Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Episode 26: "Button, Button, Who's Got The Button?"

UPDATE: As of 9/13/11, this video can be seen on the NEW screwattack at THIS LINK

Miss me?

Well, it's come to this: I'm now a part of the ScrewAttack family. Enjoy Episode 26, and make sure to click over to the rest of SA's content, too. More to come!


Rafael Alejandro Sanchez said...

Congratulations on your first video as an official ScrewAttack feature! You really deserve it.

Great video, too. I've always been wary of control layout getting too complicated. Keep the content coming.

DOOLEY said...

hey, congratulations on winning the screwattack contest thing. you definitely deserver to be exposed to more people, so let me be the first to claim "HEY I WATCHED HIM BEFORE HE WAS MAINSTREAM."

but for real, i haven't owned a console since n64 and i watch your videos all the time because you're dope. good job.

Lyndon Warren said...

Congrats on your new gig and all

Anyway on topic.

While I agree that in general designers should try and make their games more accessible one of the reasons modern games have so many buttons is because it helps sell the world as being deep, complex and believable. If we can only interact with a game in two major ways it feels thin and artificial. Which is perhaps why simpler control systems worked well with 2D games.

Anyway that doesn't excuse Bionic Commando for having a terrible user interface but by the same token I don't think, say, Half Life 2 would be improved much by having it control with just a d-pad and two buttons.

Anonymous said...

This video cements my belief that you are without a doubt the George Carlin for the video game community. You tell it like it is, and you don't pull any punches, and rarely leave any stone unturned. For that, I salute you.

That said, I totally agree with you on the whole thing about button overkill. ESPECIALLY when it comes to Microsoft's penchant for making games where you have 2 separate control sticks: One for the camera, and one for controlling the character.

When I first played multiplayer Halo -at the insistance of someone who is no longer my friend because he also insisted that Samus is just a Nintendo rip-off of Master Chief- after being so used to the single control stick of Metroid Prime, it fucked me up royally. The only kill I got it during that whole session was accidentally killing him with a shotgun because I was startled by suddenly appearing out of nowhere with the intent to kill "the newbie", and I was just mashed the "Fire" button.

When I complained about the controls and asked if they could be changed, he basically said "Why would you wanna change 'em? It's part of the challenge of the game. Deal with it.", adding another reason to why he's not my friend.

In response, I basically into a similar rant like you did in this vid, and also swore never to deal with anything "Halo"-related again. It didn't last long, though. Another person -who is now a friend for life- showed me "Red vs. Blue" the next day, and I was a fan immediately. And also that "Halo" anime actually looks like it might be interesting, so long as they actually give Master Chief some weight and personality. So I guess some "Halo" stuff isn't ALL bad... :)

Well, congrats on being part of the Screw Attack family. I may sign up there just to comment on your vids.

Btw, I've been meaning to ask you to talk about this for awhile now, and what with the recent release of "The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition", there's probably no time like now to talk about it. Could you talk about your views on the point-and-click adventure game, and why it seems to be a dying genre? I'd talk about it myself, but since you've got more online credibility, you might be able to talk about it with much more gusto.

Eric said...

Bob, you are stealing my ideas. I've been ranting forever about how complex control schemes are a method of adding "fake difficulty" to a game. It's why I generally dislike fighting games with unnecessarily long combo moves and the like, and even the six-button input in a game like Street Fighter seems excessive to me. I'm supposed to be playing the game, not the controls. I find Smash Bros. more engaging precisely because it's all about tactics, use of the environment, etc. and not about memorising complicated and hard-to-use control schemes.

I'm primarily a PC gamer, so I'm very used to using hotkeys and huge numbers of controls mapped to different buttons, but the difference is that a keyboard's layout is extremely familiar to most people, and even then it can be set up in an intuitive way to make for easy input while gaming (see the WASD, E, Q, R, etc. keys that most every action game on PC uses nowadays).

