PS3's Controller Conundrum
The Sony press conference over and the free noshies consumed (Sony holds an excellent garden-style party on their main lot amid 10-story movie studios and ample security), the consensus is steadily arriving about the PS3.
Most are impressed, if for different reasons.
The controller is interesting -- Bluetooth at its most useful. Where a standard keyboard configuration might make a player proceed through an intricate series of commands to perform moves such as a barrel roll in a space fighter, this seems to pick up on natural movements.
The question under consideration is whether these movements will be useful or tend to be follow a reflex or reaction to the game itself. Video games by their nature are an immersive medium and even a casual player will find something that strikes a chord with them, no matter what the genre. With this immersion come reactions: the flailing of a chord when the next level has been reached after several attempts, or a sudden twitch at a narrowly avoided in-game death.
Tonight's demonstration of Sony's new controller technology brought the producer of Warhawk on stage, almost frenetic in his movements and actually failing to achieve his task of taking down two enemy spaceships despite easily executed barrel rolls and hairpin turns to begin the next strafing run. And though he became better as time went on, it was impossible not to wonder: Would these be genuinely helpful or a novelty that would eventually get in the way?
If implemented correctly, the new controller could add to the variability and reflexive feeling of the controls. Subtlety will be the key factor, as the player is unwittingly adding several new levels of input to even the most casual handling of what feels like an ordinary PlayStation controller.
With any luck, the new feature will be an option, both variable and easily toggled at the player's whim.
Beyond this, nothing else failed in Sony's presentation with the exception of their upcoming game "Afrika" (currently a working title). Yes, the intricately modeled animals of the Serengeti looked amazing as they ran in herds, slept, drank from streams and ate grass. But when said animals don't seem to actually do anything in the demo, it becomes hard to convince someone to buy this game except as a sleep aid for a young child.
But to anyone who can update the pet rock and make it just as enthralling, my hat goes off to you.
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