PlayStation Move vs. Nintendo Wii: Under the Hood

Untapped Potential

Boring technical minutiae aside, does it make any difference? The first titles certainly make it hard to tell.

Playing with the Move feels a lot like playing with the Wii. You punch, your character punches. You swing, your character swings. You dive, your character dives. There’s an extra degree of accuracy, to be sure, but the experience of playing feels much the same.

The real potential might still be left untapped by programmers still stuck in the groove of the Wii.

Anton fires up a technical demo. It takes a live feed of you standing in front of the TV and superimposes virtual objects into your hand. The remote becomes a mallet, a globe, a sword. And every single motion translates fluidly to the screen. You can take a ping-pong paddle and twist it around in your hand, watching the item do the same.

The Wii cannot do this.

In another demo, one controller turns into a spinning tube of clay on screen. The other controller deforms it like a finger on a virtual pottery wheel. In yet another, Anton effortlessly repositions images like posters in 3D space. He can even twist and bend them as if they’re real. After slapping a few down, he turns one controller into a virtual camera, looking around his newly created virtual living room as if he were there, while moving things around with his other hand. You could open a door with one hand and peek behind it with another. Take things apart naturally in 3D space without touching a mouse. Shoot 3D movies the same way you shoot real movies, without awkward camera controls.

The Camera Problem

Relying on a camera for input has its downfalls. As the sun sets on Seattle, blades of sunlight fan through the upper windows across windows and walls. Sun-starved Northwesterners rejoice. Sony developers cringe.

The Move systems near the sun have stopped working. While workers outside scramble to tape butcher paper over the offending windows, a live camera feed on screen betrays the problem. To Sony’s EyeToy camera, the entire room is bathed in white, including the relatively weak LED-lit indicator balls on the Move remotes. Without this simple visual cue – so easily washed out by a setting sun – the system is paralyzed.

There’s no less precise Wii mode to revert to – it’s all or none. When your system can’t see the ball, it’s game over.

A Question of Code

Boxing, bubble-popping and virtual golf have been done. While Sony has developed what may become the most accurate, precise motion control game console in the world when it launches this fall, it may also tread dangerously close to its classic misstep: prioritizing realism and power over fun.

Will developers rise to the challenge of harnessing the Move’s most promising abilities? Like car designers building a car around one of the most potent engines ever developer, the success of failure ultimately depends on what they do with it.

We’ll wait and see.

For more on the PlayStation Move check out Hands On and Swinging with the PlayStation Move.

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