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The success of the Wii has brought a lot of attention to motion-based game controls. Sony and Microsoft are undoubtedly working on their own motion-control systems right at this moment, but Motus, a company started by a team of MIT grads out in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has already demonstrated a new controller that has the potential to bring motion control to any gaming platform.
The engineers at Motus were able to develop its Darwin controller relatively quickly because they spent years learning about motion-sensing technology while developing their first product, the iClub, a hardware and software package designed for golf instruction. The Darwin controller shares the familiar wandlike shape of the vanilla Wii Remote, but has more internal sensors that promise superior performance.
We had a chance to speak with Motus CEO Satayan Mahajan to find out more about the Darwin controller and the company's plans to bring it to market.
GameSpot: What exactly is the Darwin?
Satayan Mahajan: The Darwin controller is basically a motion-based controller that is competitive to the Wii, designed for the platforms other than the Wii--Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.
GS: What kind of hardware does the controller feature? Accelerometers, gyroscopes?
SM: It's both accelerometers and gyroscopes, and magnetometers. All three of those combined in very clever ways give us what we believe are better capabilities than the Wiimote.
GS: Nintendo recently announced the Wii MotionPlus accessory, which reportedly has three internal gyroscopes. Will the new add-on bring the Wii Remote closer to the Darwin?
SM: I think it should be a lot closer to the Darwin. It's still missing the magnetometers, so it's still a system that needs that IR strip to figure out where it is, whereas the Darwin is completely self-contained. If I'm not mistaken, there were a number of postings and blogs, and we've been hearing through our friends and family, so to speak, that the Wii MotionPlus was a response to the Darwin.
When a few people told us that, we thought, "How realistic is that? Here we are, this little company with 15 to 20 guys in Cambridge, Massachusetts." Oddly enough, blogs and little postings started popping up everywhere, and we thought, "Well, maybe there's some truth to it." Though it doesn't really affect us.
GS: We already know about accelerometers and gyroscopes, but what's a magnetometer?
SM: A magnetometer decides on its orientation and tells you its position relative to the Earth's magnetic field.
GS: How sensitive is it? Can it sense the movement of an inch?
SM: Sure. Yeah, it's very precise.
GS: How's the latency for the Darwin? On the Wii, there's a small but noticeable delay between moving the Wii Remote and seeing the onscreen response.
SM: Gamers that have been playing with [the Darwin] have had no visible latency. We have minimal latency because we come from a very different space where we were originally a sports product and technology company. In that space, where you're doing real-time athletic measurements, you really can't have any latency.
If you look at Motus' company, we were born out of this very high-end, scientific tool, and we brought it down the slope to gaming where the application isn't as, I don't want to say brutal, but I'm probably going to find out that it is, but just not as tough. At the high end you're taking tour athletes in golf and other sports and you really have to worry about their minute concerns, and it's a little less so in games, let's just say that.
GS: Would you say that the Darwin hardware would be less powerful or precise than your golf peripheral?
SM: No, believe it or not, it's the exact same stuff--it's very similar to what we've done in our golf technology applications. We've added buttons and created a new set of software, but it's based on similar technology.
GS: You must have a high polling rate on the controller to be able to accurately detect a golf swing.
SM: That's correct, the resolution is exceptionally high. Everything occurs in a second and a half.
GS: Could you bring that over to the consoles?
SM: It would be overkill for consoles, but, yes, you could. I don't know if people would want that granular level of data, but it's available to them if they want it.
GS: But wouldn't it be nice to play a game of, say, Top Spin tennis where the game can actually detect your grip and model your swing perfectly?
SM: I think so. One of the nice things that we like about the Wii is that it's really paved the way for us to do this. We started in this space years ago, back in 2000-2001. We thought of a game controller, of a Star Wars lightsaber, but people didn't believe in it. Wii has done a fantastic job for us. Thirty million Wiis later and they've created a market, and now you're seeing some real response to what we're doing.
GS: One of the biggest challenges for any third-party peripheral manufacturer is generating software support. How do you guys plan on getting games to support the Darwin?
SM: Believe it or not, when we came into this space, it wasn't Satayan and his group of guys saying, "Hey, guys. The Wii has done really well. Let's start making game controllers." It was actually a phone call that we got from a publisher. They needed to convert their successful Wii titles over to other platforms, and they felt that the only way to do that was through motion. Almost a year ago to the day, they came to us and asked, "Can you build this for us?" And so, we will be launching a few titles with them over the next few years.
GS: Will you be announcing this partnership soon?
