Interviews// Rebellion's Eric Miller

Posted 29 Nov 2010 14:59 by
One Hundred and Eighty! If you're a bit of a darts fanatic, PDC World Championship Darts: Pro Tour is out now on all three major console platforms - with an added motion-controlling twist.

The Wii edition obviously uses the Wii Remote - no change there. But the release of PlayStation Move has allowed developer Redoubt (the casual label of troubled studio Rebellion) to implement a similar control scheme for the PS3. The result is a pretty good representation of actually chucking darts at your TV screen.

One obvious difference? The Xbox 360 version doesn't have support for the recently-released Kinect motion controller. First thing on my agenda when sitting down with assistant producer Eric Miller is finding out just why that is.

Of course, with Rebellion's last big title - Aliens vs Predator - tanking earlier this year, the interview seemed like a good opportunity to get some kind of autopsy on just what went wrong in development. Read on for the full story.

SPOnG: First of all, you have the PS3 and Wii versions, which work pretty similarly. Avoiding the obvious graphical and hardware differences, did the nature of the Wii - as in the controller - mean you had to do anything differently between the two versions?

Eric Miller: It wasn't too much of a difficulty really. In fact, we were able to get a pretty good graphical fidelity on the Wii version, and of course we've got Wii MotionPlus on it which adds the ability to put a twist on the dart.

It?s not so much the controllers themselves but actually the hardware itself, because the ball on the PS3 Move is tracked by the camera, whereas the Wii has the infra-red sensor and the sensor bar, and that?s how the thing is determined.

There?s no real difference in the end result between the two, it?s still the same, but it?s a bit more of a pushing motion just because you have to keep the infra-red aligned. Besides that, it?s about the same.

SPOnG: There doesn?t seem to be any Kinect support for the Xbox 360 version. Will it suffer without motion control? I saw you guys playing on a controller earlier and it didn?t seem as intuitive.

Eric Miller: I don?t think so. I think it depends on whether or not you?ve had exposure to the thumbstick controls on the 360 before. The aim of the game on any of the platforms is to pick up and play. With max assists, you will be able to just pick up a controller and do reasonably well. Then as you get better, you obviously improve. So in that sense I think the controller is still usable by someone who isn?t a thumbstick veteran - but if you are, it?s pretty easy to get into the groove of it all.

The idea of this year?s version in particular - I?m not sure if you?ve played the 2008 edition, but back then we had what I like to call ?Tiger Woods-style controls.? You know, pull back on the stick and hold it there, power bar fills up, it gets to the sweet spot - flick forward and release.

We didn?t feel that control style necessarily emulated what you actually have to do in real life darts. It was also pretty easy to get good at very quickly - people soon wonder ?where?s the challenge?? You get pretty good at it in half an hour and there?s nothing much more to it.

Obviously, there?s the different exhibitions, tournaments and party games, but if the core mechanic is so? [pause] But the point you make is valid. You don?t want the controls to be so finicky that you irritate newer players, but you should expect to need a certain amount of practice.

Is it going to be as good as actually throwing something in your hand? Possibly not, but only because of the vagaries of the fact that you feel more because you?re doing more actions that are in line with the game.

SPOnG: They don?t recommend you literally throw Wii Remotes anyway, do they?

Eric Miller: [Laughs] No, they don?t! And you should certainly wear your strap! On both of them [Wii Remote and PS Move], quite frankly. But yeah, you can?t throw a control pad at the screen, so you must have some control scheme for that. And we do allow you to practice - Phil (?The Power? Taylor, professional Darts Champion) will tell you it?s about the muscle memory.

You know, the guys stand there for three hours a day, throwing the same darts over and over again. This game doesn?t require you to do that obviously [laughs], but it?s not simply a case of picking up the game and being able to score perfect shots all the time. You?ve got to put a bit of effort in.

SPOnG: Even though it?s not in this version, are you guys looking at Kinect at all? Maybe as a new control scheme for next year?s game or for another purpose entirely?

Eric Miller: I can?t actually talk about future products?

SPOnG: Well, taking future products out of the equation - I mean, have you had your hands on the technology, are you getting somewhat inspired by it? What are your thoughts on the product?

Eric Miller: I personally haven?t had a go on Kinect. What we certainly did, when Kinect became available to us as developers, was evaluate whether or not we could fit it into the timescale of our game.

But also you have to evaluate just how we?re going to approach doing this - it?s not just a technical question, it?s a design-oriented question as well because the other two console have a physical object in your hand.

And darts is a game where you have a physical object in your hand [laughs]. The other Kinect titles that I?ve seen? a lot of them are based on having silhouettes on screen representing the physical movement you need to do.

You can?t have a darts game? it wouldn?t feel like a darts game if on the side of the screen you had a silhouette going ?do this motion, and see if you can do it!? - you know what I mean?
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