Controller Evolution

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Controller Evolution

This week, MovieBob, Yahtzee, and James Portnow discuss the evolution of the controller and the difficulty in bringing non-gamers up to speed.

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I don't know if I would go as far as to say gaming continuity is easier to get into than comic book continuity. Although this may be the case for some games, generally its not very hard to say, track down and play the entirety of the Halo franchise (sorry Bob!) than it is to understand every nuance and character arch associated with the current members of the Avengers (oh yeah, and which team?) without research the characters' pasts and recent universe events.

So, these installments are just segments of one epically long discussion thread? Wow.

(10 points to Moviebob for sneaking in a short movie review there.:)

Edit: Oh, yeah.

I watched two people fall in love over a game of Dance Central.

WHAT?

there'll be no reason for companies NOT to put their back-catalogues online and rake in the microtransaction cash.

In terms of PC gaming at least, GoG.com can be said to already be fulfilling this purpose for a number of series. From Fallout to Duke Nukem, the old games that were the first games in these series are available digitally, compatible, and for a good price.

As for consoles, I don't really know much about that, but it doesn't seem to me like there's much out there for those games.

The second to last post of James'. The last couple of paragraphs. Couldn't agree more. Wonderfully written.

Controllers and cloud gaming... interesting...

On the "back-catalog" point, a lot of the older games, primarily NES and older titles, had the problem of essentially being basic game mechanics (mostly-platformers) with half-cooked stories lumped onto them.

"Hey, let's have a princess get kidnapped by a turtle. Then, we'll have his Italian plumber boy friend try to rescue her." If you viewed this without any knowledge of the cultural significance, it would sound like an excuse to make a game rather than the basis for the most iconic franchise in history.

Just like it is hard to imagine the Cold War having known only the '90s and 2000s, the story-gap will probably be the most notable thing about gaming prior to the PS1 generation. I'll be honest, I can handle a game with a bad control scheme, but I can't handle a game without a plot.

Keep it up guys. I've seen many of your videos and articles and am looking forward to these conversations between you three.

this is really great stuff, keep it up! you guys should consider doing a podcast I think =)

Oh dear...

Console gamers already see PC games being brought over to their platform being 'dumbed down' because of the constraints of the controllers. If the industry tries to cater to the novice to expand the market, won't they be simplifying the controllers even further if the current ones appear 'daunting' to a rookie?

Why is it that whenever motion controls are brought up nobody mentions Flower?

That game is one of the most immersive gaming experiences I've ever had, and it works *because* of the motion controls.

Fappy:
I don't know if I would go as far as to say gaming continuity is easier to get into than comic book continuity. Although this may be the case for some games, generally its not very hard to say, track down and play the entirety of the Halo franchise (sorry Bob!) than it is to understand every nuance and character arch associated with the current members of the Avengers (oh yeah, and which team?) without research the characters' pasts and recent universe events.

your confusing superhero comics with the medium. Sure that is an obstacle to that sub-genre (and honestly its not actually necessary to do all the hunting around unless you want to, marvel writers have been learning to make jump on points recently so its kinda a null statement nowadays).

Equally you don't have to play any of the other halo's to understand halo 3 (mainly because the story is kill the evil aliens).

About older games and people discovering them, this is one reason why Good Old Games exists.

Provides older games for $10 USD and under, all optimized for current systems, and no DRM, so there's little-to-no hassle in getting them to run.

Plenty of my friends have discovered great older games this way. And GoG's existence makes me happy.

As for console games, well the Wii Store has a HUGE storefront specifically for older Nintendo games. Plus its backwords compatable with Gamecube games. Although finding those games would be a challenge.

For MS & Sony, things are a bit more sad. Microsoft scrapped bringing Xbox games to the 360 long ago. They just don't seem to care anymore. Sony has put up quite a few old PS1 games on the Playstation Network, and is giving popular PS2 games HD remakes. For those that don't have HD remakes, well the PS2 is still around, and so are a lot of its games. And if you have any PS1 games, they're compatible with the PS3. But again, finding those games would be a challenge.

