Killzone 3 has been tasked with selling all sorts of Sony technology. It's one of the best-looking PlayStation 3 games we've ever played, it will take full advantage of your 3D television, and Sony has been going out of its way to hype just how much Move controls add to the experience. That wasn't always the plan.
"When we got the initial [Move] prototypes, we had no set plan on how to add motion control to Killzone. Being a first-party Sony studio, we had little experience in that area except for some small experiments with the SixAxis controller," Tommy de Roos, the Guerilla Games' lead game programmer, mentioned. "This was an opportunity to make the game more accessible to players who have trouble playing games with a standard controller, and to give fans of the series a little something extra to play with."
Of course, the publicity aspect of having one of the PlayStation 3's most visible games support the peripheral was also a consideration for everyone involved. Guerilla Games didn't just slap support onto their game. They did something very special, not to mention time consuming: they set out to create the new standard for motion controls in big-budget shooters.
That's not hyperbole
Other games have tried to add motion controls to first-person shooters, with some more successful than others. The Move support for Killzone 3 could have been a gimmick, but after playing through the majority of the game in this way, it became clear to me how much work and effort was put into this control scheme. This isn't something you'll try once and put away; for many people, Move controls are going to feel more precise and accurate than the standard controller.
"Strapped in, the controls feel somehow right. My characters' hands jut out in front of him as he controls the suit. My hands jut out in front of me as I control the character. Suddenly things sync. It's as if someone's thrown a switch," Kotaku's Brian Crecente wrote of his experience playing Killzone 3 with the optional motion controls. "The Move controls aren't just keeping out of the way, they're augmenting my experience. I feel like I'm really controlling this thing. And it feels good."
Joystiq also praised the Move control scheme. "While turning the character's head and body is quicker with an analog stick, the Move is much more precise at aiming within the character's current field of vision," Randy Nelson wrote. "I was also now more aware of the (frequent!) times I had to take my thumb off of the right stick to reload with a button press."
It's worth reading both of those stories in their entirety for details on where the Move controls falter, as well as what they do well, but it's impressive how many writers prefer the Move controls to the standard controller. I myself played the game extensively with the Move controls, and introduced a friend to them as well. Within 20 minutes he was praising his newfound accuracy in the game. So how did this happen?
Time spent on controls pays off
The balance between accuracy and character rotation was one of the trickiest aspects of Move control to get right. "Since both your aim and your orientation are controlled using the same mechanic, people found it hard to aim and navigate at the same time," de Roos explained. This was also one of the most important things to get right. Killzone 3 is a shooter, not a strategy game where you have time to plan your moves.
"By not only looking at the crosshair position, but also at its movement, we try to take the player's intentions into account. This allowed us to increase the rotation speed of the character, which was necessary for navigation, and give the player good control of when to stop rotating, necessary for accuracy."
Once this system was put in place, they received a message from Quality Assurance saying that testers now enjoyed playing with the PlayStation Move. They were on the right track. Camera lock and crosshair lock were then added as options on top of the newly implemented control scheme for gamers who wanted a little more help.
While the Move controls were added in a matter of weeks, getting everything working well and feeling right for the player was a continual process that took place over a much longer period.
"There were also a lot of small changes that needed to be made. There were a lot of systems that assumed that the player was always aiming at the center of the screen, and those needed to be fixed. Some of our mechanics, such as the Exo [the game's drivable mech] and the Jetpack, required some extra attention." In fact, both of those vehicles required the creation of extra animations to accommodate the new aim ranges.
Some ideas failed
"One of the first ideas was to create an on-rails version of Killzone 2," de Roos said. "But once we realized how much work that would be, since all encounters would have to be re-scripted, we decided against it."
Another failed idea was to more closely mimic the feel of playing with a mouse. "Moving the Move would act as mouse input, pressing the Move button would 'pick up' the mouse. Some people preferred this over the current scheme, but most people did not understand it," he explained. They were more interested in control schemes that were easy to understand, especially for people who already played motion-controlled titles on the market.
Gestures were experimented with, but were mostly removed. "Throwing a grenade using a throw gesture was really cool. Losing your aim and turning your back towards the enemy with a cooked grenade in your hand was less appreciated. So in the end, the only gestures that survived were the ones that felt natural and did not interfere with your aim," de Roos explained.
A good example is the reload gesture: you twist your wrist to reload your weapon, and this is a motion that is easy to do repeatedly and doesn't cause the cursor to wiggle much on the screen. You can reload while you continue to track your enemy's movements with your aiming reticle, and more importantly, you don't have to take your finger off of a movement control, a weakness of the standard controller. If you don't want to use a gesture, there is still a button press that allows you to reload in the traditional way. It's an elegant and flexible solution.
Guerilla Games is a first-party developer, and Sony certainly supported their efforts to evolve and improve first-person shooter controls with the Move controller. That expertise won't go to waste in the future.
"We're open to share our experiences and are encouraged to do so by Sony; we've already been contacted by several studios," de Roos mentioned. "And I guess most studios will learn from this the same way as we did: analyze it and try to come up with better ideas to improve upon it. I certainly think that there is still a lot of progress to be made in this area."
Motion controls may have arrived
Tommy de Roos ticks off motion controlled games he has enjoyed in the past. "I postponed playing Heavy Rain until the Move patch, and I really enjoyed it," he said. "I also really liked Gladiator Duel in the Move Sports pack, especially with two move controllers. While researching other shooters I found that Metroid Prime 3 was very well done. And somehow Wii Tennis never gets old!"
The Wii is now old news, with games that are now considered classics. The PlayStation Move is beginning to find its groove, and the second generation of Kinect games are on the horizon. Each of these three looks at motion. Gesture-based controls are going to offer developers more options in how people play their games, and Killzone 3 is going to find its place in this generation of games as the title that proved that you don't have to give up much in order to play with motion controls. It's not a gimmick, and it can be done well.
The open beta is now live, and a single-player demo is coming on February 15, so everyone can check out the game with Move controls before they buy the full game. We know how we'll be playing when the full game is released on February 22, and it won't be with a Dual Shock 3.
Original Article can be found here