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.

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.

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.

PS3 Move in all its glory

The PS3 Move has now been released.  I have been an advocate of this tech when it was shown at E3 2009.  The potential for the motion controller seemed high.  Strategically it was geared up as high definition version of the Wii Remote and would have really appealed to an audience who were looking for the next generation of gaming.

In the PS3 Move bundle you get the Wand controller, PS3 Eye and a starter disc.  You have to purchase a sub controller separately at additional cost or use a Dual Shock 3 controller using one hand (good luck with that).  The setup is slightly pain free which will get you up and running in no time at all using the starter disc.  However, if you have lighting issues i.e. too brighter an environment the PS3 Eye will have trouble in detecting the Wand controller.

Where I think the trouble begins with the Move is its integration with the XMB (cross media browser) menu system.  Trying to navigate with the Wand controller is night on impossible and Sony really need to update this to be a more integrated solution.  The problem arises with the sensitivity of the device and scrolling up or down, left or right through the menus is either too fast or too slow.  I also, found that there is slight lag in picking up the controller.  The Wand controller needs to mimic a mouse controller rather than a dual shock controller and this is where it will be most effective when using the PS3’s web browser for their PS store and also the BBC Iplayer, 4OD and ITV player services.  But this will entail a complete rebuild of the XMB which I don’t Sony will commit to.

However, playing some of the demos available on the start up disc such as Table tennis and Tiger Woods golf proves how effective the controller can be.  It is super accurate in picking up your movements and it is truly 1:1 detection.  The potential for future games such as Killzone 3 having Move support seems to be a mouth watering proposition and will appeal to the hardcore. The PS3 Move has now been released.  I have been an advocate of this tech when it was shown at E3 2009.  The potential for the motion controller seemed high.  Strategically it was geared up as high definition version of the Wii Remote and would have really appealed to an audience who were looking for the next generation of gaming.

In the PS3 Move bundle you get the Wand controller, PS3 Eye and a starter disc.  You have to purchase a sub controller separately at additional cost or use a Dual Shock 3 controller using one hand (good luck with that).  The setup is slightly pain free which will get you up and running in no time at all using the starter disc.  However, if you have lighting issues i.e. too brighter an environment the PS3 Eye will have trouble in detecting the Wand controller.

Where I think the trouble begins with the Move is its integration with the XMB (cross media browser) menu system.  Trying to navigate with the Wand controller is night on impossible and Sony really need to update this to be a more integrated solution.  The problem arises with the sensitivity of the device and scrolling up or down, left or right through the menus is either too fast or too slow.  I also, found that there is slight lag in picking up the controller.  The Wand controller needs to mimic a mouse controller rather than a dual shock controller and this is where it will be most effective when using the PS3’s web browser for their PS store and also the BBC Iplayer, 4OD and ITV player services.  But this will entail a complete rebuild of the XMB which I don’t Sony will commit to.

However, playing some of the demos available on the start up disc such as Table tennis proves how effective the controller can be.  It is super accurate in picking up your movements and it is truly 1:1 detection.  The potential for future games such as Killzone 3 having Move support seems to be a mouth watering proposition.  However, the controls need to be spot on for this to work.  Most of the launch software seems tripe though and like with all console related peripherals this can only be as successful as the software launched for it.  There needs to be a game changer for the casual crowd to start buying into the PS3 Move.  At the moment, it doesn’t seem like Sony are fully behind the Move whilst Microsoft on the other hand have heavily invested in advertising campaigns and released a decent amount of good quality software for the Kinect.

Truth be told both the Kinect and PS Move were released to extend the life of the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively however, as the tech is not an integral part of the way the consoles work compared to a traditional controllers I expect interest in the devices to drop early next year.  This will allow Nintendo’s next home console to start building momentum.

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!!!

Sony E3 2010

In my eyes Sony’s E3 2010 press conference came second after Nintendo. They showed a vast array of game titles covering all types of genres and appealing to all demographics. This has always been a strong point for Sony.

In my eyes Sony’s E3 2010 press conference came second after Nintendo. They showed a vast array of game titles covering all types of genres and appealing to all demographics. This has always been a strong point for Sony.

I think the change that we are seeing from Sony is that like Nintendo they too are moving towards producing more first party titles as evident from the below.

One thing you won’t get away from is 3D with glasses or without. I believe playing certain games such as Killzone 3D or Gran Turismo 5 3D will enhance the experience and immersing you even more in the environments. From the keynote I thought Killzone 3 is shaping up to be something special and judging by the last public demo of Gran Turismo 5 you can tell it is taking shape and I hope it is worth the wait as it is still my racer of choice.

I wasn’t too impressed with Infamous 2 and never enjoyed the first game. However, LittleBigPlanet 2 looks all the more important with its new level of creativity taken to the extreme and covering a wide variety of genres. This could become it’s own ‘mini APP’ outlet.

EA seemed to be in cahoots with Sony as of late and announced exclusive content only for PS3 such as Dead Space 2, Medal of Honor and Mafia 2. This is overall good news for Sony given that Activision have favoured the XBOX.

Sony also, showed off their Move controller. Seeing some of the demos such as Sorcery, Tiger Woods 11 and Socom confrontation I can see this working well on traditional games as well as the frivolous party games that will inevitably ensue.

Kevin Butler also made a grand speech claiming that all gamers were important and that the casual and hardcore games could co-exist which is the overall message that Sony is trying to portray.

The oddity of no new PSP is a puzzling one but I suspect Sony wanted to sit back and wait to see what Nintendo offered. They have falsely backed a dying 5 year old PSP console for the next 6 months. Although, the PSP is selling well in Japan I am sure that these sales will pan down with no new Monster Hunter or Metal Gear for the remaining 6 months. I am looking forward to Patapon 3 and God of War: Ghost of Sparta which is due to be a last hurrah for the current gen PSP.

Sony also, showed off the Playstation Plus a new subscription service which will give you exclusive demos, free games and other benefits. Package looks good so far and the fact they have taken a different route to XBOX Live bodes well to add a differentiator in the services offered to gamers overall.

All in all Sony made a stable and impressive showing.

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?