Tag Archive for 'nintendo'

Wait A Minute, Wouldn’t Better Motion Controls Hurt Wheelchair Gamers?

Both Sony and Microsoft’s upcoming motion control revolutionary thingies have one advantage over the Wii: they can track your position in a room. If the demonstrations for both (well, more so for Sony, simply because they did a better job of it) are any indication, we’ll be seeing a lot of games in the near future which require a player to do quite a lot of movement. This is even more so than what we’ve already seen on the Wii, where most games require just hand motions, all doable while seated.

So how can more physical activity by gamers, still often stereotyped as overweight nerds, be a bad thing? I started to have my doubts reading Gizmodo reader kagegiri’s comment on an article about the physically challenging (and possibly dangerous) Tony Hawk Ride:

It’s peripherals like this, Natal, and Sony’s baton that make me feel like some people don’t get the charm of video games and virtual reality.

When you get perfect-mapping motion games, yes, you can apply real-world skills to a game. But it turns out a lot of the population can’t swing swords properly, or kick a soccer ball far, or swing our arms fast enough to hit a real home run, or balance on a skateboard while doing tricks, etc. If it’s too realistic, it’s like your physical weakness in real life is translated into weaknesses in game.

This is definitely a concern for me. Frustration due to failure in Grand Theft Auto causes far more urges to go on a shooting spree than actually succeeding at shooting virtual people; anything to increase the chances of frustrating failure in a video game is not a good thing by any means. But while many people can overcome their “physical weakness” by excessive exercise, what about the people who can’t?

Like people in wheelchairs?

Some people are wheelchair-bound their entire lives. Others will be wheelchair-bound temporarily after playing Tony Hawk Ride. If video games get too physical, not only will the ability to feel like a superhero be limited to actual superheroes, but less people will be able to play. Some people already can’t play games because they can’t afford all forty-seven platforms; adding a physical ability barrier on top of the economic one isn’t a good idea.

That’s not to say the idea of greater physical immersion in games doesn’t excite me, but there always needs to be an alternative.

    Project Natal: The Wii’s Strengths and Weaknesses Both Turned To 11

    Speaking of the Xbox 360, Microsoft announced today something called “Project Natal” (no, you see, it’s not pronounced like a “neonatal” baby, but like the name “Natalia” without the “ia,” and it’s totally not a terrible name, and I’m not a bad marketer, don’t fire me Mr. Ballmer, please). It uses a camera-based motion capture system and voice recognition to allow people to play games without any controller whatsoever.

    I mentioned on Twitter what I think the problem is, but because 140 characters isn’t enough to fully explain what I mean, I’ll now do so. In case some technological something-or-other is preventing you from watching the video, it features a series of people playing hypothetical games, including a fighting game where you (as in, you, the physical person) throw real punches and kicks, a racing game where you turn an imaginary steering wheel, a skateboarding game where you ride an imaginary skateboard, and other such marvels of techno-wowity.

    Some of these demos look very interesting. I like the trivia game, where you pound your hand as if it’s a game show buzzer, and the gesture and voice-based interfaces are nice. I also like the ability to scan images you hold up to the camera (I don’t see how the camera could have scanned through that kid’s hand on the back of the skateboard, but it’s a proof-of-concept movie, so whatev). Everything else, though, is terribly misguided. Let’s ignore skepticism that the motion sensing works perfectly, because I’m never one to doubt what technology is capable of. Let’s also assume every Xbox 360 owner has enough space and lack of coffee table in front of their TV. Let’s talk about the inherent problem with the idea in general.

    Do you have a small object next to you? Let’s say a pen. Don’t touch that pen. Instead, imagine there’s another pen about five feet away from it. An invisible pen made of air. Put your fingers around it and pick it up. Hold it in your fingers. Write with it. Now do the same thing with the real pen.

    Notice how picking up and writing with the real pen caused your fingers to behave completely differently than picking up the imaginary one. You know why? Because there was nothing in between your fingers. It didn’t even feel like there was anything between your fingers. In fact, wasn’t it a little difficult to keep your fingers from moving closer or further away from one another because nothing was in between them?

    We’ve already seen what this causes on the Nintendo Wii. Have you ever played Mario Kart Wii? You know, the one where you hold a remote control as if it’s a steering wheel? How about this, have you tried driving a car? You know how it becomes slightly harder to turn the steering wheel when it becomes more difficult for the actual car wheels to turn? You see, the thing about pretending a remote control is a steering wheel is that you don’t get that tightening of the steering wheel. Not even when you put the remote in a plastic steering-wheel enclosure does it feel like it’s attached to an actual steering column. This literal sense of detachment makes driving feel awkward, and I can only imagine it would be worse when you’re holding absolutely nothing.

    This is a problem for just about every one of those hypothetical games. Especially that skateboarding demo; it’s laughable how many problems it would have.

    Project Natal is, in all ways, Microsoft’s answer to the Nintendo Wii. It has a stupid sounding name which will totally not be stupid in a year if they keep saying it, it’s being marketed to people who have never considered playing a game before, and it has a wide variety of problems related to its lack of haptic feedback. With Natal, Microsoft has improved upon everything the Wii does right and fixed none of its problems. To be fair, I’m not sure at the moment how one would fix these problems in a Natal-like system with currently available technology. Regardless, its mere existence in this form makes it feel like it was conceived by a bunch of really stupid marketers. Which, judging by the name, is probably true.

      Nintendo R&D Meeting – A “Femto-Length” Film

      I decided that I wanted to experiment with making a movie with a complete three-act structure lasting somewhere around 15 seconds. In extremely technical terms, I definitely achieved that goal, but most people will just see this as random. That’s fine with me.

      Anyway, here’s a 15 second movie depicting Nintendo employees as people with D-Pads for heads:

      If you’d like to see it in HD without full-screening it or if you’re reading this on a “mobile device,” check it out on YouTube.

      I call this a “femto-length” film because it’s astronomically shorter than a “short film,” and the “femto-” prefix is smaller than both “nano-” and “pico-”. So yeah, that’s REALLY small. Not quite as small as “yocto-“, but this movie isn’t quite that pointlessly short.

      Maybe it’ll catch on. Maybe not. But if it doesn’t, I’ll cry.

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