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Randy Pitchford has no interest in next-gen motion control gimmicks
Randy Pitchford has no interest in next-gen motion control gimmicks Exclusive
August 29, 2012 | By Christian Nutt

In a recent Gamasutra interview, Gearbox Studios president Randy Pitchford teased a bit about the developer's next generation plans.

"We've got a few things going on right now that we haven't talked about but that'll appear later," Pitchford said.

Fortunately, Gamasutra was able to continue this conversation. What does he think about the next generation of consoles? Pitchford was very cagey, of course, refusing to make his thoughts known on either of the presumed platforms from Microsoft or Sony.

"I'm always excited by movement forward," Pitchford says. "Some of that comes from iteration with our software, and some of it comes from iteration with hardware, and some of it comes from invention... each new step kind of gives us new tools and new capabilities that always makes the entertainment better, if we use it right."

"More power is always better," says Pitchford. "There's always things we can do that we cannot do today that we can do with more power. So, that's always true."

Choosing his words carefully, he alluded to the fact that the hardware houses are all pushing different solutions on "interfaces and feedback."

"Different people make different stabs. Some of these stabs folks make become standards. Most of the time they're temporary gimmicks," he says. "I donít like getting behind gimmicks."

"I tend to like the things that feel like they can become standards, or steps towards standards."

The studio made the 2008 Wii version of Samba de Amigo for Sega because the developers were fans of the Dreamcast version of the rhythm game, and because it was a chance to experiment with the genre, platform, and "apply shake to something that really should only be shake."

"In the context of what it was for the Wii, it's just fun to shake things for certain experiences. But other experiences, it actually sucks, because you're using shake to emulate something you could better accomplish with a button press or a joystick," says Pitchford.

He acknowledges a future for motion control, but he can't predict it just yet -- nor does doing so interest him. "Who knows what that is? I don't really care," Pitchford says.

"You haven't seen Gearbox do a Kinect -- either a game or a feature -- that is just taking motion control and mapping it to what could've been better done with a button or a joystick movement. But that's not to say that we haven't thought about how you could use what the Kinect does, because it's really awesome," he says.

He does seem, however, to believe that game technology is inexorably moving toward full-body motion control.

"There are so many steps between now and the holodeck, or between now and The Matrix, and any number of those steps could be tested or introduced either as gimmicks or as potentials to new standards in any given hardware attempts. Those are always exciting."

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Ujn Hunter
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Give me buttons or give me death!

Terry Matthes
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Give me a mouse and keyboard or shoot me!

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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I really like Yathzee's explanations on motion controls, and how buttons are the shortest possible connection between intention and in-game action:

This said, there are fun things to do with motion controls, but I dont think anyone expect it to replace controllers for most established genres.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Lol sure thats what they say, but is it what they think ? I tend not to take what public figures say in public very seriously, especially if they have a vested interest in people believing them.

Caleb Garner
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@Mathieu absolutely spot on... its always funny to see how people make sweeping claims about "The future", when that future JUST HAPPENS to be their bread and butter.. Cloud gaming... Motion controllers... DLC... Mobile...

IIRC Zynga was saying to the rest of the game industry... "we're the future"... i don't think anyone thinks that now..

Carlo Delallana
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Funny thing about the future. Given time it becomes the present. Given more time it becomes the past.

Nathan Alexander
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I agree with Pitchford. Shooting for the creation of industry standards puts a studio in a position for industry leadership ( i.e Epics creation of Unreal technology) But I sure would love to see the Holodeck come to fruition. Till then I guess old Next generation episodes will have to suffice.

Carlo Delallana
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Glorious buttons! Technology will move faster than our biology can adapt. Just look at the fascinating (albeit disturbing) "Sensory and Motor Homunculus"

It's fascinating how the proportional display of how we perceive and sense the world could be related to how players experience games. I love the feeling of a fully depressed trigger on the Xbox 360 controller as I play my racing and FPS games. The tensing of muscles from forearm down to the fingers, sensations that heighten the experience of play.

Mark Kilborn
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As someone said earlier, Gearbox makes FPS titles. They don't translate well to motion controls. This is known. So how is this news?

Amir Sharar
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I don't know if it was pressure from Nintendo or SEGA, but the Wii version of Samba de Amigo should have had the physical maracas shipped with the game. Massive potential went to waste with that title.

I can't blame Gearbox (again, possibly publisher decision), but still it's hard to take their opinion on motion controls seriously when they were given a motion control goldmine and it resulted the way it did. Perhaps I'm only making them guilty by association. Still, it's extremely hard to take their opinion seriously until they've clarified what actually happened there.

The end product represented a lack of understanding of what makes motion controls so appealing to users (familiarity, accessibility, and responsiveness). Secondly the fact that Pitchford refers to it as a gimmick demonstrates that he really doesn't understand it himself. Which makes sticking to traditional games a wise plan for Gearbox. Besides, they don't have to dip their feet into every pool, stick to what they understand, and they will do well in it.

k s
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What game did they develop with motion controls?

k s
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@Anthony: Some how I missed that in my first read through :p

Michael DeFazio
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Randy, you are a good dude, and i say this only because i'm a little surprised by his comment... but you say this:
"I donít like getting behind gimmicks."

but previously said this: (With regards to WiiUs extra screen controller)
"For Aliens: Colonial Marines, it's really exciting to have that screen there because I can do things that are very unique to this universe. For instance, we have a motion tracker in this universe. Now our motion tracker can literally be in our hands and we can see and hear it Ėand scan the room in 360 degrees, since it's a motion device."


i'm not trying to harp, but i find myself squarely in the "extra screen is a gimmick until shown essential camp", and i suppose it stuck me as a little strange (unless we consider only motion controls "gimmicky")

Michael DeFazio
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well, assuming he's not being misquoted i'd imagine he doesn't think the extra screen is a "gimmick"

...only thing is that would be like someone guffawing at people who use a jetski to commute to work since it is non-traditional... and yet they themselves use a unicycle to commute to work.

the word "gimmick" (while often used in a derogatory sense) does not have to mean "bad", but rather "new, unique, novel, non-standard", and utilizing a second screen for the things he describes does seem "new, unique, novel and non-standard".

no offense intended, but just thought it's funny he seems to be associating his company and team as "traditionalists" who don't "get behind gimmicks", and yet outsiders who look at these new features may consider them "gimmicks". (truth is in the eye of the beholder i guess)

warren blyth
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Christian Nutt's headline is misleading you. The headline sets you up for the concept that Randy hates motion controls.

But what he's actually saying is they love innovation and are very interested in the different things we'll get in next gen consoles. He would just prefer to back the innovations that will become standards and stay away from the gimmicks. His final quote even suggests that a feature might start as a gimmick, but end up a useful part of where all this is going. Thus he has interest in gimmicks in the long term, and may even like them if they work out. weee!

so. I'd say the article's choppy use of different quotes is also a bit confusing. I'm not sure if Chrisitian is trying to make a story from nothing, or if he's trying to get at something he sensed in Randy (but Randy was too careful to come out and say). MYSTERY!