This began as a response in the Fallout thread, but as per request, I’ve moved it here to this discussion, to leave the poor Fallout thread alone.
I doubt you’ll get through it all, but if you can, maybe I can award you with some sort of medal or something. :P
I’m not much of a FPS player due to motion sickness issues, but the WASD/mouse setup has never felt natural to me. Though I’m sure if I played more, the muscle memory would make it feel more natural.[/quote]
Same here. I don’t get motion sickness, but I do prefer the console’s more traditional dual stick setup to the PC’s mouse and WASD. It feels more natural to me. Perhaps FPS players have a point, in the same way fighting gamers have a point–when they say you at least need something that approximates an arcade stick in order to learn the ropes of a pro before you “digress” to any other control scheme–that for the most hardcore of the hardcore, the PC offers the most ideal control scheme. shrugs I wouldn’t know, but since I’m only casually interested in FPSes, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
This is not to say I agree with Sean. I’m an equal rights gamer in the sense that I believe the mouse/keyboard and the controller are fundamentally equal devices for producing, smooth, intuitive control that does not limit interactions of depth, complexity and multi-faceted customization, nor does it make for inconvenience if handled properly. To me, what’s inconvenient is the way games like Warcraft III are designed. And I just learn to deal with it, but if it had a more console-controller interface, I swear to every god I believe in, I would have learned it faster and been able to more quickly give the same breadth of commands.
The only thing that keeps, say, a fighter from absolutely superlative control and depth on the PC without any awkwardness, isn’t that their needs to be a console controller packed in, it that’s the very essence of what makes a good fighter needs to be rethought for the different platform. Same for RTSes. There is no need to have a dumb game, or dumb it down for either platform, for either genre. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I truly believe it is the excuse of the intensely weak and unimaginative developer who argues that it “can’t be done.” Goblin Commander does not show that an RTS can’t be done on a console without compromises in the same way that the PC port of Virtua Fighter does not show that a good fighter can’t be done on the PC without compromises.
Now I realize that not everyone thinks the same, and that’s fine. But please realize, Sean, that your perception of console gaming is also colored by how much you do or don’t know about it. I’m not trying to say you’re stupid, but the reason I’ve never responded before now is not because I don’t have legitimate reasons for disagreeing with you, because it is so incredibly obvious and easy to see for me that its like saying red isn’t red, its blue.
To me, I know that I have been influenced exceedingly by the design mantras that I’ve grown up with and that I prefer those – I’ve now played PC games and more the traditionally “PC-esque” genres on the PC for quite a few years. I do believe that to a certain extent I am able to see how others feel that it is less awkward to click with a mouse, than to navigate with a menu and a d-pad/analog pad, but it isn’t my experience. I prefer playing RoTK on a console because I find the control a lot better, simpler, more elegant and intuitive.
I compare it to languages. It may be hard to learn a language, but once you are at a native’s level in that language, you hardly ever think about it. Yappari…I mean, certainly (;)) you could argue that its not worth the trouble, just like I really wouldn’t care if you said you had no interest in learning Japanese. No skin off my back, or you probably wouldn’t care if I said some Japanese aren’t interested Australian slang or improving their English. But in the same way as you grow up with a certain language and that language feels more natural to you, so is control in a game: it is a made up set of rules, interactions and understandings, a kind of “gaming grammar” if you will that determines how you communicate with the game.
Now, raise your hand if you truly believe there’s a superior language that can express all the extents of human expression better than any other on the planet?
While you say that a mouse is more sensitive, that’s pretty true, but the resistance in an analog stick, to click back into center key, is also valuable in certain ways. Indeed, sometimes a much less technically sophisticated mode of control, the 8-way-digital-pad is preferred, because it gives more precise control than the wishy-washy 360degree-like control of the analog stick, and not just in fighters. On a console controller, pressure, not simply how long you hold the button, but how hard or how far you push it down is also important. I’m sure, being a flight sim fan, you are aware of this.
Furthermore, the console controller has evolved significantly since the joystick and Nintendo’s reinvention into the gamepad, but for a console style of control, but it has evolved along its own, very legitimate lines. The idea of shoulder buttons alone was a major innovation. I DON’T want a mouse. Mouse control has been offered before in console games, by being packed in, by being supported by famous games and so on and so forth. It has never caught on. I like the difference the analog stick brings, and in many cases, prefer it. Though I do the see the legitimacy of PC control issues for games designed specifically for the PC and I see how PC users grew to accept and prefer the design conventions they got used to and how it is admirable or even very good. But in many cases, the PC control is so convoluted I can’t even figure out what to do without a manual, whereas this is almost never the case with a console game, and no, there isn’t a great deal of difference in comparable cases, of sophistication, depth, complexity, all that good stuff that has evolved as hardware has. In many cases, what is seen as less complex and deep isn’t because the PC’s control style is better, but because its drawing on a set of values that the player does not realize have been coded almost subconsciously into the game mechanics, that the developer realizes he or she has a tradition of expectations.