SM: I hope so. Everyone's chomping at the bit, and I feel really bad when I get these phone calls where I can't say anything. Obviously, everyone asks, "Are you working with Microsoft, are you working with Sony, are you working with this company, are you working with that company?" And I'm like, guys, I can't tell you because if I was working with them I'd be under a nondisclosure agreement. You know, we're just really happy to be in this space, and we're honored that people in the gaming industry would ask us to join and create something that I think everyone is going to be happy about.
GS: Many of the people who have played with the Wii have likely noticed that the controller tracking could stand to be crisper and more accurate. The Wii Remote was a good start, but it seems as though we'll need a more powerful controller to get the motion-control games we want to play.
SM: I'm honored that you feel that way. Everyone we talk to expects us to bash the Wii, and all I can say are good things about them. I think they've done so many wonderful things on so many wonderful levels. There are kids, American kids like myself, that now have a way to not be fat anymore, and that's fantastic. It's fantastic that you can get kids off the couch and get them moving. I think they've done a wonderful job. We're just ready to take it to the next level.
GS: You're not ready to talk about software partnerships yet, but can you talk about availability and pricing?
SM: We think that the target price will be between $79 and $100, and that will range a little based on what it's bundled with, and our launch goal will be this spring--again, it's going to be partner-dependent, where they see their games coming out, that sort of thing, but that's our goal here at Motus.
GS: Thanks, Satayan!
Maybe I didn't watch enough Reading Rainbow as a kid, but whenever I pick up Nintendo's Mario Kart racing wheel, I only see a circular hunk of plastic with a big hole in the middle. It looks like Logitech has a new wireless racing wheel for players cursed with limited imaginative capabilities such as myself.
The Logitech Speed Force Wireless wheel sits in your lap and behaves as a wheel should by providing gravitational and rotational resistance. Logitech partnered up with EA to support force-feedback in the publisher's upcoming Need for Speed Undercover racing game for the Wii. The wheel doesn't come with a set of foot pedals or a shift stick, but it does have a set of paddle shifters.
The wheel comes with a 2.4GHz wireless USB transmitter that plugs into the Wii. The console interface may be wireless, but you will still need to plug the wheel into an AC electrical outlet for power.
Expect to see the Logitech Speed Force Wireless in stores for $100 this November, just in time for Need for Speed Undercover.
Sony has just announced a trio of new hardware products today at the Leipzig Games Convention including a new 160GB PlayStation 3 bundle, new PSP-3000 bundles, and a PS3 Wireless Keypad.
The 160GB PlayStation 3 will come in a limited-edition bundle packaged with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, a PlayStation Network download voucher for PAIN, and a DualShock 3 wireless gamepad. The bundle will ship in November for $499, which is the same asking price as the current 80GB PlayStation 3 Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle.
Sony's second major announcment is that it's releasing new PSP Entertainment packs that include an upgraded PSP-3000 system. According to Sony, the new PSP will have a built-in microphone and an upgraded LCD screen with "a wider color gamut and higher contrast ratio to deliver deeper, more vibrant colors, as well as anti-reflection technology." The built-in microphone is a welcome addition because you currently need a headset to use communication services such as Skype and Go!Messenger on the older PSP systems.
The new PSP will be packaged with a Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters PSP Entertainment Pack and a new PSP 4GB Memory Entertainment Pack. The Ratchet & Clank package will include a silver PSP, a 1GB memory stick, a yet to be named UMD movie, and a PlayStation Network download voucher for echochrome. The Rachet & Clank pack will ship this October at the familiar $199 price point and expect the PSP-3000 to slip into the $169 PSP Core Pack later this year.
The last major hardware announcement is a new Bluetooth wireless keypad accessory for the PlayStation 3. The PS3 Wireless Keypad, designed to fit onto a DualShock 3 or Sixaxis gamepad, will give players an easy way to enter text on the PS3. Expect the PS3 Wireless Keypad to arrive this November.
Microsoft revealed a couple of new SideWinder hardware products for the PC today at the Leipzig Games Convention. We were able to get some hands-on time with the new hardware in advance during a special press briefing.
SideWinder X5 Mouse
Gamers looking for a no-frills gaming mouse will want to check out the SideWinder X5. The X5 features the same optical internals and excellent side buttons as the original SideWinder Mouse introduced last year, but Microsoft has trimmed down on the feature set to make the X5 more affordable.
Gone are the LCD display, macro record button, removable weight system, and replaceable mouse feet. The new mouse also has a blacked-out look for gamers who fear color. The SideWinder X5 Mouse will available this September for $59.
