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GDC: Spector: Don't Let Desire For Progress 'Throw Away Our Entire History'
GDC: Spector: Don't Let Desire For Progress 'Throw Away Our Entire History'
March 10, 2010 | By Chris Remo

March 10, 2010 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, GDC

In the rush towards motion control and other intuitive forms of game inputs, we could run the risk of "throwing away our entire history," warns longtime designer Warren Spector.

"I think it's kind of weird...that we've sort of said, 'We've go 20, 30 years of people learning how to do this -- sitting on their couch and having a good time, and knowing where the buttons are -- and we're saying 'You've got to stand up and wave around and gesture,'" Spector said during the Gamasutra-attended 'Lunch With Luminaries' event at Game Developers Conference 2010.

He suggested: "We're in the process of throwing away people -- kids, adults -- who know this stuff." Part of the industry's present eagerness could be outside pressure, Spector added. After all, gaming looks more exciting when it is moving onto the Next Big Thing.

"Especially from outside the industry, there's a tendency to want to see seismic shifts, to want to see radical change, and we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater," he said.

"I don't know if we want to throw away our entire history because we want to use gestural controls," Spector commented, adding, "I hope we keep our perspective a little more rational."

One of gaming's strengths is its capability to appeal even to the most niche audiences, particularly in the modern connected era.

"I have a friend who just lives for his hardcore submarine sims -- him and 5,000 other guys," Spector said. "But now there is a way to reach that specific audience."

"I hope there's still room for the single-player experience," he said. "That's still what I love to do."

Of course, the designer was more than aware of the arguable irony of his motion-based concerns: He's heading up Epic Mickey, a major upcoming Wii game. Spector isn't against motion controls, he stressed, but he hopes motion fever doesn't become too dominant.

"By the way, I'm working on a Wii title and I'm loving it," he said.

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Abdul Rahman Al-Mudaiheem
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Well said.

Kevin Patterson
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I love warren's contributions to gaming, and very much respect the man.

I am hoping that they port epic mickey to other systems, as I would like a chance to play it.

Nick Breckon
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I'd like to see Silent Hunter with motion controls. "To operate the screws, extend your arms and quickly spin in a circle." "Emergency blow! Keep blowing on the microphone, kapitan."

If you're using the Wii as an example, despite the sex appeal of the motion controls, you still see games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Smash Bros. that use a traditional control scheme and do well. I don't see why these schemes can't simply coexist on the same platforms.

Kevin Reese
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We should build on the PowerGlove.

marty howe
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I think there is still a lot we can do with existing controller schemes (innovative integration, simplifying controller input etc)

Take a step back and iterate on what we have right now...

John Mawhorter
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I don't think the industry, for all its talk of the greatness of motion controls (note that this is mostly Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft hyping their own controller), is actually abandoning the joystick and buttons model. We can see with the Wii that motion controls don't work very well for many games or that developers are having a hard time adjusting, but either way most AAA titles are released on PS3 and X360 too without motion controls. And going on, I think we will see people making games for Natal and the Playstation Motion Controller with support for traditional controls as well. Honestly I think Nintendo made a big mistake by not offering a traditional controller for the Wii and forcing devs to have a scheme for it with standards...

Chuan Lim
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Woe! We already 'threw away' 65 million years of human evolution when we invented stick + button controls. If only Nintendo had given us the "Revolution" instead of the Wiimote perhaps there'd be less of a backlash against gestural controls too. For the most part the idea of gestural controls has meant mapping motions 1:1 with their real life counterparts and I wonder if that's an effective use of this technology? For it accomplishes a binary outcome, or the same result as pressing a button. Perhaps there's more interesting stuff to do with the sheer range of possible responses from a player using gestures, and also the degree of finesse or accuracy which could translate to ideas of virtuosity, or even humour.

Even simply being able to let players 'draw' on screen seems like it could be an incredibly rich form of interaction though that kind of mechanic is difficult to 'evaluate' in code apart from the most mundane properties like x / y position on screen. This seems to be how we design and program for games so the hard part may be coming up with design which can encapsulate or encourage 'qualitative' use of gestures. "Crayon Physics" comes to mind as an example of this kind of game though the urge to progress using the same solution can easily overwhelm seeking more creative ones.


On the other hand "Heavy Rain" really shows up the limitations of trying to access emotional realism through traditional movement + button controls where the experience is of being led through what something is supposed to feel like; instead of players feeling first -> then feeding meaning back into the game system through their own agency. I've never had much luck having a meaningful 'conversation' with anyone driving around in my car with a gun, because that's what traditional joystick controls are -- representations of movement, triggers, and now with analog controls: acceleration. Its arguable that PC users are a bit luckier as they have the entire written language at their disposal and I wonder what it might be like to play say an old Infocom game using a Braille keyboard ..

-- Chuan

Jeff Pearson
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I really like the way this guy words stuff. like dont throw out the baby with the bathwater. When I play games nowadays, its more likely to be an old infocom game (im workin on spellbreaker right now) than something new and polished. The new games are missin something the old infocom games had, its like content has been replaced with better graphics etc, instead of the better graphics etc augmenting the content. What i would give for a FPS version of the origanal zork series. Most people probably wouldn't like it though, have to think instead of kill stuff!!!!!!!!!!!

John Petersen
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I still play with a wire attached. I'm not ready to give up traditional gaming, I probably never will be ready. I like veggin' when I play.

A bike is still a bike

A car is still a car

a boat is still a boat

And after all these years, the design still works just fine.

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I'm sure we can have the best of both worlds without need for panic.

Golf games with motion sensing are really cool.

Natal opens up new venues for neat interactions and possibly new audiences.

...and I still love my God of War and Final Fantasy.

The market is diversifying, so what's the problem?

David Serrano
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"... sitting on their couch and having a good time, and knowing where the buttons are -- and we're saying 'You've got to stand up and wave around and gesture'". The man nailed it. This is why I have absolutely no interest in games that use motion control. Nothing against exercise lol... but I prefer to sit and relax while gaming.

Josh Foreman
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I'm not worried about the devs moving away from traditional controllers. The market won't let that happen.