Simplification

I think it’s an important direction and discussion for game design. Sure, as a gamer, I can handle complicated control schemes. I’ve done my time and held my own in hotkey crazy RTS’s, twitch FPS’s, and I can be pretty menacing in Tony Hawk. But most of these games aren’t getting any easier. I don’t even care to finish Tony Hawk’s Project 8, or the Underground games, because the things you need to do at the end are ridiculous.

Some gamers like to mock Diablo because of it’s insanely simple control scheme, even your mom can play it (mine does). I’ve been in awe for a number of years by some of my purist friends and associates who wouldn’t even justify it as an RPG for that very reason (reason 12 why genre’s hurt designers). Then it seemed the world forgot. Some 9 years later, Fate comes out. It plays just as well as it’s inspiration, and it’s more approachable. You can’t say that for any games in between.

It’s almost like the game industry hard on for 3D graphics and difficulty is starting to calm it’s ass down.

Actually, what happened instead was the polar opposite distinctly emerged. Casual games. Short, easy games you can play for hours, if they so compel you. AKA: Match 3’s, stacking games, sorting games, and brick busters. Some of them look really nice.

The Wii happened too. The secret theoretical solution to FPS’s on the console, since we’re apparently too ignorant to support mouse and keyboard. I don’t know about other people, but for me the dust has certainly settled over the Wii. I still care for the platform for it’s ideals of smaller fun games, but the novelty of motion control has worn off on me. Red Steel isn’t an FPS, it’s a free moving Rail Shooter. That’s a heck of a lot more complicated to play than an FPS. Blast Factor for the PS3’s use of motion control is just a stupid gimmick at best. Call of Duty or Far Cry on the Wii I hadn’t had the chance to try yet, but I imagine the pointing box you need to restrict yourself to doesn’t make it any easier than Mouse+Keyboard.

So as I see it, the problem isn’t our joysticks, crappy motion sensors, mouse sensitivity, or lack of buttons. It’s that we’re not using them well enough. Many of the fondest memories of games many of us have are of game experiences full of simplifications. Pacman didn’t have to spin or strafe turning a corner; Megaman didn’t have to reload and find the rocket ammo to recharge his rockets; I didn’t have to hit forward, back rolling down to forward, back again for 2 seconds, then forward and punch while holding the R trigger to throw Ryu’s fireball; Or wait, there’s a parachute button? And Scorpion’s Fatality in MK1 was “block” and up twice. What other fatalities does anyone remember?

My mom, the typical hardcore casual gamer, should be able to pick up and play a perceptively intense action game, and she should be able to do some incredible things in it. There’s a way out there she can play a Gunstar Heroes. And there’s a reason out there why she’d play it too, and it ain’t pretty flowers and butterflies for graphics.

Why not?