SideWinder X6 Keyboard
The gaming mouse always functions as the little harbinger for the keyboard. As soon as Microsoft announced the original SideWinder Mouse, you knew that a keyboard was on its way.
The biggest feature on the SideWinder X6 is its moveable keypad. It functions as a mild-mannered numpad when sitting on the right-hand side of the keyboard, but if you move it over to the left-hand side of the board, the buttons will transform into a big macro pad for gaming. Moving the pad back and forth also has the potential to provide hours of amusement because it snaps into place with the magical power of magnets.
Other hardware upgrades include large knobs for backlight and volume controls and a quick-launch button for the Windows Games Explorer. The board also has a new "cruise control" feature that lets you program buttons for the keyboard to hold down for you (we didn't have the heart to tell them what numlock does in World of Warcraft).
The X6 can support up to three profile modes, with 30 customizable keys for each mode. You can also create custom profiles for games. For example, when you launch Team Fortress 2, the keyboard will automatically detect the game application and switch profiles accordingly. Users can save up to three profiles per game for multiple people or for specialized class play. The SideWinder X6 Keyboard will also be available this September for $79.
PS3 owners planning to get the new Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour games (and possibly, Rock Revolution) can hold off on clearing out living room space to accomodate several sets of incompatible music peripherals. Sony has just announced in its PlayStation Blog that it's worked with Harmonix, Neversoft, Konami, and Activision to ensure "a basic level of gameplay compatibility" between the guitar and drum peripherals in all of the games. Here's the block quote from Sony director of publisher relations, Michael Shorrock:
For the most part, this means that the titles with musical peripherals will work with the other's software. A few specific examples include: Guitar Hero: World Tour's guitars and drums will work with Rock Band 2 and Konami's Rock Revolution software.
And yes, you guessed it, Rock Band 2's guitar and drum set will work with Guitar Hero: World Tour and with Rock Revolution.
Conversely, Rock Revolution's drum set will work with both Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2.
In addition, Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2 will both support the SingStar microphones.
This agreement currently doesn't guarantee peripheral cross-compatibility in existing games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero 3, but Shorrock hopes "to have an announcement on that shortly."
Wii systems have taken another step forward in catching up to the multimedia capabilities of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Homebrew programmers have released a set of installation files that will enable DVD video playback on the Wii through MPlayer, an open source media player. The program also has experimental SD card playback support according to the blog post. Apologies to our new CBS overlords, but the Desperate Housewives DVD was the only one I could find near editor Chris Watters' desk.
[Engadget via TehSkeen]
Epic Games hasn't been a huge fan of Intel graphics. As you may remember, Epic Games executive Mark Rein has blamed Intel for crippling the gaming-capabilities of a large portion of the PC market by shackling systems with sub-par integrated graphics. Will Intel's graphics-capable Larrabee processor be more of the same or can we expect more out of Intel's latest hardware?
We caught up with Tim Sweeney, Epic Games founder, chief architect, and the man in charge of Unreal Engine development to get his thoughts on Larrabee. Intel's Larrabee-based graphics release is still over a year away, but it looks like the chip already has an important fan out in North Carolina.
GameSpot: Do you think that Larrabee represents where GPUs are going in the future?
Tim Sweeney: Yes. I believe the ability to replace large parts of the fixed-function pipeline, or bypass it entirely with a software-based renderer running on the GPU, will be the key to future rendering features. While the current GPU model has enabled an amazing 1000X increase in graphics performance, I remain mindful of the flexibility and potential for new features that we left behind at the end of the software rendering era in the late 1990's.
GS: What about Larrabee excites you the most and why?
TS: The most exciting opportunity for Larrabee is the possibility of Intel moving it down to the mid-range and low-end over time. If Larrabee eventually displaces Intel Integrated Graphics, that would bring compelling graphics to the masses. Intel could become a real force for good in the graphics market, which -- to be blunt -- hasn't been the case in recent years.
GS: Do you think that Larrabee would make sense for next-generation game consoles?
Intel held a press conference this past Friday to give journalists the first look at its upcoming Larrabee architecture ahead of the technology's official "coming out" in a technical discussion at next week's Siggraph 2008 conference.
Intel's Larry Seiler, senior principal engineer in the visual computing group, led the presentation. Seiler shared Larrabee's basic architectural details, but stopped short of divulging any specific product information such as processor counts or clock speeds.
