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GDC 2010: Playstation Move Press Impressions

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Playstation Move Press Impressions

Since it’s unveiling at E3 last year, very little has been revealed regarding Sony’s upcoming motion control system. At GDC 2010 however, the curtain was pulled back somewhat as Sony gave an in-depth presentation of their motion control system, now known as the ‘Playstation Move’.

The Hardware

The Playstation Move is in actuality a wand based motion controller that reads movement on a 1:1 basis (much like Nintendo’s WiiMotion Plus), but achieves an extra degree of interaction through use of the Playstation Eye camera already released for the console. Instead of a sensor bar picking up the controller (as is the case with the Wii), the Playstation Move employs the Playstation Eye camera, which picks up the light at the end of the controller and utilises that as a point of origin for player movement.

Don’t fret though; for those of you who already have a Playstation Eye, the controller itself may be bought as a solus purchase with a price TBD.

What do you get for your $100? Well according to Sony, you get the Playstation Eye camera, the Move motion controller, ‘Sub controller’ and a starter disc which includes a number of demos for games which are due for release at a later date.

The Sub controller as it is known, is the wrist strap fastened partner of the Move wand and appears to ape a similar synergy both visually and in implementation terms to the Wii Nunchuk as it does with Nintendo’s WiiMote. The Sub controller is being mooted by Sony as being the component of the controller that allows for more ‘Hardcore’ gaming experiences.

Sony has also said that many of their ‘biggest’ titles will come with a Move controller pre-packaged. A similar affair to how Nintendo packages their MotionPlus controller with titles such as Red Steel 2 and Wii Sports Resort seems likely.

The Playstation Move package may also be purchased as part of a bundle with PS3 hardware. Again, pricing and release details are TBD.

Kotaku.com has posted piccys of the Playstation Move which can be accessed by clicking on the link below:

http://kotaku.com/5490554/first-look-at-the-delicious-playstation-move-%5Bupdate%5D/gallery/

Performance Impressions

Firstly it’s important to understand the role the Playstation Eye plays in the overall scheme of things. It’s role in the big picture is that it allows the sound bite friendly ‘Augmented Reality’, to be part of the proceedings. This augmented reality is basically the same experience that Playstation owners have had for years; the ability to see yourself on-screen and affect the digital environment. With Playstation Move however, players can also use the wand with supposedly 1:1 accuracy in combination with the camera based feedback to create unique gameplay experiences.

Based on the demos that were shown, it appears that games for the Playstation Move will either use the controller and sub controller exclusively, with the camera acting as a tracking device. Or, the camera will be used to provide the Eye-Toy esque experiences of the past with the controller being used as a much more precise input method than those earlier experiences could provide.

Besides unique software which has been specifically designed to take advantage of the Move, many titles (at least where it is applicable) will be able to support the peripheral in addition to traditional based pad input.

To demonstrate Move, Sony allowed lucky games journalists a hands-on of each of the demos that were shown.

Demo: Move Party

One of the main titles which employed the Playstation Eye and Move in unison was the casual female gamer orientated Move Party, a title which displayed the player on-screen and utilised the motion controller as a focal point for movement in a variety of different mini games.

In the present build, there are five mini games contained within Move Party. These ranged from balloon popping, painting and hair dressing. Lag appears to be virtually non-existent in the demo, with gaming website Eurogamer in particular praising the accuracy of the controller when it was used for twisting and swatting in a butterfly swatting demo.

Evil bastards.

Regardless, Move Party provided a nice bit of insight into the Move, and how seamless the ‘Augmented Reality’ (never gets old) titles could be, not to mention how fun. The lack of input lag is as pleasing as it is encouraging.

Demo: Brunswick Pro Bowling

A third party offering, which is itself a conversion of the earlier Wii title, the general consensus was that Brunswick Pro Bowling was in far too early form to be shown the public. Poor presentation issues coupled with a general lack of responsiveness was reported by many who got hands-on with the title. Given its early state of development, I’m surprised it was even there. One would hope that this improves *hugely* prior to release and doesn’t become a poster boy for poor Wii conversions to the system

Piles and piles of year(s) old Wii games is not what this system needs.

Demo: EyePet

Already released with the Playstation Eye, pet caring casual title EyePet was demoed to show how it leverages the Move controller. The answer? Not a whole lot. The controller itself merely appears to make wide sweeping movements and twisting movements a lot easier, but not a whole lot else. As with many of the demos on show though, many thought that it was far too early to tell and the developer has promised additional Move-centric features to be included later on in development.

Demo: Dukes

With its adult style and visceral action a stark contrast to the bubbly bobbleheads of Wii Sports Boxing, Dukes, on the surface at least, looked every bit the next generation motion control boxing title.

