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Intu-Aim and Other PS Vita Controls

The PlayStation Vita's Intuitive and Not-So-Intuitive Buttons and Inputs


PS Vita Specifications

PS Vita



On the PlayStation Blog, it was announced that Uncharted: Golden Abyss would feature something called "Intu-Aim" (short for, presumably, "Intuitive Aiming"). Essentially, it's a feature that combines many of the PS Vita's controls and sensors to make aiming in a game more precise and, yes, intuitive. From another PlayStation Blog post: Because the PS Vita is the first device that combines two analog sticks, a Sixaxis motion sensor and a touchscreen, we realized we could create a universal aiming system with fine-tuned controls that would be impossible on any other system. Core aiming still works best on the analog sticks: in over-the-shoulder mode, players still use the left stick to adjust Drake’s position and the right stick to adjust his aiming reticule – just as you would expect in any modern console game. But PS Vita adds a third input: you can can rotate your hands to subtly fine tune the reticule’s placement. Having everything on the same controller creates a synergy between your eyes, your thumbs and your hands that feels natural: use the sticks to aim at an enemy, use the motion sensor to aim at his head. Though the feature can be turned on and off, apparently it's so intuitive most gamers won't even really notice they're using it. Which is, I think, the very best kind of design. So what are the PS Vita's controls that make this kind of feature possible? Let's have a look.

Touch Screen and Touch Pad

One of the most noticeable differences between the PS Vita and the PSP is that the PS Vita has a not only a nice a big display, but it's a touch screen. Not only that, but the PS Vita's touch screen is a capacitative type, which means it's sensitive to the touch of fingers, like a touchscreen phone or tablet, and doesn't require a stylus like the Nintendo DS does. One of the main uses of the primary touch screen will be navigation--where the PSP's (and PS3's) XMB was constructed around menus that can be navigated with the d-pad and buttons, the PS Vita's menus are based on selecting items by touching them. It should make for a much more intuitive way of finding your way around the games and apps and files on your system.

But Sony didn't stop at giving the PS Vita a big shiny touchscreen; they also equipped it with a touch pad on the back. It remains to be seen how developers will make use of this, but the possibilities are very interesting. At the very least, it will allow some game features to be accessed without the player having to change their grip on the handheld, which could potentially make things a whole lot easier and (shall I say it again?) intuitive.

Gyroscope, GPS, and Cameras

When the PS3 was introduced, Sony made a valiant attempt to integrate motion-sensing controls into the SIXAXIS controller (and a little later, the DualShock 3), which had a 6-axis gyroscope. The feature is somewhat underused in the PS3, though PlayStation Move does expand on the concept of motion control by using both motion-sensing and camera input. But motion control seems more natural on a handheld, and an assortment of popular iPhone games that use the phone's gyroscope show that gamers will happy use it if it's implemented well.

The PS Vita also (again like the iPhone and other smart phones) has built-in GPS. While this is something that may or may not be used in games, there are already pre-installed apps that make use of it. "Near", for example, uses location-based data to enrich the user's experience (if they want to make use of it).

Everything has a camera on it these days, but on the PS Vita the idea isn't simply to let you take pictures with the device you already happen to have in your pocket (though you can do that, too). Instead, the cameras let you play augmented reality games without having to buy extra hardware. There are other ways a camera could be used in gaming, and we'll just have to see what the developers come up with.

Analog Sticks, D-Pad, and Other Buttons

Lest you worry that the games of the future will all be touch-screen-input, motion-sensing, location-aware monstrosities, Sony has given the PS Vita all the usual buttons, too, so you can play old-school-style. And really, some games are just better if you don't try to innovate too much. The PS Vita will have the full complement of PlayStation shape buttons (circle, square, triangle and x), a d-pad, shoulder buttons, and analog sticks. Sony finally listened to the fans, too, and not only gave the PS Vita real analog sticks (rather than the PSP's nub), but gave it a second stick. Now the only thing it lacks in comparison to the PS3's DualShock 3 is a set of trigger buttons (aka the second pair of shoulder buttons). Oh, and force-feedback.

Essentially, the PS Vita has just about every kind of input you can think of, packed onto a console not too much bigger than the PSP. Let's just hope developers don't feel the need to use every single control possible in every game.

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