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Game Developer Magazine June/July Issue Product Reviews

June 23, 2004 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

Product Review: RoninWorks BurstMouse

Though nearly all games today are full-on 3D experiences, most of you working with DCC apps are still using 2D mice. RoninWorks thinks it has created a device cool enough that you'll want to upgrade to 3D for your main input tool. Unlike 3Dconnexion's 3D controllers, which you operate with your non-dominant hand, move only a few millimeters, and which must be used in addition to a mouse, RoninWorks believes these functions belong together, in your mouse.

The BurstMouse is a normal Logitech optical wheel mouse retrofitted with an optical transceiver, matched to a transceiver with a tripod that sits on your desk. As long as you leave it on the desk the BurstMouse operates exactly as any other mouse, but as soon as you lift it more than an inch or so above the desk, the BurstManager plug-in takes over and turns the mouse into a controller with almost six degrees of freedom (rotation about the axis between the transceivers is not detected), with a working space of a cubic foot or so. At this point, holding down the left button lets you move the currently selected object freely, while holding down the wheel lets you move the camera.

The BurstMouse might look a bit odd, but the sensor on the front turns what would otherwise be a normal mouse into a powerful 3D one that works with 3DS Max and Maya.

Using the BurstMouse with 3DS Max 6, the device is quite effective, but not without a few flaws-most of which could be corrected in future updates. Tying the 3D movement to picking up the mouse makes the transition seamless, without making you find and click an icon or switch devices. And the ability to move the controller in free space makes some operations more natural, because it's almost as if you're grabbing the virtual object in real-life. And this free-space movement makes the mocap mode of the software particularly useful, since you can simply maneuver objects or cameras around in realtime, without having to create paths or keyframes, or use an expensive full-on mocap system when you only need simple, single-point movement.

When used to control objects, the BurstMouse is smooth, silky, and extremely intuitive. But I was confused at first when I switched to "camera" mode, since the movement was the opposite of what I expected. This behavior is documented, though-you're actually moving the scene in relation to the camera. Allowing the user to choose whether to move the world or the camera would be a welcome improvement, since some will feel more comfortable with one approach, and some with the other.

As cool as the BurstMouse is, not everyone will want to hold a mouse in the air for long periods of time-and not for all 3D operations, either. It's great for coarse movements and for mocap, but for fine control, many will fall back to the normal 2D mouse-based controls in 3DS Max and Maya.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

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