The game controls very similarly to Wii Boxing, with jabbing and crossing with the controller creating the appropriate punch and bringing the controller to your chest to create a blocking action. Just like Nintendo’s title, the game appears to be an exhaustive and energetic affair too.

Still, at only 20% complete, a great number things are still to be refined.

Controller input apparently is chief among these as it appears to be not so responsive, with straight jabs and uppercuts coming off fine; but more complex fare such as headlock punches a lot more tricky and cumbersome to achieve.

With that said however, the idea is at least appealing and if done right (imprio could prove to be a more than viable alternative to the somewhat imprecise pugilism of Nintendo’s title.

Demo: The Shoot

Of all the titles on show, ‘The Shoot’ was perhaps the least impressive according to many gaming sites who got their hands on it. Little more than a point and shoot gallery amalgamated with a number of ‘gestures’ (such as ducking, dodging etc..) , the title put players in different scenarios (Western, Sci-fi etc…) and tasked them with getting high scores and wiping out a set number of enemies.

The title itself seemed uninspired, generic and sloppy; completely failing to leverage the potential of the Move in any shape or form.

Demo: TV SuperStars

Developed by Sony’s Cambridge studios, TV SuperStars is being positioned as a casual title for social and family audiences. The basic gist of the experience is that you are meant to position yourself as a reality TV star; using the camera to take a picture of you which ends up being put on the on-screen avatar which you can then customise with various clothes and accessories.

After this, you can then take part in a number of mini games which take the guise of different TV shows. A fashion show for instance, named ‘Frockstar’ has you trying on new and different clothes and a crazy DIY show has you trying out various activities where everything is going wrong.

There was also a dancing game, which according to Eurogamer, although similar to Just Dance on the Wii, encourages wider strokes of the controller and more controlled motions.

Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but a nice little proof of concept demo if nothing else.

Demo: Sports Champions

At first glance, this apparent Wii-sports rip off doesn’t appear to offer anything new outside of a few bizarre choices for sports (disc golf, bocce and gladiator duels) but if anything, this title gave folks the clearest indication of the potential that Move holds.

Gladiatorial duel and table tennis were the sports that were shown from the title at the presentation.

Gladiatorial duel is a best of three, one on one affair where combatants get to choose a melee weapon and shield and basically go at it. A single controller can be used to control the weapon and the face buttons the shield, or, a second controller entirely can be assigned to the shield, providing a fair bit of exertion to the user as you aim to deflect the barrage of strikes and blows with your shield.

With a simple, but satisfying combo system, an effective first person mode and near-perfect controller input as well as full 3D camera tracking, Gladiatorial duel shames both Wii Boxing and Dukes in terms of controller responsiveness and fast paced action.

Table tennis was also another highlight of the package, proving to be completely accurate; smoothly tracking all movement with the controller, it was widely recognised as being a step up from what has been seen on WiiMotionPlus.

A highly impressive package that awesomely leverages the strengths of Move, Sony would be nothing if not foolish to not have this as some kind of pack-in title for the device when it launches this Autumn.

Demo: SOCOM 4

One of the main criticisms with the Wii has been the application of its controller to more traditional fare such as first and third person shooters.

Move is certainly no different in that it is perhaps not the first port of call for controller input on such titles, but it nonetheless performed admirably with decent response times and accuracy only slightly marred by the incomplete, and somewhat slow code that was on display.

It was also the only title to really utilise the Sub controller which by all accounts, and much like the Move controller itself, is a solidly made piece of kit that feels good and boasts a wireless connection with the Move controller (no more cables!).

My Two Cents

It was good to finally see Sony confidently pull back the curtain and give the masses their first real look at their entry to the motion controller market; the Playstation Move, but less so to hear them target the ‘Wii demographic’ in such an obvious fashion.

Targeting that demographic is all well and good in theory, but you have the problem of much of the same shovelware appearing on the Move also by lazy third party devs; a fear that Brunswick Pro Bowling and The Shoot did little to alleviate.

As a piece of tech, Move appears to be wholly impressive if a little steeply priced for what is; essentially more accurately tracked WiiMotionPlus gameplay with HD graphics.
Indeed, if Sony are keen to bring the motion controlling demographic kicking and screaming into HD and also into their pockets, it will be the pioneering utilisation of this exciting new tech that will do it by developers who are brave enough to do something with it and not by big third parties merely porting their shovelware-tastic Wii titles to the platform.

Quality control has never been more important here, as not only will they have to ensure that there is enough high concept games that really make the most of their shiny new tech for all the cynical folks who passed on the Wii bandwagon initially, but also that there is a different, more appealing offering than what the Wii casual audience is enjoying at the moment.

I don’t think anyone wants motion control shovelware in HD.

Right?

In-depth videos of the system can be found over at Gametrailers.com at the link shown:

http://www.gametrailers.com/

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Written by bitsnark

March 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm

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