SOCOM fans are by far some of the most vocal and opinionated people in gaming today. Having endured the rocky launch of SOCOM Confrontation, the revelation that SOCOM 4 would include support for the PlayStation Move motion controller was met with a large amount of skepticism. We spoke with Zipper Interactive about their plans to address fan concerns, and the challenges of balancing a game with two very different control inputs.
Some fans didn't take well to the announcement that SOCOM 4 would use the Move controller. How do you address concerns that motion controls will "ruin" the experience?
First and foremost, SOCOM 4 was designed with the DualShock in mind. When we started this game over three years ago, Move didn't even exist yet. I cannot emphasize this point enough: the game supports both controllers. And again, we designed SOCOM 4 with the DualShock in mind. What ended up happening is that when we found out about the Move, we decided to try it out and see if it fits with the SOCOM experience very well. And so far, the reaction of the people that have tried it is that it's actually integrated quite well. The key there is that it's an optional control mechanic, and in no way is any other part of the SOCOM game being hindered or negatively affected by Move's integration.
It's hard to know how well it works in SOCOM until you actually try it. I think people have some preconceived notions about how effective motion controls are in a shooter game, because up until now, the response time just hasn't been there, the accuracy, as well as the graphics. The PS3 can deliver the kind of realistic HD gaming that I think serious shooter players would want. And I think when you try the Move in SOCOM 4, a lot of people become pleasantly surprised by how effective and accurate it can be.
I know talking to a lot of people that used to be PC gamers, people who used to say "I want my mouse and keyboard," and I think in a lot of ways the kind of fluid motion and precision you get from the Move is similar to a mouse and keyboard type experience. At the end of the day though, our goal is to make the Move an immersive, intuitive and fun way of playing SOCOM. But, we do want to balance things so that the level of effectiveness is pretty much the same, whether you're using the DualShock or not. We don't want Move players to have some kind of crazy advantage, in the same way, we don't want the Move players to have a disadvantage. Our goal is to tune them to be about as equal as possible.
Will there be anything you can do on the Move that you can't do on the DualShock, and vice versa?
There's no special actions, or at least, that's our goal, with the Move. I think it's going to come down to play style and preference, more than anything. In our early tests, DualShock is better for playing around quickly, and Move is better for quick target acquisition. But, we've only begun to scratch the surface in terms of our tuning of it, and being able to adjust custom settings. We've internally done some play tests utilizing both, and by and large the kill/death ratio was pretty much similar.
SOCOM 4 is also the first game to be revealed to use the PlayStation "Navigation Controller." Did Zipper have any feedback on creating that peripheral?
I think our biggest feedback was mentioning that we needed a subcontroller. Obviously, SOCOM's a game where every button is utilized. We're just happy that there is a subcontroller. In terms of design, we didn't directly influence the design other than mentioning that we need a D-Pad, analog stick, key buttons, and I think the subcontroller does a good job at delivering the things we need.
How will Move and DualShock players be marked online? Will it possible for a DualShock-only player to refuse playing against a Move player, for example?
We are keeping those options on the table, for sure. Again, when we get more of the Move integrated, and do more substantial playtests and have it tuned to the way we want to, see how equal the playing field really is. But that is certainly something we've talked about. We realize there may be some clans that may want to be specific to Move only or DualShock only. I think that's definitely a potential thing we'd consider, but we haven't firmly decided on whether or not to expose those in the game creation settings or not.
Are there any concerns that you may be competing against yourselves by offering both MAG and SOCOM 4 in the same year?
I think the games are quite different, in terms of core gameplay. Obviously, they're both shooters, and they both involve modern (if not slightly futuristic, in the case of MAG) military. But I really think there's room in the market for both. MAG is all about the massive war zone going on, whereas SOCOM 4 online is still about a smaller-scale, tighter, tactical experience. Obviously, SOCOM 4 has single player, with a huge emphasis this time on a more cinematic story experience. And then there's the authenticity angle, as well. MAG is all about a fictional setting in the future about PMCs, whereas SOCOM 4 is still grounded in more realistic, modern day warfare. Everything from the scale of combat, to the game modes, it's going to have a unique feel. Of course, SOCOM 4 is third person. I still think there's a lot of cool things, and a core "feeling" that comes from having a third person shooter. I definitely think gamers will have a reason to play both titles.