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ModNation Racers

I find it difficult to put into words how sickened I am by the current state of play within gaming. The three major console manufacturers are busy flexing their technological muscles, showing us who can make people look like the biggest prats in their own living room – an invisible skateboard ramp here and a twelve year-old imaginary friend there – all the while failing to realise that nobody actual wants to move about while they play.

After a long day, either at the office, where you were sent on a tea run by your boss, or at school being made to jog three extra laps because you got caught flipping coach the bird, the last thing you want to do is come home and do somersaults over your couch.

For a start, the idea of telling people openly that you’ll be spending five hours of your evening with a control pad in your hand is often a hair-raising experience, but informing that special someone, at home or your place of work/college, that you’ll be battling demons with an invisible sword could leave matters beyond repair.

You could also count the fact that if one is playing, say, X-Men Origins: Wolverine with 1:1 motion control, the image of a more than sweaty bastard comes to mind, doesn’t it? I was playing this very title on my PS3 of late and it struck me that every one of Logan’s moves would surely be impossible for even the fittest of freaks to manage. You wouldn’t have a cat’s hope in Hell of pulling off the attack that essentially involves acting like a human drill, or the other spinning thing, which would only result in a trip to Ikea for a new lamp shade and bookshelf, anyway.

Another angle to look at within the downside of this motion control trend is the possible isolation of less able-bodied people. For instance, if you are overweight, you’ll be less likely to power slide your way underneath that closing door or run up a fucking wall with your hands tied behind your back. Furthermore, if you are disabled in any way, you are instantly being at risk of being left out of this new fad.

And that’s what it is: a fad. Don’t get me wrong, I think some of the technology going into this is spot on, really pushing the envelope. I just don’t think there’ll be any good games to come out of much of it. Video games are supposed to allow us to “be all that we CAN’T be”, which is where this new “immersiveness” is bound to fall flat; we just don’t have it in us to behave like those characters do on screen when we have a control pad safely tucked into our clammy mits.

project-natal-main

I wish I wasn't. Really.

To quote our very own Grahame when Project Natal featured on Jimmy Fallon:

“That does look rather cool, but how long would people want to play a Wii minigame for? Burnout was pretty awesome but unless the motion control gets developed further, I can see myself showing Natal off to friends for all of 20 mins, then reaching for a pad if I wanted to “really play” on Burnout.”

That is so well put that it doesn’t need expanding on.

For me, the most exciting aspect of gaming in 2009 is creativity. Games like LittleBigPlant and the upcoming ModNation Racers are what currently get me excited. It is this aspect that I feel is really here for the long haul – I hope so, at least. It is refreshing to need to use your mind and your own ingenuity at times, because you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve when you do so.

Microsoft and Sony are barking up a tree that is currently inhabited by Nintendo, who have that market sewn up, and fair play to them. I mean, who doesn’t own a Wii? And, if they do, who actually considers it to be their gaming bread and butter? Have some originality, Sony and Microsoft, for crying out loud; the bandwagon has long since gone.

So, come on guys, let’s see some more time, effort and resources put into games that really allow the player to feel like they are a part of the experience: through creativity. There is no better feeling in games at the moment than creating a fantastic level for all your friends to enjoy in LBP and, as long as I don’t need to be physically swinging from my light fixtures, I’d like to be doing much more of the same in future, on all platforms.

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  1. Oh haha. I can totally imagine LittleBigPlanet with full motion control. I’d probably lose of my TV once I rolled down that first looming hill in a skateboard with 2 other sacks hanging from the back.
    Now, I can totally agree with your entire post. I really enjoyed that first half though :) . I didn’t really care for any of the motion controls, until I saw Sonys. While it does look freaking sweet and I can’t wait to try it some day, it’s still hard to image doing much with it. I mean, it would be great for a shooter, until you realize you can’t turn around to shoot enemies, you wouldn’t be able to see the TV. You wouldn’t be able to walk anywhere without hitting something. This pretty much would limit the fun to a rail-shooter.
    This whole motion control thing was supposed to bring in casual gamers, or non-gamers. I don’t think it has done either of those. The DS has done the closest to that.
    I live in 2 different households, both have a Wii. Me and my brother are the only serious gamers in either place. I personally hate the Wii. As far as I remember, neither Wii’s have been turned on for nearly a year. Either by gamer or non-gamer.
    So, if motion controls hasn’t appealed to either of those, then Nintendo isn’t really an option for us. So now we want to game. We have Sony and Microsoft. I’m not really a fan of microsoft, which is why I lack an Xbox(Although it does have a few good games, I’m no fanboy here). So when both hardcore companies give us something we don’t want, where do we go?
    These are the reasons that I still play my (S)NES. It was correct, fun, and it didn’t change and try to become things we didn’t want.
    I don’t have any comment on your “creativity” part, because it is completely correct :) .
    Great article, I hope you’re right and this fad wears off.

