Earlier this year both Microsoft and Sony presented what they called the “Future of gaming” class of controllers, but whats really going on here.
To answer that we have to look at their technologies and then derive intent from that.
It’s two seemingly very different control schemes, but are they, one uses a time-of-flight (TOF) camera to sense it’s surroundings and most notably the depth of it, the other one uses a high res camera to sense it’s surroundings that while it can’t measure depth it can track certain objects on the z axis reasonably well, however it is augmented by a glowing ping pong ball on a stick for “sub pixel 3d tracking”, it also has buttons which are useful at times.
Both systems also have an array of microphones which makes it easier to track and filter out voices.
So the technical capabilities are pretty similar save for the glowing ball on a stick, one could say that Sony’s setup could do most of what Microsoft could do, so why make natal the way it is then.
Simple it’s not a gaming controller, sure there will be a few handfuls of games requiring it, and a few other that might use it for something, but primarily it’s a new pc controller, it’s a replacement for the all mighty mouse, well at least an augmentation.
This is because Microsoft want to get ahead of Apple in the motion control scheme, as Apple beat them to multi touch trough iPhone, Microsoft want something that will evolve into a hand gesture control scheme to supplement their surface device, it’s really ingenious, but not for games.
So again sure it will be a game controller, but not as their video showed people sitting in the couch driving a car (just try and hold your arms up like that for 10 min) but by jumping around being silly, I have played such a game already it’s called “Eyetoy: Play” and it was on the PS2.
Sony on the other hand having already done the Eyetoy games is moving on into Wii territory with a waggle stick, a vastly superior one at that, one that isn’t really a waggle stick, but it will do the job.
They will now be able to compete with Wii directly by actually stealing most of their third party titles, but now only in gleaming HD, and with the prices not being that different currently I think they have a shot at this, now all they need is a balance board that can handle fat people (with bluetooth pulse sensor included) and they have a chance of stopping the Nintendo money printing press.
I am pretty interested in what you could actually do besides copying the wii, one of the ideas I heard is putting a glowing ball on a plastic M4 replica and enable us to play like a special version of CoD: Modern warfare with that.
A new duck hunt comes to mind or one of those time splitters games.
Another aspect I like about it is that you could to some pretty fine tuned manipulation of objects making built in level editors a step easier to use.
You might wonder why I didn’t include wii motion plus, its simple, it’s not new, sure it’s more sensitive, but all the games using wii motion plus could also have used the standard wiimote.
I mean it’s not a light saber in disguise, it’s a waggle stick as in most games will work as long as you shake it around or tilt it the right way, big bold moves or shaky flicky things with your wrist does not matter to the wii, but it does to the rest.
In conclusion I would like to say that whatever system you have I would recommend getting the new controllers, they are both interesting and are waiting to be innovative, if they catch on it would be good for gaming, if not you can bet they will try again and again and again.
Because innovation is key, or else the terrorists win.