Still, I wish they would care more about older games. Specifically Microsoft. There's plenty of old Xbox games that I would love to get people today to play(like Timesplitters).

bahumat42:

Fappy:
I don't know if I would go as far as to say gaming continuity is easier to get into than comic book continuity. Although this may be the case for some games, generally its not very hard to say, track down and play the entirety of the Halo franchise (sorry Bob!) than it is to understand every nuance and character arch associated with the current members of the Avengers (oh yeah, and which team?) without research the characters' pasts and recent universe events.

your confusing superhero comics with the medium. Sure that is an obstacle to that sub-genre (and honestly its not actually necessary to do all the hunting around unless you want to, marvel writers have been learning to make jump on points recently so its kinda a null statement nowadays).

Equally you don't have to play any of the other halo's to understand halo 3 (mainly because the story is kill the evil aliens).

Yeah Halo is a bad example of plot complexity I know. :P

Another week, another console focused episode. This sucks :(

and God forbid the Tutorial isn't 100% skippable or "hardcore" gamers are garaunteed to pitch a fit about it - as though it's inconcievable that people without their specific prior experience might want to play, too

What? You make it sound like there's something wrong with wanting a skip button, Bob. I have to disagree strongly: a skip button is what makes everyone happy.

If the tutorial is mandatory for everyone each time you start a new game, people who already know what they are doing are going to find it annoying.
If the tutorial doesn't exist, no players are going to get frustrated and turn the game off.
If the tutorial is there, but you can choose to skip it, experienced players can skip the tutorial and just play, while new players can take the extra time to pick up the basics.

With a skip button, everyone is happy. Every game tutorial should be skippable. It's just something that should be in every game these days, like an option for subtitles, and an in-game brightness adjuster so we don't have to change our TV's or monitor's settings if one game decides to be too dark or too bright by default.

Meanmoose:
you guys should consider doing a podcast I think =)

Considering Yahtzee lives in Australia, and the other two presumably live in different parts of America, I suspect this would be one heck of a headache to do... :/

Also to quote James: 'Go back pre-DS and look at all the detractors who said a stylus was the worst input idea of all time...' - I can't stand a DS and would still say a stylus is the worst idea of all time...

OT: Have to agree with Yahtzee that game controllers will just become something people grow up understanding how to use, just as like a TV/DVD remote for today's youth (if you don't understand what I mean go watch your mum/dad/elderly neighbour/stalking victim attempt to play a DVD)

Great idea, very interesting to see what you guys have to say (:

People bonding over video games...
So beautiful

AAAAAAAAAANYWAY, great column this week. I love reading you guys go back and forth with these topics.

TheBobmus:

Meanmoose:
you guys should consider doing a podcast I think =)

Considering Yahtzee lives in Australia, and the other two presumably live in different parts of America, I suspect this would be one heck of a headache to do... :/

I considered this...Then I was all like: You should have a few headaches for the betterment of the universe as a whole :D

I love the juxtaposition of the two most cynical people in gaming and a man with a very romantic view on gaming having a discussion about gaming stuff. Great read fellas.

I want to share two opinions on the things they discussed.

1. Motion controls. I think they, or at least the wii, was an absolutely worthwhile experiment. It might have ended up being the best thing that happened to gaming. It wasn't. Far from it. Motion controls, frankly, suck and BADLY. We need to drop them. They're a waste of time as far as I'm concerned.

2. Cloud Gaming. I'm not huge on this either. I've used digital distribution services like steam and frankly I much prefer having a physical copy of my games. It's not just me liking "having" things either. Valve goes out of business, steam's servers go down, and I lose access to my games that I paid for. The same could be said for Onlive or any other similar service. I don't like that idea. I understand many game's online multiplayer will go down in the future but to lose access to the game entirely for similar reasons is a scary thought. I don't like that. I'd much rather just get a disk.

James Portnow:
That said, I still think preserving our heritage and handing off the classic games to future generations has immeasurable value. It's sad how much of our medium's history has vanished amidst the march of progress. It impoverishes designers and future aficionados, and, in doing so, impoverishes the medium at large. It's a tragedy how much is already forever lost.

