Controlling nextgen moves for PlayStation 4

February 18, 2013  17:38 · no Comments

PlayStation Event blog post 1

This week (Wednesday 20th) Sony COULD reveal PlayStation 4, or just a swanky new DualShock. Either way, what do the leaked photos of various peripherals hint towards for an eventual new system and should we like it?

There’s a warped part of me that hopes this hyped PlayStation announcement is merely for a new Move controller. A theory that would be vindicated by the leaked photos of the DualShock-like prototype published by Destructoid and All Games Beta last week. So what did it tell us?

Well the telltale blue light suggested that if this is indeed the new pad for the PlayStation 4 that Sony hasn’t ditched its clunky answer to Microsoft’s Kinect. There’s just something decidedly old tech about waving coloured bulb in front of a webcam and although I’ve enjoyed brief dalliances with PlayStation Move, it doesn’t feel befitting of any platform labelled nextgen.

PS4 controller prototype

A possible PS4 controller prototype snapped during Betamax testing phase

Then there’s the touchpad. How many times have you felt incapacitated by a game’s controls, hankering after a touchpad? I’d argue this mode of control was why my gaming life on tablet and smartphone was short-lived. In time and practical application it may prove to be similar to the transition from SNES-style D-pad to Analog thumbsticks, in short revolutionary, but at the moment it feels forced.

This may provide the biggest hint that the Vita will be rebranded as a premium PlayStation 4 controller, backed up perhaps by the latest price reductions on the product. How much data is available regarding Vita player’s employment of the device’s rear touchpad is unknown, but it would be interesting to note.

A subsequent report from Gamechup.com has revealed possible plans for Sony to go even further. A patent application for a tablet device optimistically dubbed the PlayStation Eyepad could be seen as a Move upgrade for virtual game control. Essentially a 3D scanner which uses cameras to track objects or hand gestures directed above, it also features regular buttons for use as normal controller.

PS Eyepad patent drawing

Artist impression of what the Xperia Play phone should have looked like in 2011

One of the worries here with technology in general in fact is the way commercially proven trends are leapt on so voraciously. Genuine user requirements and human ergonomics along with psychology don’t tend to drive innovation and engineering. Instead ‘cool’ features are bastardised from one product to another without proving much worth.

In the console market this raises issues when the software is forced to exploit device capabilities, rather than having hardware react to what games developers are doing creatively. Let’s hope Sony has taken time to ask the studios and publishers about what they need from a nextgen platform and provides the tools they desire most.

“Nextgen for most is still defined by jaw-dropping visuals and the potential that has for richer storytelling and immersive experiences.”

Another challenge Sony faces with PlayStation 4, and to some extent Microsoft with Xbox 720, is that they have an established niche within the mature gaming market. Many will hope they continue largely to eschew the Nintendo Wii and Wii U markets and focus energies at adult consumers and experienced players.

This is where the Wii-style controller microphone and touchpad could worry slightly when it comes to the kind of avenues PlayStation 4 may look to exploit.

For sure we want robust entertainment capabilities with Blu-ray, internet, home sharing and social connectivity but ultimately its about processing power, graphics and games. Nextgen for most is still defined by jaw-dropping visuals and the potential that has for richer storytelling and immersive experiences.

It is not and will never be about fancy touch-sensitive peripherals or the mechanics of how my commands are interpreted. Ultimately if the game stinks, it stinks and if you’re conscious of how you are playing it then something is wrong.

What do think about these controller clues as to where PlayStation 4 could be headed, are you excited or confused?

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