Why control schemes should be standardised?

I have been playing games for approximately 30 years in that time I have switched from a joystick with one button, to a nes controller, a megadrive controller and then to a Gameboy and snes controller before moving onto the Dualshock controller.

For the past 5-10 years we have seen a standardized button layout emerging from all three games console manufacturers. Apart from the Wii; all controllers have at least 4 face buttons and two shoulder buttons with a combination of twin analog sticks and a cross keypad. It seems that Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony are all in consensus that the controller has been somewhat standardized with maximum number of buttons achieved and manageable for any gamer in terms of dexterity.

Therefore, it begs the question why we haven’t reached a point where a first person game or a platform game has the same control scheme? For example, recently playing Bioshock infinite the change weapon button is RB (when playing on the Xbox 360) when compared to say Battlefield or Call of duty this is usually the Y button. Instinctively, I always manage to press the Y button before realizing that this is the melee button. Take the zoom function when you are using a scoped rifle. On one game this is accomplished via holding down the left trigger (with the right trigger for firing your weapon). Yet, some games think it is suitable to click on the right controller to zoom in such as Uncharted or Gears of War.

Nintendo are not far behind with their confusing control schemes try playing Super Mario 3D land where the L button allows you to do the stomp jump whilst on New Super Mario U this turns into the twirl move. This can be very problematic when playing both these games at the same time. A problem I have come across whilst helping my niece through some of the difficult levels on Super Mario 3D land wherein my niece ridiculed me for stomp jumping thin air and that I was an incompetent gamer. Mario is near enough identical in the way he moves, behaves and controls in both games.

Fifa and Pro evo is another example where this occurs. I used to be an avid Pro Evo fan before switching to Fifa and then back again due to Fifa 13 crashing all the time. On Fifa you shoot with the A button whilst on Pro Evo this is the X button. Why can’t they both be the same? I know there is an alternate control scheme in Fifa but every time you play local multiplayer you have to ensure you switch control schemes depending on the person who is playing the game and whether that player is a Pro Evo or Fifa player.

To sum up my gripes; I don’t have the time or patience as an older gamer to move between control schemes and having to adjust the way I play each and every game. Also, the fact that I have a range of devices i.e. Wii U, PS Vita, PS3, Xbox 360 and 3DS I would like controls to be standardized so no matter which console I am using i.e. if I am playing Mario on 3ds it is the same as on the Wii U. If I am playing Metal Gear, Deus Ex or Half-life control schemes are similar. Granted some games differ in terms of functionality and features therefore, in order to change the control scheme there has to be a really good reason to do it and it has to be intuitive/second nature in the way the controls work.

Animal crossing New Leaf (so shiny)

Animal Crossing New Leaf is my game of the year so far. It sits above Bioshock infinite and The Last of Us for me and here is why. (Spoiler warning)

I never played Animal Crossing Wild World and only played the primitive Gamecube version. However, since its 3DS release late June, I have played this game constantly at least for an hour a day on the commute to and from work. This is a game similar to Dark souls and Monster Hunter and is only rewarding based on the effort put into it but without the difficulty curve.

The masterstroke of you being the Mayor in your own random map makes it all the more personal to you. You can mold the town to how you see fit. My town currently sits as an expensive place for purchasing and selling items and a very green place with lots of trees bearing fruits such as oranges, pears, coconuts, bananas and cherries. It is currently moderately developed with a TV screen, a water well, a fountain, a statue, fire pit as well as a tent area among other things; I am still working on developing the town further with a third bridge.

I am compelled to visit the town everyday to see what the shops have in store for me with their daily refresh of shoes, shirts, hats and furniture with some being Nintendo themed (the ultimate fan service). Not sure how Nintendo manage to make merchants such as Timmy and Tommy Nook seem so cute and adorable – who practically rob you with their prices. Also, my daily fruit picking (I have had many a strange look from fellow commuters) and fossil digging allows me to afford all the luxuries of making my house bigger and developing the town further. Not to mention chasing insects and going fishing to keep me occupied and making daily contributions to the museum.

The endearing and yet charming world is realized once you’re allowed to visit the small island. Here you are introduced to Kapp’n who takes you to the small holiday island in his boat singing a soulful song about life (a developer’s life lesson message). Some of the songs really do pull on your heartstrings and at one point I nearly welled up with tears in my eyes – and I can’t say that about many games I have played (Journey being one of them). Visiting the island is equally rewarding and hunting for rare insects and taking the fruit back home with you to grow and sell adds to the diversity. Furthermore, mini games are available, via the previously retired mayor that allow you to purchase items such as a Wetsuit.

