Questions by Garrett
Answers by Aaron Levin,
Blue Orb’s VP of Business Development
All across the world, almost everyone has one thing in common: We love
being comfortable. Whether we’re relaxing in a hot tub or
kicking back in our Lay-Z-Boy recliner, people generally love to be in
positions where they can stretch out and relax. For years, however, the
computer gaming industry has been tied to the keyboard and mouse set
up; not exactly the best choice for ergonomic game playing. All of that
is set to change with the introduction of Blue Orb’s
SwitchBlade technology, which allows you to play your favorite MMOGs
via an Xbox 360 controller. To learn more about this new technology,
the Ten Ton Hammer staff tracked down Aaron Levin, Blue Orb’s
VP of Business Development, and asked him a slew of questions about
SwitchBlade and MMO gaming in general.
Ten Ton Hammer: Tell us
about your product. What is SwitchBlade all about?
SwitchBlade is all about bringing the feet-up console gaming experience
that so many people prefer, to games where you’re normally
required to hunch over a mouse and a keyboard.
We launched SwitchBlade in mid-October as a free download via
Xfire.com, designed specifically to let people play World of Warcraft
with an Xbox 360 controller. With SwitchBlade, gamers can use the
controller to perform every action that can be performed with a mouse
and keyboard. Here’s how it works:
style="font-style: italic;">The SwitchBlade
allows for WoW gamers to play via an Xbox 360 controller.
The left analog stick controls movement, while the right analog stick
controls the mouse. The left and right shoulder buttons control the
left and right mouse buttons, respectively – and if a user
holds down the right shoulder, they can use the right analog stick to
control the camera and the direction their character is facing.
There’s even an option in the SwitchBlade interface to lock
the camera by simply hitting the right shoulder, which results in a
much more console-like experience.
The face buttons (A, B, X, Y) control 1 through 4 on the WoW action
bar. By holding down the left trigger, those same buttons control 5
through 8, with 6 through = made available by holding down the right
trigger. The D-pad up/down controls which action bar is currently
available and other buttons on the controller bring up a
character’s inventory, bags, map, and main menu.
SwitchBlade has a mode that we call “Ready to Play”
because you can get right into the game with the default assignments.
That said, SwitchBlade is completely customizable – we
realize that many gamers have unique ways of playing and we allow for
that – we aim only to add to the WoW experience, and to take
Ten Ton Hammer: Many
players for PC games are very comfortable with the mouse and keyboard
set up, what does Blue Orb do to change this format?
That’s an excellent question, and one thing to consider about
SwitchBlade is that we’re not necessarily aiming to
completely replace the mouse and keyboard for every WoW player. If
you’ll forgive the generalization, there are basically two
kinds of WoW players: hardcore and casual.
Whatever you call them, the hardcore players – the raiders,
the PvPers, the level 70 types – aren’t necessarily
going to replace the keyboard and mouse for high-end content. But those
same hardcore types are definitely going to have to farm and grind, and
they’re probably going to level alts from time to time. Those
secondary activities – the “boring” ones,
that don’t require the same level of concentration and
control, are excellent candidates for the feet-up console experience
Now, your casual players – players who are completely new to
WoW, who have low-level characters and only play for a few hours a week
– are more likely to use SwitchBlade for their entire WoW
experience. Our usability studies convinced us that many of these
casual players are more familiar and comfortable with console controls.
We’ve brought that to WoW in an intuitive way.
And there’s nothing stopping players from switching back to
the keyboard and mouse on the fly – SwitchBlade is a
complementary solution, not necessarily a replacement for the keyboard
Ten Ton Hammer: Is the
SwitchBlade format only set up for World of Warcraft? Or can it be used
for other MMOGs?
Simply put, our goal is to own the space where people play PC games
with a controller. World of Warcraft is the first
“Blade”, or game-specific controller scheme that
we’re offering. Future Blades will include Lord of the Rings
Online, Guild Wars, Hellgate: London, Tabula Rasa, Warhammer: Age of
Reckoning and many others– pretty much any major
upcoming MMO title without controller support.
style="font-style: italic;">WoW would be a
different game without the keyboard and mouse.
So, we’ll be releasing custom-tailored solutions
(“Blades”) for a multitude of upcoming titles that
lack built-in controller support – but that’s not
to say creative users won’t find ways to use the
customization screen to tailor SwitchBlade to their needs immediately,
since each of the controller’s buttons is fully customizable.
Ten Ton Hammer: Many MMOG
players are very competitive and keep their PCs at top of the line
levels in order to play. How does the SwitchBlade help boost
SwitchBlade is an incredibly lightweight application, and it runs in
the background without degrading gaming performance in any way
– this was really one of our key goals during the development
process, as we did not want to give users any reason not to download
It’s primarily designed to be a laid back, feet-up experience
for MMO gaming – but that’s not to say competitive
players won’t use it for raiding and PvP. Hardcore,
competitive players can jack up the analog stick sensitivity for faster
camera movement and use it just as quickly as a keyboard and mouse.
Ten Ton Hammer: With so
many MMOGs plotting out cross platform gaming, where do you see the
market heading over the next few years?
Cross-platform and eventually single-platform gaming is definitely in
the cards. I wouldn’t be surprised if truly next-gen MMO
titles were available on PCs and major consoles in simultaneous release
– but I also think that’s a ways off. PC titles
will continue to dominate the MMO space for at least the next few
years, I think – and you can be sure that any game lacking
controller support will be answered by a customized Blade from us!
SwitchBlade? Would it be worth it to play WoW with your feet up? href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?p=182737#post182737">Let
us know on the forums!
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