Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Game Design: Force Feedback

So I've officially given up (for now) on Kingdom Hearts and moved on to KH2. I know...I'm such a glutton for punishment...but to be fair...they DID clean up some things in KH2 like being able to skip cutscenes (bless you) and some way cooler fighting animations and stuff. And the gummi ship crap isn't as crappy anymore AND...

Right analog stick controls the camera. *tears of joy* Thank you!

But that's not what I wanted to write about today. While playing the game and watching cutscenes I began to notice how much that darn controller buzzed or "rumbled". I thought...when did this become cool?

Looking Back
I want to say arcade games were the ones that provided more of the "force feedback". That made them cool. You're sitting in a driving chair for a car racing game where it shakes when you bump something. Or the gun has some realistic throw back in a shooting game. Bringing this same subtle rumble into the home systems may have started pretty early, but the first one I really remember is the N64 Rumble pack.

It was an optional accessory. And it would vibrate the controller in certain games. Since then, it had become standard and built into game controllers. In games there are options to turn it on or off.

What's the deal?
I ask myself while watching my controller do a little dance on my couch while the it had its little seizure: Why is this appealing? I feel dirty holding it like it's some vibrator. Is THAT what makes it so popular?
Actually holding on the back of your neck feels pretty good...but it depends on the intensity of the rumble.

I mean comparing this vibrator to the shaking of arcade feedback, it feels cheap. If my controller were a gun or a driving wheel, then the rumble/vibrations feel like a part of the product. But the hand held controllers are hardly appropriate. It doesn't feel good. It actually bugs me more than add to my play. And it makes a stupid buzzing sound.

Game Play
So what does the vibrating/rumble do for game play. Well, I imagine it's suppose to add a level of immersion. In a fight if your character gets knocked to the side, you get a short buzz. So I suppose it could ALSO be punishment. The weird thing is that I notice the vibrations mostly happening during unplayable portions of the game...like the cinematics. Why? Why would I need force feedback now?

While I haven't played many games that do this, I'm sure that the buzz/vibrations can work with game play. It can be an indicator like a sound effect, there's a level of immersion, player punishment, or a warning.
These are examples I vaguely remember seeing in games. But it's been awhile since I've noticed the rumble.

Most games it's an option you can turn off...but what I don't understand is why the default is to have it on! Well, I think I do understand. How else would you know that the game had rumble capabilities.

Conclusion
Not much of a rant really, just a thought bubble. There's nothing really wrong with the vibrations. I just feel like it's a cheap imitation of what arcades offer. Or it's a dirty toy. :/ Ew.