Deus Ex's Warren Spector Warns Against Going Overboard with Motion Controls

By Chris Faylor, Mar 11, 2010 1:00pm PST As hardware makers rush to embrace motion-controlled gaming--Sony with the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Move, Microsoft with the Xbox 360's Project Natal, Razer and Sixense with the "Ultra-Precise Motion [PC] Controller"--industry old-timer Warren Spector has warned "we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

"I think it's kind of weird...that we've sort of said, 'We've got 20, 30 years of people learning how to do this--sitting on their couch and having a good time, and knowing where the buttons are--and we're saying 'You've got to stand up and wave around and gesture,'" the Deus Ex veteran warned during a GDC 2010 luncheon attended by Gamasutra.

The PlayStation 3's PlayStation Move and the Xbox 360's Project Natal

It's not that he's against motion-based controls--"I'm working on a Wii title and I'm loving it," Spector said of Juncture Point's upcoming Epic Mickey--but rather that he's cautious of what will happen if more traditional games and control schemes are abandoned.

"We're in the process of throwing away people--kids, adults--who know this stuff," said Spector. "I don't know if we want to throw away our entire history because we want to use gestural controls...I hope we keep our perspective a little more rational."

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12 Threads | 43 Comments

  • As someone who worked intimately with features tied to projects like Natal, I've always felt that concepts like Natal should *enhance* existing control mechanisms for some and for others, become the primary input for game interaction.

    Let me explain...

    As I've seen it in the past, the self defined Hardcore gamer, or even and informed one, has the ability and power to sway the opinion and vote of say, you're average joe non-gamer type. I'm sure we've all had our fair share of experiences swaying parents or acquaintances into buying a particular game or console for a friend or loved one.

    Being that, it is very obvious that these newer control schemes tend to be more of a curiosity with most seasoned gamers and developers than a must have replacement for an old and familiar friend, the controller.

    For these to succeed they need to reward the hardcore gamer with enhanced options to new aqnd existing game titles while capturing the attention of the casual semi-non gamer with games designed specifically for this kind of interaction.

    We most certainly would not want to play Halo:Reach using a Rockband drum kit, that simply doesnt make sense...

    For the seasoned hardcore gamer...

    I would like to see enhancements to existing game or at least enhanced play concepts added to newer titles coming down the pipe. For instance say in Modern Warfare 3 (if it happens...) imagine you are in a stealth mission where you need to direct 5 team mates without alerting opposing forces. With the controller in hand and as the primary method of input, you could turn to a team mate and use one hand to give simply recognizable hand commands informing him of your plan for cover and attack.

    I could definitely see this as a major possibility that doesn't necessarily replace the existing mechanism but enhances gameplay and breaks that "4th wall" so to speak/

    As for the casual gamers...

    I can really see this taking off for the casual crowd. My wife who isn't much of a gamer per say is really excited for these new forms of interacting with games because she has the difficulty of adopting to existing proven mechanisms. She doesn't have the patience or the will to care to learn. This isnt a can be frustrating...even if I watch her change channels or check out whats on on-demand without so much of a glance at the remote in her hand.

    I just hope Sony and Microsoft are listening. For this to work in the way they want to they need to keep both parties (hardcore and casual) somewhat separated, or at least provide the option...and NOT give us something we didn't think we needed until we had it.

    just my opinion.

  • My take. Motion has it's place and yet sometimes it is misused. The sword control in Wii Sports Resort is brilliant. Some of the motion control used in wii games though is just there to be there. Nintendo generally gets it right and makes it logical, especially in their sports titles.

    I can't wait to play another game with sword control as good as Wii Sports Resort. Perhaps an awesome action/adventure game like Zelda. I don't have a ps3 and won't for quite a while (has to be cheaper), but I am interested in Natal as I have a 360. If I see good use of it there, I will get Natal. I like the interaction I saw in the first natal videos (the one where you play around with some virtual person) and I like how they used it in Burnout Paradise and other things too.

    Though, in some ways I sort feel like the ps3 motion support might have an advantage over Natal (still having something to hold). But I'll have to wait and see.

  • I'm kinda half and half on motion controls. I thought Wii Sport and several other games did a great jump of making them more immerstive. I loved the arrow shooting and sword slashing in Twilight Princess, but there are many other games where the motion controls seemed tacked on. It's great when it's done right, when it's thought out, but otherwise it can be a gimmick.

    I'm curious now how many fanboys will call Natal and Move as revolutionary as compared to calling the Wii as waggle only. Still, I think it's a great move for certain games, but it isn't the best thing for all games. I want it to co-exist with regular control schemes because some games do benefit from it.

  • You know, you could have used this same speech 5 years ago to warn developers about the "dangers" of developing so many Console-friendly shooters - "I think it's kind of weird...that we've sort of said, 'We've got 20, 30 years of people learning how to do this--sitting on their [office chair] and having a good time, and knowing where the buttons are--and we're saying 'You've got to [sit on a couch with a controller in your hand],'"

    Just look at how long it took for us to figure out how to map shooters to a controller correctly -- that has changed the way a lot of people play. Maybe someday, someone will figure out that same sweet-spot for motion controls. I think developers are going to experiment and if they find a way to make it work - if they can figure out a way to make it "catch on" with our demographic, then more power to them. If not, then it's no big loss. They tried, and we still have our controllers.