“Alright you take down that guy over there.” “Which guy?” “The one in the mask.” “They’re all wearing masks, it’s like NPC bad guy uniform.” “Never mind, they’ve spotted us, we’re doomed.”
This is probably a familiar conversation if you’ve ever played an online videogame with friends. You’re trying so hard to feel like a badass team, stealthily taking down enemies with military precision. Except you can’t communicate with military precision so the illusion is slightly shattered when you have to shout instructions through your headset.
This is one element of collaborative play that Ubisoft and Tobii are trying to improve by integrating Tobii’s eye-tracking technology into the PC version of Ubisoft’s upcoming online action-RPG The Division. Players who have a Tobii eye-tracking device for their PC will be able to use it in The Division to tag enemies by looking at them, offering an efficient way for players to non-verbally communicate. Stuart White, a senior producer at Ubisoft’s Red Storm Studios said “Collaboration and teamwork are at the core of Tom Clancy’ s The Division” and that the integration of eye-tracking technology will “enhance communication bandwidth between players, giving them an additional way to signal their intent.”
This isn’t the only feature eye-tracking has to offer, and I got to try out a few more of them when I went hands on with the game.
The feature I was most interested in was the ability to control your weapon’s aim using your gaze. I’m not the most calm player when under fire and when there’s no lock-on aiming system I sometimes find myself wildly firing my gun across a room in the hopes that I’ll take out a few enemies. I hoped that being able to aim at an enemy simply by looking at them might improve my accuracy and it worked fairly well. By looking at an enemy and pressing the aim command, my character pointed the weapon towards them. Getting a completely accurate shot still required some minor joystick adjustments but it was surprisingly accurate.
The feature extends to controlling the direction of a grenade and changing cover positions. When you’re hiding in one position, you simply use your gaze to highlight where you want to move to next and click. Out of these gameplay features I found changing cover to be the easiest to get used to; it really sped up the movement process and I found it to be accurate. As useful as gaze-controlled aim is, I imagine it would take more practice for me to overcome my instincts to rely entirely on my hands for accuracy, particularly as it forces a kind of immediacy into shooting; I have a tendency to shoot in one direction and already be looking for my next target in preparation for moving the joystick so I found it hard to keep my eyes trained on one target at a time without feeling panicked about where to look next.
Outside of gameplay features, the eye-tracking technology also adds some neat visual features. Players are able to extend their view and control the in-game camera by looking towards the edge of the screen and having the camera auto-pan in that direction. It also enables you to quickly navigate the game’s map, using your eyes to highlight which location you’d like to go to, rather than scrolling across.
My favourite visual feature the eye-tracking tech allowed for was a cleaner UI – UI elements like the mini-map, ammunition stocks and health levels only become visible when the player’s eyes move to the part of the screen they’re located. It really clears up the screen of distractions and makes it easier to immerse yourself in the action.
Eye-tracking technology certainly adds a fun element to The Division and although some aspects of it would take some getting used to I definitely appreciated the cleaner UI; I’ll be interested to see where it goes next.
The Division will be available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One from March 8th 2016 and you can find Tobii’s EyeX on their website for €119 (around £93).
Images via Lewis