I’ve been playing a lot of Flower lately. I like Flower. It’s pretty. It’s relaxing. It’s sweet. It’s gentle. It’s restful. I like Flower a lot.
But there is one damn thing about Flower that I just can’t like – motion controls.
Let’s talk about motion controls.
In theory, motion controls aim to enhance physical interactivity and bring a whole body participation to the game experience. Motion controls are another way to engage with a game, a deeper form of physical, experiential synchronicity. And, occasionally, they work really well.
Most of the time, though, motion controls are complete and utter pants.
This is generally due to technological limitations – most of which manifest through a complete lack of precision. Whether it’s motion smoothing, acceleration, or just good old fashion lag, motion controls tend to not turn on a dime. Hell, you generally can’t turn on the combined annual output of the federal mint.
Imprecise turning and lag found in current motion controls – and I am talking current tech here – present a major problem for the end user, as well as the developer. Messy motion controls can ruin an otherwise amazing experience, something which I’ve found during my time with Flower.
Riding the zephyr for hours on end is delightful. Really, it is. The sound and the movement of colour and light and contrast is just so… gentle. When it’s in a straight line. Whenever I have to bank or swoop to snag a solitary blossom that might be just over a hillock or around a curve I get this almost guttural urge to smash my goddamn controller all over the goddamn wall. And I’m playing on the (slightly) more sensitive and accurate PS4 version – usually.
I say usually because, thanks to PS+/Crossbuy/whatever, I have a copy of Flower for my Vita.
I like Flower on the PS4. I love Flower on the Vita.
It comes down to one thing – precision. While the PS4 (and PS3) version exclusively uses motion controls via the accelerometers in the DualShock 4 (or SIXAXIS), the Vita gives you a choice of either motion controls OR touchscreen controls.
I don’t like touchscreen controls for games. I find them imprecise, laggy, unintuitive, and usually screen real-estate-greedy. But I’ll be damned if I was forced to choose motion controls over touchscreen controls for Vita Flower. However bad the touchscreen controls are, the motion controls are worse.
Which brings us to the simplest solution for motion control problems (and most other problems with games) – options.
No matter how annoying I find Flower’s motion controls (spoilers: pretty annoying), what I find most frustrating is the complete lack of any other control scheme options.
How hard is it to allow twin-stick control as an option?
I mean, the two things are right there.
They literally stick out like a sore thumb.
I get that Flower was used to market the SIXAXIS controller’s motion functionality. I get that it’s partly artistic vision to emulate the untamed, uncontrollable essence of a wild flower in the wind. I get that it fits thematically. And I get that it’s a legacy to include only motion controls for the game.
But get this – I’m a player, and anything that makes your game harder for me to play is more likely to make me not play your game. And the most obvious gateway is control scheme.
Not to mention that control options were included to enable playability on the handheld Vita version. How come the PS4 version, at the very least, didn’t include touchpad support?
Restricting players to exclusive motion controls is not consumer friendly. It limits player engagement. And that is ultimately working against the developer.
I like the concept of motion controls. I think they have a huge place in the future of video games, and player engagement. But I also think that traditional controller inputs have a place. And I think that offering players options so they can choose the way they control the game is more important than any thematic augmentation that having exclusive motion controls may confer.
Anyway. Back to pretending I’m an eclectic stream of blossoms rafting gently on the subtle wind. Whilst in a plane. Flying to Japan. To cover TGS. Which starts on the 18th. Stay tuned for that.