  2. This is the exact same reason I don’t own a Wii. I play games to relax, not to work myself up :P

  3. Money changes people, corporations and even entire entertainment mediums. Motion controls are essentially viewed as a first-party cash cow. I really don’t think core gamers have much to worry about as far as Sony and Microsoft are concerned. Nintendo continues to rake in the cash by a truck load, but it’s been proven time and time again that even the more compelling third-party titles just aren’t selling on the Wii. Not to their potential, at least.

    The core game developers aren’t going to stop being core game developers, and given that they need a platform on which to publish their software, the “old-school” style of gaming isn’t going anywhere.

    Motion controls aren’t a big deal to me, because until I’m proven wrong, I really don’t believe they’ll effect me.

  4. Thanks for your comments guys…!

    @Reilly, I agree with you on Sony’s E3 showing. I think it was rather well done, particularly as it was a live demonstration – something tangible. I have a feeling Natal would end up like Wii 2.0, whereby it doesn’t exactly do what we were originally told it would do.

    It’s interesting that you go back and play NES and SNES rather than the Wii… it’s a true sign that traditional gaming is far more long lasting. One of the reasons I love LBP is because it reminds me of when I first picked up Super Mario Bros. – it has a similar charm about it.

    @Matty W, precisely. Often I am too tired after a long day to even sit and play games with a controller and just watch TV instead. I can’t imagine how something that involves a physical struggle would make me feel!

    @Robert,

    I sincerely hope that they don’t effect me in future, force-feeding IPs that I love with motion control. It’s the kind of thing that has me waking up in cold sweats!

    “The core game developers aren’t going to stop being core game developers” = a great point!

    :)

  5. These new motion controls could so easily become pointless, mini-game-riddled wastes of space, but I’ve got my fingers firmly crossed that at the very least first party developers support them properly.

    I probably buy one or two Wii games per year, and frankly most of them would be better off without motion tacked on. It’s rare for a game to really show us what motion control is capable of, which is probably why so many of us gamers are so sceptical this time around…

  6. avatar LevelHead

    “all the while failing to realise that nobody actual wants to move about while they play.”

    Well if that’s true there would be no market for it. However Nintendo has proven that yes, people do want to jump about like Richard Simmons.

    Sony and Microsoft are going about it in a better way in my opinion. They are not making the game console around the controller like Nintendo is. Not every game will benefit from motion controls but some do. In Rock Band you DO move about while you play and that has been very successful as well. So all of this pessimism is just from people who can’t stand change. I want gaming to involve and to do that it’s going to take more than just flashier graphics and sound and smarter A.I.

  7. @LevelHead,

    the games that do involve you moving about are currently restricted to those that are in no way pushing the envelope. They are sloppy and forced and, much like the Rock Band’s of this generation, a fad.

    I mentioned that Nintendo has made lots of money from it and have that corner of the market locked down – there is no room for the other two.

  8. Great article Dan.

    I agree with everything, especially what I said. :P

  9. Cheers Grahame. That was kind of the best bit :)

  10. avatar ?

    I mostly agree, but the wii has actually allowed my former clients (had brain injuries) to play games again. Even with hemiplegia one was able to play boom blox, go fishing, and beat me at wii sports bowling and golfing. I was looking forward to seeing what therapy I could do with wii fit before I quit to continue school. For me, however, the Wii and Eyetoy gather dust while I still play games like LBP. Not excited about Natal or wii plus or sony’s motion control.

  11. Great article Dan. Although I don’t dislike the Wii, I’m disappointed at the sheer amount of incredible games that have waggle tacked on.

    Regarding racing games, I really can’t imagine playing them without a controller, or an official racing wheel that’s packaged with the game.