Seiler calls Larrabee a "many-core x86 architecture" that combines the programmability of the CPU with the parallelism of the GPU. The GPU manufacturers have made huge advances in making several of the fixed-function steps in the graphics pipeline programmable, but many parts of the pipeline are still fixed.
Larrabee can rid the pipeline of the fixed function logic because it uses an array of x86 processing cores that can be controlled with a software renderer. Current GPUs have to let some hardware sit idle if the graphics workload composition doesn't match up with the chip's capabilities. Switching to fully functional processors and moving control to software will make more efficient use of the GPU because the system can allocate resources to better match up with the graphics workload.
Intel is targeting the consumer graphics market for its initial Larrabee rollout. Larrabee will be fully compatible with OpenGL and DirectX games, as the chip can mimic the traditional graphics pipeline with programmable software.
Larrabee will also have a tile-based renderer that can take advantage of the chip's L2 cache to reduce bandwidth requirements.
Developers will also have the option to write code specifically for Larrabee if they want to implement additional application features or graphics that might not run as efficiently in the standard graphics pipeline.
Because it's an array of processors, Larrabee will also be well-suited for all of the highly parallel processing applications that Nvidia and AMD are currently targeting with their respective CUDA and GPGPU initiatives.
Expect to see the first Larrabee-based graphics products in 2009 or 2010.It's too early to predict how well Larrabee graphics processors will perform against Nvidia and AMD GPUs at launch, but several Intel engineers told GameSpot that they're well aware that performance will have to be competitive in order for them to build up the large installation base they'll need to justify the project.
Rock Band 2 clearly commands a great deal of attention at E3 2008, but the unsung heroes of the game are its peripherals. Of course, being a hardware guy, I feel that way about all doodads. But in this case, the guitars, mics, and drums really do contribute to the feel of the game. So when we found out that Harmonix partnered with Mad Catz for peripherals, we were totally thrown for a loop.
Most of us know Mad Catz for their budget oriented controllers. However, both companies stated in no uncertain terms that all products related to Rock Band will be made with the utmost quality in mind. We were told that around eighty percent of Mad Catz's resources were thrown at perfecting Rock Band related products. The folks at Harmonix also said that there had been lots of back and forth between the companies. Mad Catz plans to release an entire line of premium Rock Band peripherals, and even some totally new designs that are exclusive to them.
Mad Catz decided to utterly blanket the Rock Band franchise with products. You'll find bass guitars, guitars, portable drum kits, premium guitars, and premium mics in their stable of products. We got to see a few of the products, but we couldn't play with them.
The company partnered with Fender to make full size replicas of the guitar and the bass. Both will be made from actual Fender bodies, and will have the full heft of a real guitar. The bass guitar will also feature dual strum bars to replicate the manner in which bass guitarists actually play. The over engineering of these guitars became readily apparent when we were told that these guitars were meant to handle up to 2.5 million presses before failure; standard Rock Band controllers fail after 1.5 million presses. Expect these full size replicas to cost a few hundred dollars.
We got to take a peek at the wired Portable Drum Kit. The kit doesn't have a stand, but that's what makes it portable. The four drum pads have suction cups on their backs to keep them stable on table tops and level surfaces. Mad Catz states that the drums should be good for up to one million hits. The accompanying kick pedal also folds up flat for easy transport. The company even thought to include two collapsible drum sticks.
The Premium M.I.C. adds a much needed control interface to the microphone. The wired microphone has a full set of Xbox 360 related buttons that run vertically along the side of it. Playing any other game with the microphone would be ludicrous but it's perfect for navigating the menus in Rock Band. There's even a switch that locks the buttons to prevent accidental presses during play.
Mad Catz will also be the only producer of cymbals for the Rock Band drum kits. You'll be able purchase a single cymbal for $15, or a set of three for $30. The cymbal kits will come with extension poles, clamps and colored wingnuts to match the color of the drum kit.
With any luck these products live up to our hopes. We're pretty sure they will after the level of trust and commitment we witnessed from both Harmonix and Mad Catz.
At E3 2008, Novint came to show off their new Pistol Grip for the Falcon controller. We covered the Novint Falcon in depth a little earlier this month. If you're not familiar with the Falcon, the realistic tactile feedback is its biggest selling point. The controller simulates the kickback of guns so you know if you're firing a shotgun or a Magnum. The controller even does a great job of simulating different walks, runs, and jumps, amongst many other effects.