*applause*

Absolutely couldn't agree more. I used to not be a fan of digital distribution, but I'm getting more and more on its side as I've seen older games, which otherwise wouldn't run on modern operating systems, being released on them. GOG is the poster child for this, in my opinion, and the value of the work they do in preserving classic videogames is inestimable.

Videogames are the only medium which, up until recently, haven't made an effort to preserve their past. Books get reprinted, films get re-released on the newest format, comics get collected in trades, but old games have tended to languish in unplayability; at times, it seems like publishers have been in favour of their back catalogues becoming unplayable. The lack of backwards compatibility in the PS3 was a colossal error, in my opinion, and playing a pre-XP PC game on a modern computer is pretty much impossible without downloading a whole lot of user-made patches and fixes. God help you if it pre-dates Windows 95.

In short: I completely agree, and I think it's wonderful that services like GOG and, indeed, Steam, are now being used as a way of making old games playable again.

I agree with Yahtzee almost everytime... except now. Motion controls have really revolutionized gaming into making well thought out motion mechanics for people who are used to kinectic experiences. That is people who have most likely never touched a traditional controller. Case in point: My father. He gets dizzy with Tomb Raider and I couldn't get him into Smash Bros, but he is fucking crazy about Wii Sports.

Games can cater to everyone now and hardcores have to shut up and stop criticizing the casual market because it's aimed at people that haven't played games before. There's Yogi Bear and there's Black Swan and there's Inception and no movie buff is criticizing their friend's kids for taking them to watch Yogi Bear instead of Apocalypse Now. Granted there are levels of entertainment but do not confuse quality with target audience.

mjc0961:

and God forbid the Tutorial isn't 100% skippable or "hardcore" gamers are garaunteed to pitch a fit about it - as though it's inconcievable that people without their specific prior experience might want to play, too

What? You make it sound like there's something wrong with wanting a skip button, Bob. I have to disagree strongly: a skip button is what makes everyone happy.

If the tutorial is mandatory for everyone each time you start a new game, people who already know what they are doing are going to find it annoying.
If the tutorial doesn't exist, no players are going to get frustrated and turn the game off.
If the tutorial is there, but you can choose to skip it, experienced players can skip the tutorial and just play, while new players can take the extra time to pick up the basics.

With a skip button, everyone is happy. Every game tutorial should be skippable. It's just something that should be in every game these days, like an option for subtitles, and an in-game brightness adjuster so we don't have to change our TV's or monitor's settings if one game decides to be too dark or too bright by default.

Gears of War 2 Handled this very nicely with choosing to take Carmine out on a patrol or not, I took him the first time for the conversation elements. But yeah you are right on what the industry needs to do. And with RPGs they can go with the model of starting you with the basics and you building your character into more complex tactics.

mjc0961:

and God forbid the Tutorial isn't 100% skippable or "hardcore" gamers are garaunteed to pitch a fit about it - as though it's inconcievable that people without their specific prior experience might want to play, too

What? You make it sound like there's something wrong with wanting a skip button, Bob. I have to disagree strongly: a skip button is what makes everyone happy.

If the tutorial is mandatory for everyone each time you start a new game, people who already know what they are doing are going to find it annoying.
If the tutorial doesn't exist, no players are going to get frustrated and turn the game off.
If the tutorial is there, but you can choose to skip it, experienced players can skip the tutorial and just play, while new players can take the extra time to pick up the basics.

With a skip button, everyone is happy. Every game tutorial should be skippable. It's just something that should be in every game these days, like an option for subtitles, and an in-game brightness adjuster so we don't have to change our TV's or monitor's settings if one game decides to be too dark or too bright by default.

Like Gears of War 1 and 2, which both let you skip the tutorial or go through it? (and not through a menu but with dialog for each choice to boot?)

Also, Moviebob needs to stop using caps in every post. I CAN READ IT WITHOUT CAPS, it's kind of annoying, even though earlier today I made a post with too many caps. I won't do that again, I usually don't.

I don't really like Moviebob anyway, not since that fucking ludicrous video on Halo he did a while back.

