Riccitiello’s moving comments

I do like John Riccitiello. Mainly because he’s willing to share his views regarding the video game industry with anyone who’ll listen and his comments spark a lot of interesting debates. The latest musings from the boss of EA are his feelings towards motion controls and whether he believes they’ll ever replace the standard controller. The short answer is no but Riccitiello does see that type of gameplay carving out its own market and taking with it a few existing genres. Speaking with IndustryGamers, Riccitiello spoke of his cautious optimism towards both Move and Kinect with their gesture-based controls actually being a superior way to play certain genres like music, dance and exercise games, “It’s really hard to imagine an exercise game with your thumbs,” he said though the pedantic would point out that true exercise and dance games are a result of motion-based peripherals, superseding those that use plastic floor mats which are arguably just controllers played with your feet.

He added that the idea of solely using motion controls for games like first person shooters isn’t something he’d like to see: “It’s really hard to imagine that I’m going to play a future edition of Medal of Honor, or Call of Duty, or Battlefield, hiding behind my couch, making a gun out of my finger. I’ve tried driving with gesture-based controls; I don’t really like it.” A great example of this is GoldenEye for the Wii. A brilliant shooter that does a good job of using the Wii remote and nunchuck but is still ultimately best played using the classic controller. Riccitiello hypothesised that in the future we could see a merging of hands-free and controller-based gameplay with certain genres combining both mechanics while others only using one of the other. Again, Nintendo have shown that this concept can work remarkably well with their inspiring Super Mario Galaxy franchise. A perfect blend of traditional gaming methods with the waggle added for positive effect instead of shoehorning it in.

The concern Riccitiello has is just how long can gesture-based games last and whether gamers will buy enough of them to make it a worthwhile investment for developers. He uses his family as an example saying that games that primarily use motion controls aren’t ones that are revisited often with only one or two one the go at any one time. Compare that to traditional controlled games and how he could be playing through three or four at once, swapping between them all without viewing them as a novelty experience. Though that could just be down to a volume of quality titles. Take the Christmas season for Wii games. It was full of great titles and in fact is the system I play the most at the moment as I try and work through all of them. In the next few months however I’ll no doubt be going back to my Xbox 360 and PS3 as a wave of triple A releases are on the way.

But Riccitiello is right, motion controls simply won’t replace traditional methods for a number or reasons and I don’t think any of the three platform holders plan to either. Microsoft has always said that Kinect is an addition to the Xbox 360 rather than a successor to the game pad and while their focus on marketing is towards the new peripheral, none of their top franchises are being forced to use gesture-based controls. Sony may have been reported to emphasise the Move over their Dualshock 3 for certain games but again have only really used it where it seems a natural fit. Like LittleBigPlanet 2 for example. Riccitiello is more interested in what happens by the end of the year and if Kinect and Move will receive that killer app to make believers out of the cynics, “what’s going to trigger the hot game? What’s going to use Kinect in just that way?” Something like Infinity Blade maybe…

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Tony Hawk’s still got it. Just not his games

Things aren’t going too well for Tony Hawk and the latest games from his once beloved franchise. Not only was Ride a critical failure but this year’s Shred, a game that was meant to save the series and give reason to owning a large plastic skateboard, only sold a measly 3,000 units in its first week of sales. Ouch. Luckily for the extreme sports philanthropist, Activision ceo of publishing Eric Hirshberg hasn’t lost faith in Hawk’s credibility. Speaking with Industry Gamers (via Gamespot), Hirshberg has his fingers crossed for things to pick up: “I think it’s early to close the book on Tony Hawk Shred, because we are marketing it to kids, and it is a great gift, and the gift-giving season has already begun. We’re going to keep the pedal to the metal on that and continue to market through the holiday and hopefully we’ll deliver some proponents.” The site proposed whether Mr Hawk was still relevant for today’s gamers and that got Hirshberg thining: “I think your evaluation is correct.” See? “The interesting thing is that I think the last game had some technical problems with the board, and lots of times when you innovate that happens. This game and the relationship between the game and the board is spectacular. It’s a whole different level from Tony Hawk: Ride. That might change things too. But at the same time, I think that you’re basically asking the same questions that I’m asking and that we’re asking about how to recapture the mass imagination surrounding this franchise.”

