When the public finally got their hands on Splatoon with the Splatoon Global Testfires, the vast majority of players experienced the gyroscope controls for the first time.
For many it was disorienting at first, and I’m sure plenty of people initially turned the gyro controls off as soon as they knew how. Those that stuck with them through initial learning curve will attest that they eventually click and it feels too good to go back to twin stick shooting.
In Eurogamer‘s recent interview with Tsubasa Sakaguchi, co-director of Splatoon, it was revealed that 70-80% of players still use the gyroscope controls. That’s an impressive number, but there’s good reason for it: Splatoon‘s gyro controls are as far ahead of the right stick as the right stick is ahead of the N64 controller’s C-buttons when it comes to aiming. They are only outdone by point and click shooting, but for anyone that honed their gamer skills on consoles Splatoon’s gyro controls come with the benefit of using a more traditional controller, so at least it feels familiar to the hands.
A big issue with those that have yet to accept gyro controls, aside from a preexisting bias against them, is that most new users aren’t using them correctly. I’ve seen first hand how accomplished gamers will pick up the Wii U game pad and flail about with it as if they were fending off some imaginary attacker. This looks stupid and embarrassing around company, and it simply doesn’t work. The proper way to use the gyro controls is to firmly plant your elbows on your legs or some surface and use only your wrists to manipulate the game pad. This allows for rapid fine adjustments that sticks cannot match. The right stick should still be used for gross lateral movement, and in conjunction with the gyro controls for a quick turn.
The advantages inherent to gyro controls are expressed in Splatoon‘s most common advanced strategy: Jumping like crazy while having perfect accuracy. If you’re stuck with the twin sticks, not only are you less accurate and slower to aim, but your thumb is busy not mashing jump. You could jump and shoot with the twin stick setup, but good luck trying to maintain your accuracy while doing so. If you can’t aim with gyro controls, you’re a liability in higher tier Ranked Battles, and you’ll never be as good as you could be.
This stellar control scheme shouldn’t be limited to this one game. Splatoon has shown the world of shooters a great new method of control, but Nintendo isn’t in any place to try and push this as a new standard feature. It’s obvious no major FPS/TPS games will come to the Wii U, so don’t expect Nintendo to be the vanguard of this new advancement any time soon, instead look to Sony and the PS4.
The PS3 had the SIXAXIS tilt controls built into the DualShock 3, but they never made too much of an impact. The DS3 accelerometers weren’t exactly the most precise, often feeling jerky and incapable of the fine control that would be necessary for quick, accurate aiming. Thankfully, the accelerometers made their way back in the DualShock 4, with some much needed improvement that allows them to pick up much more subtle tilts. Splatoon created and perfected the control scheme that made gyroscopic controls work for a shooter, and Nintendo did this with a controller that’s slightly more ergonomic than a brick. While holding the DS4 in my hands all I can think of is how perfect it feels, and I can only imagine how great it could be for aiming or camera controls if developers could fine tune the gyro controls as well as Nintendo did with Splatoon.
Gyro controls also offer some interesting new ways to challenge players. Imagine playing a proper horror game, like Kojima’s original vision for Silent Hills, where staying calm affects game play more intimately. Jumping because you’re startled would temporarily disorient you thanks to the camera and/or character jerking along with your physical movements. An idea like that is something that came off the top of my head, imagine what somebody with actual talent and creativity could come up with.
Have you played Splatoon, and if so did you enjoy the motion controls? I once thought gyro aiming was stupid, but after Splatoon nailed it all I see is the potential it offers. Let us know what you think, should this control scheme (provided it’s done well) become a standard feature in games, particularly shooters, going forward?