Special Session: Jump! Shout! Dance! Sing!
An interactive conversation about games, game art, and play, that goes way beyond the joystick
Jump! Shout! Dance! Sing! was the first Special Session of the conference and turned out to be, as promised, “very interactive.” It was amazing to see how far game controllers and interactivity has advanced since the invention of the joystick. There have been great leaps and bounds in the gaming industry and the future for gamers looks delightfully promising. In this session, the cheerful and light-hearted moderator, Alex Pham, kept the event in order as the five panelists presented the latest in game interactivity.
Henry LaBounta, the visual effects master currently working as Senior Art Director at Electronic Arts Canada, presented a beautifully realistic scene of two boxers fighting. It was a good example of motion capture, using two professional boxers. The models and textures themselves were said to be so exact that even the pores on their faces matched those of the actual boxers. The most amazing thing is that it was all done in real-time and could be easily handled on the PlayStation 3.
Habib Zargarpour, also from Electronic Arts, demonstrated the X Box 360 game Need for Speed, which will be shipped this November. The developers worked to balance visual quality and the need to maintain a substantial frame rate. Habib showed off his daring driving skills as he played the game live. The graphics were impressive, especially considering the extensive game map and amazing lighting effects. This included the ability to adjust lighting on the fly to change the time of day within the game map.
Greg LoPiccolo, who has worked on Looking Glass Studio’s excellent games System Shock and Thief, was next on the roster. A skilled bassist and song writer, even he was put to the test using a new guitar-like controller (while playing along to an intense David Bowie song). The controller consists of 5 different colored buttons on the guitar neck, a strummer, and a whammy bar. The object of the game was to strum in the same pattern as the music being played, while also pressing the correct buttons at the correct time. It’s relatively easy to understand, but not so easy to do. However, Greg played well enough to avoid being booted off the stage.
Richard Marks, who was involved in the development of Sony Playstation’s Eye Toy, excited the audience with some amazing new developments. The newest version of Eye Toy is much smaller and will allow for head movements to control the player’s movements during a game. This is especially useful for leaning around corners in first person shooter games. Such controls, which previously took up 20% of the CPU in the PS2, will now take up less than 1% of the PS3 CPU. Richard also showed off the Minority Report-like “clam” controller. This virtual mouse, which was sponge-like in appearance, can be used to scroll though a gallery of images or to quickly move a variety of objects on screen.
Fred Swan, Logitech leader, introduced the new GT Force Pro steering wheel, which is currently the most realistic steering wheel controller. It allows for 900 degree turns, which is a real breakthrough in controller design. An even more impressive feature is Force Feedback, which is a vast improvement on the outdated vibrating packs. Force Feedback motors give off realistic feedback to the steering wheel, such as resistance based on how fast the in-game vehicle is moving, what kind of turn is being made, and what sort of surface the vehicle is driving on.
Lastly, Michael McHale, Senior Producer at Konami, had some very interactive and exciting games to show off. First, he demonstrated Beat Mania’s DJ style simulation by trying to keep up with a fast-paced remix of the Metal Gear Solid theme. Then, Michael had a volunteer come up to try out the new Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2, which uses the traditional DDR pad along with the Eye Toy. For the last act, Michael showed off his astounding abilities using Karaoke Revolution Party. In this game, the player sings into a microphone and their pitch is recorded and compared to the pitch of the actual song. The player is then rewarded points for accuracy. After singing, “What I Like About You,” Michael tried the Sing and Dance Mode (where the DDR pad, the microphone, and the Eye Toy are all part of the game). The audience had some good laughs while Michael did his best to keep up with the beat and lyrics.
Jump! Shout! Dance! Sing! provided an enlightening view into the future of video game interaction. It will be exciting to see what creative ways these new developments will be implemented into the latest video games.