Does the PlayStation Move have hardcore applications?

Boston Post-Mortem is a monthly get-together of area game developers at the Skellig Irish Pub in Waltham, MA. The May 20th edition was sponsored by Sony, who provided a R&D demo of the PlayStation Move. In what may be a preview of E3, the demonstrated technical capabilities of the Move, which the Sony representatives identified as a platform, not a peripheral, certainly looked impressive.

The Eye camera features head tracking and contour recognition, and can detect smiles and head nods. It has limited capabilities for age and gender recognition, and could support programming to detect confidence levels.

The Move controller uses a combination of accelerometers to measure pitch, yaw, and tilt, and a magnetometer to determine position in three-dimensional space. The Sony rep put the Move through its paces using a set of demo programs:

  • Pointer can function as either an augmented or virtual reality tool, replacing the Move controllers on a live image of the user with an object like a sword or mallet, or projecting those objects by themselves into a three-dimensional space
  • Paint was what you would expect of the MS variety, with the addition of support for creation of 3-D images
  • Multi-touch is an item-selection and image-manipulation program which evoked shades of the g-speak Operating System depicted in the film Minority Report
  • Puppet is a humanoid-wireframe creator which can also function in augmented or virtual reality modes, and the rep was clear to point out that by squeezing the Move trigger one can make the fingers of a wireframe model open and close, something which NATAL cannot do
  • In a 3D modeling program, one Move controller took the form of a cylindrical object which the rep spun in his hand, and he used a second Move to shape the object like clay on a pottery wheel

In the question and answer period, developers asked about the number of controller slots the system required (one per Move or accompanying controller unit), the ability of the Eye to record video (which can be uploaded straight to YouTube), and the Move’s potential for content creation (which is already being worked on by middleware developers). The background chatter and clink of beer glasses went silent as I asked a decidedly different question:

“Have you done any testing on DualShock controllers versus the Move in SOCOM 4, or first-person shooter, multiplayer games?” The Sony rep made eye contact with his colleague and tried to evade the question, but when pressed, answered, “In SOCOM testing, there were not instances where people did not want to use the Move controller.”

I heard someone behind me murmur, “That was diplomatic…”

Whether or not motion-control systems will be adopted by the hardcore gamers who comprise the 360 and PS3 audiences may be entirely dependent on how competitive those systems are when matched up against traditional control schemes in multiplayer gaming.

To be fair, the Sony reps were a third-party support team, and not privy to the sort of first-party testing which would determine the definitive answer to my question; but surely if they could have responded in the affirmative that yes, the Move was competitive with a DualShock in multiplayer gaming, wouldn’t they have come armed with that knowledge? It would be a major selling point to any developer looking at the new platform, much less Irrational Games, the developer of first-person-shooter Bioshock, who Sony must have known would be in attendance.

At the PlayStation Community meet-up in Boston the Thursday before PAX East, the Move was also demo’ed. A gladiator-style fighting game, a Crazy Taxi-esque title called “Sliders,” and a Paint program were on display, but SOCOM 4 was notably absent. This is twice, effectively, that Sony has dodged my question. Hopefully we will all get the answer in less than a month at E3.

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