EscapingReality:
I agree with Yahtzee almost everytime... except now.
-snip-
Granted there are levels of entertainment but do not confuse quality with target audience.

Uhh... That's kinda what Yahtzee said.

The point I suppose we dance around here is that gaming is multifaceted enough that it can cater for a wide range of people with varying ideas of entertainment. Motion controls are akin to playing cricket on the beach with your family at Christmas (in Australia, that is, southern hemisphere lovely weather year round ha ha), while a game like SH2 controlled with button controllers from a prone, inactive, sofa slump position is more like settling down to read a good book. I prefer the latter, and motion controls will never improve that experience. It just won't.

So... Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

But about controllers and complexity... I think MovieBob's concern is more valid than we know. Sure, game-savvy kids adapt well to modern games, just like the kids in the 80'ies or 90'ies adapted well to their games. But without a doubt the more accessible the game's controls are, the bigger is the potential audience. This is not something even worth questioning.

This is why Wii sports is so popular, this is why browser puzzles and games with low action content (ie. not demanding lightning reflexes) and accessible content are so successful and so well played. That is why causal games and social games work.

There is nothing wrong with controllers remaining complex. But don't expect a game with complex controls to be truly popular. It's just not going to happen, no matter how good the game is. Some people just won't be able to learn, or won't be willing to even try. Which is a shame, but that's how it is.

I think part of this whole controller stagnation thing is that every game ever usually have the same basic controllers. It's not a bad thing, control schemes have reached a point that they're both at maximum utility and maximum simplicity.

Take a PC FPS, for example, WASD is the forward/back/strafe buttons, the mouse is the 360 look/attack controls. R is reload, Space is jump etc. If someone goes around changing it just to be different, you end up with people hating the game because they can't immerse themselves in the story, settings, etc. because they're too busy looking down at the keyboard and trying to figure out why "crouch" is mapped to the F7 key.

Motion controllers have the same problem. Because of the current lack fluidity in the sensing of motion, players end up watching what they are doing much more than they are watching the result of what they are doing. What are supposed to be "natural movements" become stiff and robotic, because if you actually move naturally (like in a game like Just Dance on the Wii), you end up failing basic moves in-game due to the fact that you were ten degrees off the proper position.

If and when motion controls get to the point where even the most natural movements are correctly interpreted as controls, I will have no problem with the whole "lack of immersion" thing. But until then, I'm inclined to agree with Yahtzee.

although I usually agree with him, I have to disagree with Yahtzee on considering the toy guitars that started the music gaming genre as nothing more than glorified controllers. Essentially anything you may use to play a game is a "controller" but I believe the point is the approach to interacting with it differently, probably the point James was trying to make about the stylus. It isn't about just what it is or was at its present time but what it can lead to. Look at the games The Gig and Rock Band 3. The "controller" has evolved in such a way that now anyone who picks up those games and their peripherals have chance to come from the experience as novice or average guitar players on a real guitar.

I think the debate over controllers needs to encompass more than just the current standard for immersion and veteran gamers vs newcomers. When controllers are discussed, especially this rise in motion gaming that we live in, it should be discussed how the new controllers are currently changing gameplay and immersion, how they may change these aspects in the future and what new "controllers" will they usher in next.

I also feel the need to add this next bit. Yahtzee always defaults to SH2 and it inspired a thought: imagine if you had to play horror house simulators like SH: Shattered Memories and similar games with the running pad from the NES days along with a standard controller or motion controller. Basically, imagine playing any game that causes you to run from or to something frequently, you would use the your choice of main control for interaction and direction of movement while the actual movement and pace between walking and running was determined by your pace on the running pad. What different/new kind of immersion would that create for those games and if successful, where would that go to next?

I'm not saying that my idea is a great one but like I said before, I think that this was the direction of James' responses; that we need to consider new and different types of control for a widen variety of gaming experiences and evolutions. Maybe even bring things back like the joystick for more mech games and flight simulators or flight combat games.
Hmmm...what if we had two joysticks used simultaneausly? Okay, I'll stop now cause I'm just rambling

Yahtzee makes an interesting point. Gaming is the biggest form of entertainment today. Those who don't get it will simply die off. For those who are not "hardcore" they will simply understand gaming as one skill along with many others. Think of comics and the revolts of the 1950's by people who didn't get it. This is kind of the same thing. Comics were a way of storytelling, the controllers to games are one way of interacting with a computer. Those that don't understand it will feel alienated.