The ceo continued his musings: “The one question that I can answer, and remarkably so, is that Tony Hawk does really still have relevance and tremendous appeal for people. He is a lasting icon. He has that Michael Jordan-ish or Jordan-esque staying power, seemingly. And that doesn’t mean that other great skaters haven’t come up who are younger and more current, but he really is that kind of Mount Rushmore-level guy in that category, so that’s not the issue. I think we have to ask all the smart questions and make some smart moves in terms of innovation to see if we can recapture people’s imaginations.”

I don’t know whether the right questions are being asked from Activision’s side. They seem defiant on churning our games with chunky plastic peripherals and when the first games under performs, they think a sequel will help. But by then, trust in the name has already been lost. I think if the name of Tony Hawk has been muddied in the eyes of gamers, it’s because the market has been saturated with mediocre yearly releases and an initially glitchy peripheral. When the audience wanted more realistic skating games like EA’s Skate, the Tony Hawk games stuck with its arcade roots. Year after year. The early games were great but if the later ones lack innovation, they’re bound to fail. Whether or not Tony Hawk is an icon or not is irrelevant when the games can no longer back up the brand.

Tactile Plus gives your iPhones ‘nubs’

Last week after excitedly writing about id’s Rage appearing on the iPhone, I suggested that one of the biggest barriers for touchscreen gaming – for console-esq experiences – is the lack of tactile buttons. Slipping and sliding over what feels like a forced control scheme doesn’t do it for a lot of gamers, myself included, though there are a few exceptions to the rule. Our prayers could have been answered by a Japanese company called Strapya who are selling Tactile Plus stickers; translucent ‘nubs’ that can be fixed to the screen of your mobile device, ridding you of any further frustrations. But of course now you’ll be up against that dreaded situation of having fragments of gelatinous residue left on the screen when the stickers are removed. I would hope the nubs’ glue is that which doesn’t mark screens but I for one am not willing to take that risk! So how about leaving them on? Well, would you want to read texts and watch videos through nubs?

When iPhone OS 3.0 was released, it was said to unlock the ability to add third-party peripherals to iDevices with many hoping that gaming cradles would be produced, adding real buttons but also bulking out the frame. Nothing ever came to fruition and is unlikely to ever do so since Apple new ethos on their handhelds is that if customers need a stylus, Apple have failed. Viewing the humble stylus as the work of the devil would suggest an aversion to allowing some form of casing with buttons to be plugged into iPhones and iPads. Shame.

{Thanks Joystiq}

Hands-on with Kinect (oh the irony)

Yesterday I got some hands-on time with Microsoft’s upcoming delve into the world of motion controls, Kinect and was really quite surprised with the results. First it actually worked and for the most part, worked well and second, the game I thought had the least potential was in fact the most enjoyable.

Read on to find out my full experience.

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Kinect voice control? Non!

The saga of Kinect’s voice control trundles on after Eurogamer Spain reported a lack of European voice support. It turns out that Microsoft were bending the truth slightly when they recently confirmed voice controls would be present for Kinect’s November launch. While those who speak British English, American English, Japanese and Mexican Spanish will be able to order their 360s around via the power of speech, any other language speakers have to wait until Spring next year. The exclusion effects mainland Europe and thanks to the system being region locked, even if Europeans are fluent in the allowed languages they function will still be locked out.

This could be a major blow for Kinect before it even comes out. Voice control may not be the main reason to drop £129.99 on the peripheral but if Microsoft fail to support such a large number of consumers, even with something fairly trivial, they may feel less inclined to support Microsoft.

Microsoft confirm Kinect’s voice control at launch

A troubling rumour have recently emerged about Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller, claiming that the peripheral will launch without voice control but the feature is to be patched in at a later date. Barking orders at your Xbox 360 is one of the more interesting aspects of Kinect considering the initial titles are predominantly for a casual crowd, aiming to win over some Wii supporters. Today Microsoft confirmed there will indeed be voice control from the get go, squashing the rumour before it gets out of hand: “Voice control is an exciting part of the Kinect for Xbox 360 controller-free experience and we can confirm that it will be available at launch in November 2010.”

Kinect is set for a November 10th release costing £129.99 and I’m still trying to decide whether or not to hold onto my pre-order. As cool as the tech looks, I’m not sure it’s for me just yet – even if I am able to yell “Xbox, play game.”

{Thanks Videogamer}