Community Blog Spotlight: Control
Every Week, Community Manager Laura Genender takes a look at one or more of the entries being created in our MMORPG.com blogs. This week, she looks at Jimmy_Scythe's blog on controls and more!
While MMORPG.com is focused on the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Game genre (who'da thunk?), user Jimmy_Scythe's blog, "An Ongoing Tribute to my Own Lameness," looks at all aspects of the gaming world. Jimmy_Scythe takes these gaming topics and narrows them down to our online genre, yet I can safely say that all of his musings could apply to the single player world as well. His blog contains two well done posts so far - one focusing on game controls, and the other on gaming companies' business models.
The first post, "Dumbed down controls?!" takes a look at the keyboard vs the console controller. "I'm going to kick off this rant with a bit of heresy," he starts. "A complicated interface alone does not make a game deep."
"I say this because I notice that whenever the subject of MMOs on consoles comes up, someone always has to point out the difference in controls. There seems to be some odd belief that a 4 axis, 12 button controller is not as 'smart' as a 110 keyboard and mouse set up. Personally, I think it's a load of [garbage]."
Jimmy_Scythe goes on to describe several complex games that use simple controls setups, such as: Sim City, Baldur's Gate, and even The Sims.
While I agree with Jimmy that these games use simple controls, I think that we're confusing controls with interface. Take a look at The Sims - sure, it didn't have hotkeys linked to every single button on your keyboard, but there were a ton of menus and options on everything, from your avatar to the smallest lamp in your house. "UI" stands for user interface - this is everything from the controls to the menus: its how you control the world and your characters. Complicated games do, in my experience, have more complicated UIs; this doesn't mean that the UI is invasive or hard to learn. Another great single player example of this is Black and White, where you had no actual menus but interacted with the game via mouse motions.
Today is the age, though, of custom UIs, where we can choose everything from our keyboard set-up to the skin of our chat windows. A good UI, to me, isn't complicated or simple: it's customizable and intuitive, it gives me complete control without making me memorize "H" is for create horse archer unit.
That being said: do I really see MMOs on a console? Hell no. I love consoles for action games, fighting games and single player roleplay. If I liked racing games, I'm sure I'd give them the console heads up, too. But for MMOs, I require the quick communication that a keyboard (and a nerdily fast typing speed) afford me. I don't want to have to use voice chat - I want that to be an optional add-on that I can disable to avoid creeps.
Jimmy_Scythe's latest article is titled "I'm Killing the Video Game Industry!! Ask Me How..." And examines Jimmy (and the average thrifty gamer's) plans to save money - that kill the developers.
"I never purchase at launch," admits Jimmy_Scythe, and "I buy off the bargain rack." Do these really count as industry killers, though? Every industry deals with this sort of consumer craftiness - hell, look at stores, which cycle a whole season's worth of new clothes onto the bargain rack every 3 to 6 months. It's all about trends, and high tech...if you really care about a certain game, jacket, phone, car, you're going to want to be the first to have it. You pay the elevated prices to have that right, or you wait until the hype dies down to get it cheaper. Can we blame ourselves for forsaking Ma and Pa when Walmart gives us cheaper goodies, or waiting for a good sale before we buy a new game? I really don't think so. It's crafty consumer-ness.
As for our genre, the MMO - the monthly fees certainly seem to work out well, and I don't see Blizzard complaining about paying out of pocket for server maintenance. Jimmy_Scyhe points out the abundance of collapsing gaming companies this day and age, but I blame that on poor marketing and development decisions, not on poor business structure. No matter how you charge or what wacky business plan you use, putting out a half finished product is going to give you a lack of customers.
Check out his blog here.