Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Elements of game technology, part three: interaction design

A very important aspect of playing games is often the controls. Are they clunky, easy to use, would your intuition tell you what button do what or would you need a tutorial for this ? Also HOW are you controlling it ? the keyboard, the mouse or controller ? maybe the upcoming leap motion ?

Though for some reason the little leap motion box isn't visible on the image this is suposedly what using the leap motion would be like. 

In this post I'd like to talk a bit about these things. Back in the days... the early days of the gaming industry things we're a lot more simpler. They had to be because there we're huge limitations and and a lot of creativity was needed to try and get around some of these limitations.  Based on these limitations came controllers / controls.  giving us the simple controllers such as the one from the Atari or Nintendo

Then as time went on, technology improved, and limitations got less and less for some reason game-play and controllers followed this trend.  First Super Nintendo, Sega then playstation and now even Xbox...

it went from a few simple buttons ( 4 to 11 digital buttons, 2 analog triggers, 2 analog sticks and a digital d pad) to complete chaos.  Older people often get scared by just looking people use them cause they have no clue what's going on, but even though there's more buttons a lot of people don't seem to mind and easily get along with it. Why ?

Especially these days however it's been going on for quite a while a lot of buttons are being used for roughly the same thing. So will for example the analog sticks steer your character, the triggers usually have a vital function and in xbox's case the middle button go back to the xbox overlay but with sony the start / select button can be found in the middle.

The same can be said with PC games. where it started off with just a few simple keys these days ( especially in mmo's) players often use ALL the keys on the keyboard for macro's. Especially in Player versus Player skirmishes. Very cleverly the game hardware provider Razor heard of this and brought out the razor Naga ( and has now many variations ) which features 12 buttons on the side of the mouse to allow the user to easier access a variety of skills.

Here an example of Arma2 keyboard controlls ( yes it's not an mmo) almost the full keyboard is being used for functions.

Other things that have companies have done for PC gamers is for example Logitech which brought out a specialized gamers keyboard the " g series"  Taking the G15 as example which had 16 macro's on the left of the keyboard. A small display for vital information or quick view in your Itunes ( Very important while playing games !! ) It had led displays making it easier to see your keyboard in the dark and best of all a button to disable the utmost annoying/irritating windows key on the keyboard.

Both Logitech and Razor now also bring out Headsets specialized for gaming giving a better quality for voice chat/sound and immersion into games .

However getting back to consoles as well.  Controllers have tried to immerse players as well with for example the rumble feature which starts vibrating when a player performs a certain action or get's hit. Or the wii that decided to go on motion detection trying to get people to exersize more.  In this and upcoming year there will be a whole new console generation and a lot of exiting new improvements will take place it will be fun to see what sort of new things they will release. As for PC gamers things will improve and change all the time.

Playstation 4: https://us.playstation.com/ps4/
Razor naga: http://www.razerzone.com/gb-en/gaming-mice/razer-naga
Logitech g series: http://www.logitech.com/en-roeu/promotions/7295

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