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 :)

It looks like Nintendo are turning into Sega.

It was a tall order for Nintendo to produce a sufficient successor to the best selling games system the Nintendo DS. Last year they bet their cards on 3D to revolutionise mobile gaming and solely 3D.

We already had 4 versions of the DS and I think the ‘DS’ Brand name has maxed out its potential. It is now no longer unique in the world of gadgets where multitouch capacative screen is the norm on all mobile devices and the humble stylus with a resistive screen now seems out dated. Archaic even. Add to this; the design of the console is no different to that of a DSI and to the average consumer this does not look like a new device but simply an evolutionary upgrade. Furthermore, considering that ‘DS’ is used in the brand name this only adds to confusion. The price £220 on release and the woeful battery life only add further pressure to the 3DS not succeeding not to mention the anaemic release schedule. Consumers aren’t stupid and will not pay double the price for a device that isn’t much difference to a DS. Yes the new Nintendo 3DS does have a slide pad; yes it does have a larger screen; yes it does have a gyroscopic sensor and renders games in full stereoscopic glasses free 3D. We were promised a varied amount of passive content being wirelessly delivered to our consoles. But in reality all we have gotten so far is some rubbish magic trick videos, music videos by an unknown band and Oscar Oasis (which is rubbish but each to their own). I would have much preferred passive downloads of game trailers, demos and 3D film trailers. Streetpass was fun while it lasted but has not been refreshed or updated with new content. It’s as though Nintendo has gone to sleep.

In August 2011 we received a price drop where the Nintendo 3DS could be picked up for a limited time low price of £110 if you shopped around. But this was to clear the initial batch of stock which was lingering around Nintendo’s distribution centre unsold. Granted it has gone up in price a little since then hovering around £125-140. Now we are seeing that the 3DS has double its sales and looks to be back on course for now.

What surprises me is that the DSI was still selling reasonably well; understandably it was near to the end of its lifespan but there was no panic button for Nintendo to release the 3DS early and could have instead dropped the existing DSI prices further to boost sales. This release seems out of character for Nintendo who have never in their history rushed a console for a quick release. I can only imagine that the pressure was exerted from their shareholders (who are notably richer since 2004) and the press being negative towards Nintendo and urging them to release a new handheld console to compete with Ipod/Iphone type devices. Which in my opinion is a different market altogether.

I think the Nintendo 3DS hardware needed to be more radical rather than evolutionary. Basically, Nintendo needed to rethink and redefine the mobile console gaming space completely and released a console which was future proof for the next five years similar to the DS and Gameboy. Maybe they should have got rid of the bottom screen and bit the bullet by making the console both 3D and multitouch on the same screen. Also, adding a second analog stick for 3D specific games would have done wonders. Multi touch use for games that require it without 3D. Removed the cheapo rubbish CMOS cameras to save on costs – apart from the AR cards this feature has not been supported that well. Released an eShop with a three tier approach for cheap budget games, virtual console and full retail games. Supporting MP3 files for music and allowing an open source media player such as VLC. Better online support and obviously a new brand name. There also, needed to be a new way to interact with the device which both Nintendo and Sony have failed on in both the 3DS and NGP and they do not improve what the mobile phone devices offer currently.

On top of this a Slider pad peripheral has been rearing its ugly head on the internet; this basically adds a second analog stick to the device and appears to turn your square 3DS into a GameGear of sorts. What isn’t clear as of yet is whether this is a compulsory upgrade for us early adopters and Nintendo admitting that their console wasn’t quite ready for launch. Or whether it has been created specifically to use with Monster Hunter which is awful to play with one analog stick. Admittedly I am open to the idea of adding a second analog stick and it does make a lot of sense but not at the expense of adding extra weight, dimensions and destroying the aesthetic of my 3DS.
This past year has shown me evidence that Nintendo are struggling in this new age where there is a heavy reliance on third party software. A lot of the Nintendo franchises have been milked to death and there doesn’t look to be anything revolutionary coming from Nintendo HQ. I guess it is sign of the times the market is very segregated and fickle at the same time. Maybe Nintendo need to work more closely with third parties and hand over more of their franchises or initiate the creation of new franchises which they aren’t able to support in-house.

I love my 3DS to bits and I do see the value in 3D and playing Ocarina of time only verifies that this is the future but I think the console needed to up its game. There are whispers of a redesigned console which will be a slap in the office for anyone who has bought the console thus far. Let’s hope it is not true and that Nintendo focusses its efforts on producing great software and reasons to own and buy the console in the first place much like the original DS. For better or worse the hardware has been released and unique content is the only thing that matters.