Peter Adamcik: My name’s Peter Adamcik. I was the lead programmer and project lead on Air Conflicts: Secret Wars.
PA: 3Division is a team which solely developed the shareware predecessor to the original Air Conflicts – Plane Arcade. After this title we started close cooperation with Games Farm (previously 3D People) on the new titles – Air Conflicts, Attack on Pearl Harbor and most recently Air Conflicts: Secret Wars. 3Division is a team working under Games Farm focusing mostly on air titles.
PN: We were trying to think of ideas which could offer a new gameplay experience to the player. After discussions with our publisher bitComposer, we all agreed that the PlayStation Move Motion Controller was a natural fit for this type of game, and it proved correct. Move capabilities are clearly great for simulating a real cockpit. A bit of a pity with PlayStation Move is the lack of buttons on the controller. Things could have been even better if the button configuration on PlayStation Move Motion Controller was more similar to that of a real-world airplane controller. However, we understand that PlayStation Move is meant to be a universal controller for all types of games, and that a configuration that we’d prefer would not work as well for all of them. We are happy with PlayStation Move implementation, despite the fact that there are still some things which could have been done better, and we will certainly do our best to improve all the reported issues for the next title.
PA: I don’t think so. The implementation was relatively straightforward and not very time consuming. There were other features which consumed a lot more time and resources.
PA: The game was developed on PC first, and later ported to consoles (360 first, PS3 later). The PlayStation 3 port started around 9 months before the end of the development. The game was around 50% complete, with gamepad control schemes working well at that time already. After around 2 months of work we had the game working well on PS3 so the implementation of PS Move started. Core implementation of Move took around 1-2 weeks and controls were balanced during the remaining development process (button layouts, navigator, rudder control with sphere tracking, sensitivity, etc)
PA: We have done multiple implementations with the Wii Remote controller before, but PlayStation Move is unique and slightly different. It has more advanced detection, so we were able to experiment with a real “flight stick” configuration. This proved to be a great solution and gives the flying experience another dimension – real world airplanes are controlled exactly the same way, so it was a natural choice after getting familiar with PlayStation Move capabilities.
The current implementation uses sphere position tracking for rudder control. It works great, but forces the player to sit in the middle of the camera field of view, not to mention it adds some yaw rotation to banking maneuvers (because when you tilt the Move to either sides, the sphere moves as well). Have you tried different solutions for rudder control like rolling the Move or doing hand position tracking via extrapolation instead of a sphere one?
PA: Originally we planned to control rudder yaw via controller roll but when PlayStation Move is pointed upwards the detection is not very precise. Therefore we have decided to use movement instead – sphere tracking. It has certain downsides as you have correctly pointed out, but it can be a very pleasant change for the player compared to regular flight sticks. In fact, our preferred control is to sit onto a rotating chair in the middle of the camera field of view. When the chair is rotated by player’s foot, the plane reacts. So with this configuration the player controls rudder rotation by foot as in a real airplane.
PA: There is an issue when all three rotations (yaw, pitch, roll) are combined – the controller is tilted to the side together with controlling rudder. In this case, to correctly detect the roll rotation (which would be similar to rudder control on flight sticks) the player would need to be always facing the camera anyway. There might be some solutions, but according to our experience the vertical rotation when controller is pointing upwards is difficult. Perhaps this could have been solved spending more time with Move control scheme, but the current implementation seemed acceptable at that time from our point of view.
PA: It was partially intentional, but it was also the result of the PlayStation Move implementation process we used. We implemented the basic controls first, then we added the basic button controls. Finally we implemented bonus functions like tail gunner and camera control. These are bonus functions however, and the game can be played easily without them.
PA: Well, this is the usual problem of limited time vs resources most of the developers have to face. Move was added to the game only late in the development and it was not intended at the beginning. In combination with limited resources we had available we simply did not have time/resources to fully implement all features Move offers (the game was supposed to ship 3 months earlier anyway). We are certainly watching out for all critiques, which we will do our best to address for the next titles…
PA: We believe the feeling of controlling an actual airplane is much better with Move. At the beginning it is slightly different compared to traditional control schemes, which makes it surprising. However, we believe that after a few minutes the player can have at least the same control comfort level compared to a regular gamepad or flight stick. It is questionable if the rudder control with sphere tracking is more realistic compared to a flight stick, but that’s a question better answered by professional pilots.
PA: Definitively. Move controller is larger and in principle offers wider range of sensitivity compared to analogue stick on DualShock. Therefore it is more sensitive after the player gets familiar with Move controller and can easily exceed regular gamepad controls.
PA: Working with PlayStation Move was really a great experience – the device is simple and precise. Thanks to that, the implementation was straightforward and simple.
PA: We would have certainly added tilting sensitivity settings. And of course, as you have mentioned in your analysis, we think that calibration for different positions within the camera field of view would have been really helpful in some cases. Ideally, this should have been addressed, but there wasn’t a lot of time and space to make this right (testers have not found this issue because their seats were centered in front of the camera).
PA: Yes, that’s correct. I think the same applies to rumble support.
PA: It certainly can help both simulations and arcade sims, but I believe it’s going to be more popular with arcade sims – real world simulations players will likely gravitate towards flight stick rather than PlayStation Move. It simply feels different compared to an actual flight stick. I don’t mean to say that it’s worse, it’s just different, and everybody will get to decide what fits them better.