Sony's new PlayStation Move controller made headlines last week as it added Wii-like controls to the PlayStation 3. But a key difference in the tech, one lauded by Sony, could hurt the device. So could a lack of innovative software.
Kotaku brought both of these topics up with Scott Rohde, vice president of worldwide studios at Sony's big PlayStation Move event last week. Rohde had been the main presenter of Move games at the event, launching demos of everything from sports-compilation title Sports Champions to a Move-enhanced SOCOM 4.
After the demos, he talked tech, mentioning his favorite aspect of the Move controller. "There's something magic when that controller is in your hand and the ball changes color," he said "That's another thing that games can do and start to exploit more over the upcoming months. If you're about to cast an ice spell, it could turn white. Let's say you're firing a gun in SOCOM. It might flicker between orange and red and yellow. There's a lot we can do."
The motion-control of the PlayStation Move wand requires the presence of a PlayStation Eye to detect the illuminated orb at the end of the wand. PlayStation camera games on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 have always worked well under optimal lighting conditions — the kinds of lighting conditions always configured at press events — but they've been less reliable at home. If the lighting in your (or my) living room was wrong, the games would not work well, or at all.
If that camera-detection problem extends to the Move, the whole controller effort could be for naught.
"That was another reason we went with the colored ball as the sensor," Rohde said. "It's a lot easier [for that tech to work] in a darker environment than it is to create the right amount of light [for different technology]," he said. The colored-ball approach, he added, "works very well in light or dark, but it works slightly better in the dark. And, again, some other technologies don't work well in the dark."
I mentioned to Rohde that my Wii's Remote sensor has worked well in all but the very brightest sunlight (a pull-down of the blinds fixed that). How does the Move compare? "I'll be honest with you," he said. "Bright light is always going to be a little bit of a problem for any camera technology. But because the color of the ball is flexible, it can at least adjust and get a brighter color. If your whole room has a very white and yellow feel to it, it can go with [a different color] and you're going to get a good response."
A Sony developer who showed me Move Party also said that very bright light could diminish that game's experience. The room we tried the game in had seemingly average lighting, but it will be hard to judge the PlayStation Eye's tolerance for detecting the Move at various light levels until we get a Move in our homes or offices, away from Sony.
A key pitfall for the Move could be Sony's possible over-reliance on motion-game software templates pioneered by the Wii. Most of the games Sony showed at its PlayStation Move event had a Wii analogue: The sports games of Sports Champions resembled the events in Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort; the shooter controls of SOCOM 4 resembled those of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption; even the Move-enabled co-op play of Move-enhanced LittleBigPlanet seemed modeled off of the co-star mode of Super Mario Galaxy. The augmented reality of Move Party was just about the only Move game that didn't seem built off of Wii breakthroughs.
"I think you've got to give it a little time to mature," Rohde said. "When first and third-parties have the controllers and dev-kits in their hands for a long time, those things will start to come out. I personally see that, besides just the precision, which is a key point, the colored ball on top is going to give you some twists that you haven't seen before."
The PlayStation Move is set for release in the fall. Rohde said that the games shown at the Move event, including Sports Champions, Shoot and Motion Fighter, should be expected by gamers in the "launch window" of the handheld device. "There's a lot of stuff in the line-up we haven't shown you yet," he said. "This is a big initiative for Sony."