SCEA, Intel wave at motion controls

DICE 2011: Sony's Dr. Richard Marks is joined by Beverly Harrison to discuss the evolution of user interfaces and the importance of sticking to good game design.

15 Comments

Who was there: The 2011 DICE Summit began in earnest Wednesday afternoon with the conversational "Hot Topics" panel, presented by EEDAR and hosted by G4's Adam Sessler. As part of that panel, Sony Computer Entertainment America's Dr. Richard Marks and Intel's Beverly Harrison discussed the rise in motion controllers in a session titled "Interface & Player Engagement."

Marks and Harrison helped kick off DICE with a discussion about motion control.
Marks and Harrison helped kick off DICE with a discussion about motion control.

What they talked about: The session began with the moderator presenting the idea that interface has gone through a major evolution in the past few years. In particular, he asked the panelists what the new wave of controllers needs to address to attract the casual players. Marks said he thinks that lots of players are intimidated by the controller and that the experience the casual player wants is different from the hardcore player. Casual players, he said, want an immediate reaction.

Harrison said that she thinks one of the challenges over time is how players can learn to use an interface, specifically as it pertains to progressing from being a novice to an expert. The nice thing about this new evolution, especially gesture and device-based gaming, she said, is that it allows novices to repeat behavior that lets them smoothly increase their skill set. As such, players can be productive from day one, she said.

The conversation then shifted toward whether players impose their own limitations on designers. A lot of the experiences are physical, Marks said, and some things certain people just can't do. However, with the Move, he said that the controller actually opens up a number of experiences, in that someone with a handicap is able to interact with a game simply by flicking his or her wrist. There is a calibration that can be used to empower some people, he said.

Continuing with the idea of limitations, Harrison said that these new controllers could evolve the architecture of the family room space because of what's in the way. Another problem is that designers need to be able to adapt to the way their control scheme acts over extended play periods.

Marks then picked up the idea of the importance of good game design when it comes to new motion-based controllers. He said that it's counterproductive to be too literal with games. After all, gamers aren't likely to be the next Michael Jordan, but the controller can at least interpret their intent. He went on to say that while this can be conveyed with a button press, it is more visceral to act out the motion with one's own body.

What a designer wants to maintain is good, foundational design principals, despite the new ways to play, Harrison said. For example, it's important that players have new places to go and things to do, and this shouldn't change simply because there is a new way to interact with the game.

The conversation then shifted toward whether designers are making games that take full advantage of the current technology. Harrison noted that historically, it's been the CPU and GPU that designers have struggled to eek more power out of. However, a real evolution has occurred on the input side. Marks followed this up by saying that the input problem is 100 times more difficult than the output problem.

However, Harrison emphasized that these new control schemes are very much in a nascent stage, and what is being seen right now are the first attempts by early adopters. Initially, there is a lot of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. This results in a lot of controls and motions that are overly complicated, and she believes people will be doing a good deal of backing off.

As far as concerns go, Marks said that it will be important to standardize motion controllers so as to not confuse players. This is especially the case for core players, he said, because they are used to inputting certain actions in a certain way in other games. He added that he believes game design is very important for overcoming these challenges.

Both Harrison and Marks balked at the notion that motion controllers are simply a fad. According to Marks, the new schemes don't replace the old ones. These motion controls simply grow the space, he said, and the console platform is being leveraged to deliver new experiences. Harrison agreed that the gesture-based games won't outright replace the traditional gamepad.

Quote: "Again, I think that goes back to good game design principles."--Intel's Beverly Harrison, on the importance of maintaining solid design in the wake of new input methods.

Takeaway: Both Intel and SCEA readily admit that these new and growing motion-based user interfaces are still very much in a nascent stage. As such, it's important to let as many people as possible get in on the tinkering process to maximize creativity and help motion controllers achieve their potential.

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 15 comments about this story