  12. @? Thanks! That is highly interesting about clients with brain injuries. I shall look into that further – it is really encouraging.

    Thanks Chris – I’d much prefer a really stellar racing wheel any day of the week and, if not, a good old toggle stick!

  13. avatar Zucas

    Although an interesting argument I do believe I disagree on a lot of fronts.

    What I find the most interesting is how you desperately want to put up a niche genre as the next huge wave while banging on motion controls being a fad. You argue not everyone wants to or is able to use the motion controls or future motion controls (although wiimote and Wii Sports is used for rehab) to the extent you see fit. Even more you have a straw man argument only throwing in disabled people as an important gaming sector when necessary. With that you don’t seem to understand how many gamers (yes gamers not disabled people although I can include them because I don’t discriminate) want to sit there for hours on end creating amateur levels.

    Being a gamer of a long time, I’ve found nothing more of a drag than to sit there and create a level when a professional developer can make it for me. Sure I don’t mind going on forge every now and then on Halo 3 and creating a level but it’s not something I’d want the main focus to be. Nor have I ever been excited about a game like LittleBigPlanet that supposedly makes it “easy” to create an amazing level. When this is far from the truth as any great thing will take a hell of a lot of time. Even the best things created there are amateur compared to a great platforming game I could get from professional developers.

    Yet you argue this niche genre is something that further immerses the person into the game. I guess the next big creation game will be Imagine: Gaming Developer where you create the game the developers were actually supposed to create.

    One of the greatest things about gaming is you have professional gaming minds and designers creating some of the best content for you. The immersion doesn’t come through you toiling but their toils into an experience and atmosphere unlike any other. My favorite game of all time, LoZ: OoT, is that because the genius minds behind it created a world with an amazing atmosphere and great interaction unfitting of its time.

    Motion controls, is hardly a fad. It could be replaced by something more advanced, but it isn’t a fad. The reason I enjoy the Nintendo Wii so much now is it immerses yourself with the character and environment in a different way than standard controllers. I’m not going to say it is better in every way, but it helps to immerse me in a game. Actually having to point at the screen really does put more focus into it than just staring in a daze. If motion controls is a fad then so is every other controller ever to exist because apparently immersion is a fad.

    Now I can’t say I’m so hot on Natal right now because I feel no physical medium to connect you to the character is a step back, but I do like that more are taking interest and trying to take gaming to the next level.

    I understand a lot of people liked LittleBigPlanet or Blast Works or whatever. It was a great entrance to less capable to use their imaginations and create something their own. But is this what gaming should be about. Nothing like MGS4 comes out of that. Nothing like Halo comes out of that. Nothing like Zelda comes out of that. Creation games are there to let your imagination run wild and create something for you. Developers are there to let their imaginations run wild and create something great for everyone, although not always at the same time. Motion controls, standard controllers, or whatever just furthers that experience to the gamer in whatever way they seem fit.

    So no let us not put resources into things that slows gaming progression down. Let us not put resources into something that pushes more gamers, casual gamers, or even potential gamers away. Advance the industry and create the ultimate experience. Creation games have their place as a niche genre and I hope they stay. Hell the wiimote with the IR sensor could even help to make the game easier to open up to new crowds. But let’s not forget what the heart of gaming is at. That is by breaking down the boundaries of our world and joining and entirely new world. You may think the greatest feeling is creating a level and having your friends enjoy it. Too me, and many others, that feeling comes from beating the final boss on an epic RPG, playing with 3 other friends in Halo 3 team slayer, using a motion controller to replicate Goku’s kameha wave, or becoming the hero of time by using the master sword with a wiimote to stop Ganon. Nothing you or I create can do that. But there are those who can and I love it when they do. And if motion controls or other controller advancements help them keep that experience and atmosphere alive, then I will support it with a strong hand. Gaming is and always will be about the experience.

  14. avatar Rich

    Why do you want to force people use joypad controllers for golf or bowling, or not play them at all on a videogame system?

    Like all things, motion control has its place. It isn’t necessarily everywhere. I will say motion control is a better innovation than more graphics.

  15. avatar Motun

    About user-generated levels in LBP… I’d bet that around 95% of the LBP owners never create even a single level and don’t even try level editor. They just play levels other people have created. It is very tiny minority who actually cares about level creating, most just want to play games.

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