Two Surprise PlayStation Move ManeuversS

We've been trying to notice every little thing about the PlayStation Move this week. Each detail is telling. Here are two surprise Move maneuvers I witnessed during demos of Move this past week at Game Developers Conference.

1) The XMB Maneuver — I watched a developer use the swinging motions of the PlayStation Move controller to swipe through the PlayStation 3's cross media bar, the menu interface that lets gamers find content and settings on their console. I saw this when a developer needed to restart a game of Move Party, a game that is played with one Move wand held in your hand. The Sony developer pressed the Move's PlayStation button, which produced the console's standard, overlaid menus allowing the player to quit the game. To swipe from a "no" to a "yes" response, the developer waved his Move hand and pressed a button. The game quit. To swipe through the XMB and restart the game, he waved his hand some more.

Potential Negative: The fact that a developer was doing this got me wondering why the Move Party team hadn't just implemented Wii-style cursor pointing, something we can see within games like the Move-supporting SOCOM 4. It also made me realize that the Move has no directional control buttons. The Wii Remote at least has a d-pad that can be used for navigation, if need be. The Move Wand does have the PlayStation's quartet of Triangle-Square-X-Circle buttons. But unlike their positioning on a standard PlayStation controller, they are not oriented in cardinal directions; they are in the four corners around the Wand's main action button. So they couldn't easily be mapped to directional movement. Bottom line: For Move-only games, there might not be any way to manipulate the XMB other than with motion — at least I can't think of any.

Potential Positive: Who cares about the potential negatives. We're talking — almost — about Minority Report-style motion-based movement of things on a big screen. Swinging arms to select things on a TV is the definition of "the future."

2) The Behind The Back Maneuver: "Launch-window" PlayStation Move game Sports Champions includes gladiator combat that is controlled by a person holding and gesturing with two Move wands. The player can use the wands to move a shield and swing a hammer, for example. But to make their gladiator taunt, the Sports Champion gamer must put his or her hands behind their back. When that happens, the PlayStation Eye camera that detects and tracks the sphere located at the tip of the Move wand can't see it anymore. The disappearance seems to be the prompt for the taunt. (Another possible example of this: In the Move rail-shooter called Shoot, the player can activate a slow-motion effect by spinning their body 360-degrees, a maneuver that might be using both the Move's gyroscope and the camera-blocking technique to determine that it was completed — though please note that that is unconfirmed conjecture.)

Potential Negative: Games that utilize this feature run the risk of being broken by housepets, annoying friends and anyone else who might block the camera and suddenly trigger unwanted taunts. Maybe it would be better for Move games to just pause because the camera is being blocked?

Potential Positive: A new input has been introduced via this maneuver, essentially a new "button" in the repertoire of motion control. The Wii, particularly without MotionPlus, can have trouble dealing with a player who, after pointing their Wii Remote at the TV suddenly has that pointing blocked. If the Move can avoid that confusion, then it has a new and interesting control trick.

It's been less than a week since we first saw PlayStation Move, and there are several months until the motion controller's fall release. Consider this the experimental and surprise-discovery phase of Move, not just for the people making games, but for all of us wondering which good and bad ways it might change the way we play PlayStation 3 games.