Eddie Lee, Funktronic Labs
Funktronic Labs has been playing around with the Leap Motion technology for a while now, and the studio's Eddie Lee is preparing to give a talk at the App Developers Conference next week on developer apps in the third dimension.
"I feel that the most important part of integrating motion controls into your game is to aim for maximum intuitivity," he tells me. "Motion controls in 3D-space is definitely a new interface paradigm, so you cannot assume that people will understand motion-controlled mechanics as well as people understand other human interfaces like the keyboard or mouse."
Therefore when looking to implement motion controls, studios should attempt to draw inspiration from real-world physical behaviors such as swiping, turning, throwing, and other common movements that can help users to immediately connect with an experience.
"The ultimate goal is to make the controls so natural and intuitive that the user requires no tutorials or instructions to be able to play your game," he adds. Of course, there are plenty of ways that a developer can make a motion control experience unpleasant too.
"One thing a developer can do wrong is to not provide enough real-time feedback for their actions," he states. "Deliberate actions and gestures should be immediately recognized (with visuals and/or audio) so that the user should immediately understand that their actions were registered. The worst thing you can do is to make the user wonder if their actions were properly executed; providing not enough feedback will disconnect the player from the experience and cause the player to simply check out, so make sure the feedback is crystal clear!"
When trying to decide whether the motion controls in your game "feel right", the best thing you can do is get people from outside your studio to try the mechanics out, and observe how they react, says Lee.
"Most people have not experienced motion controls before, so you cannot assume they understand motion-controlled mechanics very well," he notes. "Thus, your goal should be trying to make the controls feel as natural as possible and you would tweak your values accordingly. You should get into a loop of testing, observing, and tweaking; and you repeat this until you feel that users are no longer frustrated but having fun!"
And trying to shoehorn motion controls into an existing experience is always a big no-no, Lee says, as players will immediately notice.
"A shoehorned-in controls scheme usually ends up feeling very gimmicky and is a total disrespect for the art as well as the gamer," he adds. "And just like you cannot simply port a D-pad controlled game onto mobile by adding on-screen virtual D-Pad controls, you can't assume that plopping in motion controls into a game will be a good idea."
By taking time to evaluate if your game will actually benefit from motion controls, you'll quickly be able to determine whether or not you're better off going with a more traditional control scheme.
"For example, a heavily menu-based game might not be a good idea as motion control does not fare well in navigating menus," he says. However, physically interactive games such as Cut The Rope have transitioned very well to motion controls.