Is immersion, and are haptics, still relevant?
Sony has recently revealed their new controller... and it looks like they've replaced the usual rumble pad with actual haptics and force feedback. In their blog post, Sony detailed the "variety of powerful sensations" haptic feedback can bring to gameplay, like "the slow grittiness of driving a car through mud." Haptic feedback is the same technology behind the Nintendo Switch's HD rumble and we know the Xbox Series X controller will make use of it as well.
Probably the most famous haptic controller in this community will be the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2, which hasn't been available commercially since 2003. This controller is now much sought after by a relatively small group of people, and although haptic feedback is not widely supported, it is still incorporated into some of the more detailed flight sims even after 20 years.
So what were some of the features that this provided? It's been a long time since I let mine go, but I do remember the demos which were part of the joysticks toolkit. This allowed you to feel simulated experiences such as a something similar to dragging a pencil over corrugated cardboard (intermittent resistance), feeling a difficult spot within the joysticks range of motion, resistance in one direction, etc. It might be nostalgia, but I definitely recall being impressed by these demonstrations. I was even more impressed when I fired it up in my first flight simulation haptic experience. I had never had the experience of fighting the winds before and it was obviously something that Microsoft had spend time refining.
So why, if this controller was as legendary as its fans would tell you, did it die off? Patents. The company Immersion Technology had developed the technology and owned the patents to it, and Microsoft and Sony were not paying to license the patents. It would be easy to see this is a patent troll manoeuvre, however the truth is that without these licenses, innovations would probably be fewer and far between. There were a number of court cases, Microsoft settled early paying a dividend and purchasing a portion of the company. Sony were more resistant. The court cases went on for a number of years, during which they were appealing a court decision that would have ceased production of the PlayStation line until the patented technology was removed. Eventually it all closed down and while it never really made any big headlines, even those outlets following the situation lost interest. No console had haptic feedback, favouring the rumble technology instead, and immersion continued to produce technology aimed towards industrial production and military products.
Now we're caught up in the timeline, what is the latest development? The patents for a number of applications for haptic technology, including those used in the Sidewinder FF, have finally expired after being extended by the holding company. Those die hard fans have been theorising about a resurgence of this niche technology. However there has largely been radio silence on the subject. Theory-crafting was simply that. Until the consoles announced that they were going to be providing their own haptics.
This changes the lay of the land. As any good PC gamer knows (even if they may not like it) a large portion of the industry is motivated by console technologies above those on PC. There are always areas which are PC-centric, and the PC is always at the forefront of the technology curve, but frankly consoles and mobiles are where the big money is these days. And you can't argue with profits.
So with this possibly becoming something that will be developed for and supported again, the big question is; Is it still relevant? And how would we want it to be implemented?
This isn't an attempt at an opinion piece, although my opinion will bleed into it. I'm genuinely interested in whether or not this has piqued enough curiosity for people to vote with their wallets. How will people want it to apply to Star Citizen, if it is implemented? Feeling the buffeting of atmosphere and the kiss of the tarmac when flying on atmosphere and landing? Simulating faults in the system making controls sluggish and less responsive? Or perhaps something more in-depth?
Is this even relevant enough for people to notice?
I look forward to your comments, if any.
By The Avro Arrow
Since this is my introductory post I'd like to put my best foot forward by getting all up on my high horse about 'old school' (1990's) gaming technique and its miss-application to Star Citizen. Now I see that C.I.G. is aware of this issue because in the latest Calling All Devs it is mentioned that a game mechanic is in the works to limit character stamina and I say, "Hallelujah!"
Of course what will follow are the cries for in-game super-stamina or some esoteric version of energy drinks and these characters will once again be crashing into other players and doors and walls even when they are doing mundane things like buying a hat. Although I admit it IS entertaining when I watch YouTube videos of Star Citizen team-play that reminds me of what it would be like to watch a herd of cats on uppers try to escape a duffel bag. Watching a party of players try to take the narrative of their collective game-play in eight separate directions . . .well, even if the resulting comedy is unintentional I am still enjoying the show.
The keystone cops-like game hi-jinks aside bunny-hopping is, in effect, taking my head out of the game when I see other avatars taking absolutely no time to stop and 'smell the roses' of the spectacular scenery and atmosphere the developers of this game have meticulously sculpted and compiled. But to each his own I guess. We are slowly coming to realize that this new kind of game requires a new style of play that is perhaps still culturally embryonic. In summary, I would just say that some parts of Star Citizen are FPS and some parts are decidedly not FPS and a player that can appreciate this distinction and get the full enjoyment out of the game that Chris Roberts is trying to deliver is the kind of player that I would most like to team up (or alternately do battle) with.
We need more gameplay that involves less combat, and more exploration. Granted that it is coming eventually, we need a lot more of it. With the death system the way they see it, combat should be only 1/50th of the game for example.
What game mechanics do you guys feel we need in the game for a more atmospheric experience in the game?
I'm currently studying to become a pilot and that's where I kinda got the idea of making this for my Idris. The idea is to have the pilot in Star Citizen feel that he is actually landing an actual spaceship inside another spaceship, to get that feel of immersion is what I'm after. This might be overdoing it, but I thought it would be cool to have this as a procedure for at least my Idris and eventually any bigger ship I might get to command. Don't know how this will work in the game, but I will try none the less!
So I thought It would be nice to get some feedback on what I could add/remove and so on. Thanks! <3
**Still a WIP**
The idea is to open up the possibility of having an ATC for a ship which can have other ships land inside it.
When a pilot enters the control zone for, in this case, Liberty, let's say at Romeo 3, the pilot request permission to enter via ROMEO 3 for a full stop landing. The ATC will clear the pilot and give further instructions such as enter control zone via ROMEO 3 for STARBOARD FINAL. Then the pilot repeats the clearance and so on.
"Holdings" are for when the flight deck is not ready to receive the landing spacecraft.
In real life, during landing the ATC would say the wind direction and speed, in this case I thought it would be cool for ATC to say the ships speed so that the pilot landing would know which speed to hold to match for landing. (This is of course if ships can move while others are landing.)
Distances & speeds have yet to be checked, currently just place holders.
Also CIG might make something that kills this.