Bob brought up that GH might not even work if it didn't have the controller. I disagree with this. Harmonix had made 2 fantastic rhythm games before Guitar Hero using basically the same highway of notes (Frequency and Amplitude). Everyone that I have showed the games to have become immediatly hooked, since they are really fun games (just like Guitar Hero). What the guitar controller did was serve as a hook and took out the foreign nature of a video game controller (people kinda get the guitar motion).

Rayne870:
Gears of War 2 Handled this very nicely with choosing to take Carmine out on a patrol or not, I took him the first time for the conversation elements. But yeah you are right on what the industry needs to do. And with RPGs they can go with the model of starting you with the basics and you building your character into more complex tactics.

believer258:
Like Gears of War 1 and 2, which both let you skip the tutorial or go through it? (and not through a menu but with dialog for each choice to boot?)

Yep. The Gears series is a great example. I used them as an example in another thread where we happened to be discussing things every game should have.

It was also suggested that they make them unskippable because newbies might skip them and then whine when they don't know the controls, so I suggested an alternative. Games already have a habit of locking us out of the hardest difficulty until we beat the game once. Why not lock us into doing the tutorial until we beat the game once? Then, after that, we are given the option to skip it in any future new games we start, because we clearly know what we are doing if we've already beaten the game. And it will just be an option, so if it's been a while we can still take the tutorial as a refresher if needed.

believer258:
Also, Moviebob needs to stop using caps in every post. I CAN READ IT WITHOUT CAPS, it's kind of annoying, even though earlier today I made a post with too many caps. I won't do that again, I usually don't.

Perhaps he can swap out his use of caps for the use of a spell checker? That part I copied for the quote caused my browser to light up with piles of wavy red underlines.

Formica Archonis:

I watched two people fall in love over a game of Dance Central.

WHAT?

I'm hoping it wasn't the artist and the talking guy; that might get awkward come the following Extra Credits...

eharriett:
Yahtzee makes an interesting point. Gaming is the biggest form of entertainment today. Those who don't get it will simply die off.

WOAH.

Hardcore stuff.

airrazor7:

Hmmm...what if we had two joysticks used simultaneausly?

You would have Virtual On, or actually... Steel Battalion... what a mess.

Fappy:
I don't know if I would go as far as to say gaming continuity is easier to get into than comic book continuity. Although this may be the case for some games, generally its not very hard to say, track down and play the entirety of the Halo franchise (sorry Bob!) than it is to understand every nuance and character arch associated with the current members of the Avengers (oh yeah, and which team?) without research the characters' pasts and recent universe events.

But you said it is easier to get into game continuity with this post. What the hell are you trying to say?

I would just like to cast my vote in favor of continuing this series. An expert opinion is great, but an expert discussion is greater still.

Korne:

airrazor7:

Hmmm...what if we had two joysticks used simultaneausly?

You would have Virtual On, or actually... Steel Battalion... what a mess.

Yeah, I actually thought about that when I was typing and you've got a point(although I haven't heard of the Virtual On, I'll have to look that up). Still, it would be neat if developers continued to make attempts at different styles of gameplay, even when they sometimes fail (which they will) in order to create new experiences. Heck, that basically sums up my arcade experiences. While everyone else was beating the crap out of people on arcade sticks (my non-gamer girlfriend beat me on a Tekken 5 arcade cabinet, I think my ego is still sore) I was climbing into racing simulators, blasting away at different rail gun shooters and relishing in the experiences that could not be had on a home pc or console. For example, one of my favorite arcade experiences is climbing into a life sized pod racer with the appropriate hovercraft styled controls for a Star Wars pod racing game. I know gaming experiences like that can't be created on a pc or console, but it would be nice if in the years to come the classic controller would merely be an option out of several control schemes.

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