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.

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!!!

Kinect = 32x pricing listed and it is not good

Shopto and Microsoft’s website have priced the Kinect at a staggering £120. If this is true it’s gonna sink. Anyone remember the 32x??

I am not sure what strategy is being employed but this can’t be priced at more than £50 for it to be adopted by current Xbox users as well as newcomers. This is heading towards epic fail status.w. Let’s wait and see I am a fiend for new tech and probably purchase on day of release only to have buyer’s remorse the next day before being hurriedly flung onto Ebay.

Microsoft e3 2010

Microsoft’s E3 was light on content in my eyes. They started off by showing call of duty black ops and announced an exclusive deal with activation that sees all future dlc will come out on xbox first then Sony after a few months. I say meh :/

Secondly, Gears of war 3 was in playable form. Looks graphically stunning and add to that 4 player co op campaign should see it as an instant success in April 2010. Cliffy B of Epic games also announced a new franchise that will be coming exclusive to Xbox called Bulletstorm which to me looked similar to Gears of war in style. Maybe this will take over once the Gears trilogy concludes.

Next it was Bungie’s turn to show their latest build of Halo Reach. Looks like the same Halo formula to me expected to hit September I am sure it will sell by the bucketload. I wasn’t that impressed with ODST. However, some of the best multiplayer co op experiences I have had was playing Halo so here’s hoping.

Then Microsoft decided to devote the rest of the show to project Natal now officially known as Kinect. Games which eerily resembled the casual Wii catalogue without the Nintendo charm were shown. Harshly putting it they looked pants and I lost interest in the conference going forward. Kinectimals, extreme sports game, kinect sports and dance central (by Harmonix) were shown. I was more impressed in using the Kinect as a virtual remote where the camera detects your movement however this does whiff of eye toy to me with you holding your hand over a menu item for a few seconds before it is selected. In order to use the Kinect as a virtual remote Microsoft have created a new section in the dashboard which let’s you control all of the features using Kinect as a camera and microphone with voice commands.

I perked up when I saw new hardware unveiled at the end of the show. The new Xbox 360 slim console was long overdue and comes with wireless n wifi, 250gb hard drive, whisper quiet DVD drive and smaller chassis. All in all I was disappointed with Xbox line up and Kinect did not live up to it’s hype from E3 2009.

Microsoft Natal = Kinect

So have seen some of the videos on IGN.com and computerandvideogames.com for the newly named Kinect. To be honest I am not that impressed.

So have seen some of the videos on IGN.com and computerandvideogames.com for the newly named Kinect.  To be honest I am not that impressed.

The videos show nothing new so far and looks like a blatant rip off of the Wii.  The Kinect sports game seems painful and tiresome to play.  I am no couch potato but I live above someone and I don’t think the stampeding of four players is a good idea when playing the hurdles event in Kinect sport.

The only thing the Kinect seems good for is using as a virtual remote by using hand gestures a la Minority report.  This seems like an expensive investment if you are using as a virtual remote and let’s be honest judging by the games so far that’s what it’ll end up being.

Good idea on paper but execution is poor, put in the list as the most costliest failure ever.  I have said all along that Sony have taken the right strategy with the PS Move and are showing games which will appeal to all audiences.  With regards to Nintendo Wii they can rest in peace.  It’s gonna take a lot to convince me.

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?

Mirror's Edge review

I love this game. Despite playing the majority of the story mode without realising that you can pick up weapons (not explained in game very well I thought but I’ll forgive them) :)

I love this game.  Despite playing the majority of the story mode without realising that you can pick up weapons (not explained in game very well I thought but I’ll forgive them) :)

Dice have come up trumps with the look and feel of this game.  Also, the sound created by Solar Fields is nothing short of stunning.  Both graphics and sound really pull the whole concept of running and jumping through the environments together by adding verve and agility to the pacing.

Some people will not get this game due to it crossing several barriers such as running and jumping through first person mode and secondly, the simplistic nature in its combat.  Which neither makes it a traditional first person shooter or say a platformer.

However, saying that I liked the fact this is trying to break new ground and for the most parts the combat, running and jumping works.  There are moments of slow down in pace which doesn’t sit comfortably with the running sections.  It is more fun running across and over buildings which gets your adrenaline pumping rather than the minimalist shooting sequences which can frustrate especially given your health bar.

The story mode lasted around the 8-10 hour mark for me and then you can take on the challenge mode.  It is a worthwhile game those looking for something different and willing to take the gamble.  I loved the art direction and for the most parts the environments and characters.