Classic games of the past were not only fun, they were simple. Pac-man doesn’t use anything really other than the control stick. As the time line of games advance, things get more and more complicated. Many games now require the use of the entire controller, and damn near every button on a keyboard. But does a game HAVE to be complicated to be fun? No. It’s nice to see that even with the advances in interface with our gaming device of choice, things can still be uncomplicated and play rather well.
There are games that are truly more complicated than any one person should have to deal with. The easy target here is Steel Battalion. The “controller” for Steel Battalion had two sticks, three pedals and about 40 buttons. It literally had a start up sequence that had to be run by flipping a series of switches in order to start the mech. The damn thing even had a dedicated button for windshield wipers. At the time it cost about $200… is it any wonder the game didn’t take off. I played Mech Warrior on my PC and was able to handle myself pretty well and didn’t need a degree in engineering to do so.
Then there’s games like, oh I don’t know, Modern Warfare. MW is a game that utilizes every button on the controller with good reason. Actions are all attached to buttons that make seasoned pros not even think about what they are doing. It’s just all muscle memory. Can you imagine playing Moder Warfare and only being allowed to move, shoot, and duck behind cover. They made that game already, and it was called Cabal. Not very enjoyable. Making a game like that now would bring down the thunder on IW and Treyarch. So much so that they would never recover from it.
However it doesn’t all have to be about multitasking. Several games recently have come out that made me see that everything has its place, and some games require more complicated controls, while others rely on a more simpler system. Case in point; Limbo. Limbo, released this summer on Xbox Live, is about as un-complicated as a game can get for current gen systems. You move, jump, grip and that’s about it. Limbo asks the player to maneuver through some rather complicated traps and puzzles, but never requires you to anything other than those three things. It’s a game that is very moody, and a lot of fun to play. If it had a more complicated control scheme, gamers would probably have either passed it by, or asked the question, “why”.
One of my favorite games right now on iPhone is still Canabalt. Probably the most simple to control game out there. The game runs right for you, and all you have to do is tap the screen at the appropriate time to jump. Describing it to someone that plainly sounds desperately boring. However playing it is another story. With the simple concept of “Run Like Hell” it creates an atmosphere of desperation and makes you keep playing over and over.
It’s sort of like the motion controls that are the big thing now. Nintendo started out rocking the motion controlled stuff back with the release of the Wii, and now EVERYONE is trying to jump on the bandwagon. My hope is that publishers realize that you don’t HAVE to have motion controls or just gratuitous controls in general tacked on. Games can still be simple as well as fun. Gamers will quickly and surely reject a game, or concept for one, if it is just a cheap way to work in their new gimmick. Anyone remember Totem Ball? We as the purchasers of billions of dollars worth of “stuff” implore you to please consider this; Make sure your game is fun and works well. Don’t just shoehorn in some game mechanic that feels awkward just to make a few bucks on a name.