The cheesy yet entertaining Dr Shrunk is another person to visit on a daily basis (after 7pm) give him a snack and he will tell you a joke. Which can be funny and also, a head in hand experience. Receiving letters and gifts from villagers and solving their micro problems passes the time as well – if only real life was this easy.

I feel I have only scratched the surface with this game and would like to see how the town develops in different seasons.
My only gripe is that the tools menu shouldn’t be part of your inventory as this limits your ability to carry items. All I can say is that I feel happy visiting the town on daily basis after a stressful day of real–life work and ultimately isn’t this why we play games in the first place? Nintendo, I salute you for a job well done!

Why Hello Kitty is enough?

Last Christmas my brother bought our niece a Nintendo DSI console for Christmas.  She is 4 years old and into anything Pink and likes playing with dolls and such as normal kids do at that age.  She used to play with our consoles quite a bit hence why my brother purchased a Nintendo DSI.

She played with it for a few hours; using the camera and Flipnote apps.  My brother bought Nintendogs and a bunch of other games appropriate for a 4 year old., carefully picking critically acclaimed games (as we like to think we know a bit about games).  None of them have interested her and she has played them for 30mins each and has never picked them up again.

A few months later I saw Hello Kitty birthday adventures! going for cheap.  All kids her age are going through the Hello Kitty fad at the moment so I took a punt full well knowing that this would a poor game for someone who is a gaming veteran such as myself.

However, after presenting it to my niece she was immediately excited.  A few hours later she was still playing on it.  As far as I was concerned this game was very poor in quality.  But who can argue with a 4 year old.  She was happy roaming around the Animal Crossing-like environment.

I usually turn my nose up to dross such as this but if it makes a 4 year old happy who am I to argue.  Now I know who buys these type of games :)

My all time top 20

I thought it would be a good idea to list my all time top 20.  It was hard but I have decided to list them in no particular order as that would take me twice as long!!

Super Mario World – The pinnacle of 2D platforming.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Would have been SMG1 but this beats it in every single area.

Fire Emblem GBA – Awesome game the ultimate portable fun.  The game to last you your entire holiday.

Metroid Prime – One of gamecube’s finest first person action games.

Zelda Four Swords – Amazing multiplayer Zelda, expensive setup but well worth it for the experience.

Rez HD – Synethesia, the future of rhythm based games.  Bring on Child of Eden!!

Shadow of the Colossus – Meeting the first Colossi was breathtaking and then taking it down was even more so.

Ico – Serene, isolation, panic, tense.  Gaming for adults.

Bayonetta – The greatest action brawler ever and yes, better than Devil May Cry and God of War.

Zelda A Link to the Past – 2D Action RPG played through multiple times.

Zelda Wind Waker – Graphics still look amazing even now.

Advance Wars GBA – Same type of game as Fire Emblem but this formula works.

Half Life 2 – Would have been the first one but this improves on it in every single way and remains timeless for now.

Street Fighter 4 – Just buy yourself a madcatz fight stick and enjoy one of the best fighting games of all time if not the best.

Shenmue 2 – Brilliant for its time, technically adept but not without its flaws, you become so engrossed in the story and the Virtua Fighter style battles are awesome.

Resident Evil 4 – The greatest survival horror game ever made.

Gran Turismo – The first true driving simulator for consoles before this you had the choice of 8 cars and 8 tracks.  This changed all that forever giving you 10 times more content packed on to 2 CD’s.

Grand Theft Auto 3 – The first true 3D open world game and one of the moments you sit up and notice that gaming will be forever redefined.

Uncharted 2 – Even after 2 playthrough’s the game never fails to disappoint and leaves you awe struck.

Mass Effect 2 – This is the future of RPG’s.  RIP levelling up and grinding through random battles.

Out of action…

So my intention was to feed this blog with regular content.  However, after being off ill for a few months I haven’t been able to fulfil this.  During this time I have had minimal gaming time and due to being off work as well I haven’t missed gaming so much.

Gaming, in my opinion, is a form of escapism and with nothing to escape from i.e. as I have not had to deal with the everyday pressures and deadlines of work I didn’t feel the need to play as much.  I haven’t picked up my Nintendo DSI or PSP in a few months and I still have a few games to get through on those systems i.e. Fire Emblem, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, The World Ends with You among others.  As for my PS3 it has mainly been used to watch TV series, films and Iplayer on.  I am not complaining and I hope once I am back to work I shall be enjoying gaming once again.

