Do you think virtual controls are a lost cause, or do they just need to be finessed?
JB: I actually got a design challenge from Keita Takahashi [creator of Katamari Damacy] right after WWDC this year, before we even thought of designing PongVaders – we were still doing board games then [the developer previous created Checkers 360, for iPad]. He said that I really need to challenge the device, and I felt that even though the device can very easily have virtual controllers mapped on to the screen, that’s not really challenging the form-factor and the control that it enables, so I abandoned any ideas of going in that direction very quickly.
It’s kind of tough; just as people have never fully adjusted to typing on a touchscreen, I think that level of imprecision is always going to be present with virtual controls. It might get finessed after a certain amount of time and become more playable, but I think it will always be sub-par compared to gaming experiences on devices with dedicated control pads.
Would you say, then, that the iPad encourages thinking outside of the box when it comes to game design?
JB: I think it does, yes. We haven’t seen people really pushing it to its limits quite yet in terms of the sort of interactions that will be available on it. I guess one thing that’s neat is the ability for there to be emergent multiplayer games – it reminds me of how people used to play the first Trauma Center on the Wii in multiplayer by giving one person the Nunchuck and one person the Remote.
There are a number of games on the iPad that lend themselves well to that control scheme – for example, Flight Control HD. That’s definitely an avenue we’re exploring as well – how we can have games made for an ambiguous number of players with an emergent multiplayer aspect.
We recently spoke to Cave about its iPhone ports of Espgaluda and Dodonpachi. Yukihiro Masaki was concerned that the iPad didn’t have enough memory – have you encountered any similar problems?
JB: Oh my god, I love those games so much! Ok, it’s true that the iPad doesn’t have a ton of memory but it has a surprisingly robust processor and there are definitely ways to optimise your memory usage on the device. I’m actually not sure how Cave is porting their games – I’m wondering if they’re trying to run them in an emulator, and the its a bit memory starved… But obviously their games are quite a bit more processor and graphics intensive than ours, so maybe we just got lucky and set the bar low enough that we didn’t run into any problems!
Do you see any parallels between the iPad and other motion control systems like Move and Kinect?
JB: Yeah. I haven’t had a chance to play with Move or Kinect myself yet, but I do think it’s really exciting that we have so many new input methods available to us now. It’s just going to give people a real license to try new things, and I’m also really excited to see Child Of Eden in the works.
Perhaps PongVaders could work well as a Kinect title…
JB: Yeah, absolutely. But I can’t see Microsoft giving us an SDK just yet… [laughs]