Editorial: Controls

Wii U Controller
Wii U Controller

Hello Lusislaves! This week, I have been playing through the Nintendo 3DS game, Kingdom Hearts: Dream, Drop, Distance, 3D. While playing the game I noticed I was increasingly having trouble with the camera controls. This normally would not bother me that much… until the camera controls were the reason I kept dying over and over again in multiple boss fights. I am not joking here. By not having full control of the camera it somehow locked itself in the corner I was in and because of that I was unable to see the on coming attack that killed poor little Sora. This happened to me about, oh, seven or eight times until I said “Fuck it!” and put my 3DS away for a couple of hours.

I stormed away with accusations quickly flying out of my mouth about how “retarded” and “cheap” the fight was. Instantly I blamed the game for my misfortune. A few hours later, I came back to the game, leveled up a couple of times, and tried my hand at the boss fight again. While I still had problems with the camera controls and not being able to avoid many of the attacks thrown at me, I was able to beat the boss after a couple of tries. Thankfully that boss was the last one for that world and I was able to move on with the game. But as I was going between worlds a thought stuck me, is it the game that is at fault or is it the player? Frequently I hear about how game play makes certain segments of a game, or sometimes an entire game, unplayable. Could it be that we, as players, are unable to adapt to the controls?

For example, my friend and I were playing Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and while we were playing it, both of us had a really hard time with just the beginning enemies. But by the time we got to the first couple of bosses we were able to get back into the groove of how the controls operated. So after, we switched to playing Super Metroid and once again we had the same problem and solution. With this observations I wonder if we could take a game with “poor controls”, like Deadly Towers, and have someone play it continuously until the controls become second nature. If this is able to happen, could it be possible that the game itself would then be less difficult because the obstacle of difficult controls is now removed from the game play equation?

Controller Hack
Controller Hack

If this is possible then there is no reason to say that any game has “bad controls” because we as humans have not adapted to them. So with that line of thought one could say that games like Superman 64, Deadly Towers, or Ghosts and Goblins were never bad games they just required more time to adapt to them. What if one day we are able to pass these adaptations down to are children and they to their children, so that one day games are no longer judged on how grand the story is or how well the graphics are, but by how long it takes them to adapt to the controls and if, once adapted, the game provides an adequate challenge.

After reading this you might be asking yourself “Do we not already judge games on how good or bad the controls are?”. My answer, well, yes we do, but only if they are really, REALLY bad. Honestly, when was the last time you read a review that praised the controls? The only time I can think of a review praising controls is when the game being praised is a sequel and the previous one had bad controls whilst the new one fixed the problems, sort of like Resident Evil 3 to Resident Evil 4.

You would think that humans, being the most advanced being on the planet, would be able to develop controls for a video game that do not make it difficult or unplayable, I am looking at you Superman 64. Could it have something to do with how they programed the game? If so, why could they have not caught these issues in play testing? Was there not enough time to go back and change the problems? Could it have been because the game was just meant to be farted out to get a quick buck?

What do you think reader? Do you think you will have these problems in the upcoming Final Fantasy Double 6 playthrough? Let me know in the comments!

3 comments

  1. I think there is a significant difference between learning the controls of Link to the Past as opposed to learning the controls to Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins.

    In the former case, it is simply a matter of learning a system. This system is designed to suit the game in which it is employed. Once you learn the controls, you can play the game.

    In the latter case, the system itself is badly designed. So, even when you learn it, it does not suit the game. That is, a mastery of the system is insufficient for actually employing that system satisfactorily within the context of the game.

    If one hasn’t played GnG, I can draw a similar example. Imagine playing a modern, quality first-person shooter (TF2, perhaps)–but imagine that it only runs at an average of 5-7fps. The controls are not at fault, but the way in which those controls interact with the game results in the gameplay being crippled. This is the way in which GnG operates: there is a constant ‘stuttering’ effect which makes the movement jerky and ruins timing on the jumps. And, because there is a degree of randomness to it, it can not be effectively planned around.

    This is different than, say, Deadly Towers where the bad controls allow a character to be hit and knocked around the screen like a ten pin, before being sent down a hole to his doom. In that case, the ‘control’ of the character, per se, is not at fault so much as it is the enormous hitboxes, knockback, and lack of invulnerability.

  2. I have to agree with what Lusi said. Some games do simply have bad controls. Some games are just clunky to play. And most 3D games still cannot get camera controls that aren’t horrible. I think Super Mario Sunshine and Kingdom Hearts II are just about the only games I’ve played where I specifically remember the camera controls being good.

  3. @Deimosion: Generally true, though the camera in the warp zone levels of SMS was absolutely fucking terrible.

    It takes a lot for me to throw a controller, and that game is about the closest I have ever come short of the Magical Nitro stage in CV64.

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