I could not for the life of me figure out how to control Fantasy General the first I played it. On the other hand, I didn’t even need to be told how the tutorial in Disgaea for convoluted geopanel system works though: my experience with console strategy and RPGs told me what to expect, a little experimentation and I knew how I could expect them to work right away without consulting the manual, or asking for help. And the control was a breeze without any awkwardness, I don’t wish at all, that I had a PC mouse to point and click with, in fact, once again, I’d prefer not to. I’m sure that coming from an opposite tradition and control logic, Fantasy General was more or less self-explanatory for PC game players.
Now this brings me to my second point. Even in this generation, you see a scant few games come over like Disgaea. And American or European console developers only seem to make a few games like it too. This is better than when they pretty much either made hardly any games like that at all, and certainly too few that are actually superlative enough to stand out, or they were PC ports. This is, however, not the way its been in Japan. While I’m not as familiar with the European tradition, it can certainly be safely said that console gaming needed to “grow up” in the minds of many to where it has gotten now in the US, and perhaps still needs further growth, that’s up for debate.
In Japan, it was a whole other ball game. While in the States, Nintendo had to disguise the NES as a toy in order to sneak it into retail stores, in Japan, it reached out to an extremely wide demographic almost from the very beginning. This meant “adult games” that aren’t overtly concerned with sexuality and games, with a so-called “mature” age range they catered to came out relatively quickly on consoles, as early as 1985 and 1986. Indeed, the shmup genre back then (and probably still today to a certain extent) was one that primarily appealed more to adults.
We’re all aware that Nintendo required things to be removed, like reference to death or religion, things like depictions of blood to be taken out and so on and so forth. Many games came over with their storylines completely taken out or altered. And others suffered awful translations that did nothing to convince people that the game was originally taken seriously. It took the effort of American and more widely Western tastes, as well Sony and Sega’s marketing and planning efforts to bring console gaming up to the level it had been at in Japan.
Now, as Brian Rucker says, yes, I do believe adults can enjoy the unique fruits of more so-called “mature-minded” games because they offer differing extents of a portrayal of a believable, within-the-game-world, reality. They seek to reproduce, perhaps in a classical or hyper-real way, with the added limitations for it to remain a satisfying game. These were not any less prolific or popular on the console in Japan. Even on the NES, as early as 1985, there were space sims, customize-your-mecha-combo strategy like Front Mission; games where you tried to win an election as an American president; games where you traded on the silk road; multiplayer strategy games like Wars which started on the NES and has many of the same conceits Advance Wars has–which is like the fourth or fifth in the series proper–and plays like what you’d expect from PBEM or Starrcraft-like internet multiplayer; RPGs where you controlled up to five party members in real time battle systems; submarine sims and so on and so forth. Stories included a move toward more three-dimensional heroes and villains, complex political histories or sketchy-at-best moral guidelines and branches in the narrative, and of course relatively fresh and suitably original art styles and premises. This was not, in any way, a PC-only thing.
But they stood by side by side, with, yes, an immediately stronger, different representation of mature mechanics on the console. This would be where we come to the magic mushroom games. No, these games absolutely do not try to adhere to more of a real or derived-from-reality representation of the world. They use what I call “imaginary physics” though. In many cases, these totally abstract and removed-from-the-laws of reality physics approach and even exceed the kind of depth when you try to accurately derive your models from the real world. Its ironic that at the same time as Nintendo was defining a smaller age market in the US with their draconian, bad business tactics, they were one of the most foremost developers of the imaginary physics world.
You may get a magic mushroom to grow larger as a cartoony plumber and bounce on people, but unless you “get it” you’re not going to realize that in reality this interaction is no less in-depth than combating troops on a field with all the interactions and nuances that might imply. That the imaginary physics are taken to ridiculously complex extremes if I were to lay them out for pages and pages of elaboration on just how the physics of Mario work. That to play Super Mario Bros. the original is to have an open-ended playground of your own with which to define your own goals and try for them with legitimately fair control. This is why it has lasted so, so long and been reinterpreted and fallen in love with in new generations of people, despite how old it is. Right? Right.
The imaginary physics model spread everywhere. To RPGs, simulations or strategy games that traditionally at least tried to correspond to a believable set of patterns that at least paid homage to the idea of what a real world’s interaction would be like within the fictional world of the game. The abstraction reached such a point so quickly that nobody gives a shit that, for instance, a large-headed, big-eyed sprite that screams cute battle cries is a representation of a grizzled, wise, veteran 80 year old full of war scars. Its simply the modus operandi for the imaginary physics idea. Now of course, there’s different levels to that.
