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.

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.

The untimely death of Okami…

The original Okami was released back in 2005 just at the time when the PS2 was running out of steam and gamers were looking to move on to the next generation.  The timing of the release played an important part to the success of this game.  Commercially it failed and did not sell many copies around 600,000 both on Wii and PS2.

Critically, it was adored by all and remains a game with both iconic and cult status.  Most critics at the time rated it higher than Zelda: Twilight Princess.   I played this game from start to finish and it is one of the finest Action/Adventure games I have ever played.  Okami was not a commercial success and this forced the closure of Cloverfield studios.

Okami was later converted to the Wii by Capcom.  It kind of made sense as the paint brush mechanic would work well with the Wii remote and the demographic would run out and buy this game.  The Wii version enjoyed little success partly due to a quiet launch with no marketing campaign to back it up and partly it was lost on a casual audience who were content with Wii Sports, MarioKart and Wii Fit.

Not having learned their lesson with their past two failures; Capcom tried their luck with the Nintendo DS.  This was in development for roughly two years and again was released with little fan fare or marketing hype.  Secondly, to kill Okamiden’s chances of success even further the timing was completely off as the Nintendo 3DS was released a week later back in March 2011.  Granted that there are millions and millions of DS’s out there, together with 3DS being backwards compatible with the DS the timing was way off.  Maybe they should have held back and released a 3DS edition instead, we all know that the 3DS is starved of quality games at the moment and Okami would have shone brighter than others.

I feel sorry for Okami as the art direction, originality and gameplay mechanics should be experienced by all gamers.  Maybe a 3DS version would prove successful?

Arcade revival (in handheld form)

All hail the mobile gaming revolution. As the dwindling figures started occurring circa ‘92 for the local arcades due to the 16 bit era matching the performance of arcade quality games such as Street fighter 2 (ok near arcade quality). The gaming industry thought this was the end of the arcade business as we know it. Initially, during the period of 1994-2000 we experienced a lot of arcade ports onto consoles this was primarily driven by Capcom, Namco and Sega with games such as Tekken, Soul Calibur, Sega Rally and Final Fight to name a few. This was mainly due to a backlog of (over the last 10 years) arcade games that were easily transferrable for the console experience. This missed out on the key factors for me such as the price, accessibility, competitiveness and social element of arcade gaming. It didn’t feel quite the same. However, once the arcade scene was deemed not to be profitable outside of Japan a shift occurred for all developers and publishers to concentrate on console gaming. As we have observed it takes a lot of investment of time and money to produce a console game with longevity, great graphics and mass appeal. This marked the end of the so called ‘arcade experience’ as it could not compete with traditional gaming. Granted the introduction of the Xbox 360 back in 1996 introduced arcade games back into the fold. However, mostly these were games of yesteryear and were more of a novelty serving the already present gaming audience. Games such as Geometry Wars proved there was a market still for arcade games. Once the Iphone (and later Android) was introduced with throwaway priced games starting from ‘FREE’, back in 2008, we experienced smaller developers reigniting the arcade experience all over again. I would describe the arcade experience as being: • Accessible • Anyone can play • Chuckable games • Little investment needed in time and money • Gimmicky • Short games • One more go factor • Socialising with fellow arcaders • Competitiveness • Unique interface When you look at the above list you can see that this transfers over very well to mobile gaming. Games are cheap; require little investment time and for the most part little money as well. They have the social element buttoned down such as competing against friend’s high scores and sharing. Lastly, they are accessible due to the wide adoption of mobile smartphones. I can name a few games true to this formula such as Cut the rope, angry birds, Jenga, Doodle Jump, Bejewelled and Tiny wings. I enjoy console gaming but sometimes it is nice to know while sitting on the train or waiting for someone you can quickly fire up a quick game of Angry birds. Long live arcade gaming.

The defamation of DJ Hero and to a lesser extent Guitar Hero

Activision have put an end to DJ Hero and Guitar Hero for good after sucking as much money in a short period of time as possible.

Being the savvy gamer I purchased DJ Hero from Game last week.  For £40; the package included the turntable controller, DJ Hero 1 and DJ Hero 2.  A bargain – I thought it was worth a punt at that price as I read some great reviews for it.  There was a barrier to entry for me previously; as the prices around Christmas time (£80-90) were extortionate.

The game itself has the same mechanic and feel as Guitar Hero but being a DJ provides a different element.  As you are more in control of the way the music sounds rather than simply hitting buttons.  Scratches, cross fades and sound effects provide variation in the gameplay.  With the difficulty curve hiked up you have to be quick with the timings of the cross fades.  I am really enjoying this game and I would definitely recommend to anyone aged 25-40 and here lies the problem.

The conundrum with DJ Hero is that it was always a niche product for a niche audience being a late 70’s/80’s child I grew up with music such as Grandmaster Flash, DJ Shadow, LTJ Bukem and the late 80’s/90’s rave scene where the DJ was at the forefront and pioneering dance/hip hop music.  So the appeal of DJ Hero was there from the start.  I don’t think this is the case for the younger generation who look up to Pop Idols.

