Game usability and eye movement

by Steven Datt on 8 June 2011

We’ve all seen just what Kinect can do, especially since people have hacked it, but imagine the possibilities if eye control as well as motion control was used?

I’ve long wished for a greater level of immersion in games, and it always seems so far off (even with the introduction of 3D, though I’m still not sold on the idea). Here’s what I’d like to see appear in the gaming industry in the (hopefully near) future:

Motion for emotion

Using motions to determine in-game emotions – Mass Effect 2 has a feature where you can choose Renegade (bad) or Paragon (good) actions. It would be much easier to have a specific motion assigned to them rather than a button press, as it flashes on the screen for just a couple of seconds. Sometimes, when watching the cut-scenes I wouldn’t have my hands on the mouse and keyboard (yes, I’m primarily a PC gamer) because I might be having a drink, eating a snack, or just enjoying the ride, so I would quite often miss the prompts for these actions, and it would have been much easier for me to be able to sit back and make a quick flick of the hand (left or right, for example) instead of scrambling for the mouse to make those split second decisions.

See with your eyes

I often play FPS games and sometimes wonder what it would be like to control with more realistic movements. I’ve even heard some console players deem being able to snap-turn 180 degrees to face the opposite direction using a mouse un-realistic, whereas I think it’s more realistic, because it wouldn’t take a human 4-5 seconds to perform that same movement like it does with a controller.

But I digress…

What I’m trying to say here is if I could look around the game environment using my eyes rather than the gun barrel, by shifting my eyes to different edges of the screen and focusing on a specific point of interest, I could take in the surroundings much faster, and it would feel more “real” and immersive

What it means, in usability terms

  • Less controls to remember and less buttons to press, reducing the amount of accidental errors that are made (finger slipping off the button, hitting the wrong one entirely, etc.)
  • Greater immersion – the feeling that you’re doing more in the game than just controlling the character.
  • Convenience – you don’t always have to be “hands-on”.

Killzone 3 was recently released and looks like it's made a fair bit of headway in the motion control department for FPS games. I've only read a review so far, but it sounds promising. I'd get it myself, but I'd need to play through the first two games beforehand (I hate jumping into the middle - or end - of a story).

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