My brother recently married with a baby boy has also, found that he is not finding time to play games he has other things to keep him occupied such as raising his kid, house chores and work.  I can only think back to my younger days when any free time was spent on gaming with not a second’s thought.  With my gaming experience and becoming older I have found that I have become less patient over time and bad game design just doesn’t cut it anymore.  I will happily stop playing a game because of this (Fallout 3 you have been named and shamed).  Furthermore, I cannot seem to muster playing games on a harder difficulty setting than normal and playing sections over and over again repeatedly is no fun.

I don’t think I can fall out gaming anytime soon as this has stuck with me for 27 years.  I regard it as more of a break in between I am sure at some stage I will find something other than FIFA 11 to engage me.

GAME bosses step down

CEO and COO resign as annual profits fall 28 per cent

CEO and COO resign as annual profits fall 28 per cent


Nintendo 3DS – why is it needed?

Nintendo 3DS looks likely to be the right move

So Nintendo announced the 3DS (working title) back in march.

In terms of hardware this will most likely have a souped up ARM processor to be in line with previous DS iterations.  Nintendo have claimed that the graphics will be advanced than the current generation hardware DS, PSP or IPhone.  We could see the graphics match that of its sibling the Nintendo Wii.  We all know that Nintendo have dabbled and experimented with 3D before but this time will be different.  The chip and screen manufacturers are now in a stage to offer this technology to a mass audience with relatively cheap technology (at least in the next couple of years).  This is evident in TV hardware.  Nintendo’s handheld will be different in respect to no extra peripheral will be required to view 3D unlike TV sets which will require special 3D glasses.

Nintendo has had a tough time over the past couple of years with regards to piracy.  R4 cards have proved to have sold many more hardware units for Nintendo.  However, software sales have suffered despite the hardware surge.  This affects third party developers more.  Traditionally Japanese gamers tend to buy their games legit compared to other regions this is due to gaming being an ingrained part of Japanese life.  In other parts of the world such as Europe there are various countries who have no alternative but to pirate.  Maybe a better distribution model moulded by Nintendo would have deterred this.  With that said, I expect Nintendo to reduce their output of physical games as they have experimented with DSI ware and will learn lessons on how to distribute via a download system.  The next DS system will have some sort of ‘always on’ wireless connectivity.  I don’t believe this will have any sort of phone functions apart from maybe being enabled to use Skype straight out of the box.

This leads me conveniently onto the IPhone.  I am an advocate of the IPhone and have had all iterations thus far.  With a continual stream of software updates we have seen feature after feature added to it.  It has now become a serious gaming platform competing alongside the DS and PSP.  It has taken market share from both of these companies and the irony is that the online distribution software model has hit Nintendo and Sony hard.  Although, IPhone games have a relatively cheap entry barrier in terms cost the quality is not quite there as of yet.  Nintendo will have a hard time competing with such a system and the current DS system does actually now feel outdated.  In my opinion, the 3DS has been announced at the right time.  After a 5 year cycle of the standard DS; time has moved quickly and touchscreen now seems passe.

In order to generate consumer interest and would be DS owners to upgrade the 3DS needs to offer something new and exciting.  Hence the exploration into 3D technology.  Nintendo will achieve this in pure ‘Nintendo style’ by providing a combination of software manipulation and hardware to attain the desired result.  We cannot discount Nintendo they have proved themselves time and time again.

Personally, I am looking forward to the 3DS it will be something new, refreshing and exciting.  In true Nintendo fashion.

Iphone 4G

Engadget posted an article with videos/pics of a potential iphone.

Engadget posted an article with videos/pics of a potential iphone.  My opinion is that it is a fake here are the reasons why:

  • Apple usually have a more tidier design with less parts than this prototype
  • Apple usually announce this type of device through a keynote
  • The new iphone will likely have a bigger screen to match competitors and a better touch screen akin to Ipad

I suspect at the best, this is a prototype developed; to test some of the features that could be made apparent in the next iteration of the Iphone.  It does appear to be a very smart viral marketing campaign to deter existing Iphone customers to jump ship to Android.  There are thousands of Iphone 3G customers who bought their Iphone in August 2008 who are at/or will be at the end of their contract, looking to upgrade to the latest handset.  Although, the 3GS is a newer phone there are many customers who will not feel the upgrade is significant.   Customers will look at other options such as Google Andriod handsets.