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.

PSP Vita to be releases in Japan 2011 (why not)?

Back in early June 2011 at E3 Sony announced details for the PS Vita.  This is Sony’s successor to the original PSP introduced in 2005.  It boasts a 3 cell processor (similar to the PS3 which has 7), touch screen interface, 5inch screen, touch sensitive back panel and also, including the all important second analog stick.  Sony further announced that the PS Vita would be released in Japan December 2011.

This sounds daft to me.  Why you may ask?  At this current moment in time the PSP console is selling extremely well in Japan due to the many iterations of Monster Hunter which allows co-operative local play for up to four players.  The co-op feature is heavily used in Japan where gaming is more socially acceptable and played in public places such as Cafes.  The PSP, in Japan anyway, is in the best shape it has ever been where it is currently outselling the Nintendo 3DS and is constantly top of the hardware charts list in recent months.

Games that appeal to the Japanese hardcore such as Gundam, Arcane Slayer, Tactics Ogre, Dynasty Warriors and Final Fantasy Dissidia show that there is still a market for Japanese centric games which the PS3, 3DS and Wii are currently lacking.

Therefore, my suggestion to Sony would be to release in the US markets first then Europe where the original PSP is experiencing a downturn due to lack of developer support both first party and third party.  Secondly, consumer interest has peaked and the PSP is looking worse for wear as it is being superseded by newer technology such as mobile devices, tablets and of course the 3DS.

I think the Japanese market still has another year to run for the original PSP.  The PS Vita could suffer a similar fate to the PS3 whereas it was introduced too early and harmed its sales as the PS2 was still selling in high numbers.

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.

NGP unveiling – my thoughts…

After the unveiling of the Sony NGP I can safely say that is a gamer’s wet dream come true. Sony has responded to fans’ requests to provide a portable console with touch screen, dual analog sticks and motion control.

After the unveiling of the Sony NGP I can safely say that is a gamer’s wet dream come true. Sony has responded to fans’ requests to provide a portable console with touch screen, dual analog sticks and motion control. Also, added are two cameras, gyro sensor, touch back panel with a larger screen.

One question remains for me will the NGP support Android OS?

The hardware under the hood certainly suggests the NGP is more than capable of running Android OS. Although, I doubt this will be the main framework that the NGP is built around. The 4 cell processor similar to the PS3’s 8 cell processor leaves a mouth watering prospect of playing some huge blockbuster games translated straight from the PS3’s library. Couple this with re-releases of key first gen PSP titles that a lot of consumers may have missed only adds to the excitement. The only thing missing is 3D – but I can see why this hasn’t been the focus. All Playstation consoles start off as power house monsters and adding 3D would have severely increased costs and would have a detrimental effect on the graphical capability. However, Nintendo on the other hand tend to couple their hardware with key software in mind.

I would assume that this console will initially retail around £250 in line with the current 3DS console although over time it will eventually reduce in price and replace the original PSP as their main portable platform. My only concern is how this will be marketed and compete with the various devices that the original PSP didn’t have to contend with.