Out of Control – My Views on Controls..

 

We are living exciting times, and especially times that are evolving really fast and where it’s easy to define the future. There are some data that we can analyze to predict the future, but other things that may seem as a temporary can still stick and improve in the future.

For many years now, the connection between the player’s reality and the reality onscreen has been the controller; the controller from the dawn of time has been the gateway to excitement, to adventure. It was already an extension of the gamer’s hand, even before the motion controls. If a game is well built, well designed, the player will immerse himself in it, it can be with a Motion Control pretending to hold a sword, or even with a keyboard and mouse, if the game is good, if the mechanics are well constructed, we will lose the bridge between reality and game reality, because the player dives deep into the game, through a controller, it can be a D-Pad or a joystick, A keyboard and mouse or a Wii Mote: All is defined in the mechanics. This also works for motion control, like our handout clearly states, it all depends on the mechanics, if the mechanics are good, if the player easily learns how to play a game, the designer will have more chances of the player sticking to his game.

With the appearance of motion controls and touch screen controls, what’s clear and a fact is that the audience for games as broadened exponentially and it has opened doors in term of designs. Designers are now presented with challenges of making compelling games with easy to learn mechanics, still bringing a great experience, and the designer must work hard to find good mechanics in controls such as touch screen and motion controls. If we look closely, motion controls brought a broader audience to game consoles, and this of course turned into profit quickly, because of the fascination people had. Motion controls seem to be fading a bit, because the population of gamers will always enjoy having a classic controller in their hands and immerse themselves into an adventure without having to move, this also brings a true experience, however it can be more difficult to grasp for other people who are not used to it, and that entered the gaming world through motion control. Even though it seems to be fading, it’s up to the designers to bring fresh new ideas and to exploit this technology as much as any other: throughout history it is known that people don’t always like change, and those who already played games before motion controls, even though they may enjoy some motion control games they are still attracted to the classic controller. However, we live in a time where “what’s next” prevails, and those who entered the gaming world through the move of an arm throwing a bowling ball, will have their attention caught easily by something new: It’s up to the game designers to keep motion control alive if they wish to do so…

Motion controls also don’t work with many games, and I quote Riccitello from EA: 75-minute session on FIFA would be “frigging tiring.”  Why game controllers will remain important is simple: People who started gaming before motion controls, will always like a classic approach to games, even if they endorse motion controls! Like in all types of control, motion, touch or controller driven, it’s all about the mechanics, the gameplay, the quality of the game and the capability of drawing players in, players have to have a sense of mastering the controller, being able to predict the results onscreen with their controller, they must feel that they are in power, and that must work in all types of control, they must have a sense of self-accomplishment, that they are learning something and that they are getting better as they progress and being rewarded for it!

I believe that for touch controls there is a slight difference, this is due because where they are mostly used: Cell phones. The majority of touch control is used in iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones and so on, and the percentage of people that have a touch screen phone is huge, so developers saw this as an opportunity to bring more people into the game world. Bringing solid experiences, easy to learn and completely addictive. Satisfying controls, such as Angry Birds, for experienced or non experienced gamers that in one level pick up how to throw the birds and win, and along the way just learn the abilities of the different birds, this is all due to one thing: mechanics.

Done well, multi-touch removes abstraction – instead of moving a device like a mouse to point at something, you just point at it; instead of clicking on piano keys or trying to remember which keyboard key corresponds to each note, you just play the note.

This is extremely important, touch control, gives the player a sense of power, of feel that at the tips of his fingers he decides the fortune of the game, it’s up to game designers to exploit this feeling and hunger for control that players want, the same has having the feeling to be completely in control of a character with a PS3 controller, the player has the same feeling with a touch screen controller.  We have learned what experiences the classic controller gave to the players, and it is important to transport them into the other types of control: however the classic controller won’t disappear because it still is the most accurate way to have control over an object or person. Touch control is not as precise and it can still gain more public if designers manage to bring the same experience (or feeling) as a classic controller, but you never feel fully “stable”, but the large audience (tablet and phone owners) and the cheap games will keep touch control alive and this gives a chance for it to evolve and improve.

There are also new ways such as 3D and virtual reality, still very young and it’s still hard to control with 3D and virtual reality, my firm belief is that whatever control you use, if it does not provide the user with accurate, precise actions, it won’t be effective:

However, everything changes when the space is behind the display monitor. It becomes hard, like learning to fly an aeroplane using controls. So the old idea that your desktop will be easier to use if it’s a 3D virtual space that you can navigate around hasn’t really made things easier. Certainly, we’ve made big advances in 3D navigation with such product features as SteeringWheels, but these interfaces are for navigating spaces that truly need to be in 3D, such as CAD models.”

Thank you for reading,

Gonçalo Pereira

Sources: Howson, G. (2009, June 10). EA Talk Motion Control. The Guardian. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2009/jun/10/games

Unknown Author (2011, March 12). Beyond the Touchscreen: Interfaces of the Future and 3D Software and Augmented Reality. PC Plus Issue 305. Retrieved from: http://www.techradar.com/news/software/beyond-the-touchscreen-interfaces-of-the-future-934424#null

 

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