Activision are to blame for destroying the Hero franchise.  If they were smart enough they would have combined both games into one.  I think users would be happy to choose the instrument of their choice be it guitar, drums, piano, mic or turntable.  Releasing a cloned game every year is not justifiable and introduction of cheaper DLC content would have been better a better strategy to refresh the aging playlist.  It’s bananas that a Guitar Hero track costs the same as an MP3 file.  At least with an MP3 you can use as you like.  Enough of Activision bashing for now.  I blame the general gaming audience, ultimately, who are happy to part with their cash for the same game every year.

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.

Game saves – save anywhere is the future

I trade in my old XBOX 360 for a new slim model ensuring that I have copied all of my game saves and content to an external drive.  Copy version seems ok with all game saves intact.  I copy the content and game saves to my new XBOX 360 slim.  I fire up Forza 3.  I look for my game save.  No game save available.  Dissapointment sets in…

I am not a happy bunny after spending around 15 hours Forza 3 prior to this and losing my game save is not on.  I will not be touching Forza 3 anytime soon.  A similar thing happened with my PS3 where I was unable to copy over my Uncharted 2 content.  Why do hardware manufacturers make it so difficult to retrieve your game saves?

This brings me to cloud gaming profiles.  Imagine a world where you play a game and the saved game is automatically uploaded as part of your profile.  Wherever you are you can access your game save and profile.  It is a simple idea and in this hi-tech day and age I am surprised it hasn’t been thought of already?

Granted we are not going to see Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo hold hands and share user profiles.  However, all three should be able to implement a cloud game save solution.  The amount of hours I have poured into various games over the years only to find that I can no longer revive my scores or game states.

We are stepping in the right direction with Apple and it’s Game Center where your game saves are backed up as part of the App to re-sync later.  However, this is locally via PC and your Iphone/Ipod Touch.  As gamers we need a better solution.  Please Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo listen!!!

Nintendo e3 2010

I made the ballsy move and purchased an IPAD. I fell in love with this device straightaway. I have owned various PC’s, MAC’s and portable touch screen devices over the years and I will try to justify what makes this essential and different. This is not just an oversized Iphone which many have stamped this with.

After streaming the Nintendo e3 I was left feeling elated. The past few years Nintendo have been dismissive of the hardcore gamers and chasing after the casual crowd. This year changed all that. There were no new franchises announced which is good and bad.

Nintendo unveiled the latest demo of Zelda skyward sword using the motion plus. Granted this didn’t look like nothing ground breaking but I am hopefully nonetheless. Also, Nintendo unveiled kirby’s epic yarn and confirmed that 2d gaming is truly back. Graphically Kirby looks amazing using fabric type textures. A remake of goldeneye by activation was also announced. I remain sceptical on this one and don’t they will be able to reinvigorate this title bearing in mind there are some great first person shooters currently out there.

The unveiling of the 3ds with no glasses required had people puzzled but post keynote the response was positive. Once people got a chance to experience it for themselves however the hype went sky high. I am not impressed with the appearance of the unit and in my eyes looks slightly ugly compared to the Nintendo dsi’s sleek lines. A bunch of games were announced for the system such as a remake of Zelda ocarina of time, pilotwings, final fantasy, dragon quest, metals gear snake eater among others. I am sure there will be a Mario game as well.

Overall Nintendo did well this time and won many more gamers who are looking for the next gen portable device.

Intro/logo screens really necessary??

I hate intro/logo screens.  Is it really necessary in today’s gaming?

There is nothing worse than loading up something like Fifa 10 and for the first few minutes of your game having to see all the logo screens.  Multiply this by the number of times you access the game it becomes a significant number.  Surely if someone wants to know who created the game they can go to the credits section?  Or even have logos placed on the menu screen as small icons/logos maybe similar to a web page?

I am sick and tired of seeing logos technology specific i.e. softdec, unreal engine, havok engine, dolby surround sound etc etc.  The list goes on and on.  Not forgetting the logo screens for the games’ publisher and developer.  The gaming industry really need to get the UI right as this is the first impressions of a game.  I think Nintendo have this more right than others.  I think the worst offence that can be committed is to have a intro movie right at the begininng which you cannot skip but that is another story.

The way I see it booting up straight to the menu page doesn’t seem like a huge deal now as most games require a compulsory install or require a straight install.  Previously games have had logo screens in order to hide the fact that the game was loading in the background.

What do you think add your comments below?

Edge give Super Mario Galaxy 2 10/10

Edge has given a score of 10/10 for Super Mario Galaxy 2. Edge magazine do not easily give out 10’s.

Edge has given a score of 10/10 for Super Mario Galaxy 2.  Edge magazine do not easily give out 10’s.

After having played the first one I totally agreed with the 10/10 score.  I can’t wait to play this, will be awesome.