Thursday, 23 May 2013

Elements of Game Technology, Part Three: Interaction Design

In the early days of gaming, playing games at home and in the arcades were nothing more than a simple control pad or an arcade stick. They were simple designs that were pretty easy to understand as well as getting the job done.
In the early times, not much consideration was put into the design of consoles and controllers as there would be many flaws and nuisances. An example would be the extra ‘brick’ plug adapters for the Sega genesis add-ons such as the 32x and the CD attachment; with the adapter being too large and a nuisance.

 As the industry grew, so too did the designs of consoles and game controls.
I’ll start with discussing about the arcade designs.
Arcade machines come in various shapes and forms these days. From the simple (but popular) arcade stick to the steering wheel and gear stick, many different control types have been created for specific arcade games and their genres.

With my experience, playing at the arcade has always felt like a lively experience especially with the unique intereactive control schemes. Playing Dance Dance Revolution on the dance pad with all these lights flashing in your face, high quality sounds and with a bunch of friends really makes that experience much more fun (even more so when a crowd gathers).
If the game was missing the dance pad, the experience would change completely and would probably not prove to be as popular.

There are other types of musical arcade games that have many different variations in the control schemes better suiting the game and genre. To name a few:
Taiko no Tatsujin Arcade Machine
Guitar Hero – Plastic guitar controller
Taiko no Tatsujin – Taiko drum controls
DJ Max Technika – Touch screen
Beatmania – Turntable

Other types of control schemes for other genres include
Gun controllers
Interactive steering wheel, pedals, car seat and gear stick, etc.

With home consoles, games are usually designed with the standard control pad in general. As consoles advanced in tech, intuitive control schemes would advance alongside them.
Consoles would eventually have standard controllers that included analog sticks with some consoles including pressure sensitive buttons. This opened many possibilities for new ways to play games. One example would be for 1st and 3rd person shooters; where possible the universal control scheme would progress onto using 2 analog sticks (with one for movement and the other for direction).

Home consoles would also adapt many control schemes from the arcades to take the arcade experience at home. Light guns, dance mats and arcade sticks would be taken to the living/bedroom to further enhance your gaming.
In my opinion, the experience of having these controls schemes at home just isn’t the same as the real arcade experience. This isn’t to say that it’s not fun at all, but rather just fun in a different way. I find that the advantages to having these control schemes are that you don’t have to keep paying money into an arcade machine for each gaming session.
One example from my personal experience is that back in my childhood days I was able to have long sessions of playing Point Blank with 2 light guns without having to spend a fortune paying for 2 players each time (something I would never be able to do in the arcades with my non-existent money).

One controller for each hand
Having multiple ways of playing a game with different control schemes also opens up windows for more fun. For fighting games, I’ve been playing with a control pad for my entire life. However during my adult days, one of my friends were particularly interested in playing fighting games with an arcade stick (as he created some) and had made one for me. With my new gift I was able to learn a different control scheme which in a way opened up a new gaming experience for me and was able to double the fun than I would have had with just the control pad.

My friend made me this (I didn't choose this image on it!). It's been signed by the creators of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue Daisuke Ishiwatari and Toshimichi Mori when I attended the London BlazBlue Tournament.

The arcade sticks have also continued to be developed. There are multiple companies that create top of the range and offer different types of arcade stick parts that could help people fully customise their own arcade stick to their preferred specifications. One particular arcade stick has ironically discarded stick part and has replaced it with buttons.

I think that the gaming industry is going to continue to develop new ways of gaming as time goes on. This is evident with what the newer consoles have to offer.
Consoles and arcade systems have had a varied focus on motion sensor, touch sensitive, voice control and even the dynamic gyroscopic movements seen on the 3DS.


3D technology has been pushed to further immerse gamers and viewers into the game world. Though it’s a fun gimmick, I think that it’s a very unnecessary function to have and shouldn’t be forced upon players in the future.

I have personally enjoyed many games with many different kinds of controls schemes. Ranging from the dual light guns on Point Blank, to the wacky turntable of Beatmania, each and every game were able to make feel much more involved within the games and provide me with a new kind of challenges.
Beatmania Controller for the Playstation 2
Recent announcements from the Xboxone with the improved motion tracking and voice recognition is showing that our gaming future could possibly be filled with interactive controls schemes thrown at us; whether we like it or not.

Xbox One

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