Last time we posted an excerpt from our chat wit Sony’s worldwide studios boss Phil Harrison, he told us about his views on the controversial Blu-Ray drive. This time out, we asked him about another hotly debated topic - the new control pad, which looks much like a wireless version of the old DUAL SHOCK 2 pad, but actually lacks the very feature which gave that pad its name, namely the rumble motor. Instead, it packs in a system which can sense how you’re tilting and moving the pad - hence the new name, SIXAXIS.
That’s all very well, but players accustomed to the rumble functionality for nearly ten years were outraged when Sony dropped the feature. So has the company had second thoughts about the decision to ditch rumble?
“None whatsoever,” Harrison tells us firmly. “Not at all.”
Well, that’s confident. So what makes him so certain that the SIXAXIS pad is better than its predecessor, despite lacking the force feedback?
“I think that the next generation interfaces that can be created built on SIXAXIS motion sensitivity give tremendous gameplay benefits that far outweigh a reactive vibration function,” he explains. “The vibration function is the game sending a single channel of feedback to the player - six axis of input puts the player in control in a much richer, deeper way. So, game design can go in much more interesting directions as a result of that than from receiving a single input from the game itself.”
Fair enough, but there’s a rather obvious counter-point to that - couldn’t Sony have built both rumble and motion sensing into the same pad? A company called Immersion, which makes rumble and force feedback technology, fanned the flames of controversy by pointing out that contrary to mutterings from Sony, this is perfectly possible, technically - so why doesn’t the SIXAXIS pad make everyone happy by doing both things?
“I think the caveat to that statement always has to be based on the fact that when we make a pad, we’re making maybe 150, 200 million of them,” Harrison tells us. “So it has to be done at a price, and it has to be done at a volume that fits our production requirements. I think the decision that we’ve made to build in the SIXAXIS functionality, and Bluetooth wireless, and great battery life, and all the other functionality that comes with it, far outweighs the chatter that we’re getting on vibration. And, it’s incredibly light! Just pick it up!”
Whatever about the questions of cost and volume - granted, it’s nice to see a straight answer on that front, and we’d rather not see hugely expensive controllers on the system, but a lot of players might be happy to pay a premium to get rumble back - he’s certainly got a point about the weight of the pad. Picking it up, it’s feather-light - so much so that we’d be convinced that it was just a hollow plastic model, if we hadn’t been playing MotorStorm with it only minutes previously. It feels great to hold and play games with - but only individual gamers will be able to judge if they’re happy with the shake and rattle being sacrificed for the roll.
By Rob Fahey (Eurogamer.net)