Ken Levine of Irrational Games and Todd Howard of Bethesda say console gamers want the same deep RPG experiences as their PC counterparts but need to be eased into them a bit more because they “don’t have the patience to wade through the introduction of systems.”
Ken Levine and Todd Howard are two guys who really know which end is up when it comes to videogames. Levine’s work includes Thief: The Dark Project, System Shock 2 and, more recently, BioShock, while Howard is known for the Elder Scrolls games Morrowind and Oblivion and the hit RPG-shooter Fallout 3. So when they say that console gamers are a little thick in the head, well, you pretty much have to go along with it.
They didn’t actually say that, of course. What they did say, in the debut episode of Irrational Interviews, is that console and PC gamers share a desire for deep role-playing experiences but have different expectations about how to achieve them. “[Levine and I] had talked about how we were going to translate [the core RPG] experience to the console audience,” Howard said. “We had lots of conversations on how we were doing that, and at the end of the day it was, ‘Look, we can have all that stuff in the game but we just have to make it easier to learn and easier to play.’ Ultimately it makes the game better for everybody.”
“You go into a PC game that has all those kinds of constructs, and there’s this assumption when you’re making those games that, ‘This PC player by his nature is really hardcore and I really don’t have to explain all this stuff,’ whereas when you go to the console world, you need to ease them in a bit more,” he continued. “But once they’re into the game, the console guys want just as deep of an experience as the PC guys.”
The issue, according to Levine, is that console gamers “don’t have the patience to wade through the introduction of systems.” He pointed to the opening sequence in Oblivion, in which the player helped Captain Picard out of a tough spot, as a “perfect example” of how to familiarize gamers with controls without making them sit through a less-engaging text-based tutorial.
It’s no secret that I like poking fun at my button-mashing brothers and sisters, but I can’t deny that there’s a lot of validity to their point. I agree with Levine’s assessment that, broadly speaking, console gamers tend to be less patient than their PC counterparts, but ultimately the experience is what matters and if studios can make that more accessible, everyone benefits.