Today I’m pleased to introduce “iWaggle3D Asks”, a series of special interviews aimed at investigating what it’s like to work with the PlayStation Move. Joining us for this debut episode of “iWaggle3D Asks”: Insomniac Games.
Having shipped one of the best Move compatible first person shooters out there, I couldn’t feel more honored to get the “iWaggle3D Asks” ball rolling by having the creators of Resistance 3 share some insights into the Move implementation process.
So, without further ado…
How many people were involved with the development of the Move controls, and how much time did it take to implement them?
Johan Persson, Senior Programmer: Basically three people and surrounding support: One for implementing the actual feature and one for implementing the user interface so the user can setup their Move controller precisely the way they like it, and last but not least an artist for cross-hairs and user-interfaces. As always, there is involvement from a lead who ensures we focus on the right things, and we also had some dedicated QA resources during development that gave feedback on the touch-and-feel, suggesting tweaks and finding obscure bugs. It took a few weeks of on-and-off involvement from everybody to get it in the game.
Did you develop dedicated tools for streamlining the Move implementation process?
Brant Bassart, Lead Gameplay Programmer: Sony did a lot of that work beforehand by developing a kit to assist studios in getting Move support integrated. It was fairly painless to get rudimentary functionality in and at that point it was simply a matter of tweaks and iteration so no special tools were needed.
What was the hardest part to get right?
Johan: The trickiest part to get right from a touch-and-feel standpoint would probably be juggling the need for the player to be able to turn quickly if a threat appears from behind or far to the sides, and simultaneously giving the player the precision needed to aim at targets in his current vicinity. It’s a balancing act.
With regards to pointer and camera behavior, could you please provide insights into the research process that eventually led to the final implementation?
Brant: The very first thing we did was play several shooters that already had Move implementation and got a feel for what worked. Seeing what was fun, we condensed these to mechanics that we wanted in Resistance 3. It was important to us, for example, to have precision aiming without an overly sticky aim assist that felt like we were doing too much hand holding.
All PlayStation Move compatible shooters released thus far adopt a floating cursor, the only exception being PlayStation Move Heroes. Its shooting segments adopted a fixed cursor. Did you experiment with that at all?
Brant: We discussed the method but we never implemented it. Although Resistance 3 (played with a traditional controller) is meant to have a reticle fixed in the center of the screen, we believed the Move could deliver a different experience aside from just accepting input. Moving aim from an analog stick to pure wrist control enables much more snappy targeting but one thing we did not want to have is a camera that frantically bounced around everywhere. Likewise, we felt it would have hampered the experience by trying to slow the targeting movement to compensate. As an added bonus of a floating reticle, having the onscreen weapon twist and turn as it faces the target is great feedback and helps players keep track of the reticle when the action gets intense.
How did you go about evaluating the quality of the Move controls? Do you have experienced Move players in the studio?
Brant: Like any other feature, we had a gameplay programmer and designer working together and a QA team banging on it. This included full campaign playthroughs with the Move and also numerous competitive matches.
Now that you’ve got your feet wet with it, it’s fair to assume you’d have an easier time at implementing Move controls, if you were tasked to do so for another shooter. Would you say it would still take more effort compared to implementing traditional dual stick controls?
Johan: We learned a lot implementing the Move, and we have made fundamental changes to our core technology to more easily support the motion-based controllers in future titles or other controllers that might come out, if it is the right fit for those titles.
I guess it’s fair to say that much of enjoyment that comes from using Move in shooters depends on users’ willingness to adapt to a new control interface, which might be a time consuming if not somewhat frustrating experience, especially for long time dual-stick players. What would you suggest to ease this learning process?
Johan: You may not find that the Move is calibrated to your personal preferences out-of-the-box when you start a game. But it grows on you as you start finding your personal sweet-spot in the settings. It’s a bit of an aquired taste and for some of us all the more enjoyable for it. It may not be for everybody. But then again, while they may cater to more people, dual-sticks are not for everybody either.
If you were asked to suggest modifications to the current Move technology, or general design in the context of shooters applications, what would you propose?
Johan: Precision in the controller is key, that goes for the dual-sticks as well as the Move and similar controllers. I think the current generation has much improved on earlier hardware, and I hope any future hardware will take it to the next level. Successfully enabling the user to intuitively use the controller for both large and minute adjustments is also a challenge I hope will keep being improved on.
Many thanks to Johan and Brant for taking the time to answer my questions as well as to Insomniac Games’ Senior Community Manager James Stevenson for the amazing support.