Our preliminary experiences with the Pistol Grip made us rethink the product greatly. As the name suggests, the Pistol Grip is indeed shaped like a gun. It has a working trigger button, as well as three side buttons. We got to try out the grip on Half Life 2 and really got into the game's feel and movement much more so than when we tried out the Falcon with its default ball-like grip. The pistol shape better fit our hand which made turning and aiming much easier. The Pistol Grip will be available for $20, or you can opt to purchase a bundle that includes the Falcon, the Pistol Grip and Valve's Orange Box for $150.
Logitech already has the Driving Force GT Wheel for the PlayStation 3, but sometimes you just don't have the space or the budget to handle the official wheel of Gran Turismo. PS3 racing fans looking for a more affordable wheel with fewer wires will want to consider Logitech's new Driving Force Wireless.
The Driving Force Wireless takes up far less space than the GT because Logitech has pared down the controller to a single wheel that sits in your lap. The wheel still has force feedback, so you'll need to plug the unit into an AC outlet though the wheel itself doesn't need to be wired to the console.
The wheel works with both the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 2. You just need an open USB port for the wheel's 2.4 GHz wireless receiver. The wheel has a small compartment in the back to hold the USB wireless dongle when it's time toput away the wheel.
The Driving Force Wireless will be available this August for about a hundred bucks.
Homer and I caught up with the Nyko guys over in West Hall at the LA Convention Center. They briefed us on the new accessories they announced for the show, the Media Hub+ and new Intercooler TS units for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The Media Hub+ is Nyko's new port expansion unit for the PlayStation 3. The hub uses a precious USB slot on your PS3 but it's a good investment because the unit provides three additional USB ports and a memory card reader compatible with memory sticks and SD memory cards. The Media Hub+ basically gives back the two USB ports and memory card reader Sony stripped from the 40 GB PlayStation 3.
Most gamers are probably already familiar with Nyko's Intercooler line of console climate control devices. The first generation models raised questions about voiding product warranties because they pulled power from the consoles through a USB connection, but Nyko has addressed that issue with its new Intercooler TS line by switching from USB over to external AC power.
The "TS" stands for TempSmart, the new temperature sensing technology that activates the fans when temperatures are high. The new intercoolers will also keep running even after the system is powered down until the sensors decide that temperatures have fallen to an acceptable level.
The Media Hub+ ships in August, and the two Intercooler TS models will arrive a month later in September.
Sleek curves, sweaty hands, and shallow pockets can add hidden dangers to the portable gaming experience. You never know when the PSP or DS Lite is going to attempt that leap to freedom, so it's no surprise that there are plenty of PSP and DS protective cases available on the market.
Logitech's PlayGear Pocket case line has been a popular choice for gamers and the company has just announced new cases for the PSP Slim and the Nintendo DS Lite for release this August.
The Logitech PlayGear Slim Pocket Slim fits the new PSP-2000 perfectly and even has extra space to accommodate systems that have the PSP extended battery. Owners can also design and print out their own custom skins to slide beneath the translucent case to add some personality to their systems.
Logitech spent over a year designing the PlayGear Pocket Lite for the Nintendo DS Lite. They came up with a smartly-designed carrying case that covers most of the system in a protective polycarbonate shell while providing a couple of openings for the ports and stylus.
You can store up to four DS cards in the top half of the case, and, as with the Pocket Slim, you can also personalize the Pocket Lite with customized skins.
The PlayGear Pocket Slim will retail for $15, but the PlayGear Pocket Lite will come in for a little bit more at $20.
Animal Crossing: City Folk is getting all sorts of new accessories. We covered the WiiSpeak microphone yesterday and today we have the Logitech Cordless Keyboard for Wii. Animal Crossing, between all the fruit gathering and fish catching, can be a text-intensive game if you're good about chatting with friends and writing letters to your neighbors begging them not to leave your town.
The wireless keyboard is also great for browsing the Web on the Wii's Internet Channel. The keyboard also has several Wii-specific keys such as zoom-in, zoom-out, forward, back, OK, and quit that make navigation easier without having the Wiimote in hand all of the time.
The keyboard requires two AA batteries and you will need an open USB port on your Wii for the board's wireless dongle. The board will be available in August with a $50 MSRP.
We got a chance to get a better look at the new WiiSpeak microphone peripheral at Nintendo's West Hall meeting room. Nintendo had an Animal Crossing : City Folk demo system running with the WiiSpeak peripheral installed.
The demo station had the speaker sitting on top of the television, above the Wii sensor bar. The device plugs into one of the open USB ports in the rear of the console. Wii owners can use the microphone to chat with existing Wii Friends and in games such as Animal Crossing.
