going to buy and could give them greater appreciation of motion controls…assuming Nintendo doesn’t screw it up (as seen in their E3 presentation).

      On another note I lack the enthusiasm you have for Twilight Princess’s controls. I downright LOATHE them and do prefer the Gamecube version as what Twilight Princess provided was a terrible half-assed control scheme the hurt the game more than it helped it. In fact, it’s what finally broke my spirits when it came to the Wiimote.

      I spent quite a bit of time getting annoyed at the uncontrollable camera (which CAN be controlled in the Gamecube version) and the lack of GC controller support (I figured if I didn’t like the Wiimote controls I could just switch to the GC controller, giving me the best of both worlds. I was wrong). THEN we had the LOUD ASS FAIRY HUMPING LINK’S ASS! Seriously, the pointer fairy was too fucking LOUD and turning it off turned off the only GOOD use of motion control in the game! THEN I FINALLY got the sword. Hoo boy…

      When they got to how to stab I remember my jaw dropping as they vomited the most mind breaking, unintuitive, icon-based instructions at my screen. I had difficulty making ANY sort of sense out of them and screwed up. The game then spent an ABSURD amount of time vomiting text at me instead of letting me try again! After looking again I finally made sense of it. Hold Z, hold forward on the nunchuck, and shake the Wiimote? How the FUCK is that a stab!? Then I realized what they were doing: They were just replacing a button press with a controller waggle. While locked on, press forward and attack. THAT’S what they were trying to say! In an ironic twist, Nintendo’s super intuitive controller actually made the game LESS intuitive!

      The last straw came as I was walking down the path leaving the first town. I relaxed my hand and Link STOPPED DEAD IN HIS TRACKS to draw his sword and swing it. Apparently it had detected my hand relaxing as a sword swing. Fine. Then I continued walking forward with my sword out when Link STOP DEAD IN HIS TRACKS AGAIN to put his sword away. After this happened three more times I finally said “Fuck this game”.

      Though an unfair judgement, Twilight Princess is my least favorite Zelda. The lack of Octoroks didn’t help and Armogomah (YOU CALL THAT A GOMAH?!) sealed the deal.

  2. Fatpie42 Says:

    I spent quite a bit of time getting annoyed at the uncontrollable camera

    So many 3D games for the N64 had horrendous camera that I often worry a lot about that issue, but I didn’t find that a problem in LOZ:TP.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the most annoying failure in motion control in LOZ:TP… the fishing! Seriously, I had no idea what was going on there and I wasn’t interested in the opportunity to do more of it later on.

    But as a whole, it’s definitely my favourite Zelda game. Actually it’s probably tied with Ocarina of Time. (I’ve never been a big fan of the 2D versions.)

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