For instance, in a racing game. F1 Lemans is a more or less striving toward a realistic simulation. Gran Turismo is one step down in that it abstracts things a little bit more, to err on the side of the car customization culture. Ridge Racer still has relatively realistic graphics and representations of car movement but goes more to the side of imaginary physics in that it tweaks reality to produce the effect and appeal of a car commercial world in the classic automobile tropes: rebellion, freedom and independence. Mario Kart is so completely on the side of imaginary physics idea that it becomes your prototype magic mushroom game. But believe me if I had to explain all the different nuances, elements and strategies that come into play in a Mario Kart game, your head might explode from the complexity of it all. Indeed, isn’t that the holy grail of most mainstream games? Simple to learn, hard to master; seemingly easy to understand, but involves lifetimes of depth below the surface? And then there truly isn’t any difference between the niche on the PC and the niche on the console, where this isn’t the immediate aim. If you were to set out as having one of these games be any “deeper” than the other, because they are all examples of games considered good by certain audiences, and in many cases, mature audiences, no matter what the graphical representation, especially in Japan, you’d have a great deal of debate between people who are not just fanatics or over-analyzers, but normal people.
If you are truly interested in discussion of this, I suggest you read up a bit, because I do agree with others that you sound really…uninformed.
Here’s some good sources for the whole imaginary physics thing:
This one starts out with the things we all know about that console classic and gives you an idea how the physics created nuances beyond the surface level of depth represented by the controls. It is only, however, only a brief introduction. The author is a nice writer, but not even he even gets the extent of the game’s open-ended, challenge-yourself nature in this review. And like he said, things only got more complicated from then on.
This one may look and sound more like a representation of reality, and it is a little closer to reality than Mario, but in the end it has similar levels of abstraction and adherence to imaginary physics. It is also a good idea of the type of game that was literally flooding store shelves in Japan, whereas various problems prevented it from any wider recognition in the rest of the world.
Now this game’s imaginary physics even exceed Mario in the completely-out-of-left-field magic mushroom area, but it has a more involved story with more nuanced characters and a game system of real, human interaction and depth based on an extremely abstract set of ideas that may sound too cute and cuddly for adults, but is in fact, aimed primarily toward them. Its also an example of the alternative RPG that never came out of Japan.
You may argue that you don’t care about Japanese games. That’s fine. Because people that are closer to your aesthetic and representative desires are now creating games like this that you can actually read and understand on the console. Through three long generations, finally the US console market has a majority of developers that treat console gaming as legitimately unlimited in the same way Japanese developers were “colorblind” before to the extent of what could be done with the faithful reproduction of their dream games. And there’s far more where that came from. I’m not trying to insult Western developers, its just an unfortunate trend that evolved in different directions due to cultural differences. I highly suspect if all the Japanese games that came out in the PSX, 16-bit and NES days came out in the US, with the grammar and logic of the visuals and gameplay ideas firmly understood, there would never be this rejection of “gay fagotty color anally raping my mature gamezzzz!” and that the incredible tradition of US Western PC developers, which OF COURSE absolutely stands equal to our accomplishments, and their ilk would have been more interested in matching the types of colorful and complex interactions they were pouring their blood, sweat and tears into the PC. As it is, the number of games that came out for the consoles that has the kind of respect for the dynamic interaction an adult mind would enjoy analyzing in a style that does not make you puke from developers closer to your preferences has been truly small until the Xbox and the widening markets that the Dreamcast and PS2 reaped, to a lesser extent the Gamecube.
Its great that now there is a huge array of games being developed for more Western or American tastes (and Australian!) I think the fact that gamers have moved more toward their own culture’s mores rather than flocking to translated Japanese games in droves is only a healthy maturation of the console industry in the US and elsewhere. I don’t mean to say all Japanese games are works of beauty or that “OHMIGOD, WE WERE THE MATURE YOU WERE DER LITTLE BOYS!” That you see more of these games coming out now, and gaining more attention, whether translated or created natively is an effect of the advancement that Japan, and perhaps Europe, due to the influence of the hybrid-like Amiga, C64 and Spectrum platforms, I wouldn’t know, didn’t need. And no, you don’t get to ignore Japan, because early on WE WERE the ones who made a great deal of the advancements in console gaming and brought the tropes and expectations into the mainstream around the world.
I would argue that the magic mushroom imaginary physics model is one of the most developed and mature expressions for videogaming out there, because it banks on that unique aspect of gaming to set us into another world with perhaps incredibly different values and sets of expectations, but does not abandon the idea of a complex set of interactions that we see in real physics in the real world.
There is room for both on the console, and history has it on our side that the two perhaps opposite traditions, neither less legimitate than the other, can, do and will co-exist peacefully.