We didn't get a chance to check out the voice quality on the microphone because the person visiting our town didn't have a WiiSpeak on her end of the network, but she was able to type in responses to the random chatter and questions we asked out loud from our side.
The WiiSpeak microphone will be sold as a standalone product with a $30 MSRP. It should be available at the same time as Animal Crossing: City Folk, which currently has a Nov. 16 release date.
I was emailing with GameSpot UK's very own Alex Sassoon Coby this morning about a few entries he wanted to do for the hardware blog.
Alex: I'll send some copy over tomorrow so you can make sure it fits with the voice you want that blog to have, and we can move on from there.
Me: No need to rush it. You can send it over on Monday if you want. Everyone over here will be celebrating that whole liberation from taxation without representation thing tomorrow.
Alex: Ah yes! I forgot it was the day we celebrated getting rid of the colonials tomorrow. Joy.
Have a happy Independence/Yank-Riddance Day, everyone. We'll be back with more hardware next week!
The Novint Falcon is a controller unlike any other. It's shaped like half a large egg with three arms connected to a small ball. The main egg-like structure houses the large motors and arms, all of which control its complicated haptic gear. The controller brings a whole new level of tactile feedback to games. Instead of just vibrating with various levels of rumble, the Novint Falcon attempts to replicate the real-life feel of weapons, movement, and events. Shotgun blasts have a strong recoil, whereas machine gun fire is peppered with lots of small pushes from the arms. Jumps give you a momentary feeling of weightlessness, and curbs actually represent something more than a visual change when you're playing. But the extra sensation doesn't come cheap, as the Falcon retails for $190.
We tried the Falcon on the bundled games that ship with the controller and with Half-Life 2: Episode One. The vast majority of the games that work with the Falcon are of Novint's own creation. Unfortunately, they're also of shareware-level quality. The bundle includes a few basic sports games like golf, bowling, and table tennis. Newton's Monkey Business is a collection of minigames that include events like racing and archery. They make decent use of the Falcon's range of motion, but none of them provide a great experience when it comes to tactile feedback.
Novint already has plans to make modifications for more mainstream titles such as Battlefield 2142, Battlefield 2, and Need for Speed ProStreet, among others. The company also recently announced a deal with Valve to build Falcon support into several games including Counter-Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and the Half-Life 2 episodes.
Our experiences with Half-Life 2: Episode One were mixed. We liked the feedback the controller provided, but we felt hindered by its limited range of motion. The Falcon's feedback response lets you feel the ground as you walk and climb to different elevations. Hopping down to a ledge actually felt like a drop, as the motors momentarily let go and the resulting effect was remarkably similar to being in a state of free fall. As with any fall, the landing was a big part of the experience. The motors kicked in and jerked the arms violently to simulate the buckling of knees and the impact of landing on firm ground. The Novint also had great effects for several of the weapons. We could actually tell the difference between firing the regular handgun versus the .357 Magnum; the former had some recoil, but a big gun like the .357 blasted our arms backward with great force. However, other weapons such as the RPG offered no sensations at all.
For all the tactile benefits, the control scheme was painful. Prolonged use (anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes) will tire your arm out quickly. The little nub of a ball isn't particularly comfortable to hold, and the buttons are a poor substitute compared to those found on a mouse. Aiming the cursor wasn't too difficult, but quickly doing so was. Whereas the mouse travels on only two planes (the x and y), the Falcon makes you deal with the z, depth. The extra plane of movement is unnecessary to the gameplay and acts to complicate simple movements. We'd also have to fight with the arms from time to time to get the ball to move in the right direction, making turning a bit more complicated. Turning around quickly also proved difficult. With a moderate amount of sensitivity we'd hit the movement limits of the arms, and then an automated turn would kick in. We could up the sensitivity and turn speed, but the turn and movement never felt as clean or as quick as a mouse twitch. You're dead meat in a game like Counter-Strike, where executing quick 180s to see what's behind you isn't an option. The first-person shooter game genre isn't the Falcon's strong suit.
The gaming scene is littered with the carcasses of innovative gamepads, joysticks, and other control mechanisms. Many controllers introduce a new gameplay mechanic, but whenever you use existing games to demo your controller, it's going to be compared to the traditional input devices associated with those games. If the new controller doesn't let you play the game as well as the traditional controllers, that new controller isn't going to be a viable option.
The Falcon is an interesting controller that can offer a compelling haptics experience, but it's a device very much in need of a killer app, a game that can take full advantage of its capabilities.