Hardware Limitations and Breaking Expectations

Today we are thinking about the way hardware, particularly the controllers, for games can affect the design of the game. A lot of the time it is a decision of whether the developer will fit their games into the limitations by cutting or changing controls, breaking the limitations by using the quirks of the controllers to their advantage, or designing the game based totally on the unique functionality of the controller/console.

The first game that came to mind about using the controller’s uniqueness to the advantage of the game was let’s Tap for Wii. The Wii remote was a revolutionary step for Nintendo, which influenced other consoles making motion sensor controllers. Games like WarioWare, Wii Sports, Wii Party, and Mario Kart for a few examples showed users how to use every function of the controller to do so many different things, including adding attachments (steering wheels, rackets etc.) to the controller to make the experience more specific tot he game. Let’s Tap was a simple idea- place the Wii remote face down on a cardboard box, and tap the box to make the figure on the screen run and jump through different levels and races. This idea is used in touchscreen games sometimes where tapping the screen makes the player move, but Let’s Tap just used the remote’s sensitivity to control the game. The game is targeted at all age groups, and can easily be picked up. One simple instruction to follow “tap” is universal and easy to understand.

Let's_Tap  nintendogs

Nintendogs for the original Nintendo DS was limited to a few buttons, but was one of the earliest games to grace the Dual Screen handheld. The touchscreen was probably the most used control on the entire game. When using the touchscreen for  menu, you could watch over you dogs on the top screen (just like the Gameboy Advance screen), and it was the same for almost all activities on the game. Most of the time you would use your stylus to care for your dogs, from scrubbing them down int he bath, to holding their leash whilst walking. You could even train your dogs to do tricks and throw them frisbees with the touchscreen, then enter them into competitions as their skills progressed. The DS also has a mic which you could use for the first time to train your dog to recognize its name in your voice. Nintendogs took total advantage of the new screen, rather than rely on the Gameboy-esque buttons. In fact it almost ignores the buttons altogether. This game is directed at young children, so the lack of buttons is helpful to teach them to just touch what they want, so gets younger audiences to play DS.

The Sims series was something that only used one main control on PC, the mouse. It is aimed at 12+ year olds because of some of its grown up content. For a game that is based on human lives, the daily routines of a household of people in a town of characters with individual traits, it seems odd that everything is based on a selection, but multiple choice just works so well for the franchise. Yes, you can make a person, in recent games more unique than ever, and raise them, letting  them form deep connections and complex careers (and even have babies) but you can’t live an entire life through them. You can’t type in something to say to another Sim, you need to pick a topic. You can’t write a book which other Sims will understand, so you jut let them write their own in ‘Simlish’. The multiple choice game-play eliminates the idea of such complicated personal touches, and the fact that they speak a made up language helps the player only want to make the characters bring emotions to other Sims, rather than know exactly what they are saying. Movements are even multiple choice, where you select where you want to go and how you want to get there, rather than use arrow keys. This places the movement in a queue behind the actions the player is already doing. This makes the game manageable, and takes away being able to have 100% control, so it almost feels like you’re controlling the events of a reality TV show.

sims.JPG

If Sims let you move your sim in real time with your arrow keys, they wouldn’t be able to complete the actions you’d set (talk to a sim, go to toilet, go to ed) because they need to interact with the object. There is no use for the keys if they have no tasks either, because you still have the option to click and select a destination. Without the use of cheat codes and mods there’s not much use for any of the keyboard keys. If there are shortcuts, they can still be completed through selection- which explains why they have mobile apps and games on consoles too (which are more limited)

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