However, console controllers are a bit different. Console makers have taken an evolutionary approach, trying to think of buttons and other input devices that will work with every type of game. Directional pads, control sticks, pressure-sensitive triggers, they're all here, and while they can work great for some, i.e. platform and racing games, I find that overall the standard gamepad simply doesn't get the job done. Since the controllers are designed to be versatile, not specialised, you wind up with many games that have less-than-ideal control setups as they try to cram so many functions into a space that's not accommodating of them.

I don't think this has so much to do with "being lazy" in coming up with control setups. Rather, it's all about the complexity of games these days. As has been discussed here before, most games are built upon the successes of previous games - innovations that were once revolutionary to the industry are now considered standard with any game. While this is great for things like lock-on targeting and analogue character movement, when it comes to real gameplay features, you are eventually going to run into the problem of more input actions than you do buttons. I think that context sensitivity is a lost art in games these days. Nintendo and Rare are kings of this, with Nintendo's own first-party titles and Rare's platform games demonstrating that you can have depth in a game without requiring the player to be able to use any action at any time.

In any case, congratulations on your acceptance into the ScrewAttack family, and I'm grateful for all the awesome talks you've provided thus far.

DraginHikari said...

I agree to a certain extent. Though I haven't played Bionic Commando like some may have but from what was described in your video the control scheme looks more awkward then broken in the sense of the term. For me some games seem to demand this time of control scheme. But since this is heavily been stated in other comments here I'm not going to dive head first into it.

The other strange thing I found with this particular video is how Screwattack is handling it. If you're trying to be controversial you're doing a pretty good job at it. I've ready many of the comments and it seems you've got quite of bit of dislike. It's interesting to see though how angry people can get over things like this really.

Or prehaps I like to over anaylzing conflict and over thinking it. Could be either.

Sir Laguna said...


Mark said...

oh man, finally!

welcome back, and glad to see you being featured on SA. shall we leave comments here, or there?

totally know what you're saying. I imagine you've played God of War, right? I love the game, but I found myself essentially spamming the same attack over and over again for the whole game, because I never quite wrapped my brain around all the different combo attacks, at the game didn't seem to care either way.

I enjoy the triggers, bumpers, extra face buttons, etc. being assigned to miscellaneous menus, maps, healing potions, etc., but it runs in to major problems when all of them need to be used real-time in combat.

DaveT said...

I watched all your videos 1 to 25 in a day... and then waited weeks and weeks for the next one and what do I got, a giant bashing of my favorite game this generation, Bionic Commando. Yes it's not perfect, but you know it's got it where it counts. Assuming you're not too mentally challenged to use the controls (which are nearly perfect). The game WAS as fun as it looked when I played it.

You bitch about the camera? What the hell are you talking about? The camera functions like a third person shooter. You shoot at the center of the screen (not to mention attach your arm to whatever is in the center of the screen or above it). Of course you need to control the camera. Just like you need to control where you aim in an FPS.

And take it from someone who played the game on all three difficulty levels and a fourth time on normal to max the achievements (something I've never done before): getting rid of the jump button in this game would be a terrible idea. Sometimes you want to jump off of something and sometimes you want to walk off. Sometimes you want to jump off backwards. Also, jumping when there is no ledge is a good way to keep forward momentum while you wait for the arm to latch onto its target. It keeps the game moving fast.

The look, dodge and weak punch button are like extras. You can easily go through the game without ever touching them. All you really need to know is that A makes you jump and Y makes the arm do stuff (pitch something into the air, throw it, heavy punch etc.) it really isn't as complex as it looks (especially considering the moves are doled out slowly giving time to learn them).

Yes, some games have poorly designed controls, but Bionic Commando really isn't one of them. Of course, it's an easy target since hardly anyone played it and most of the ones who did were put off by it's rough presentation.

Your loss fellas.

John said...

This is not directed at madaboutscorpy, but I have to wonder why EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET HAS TO BASH HALO.

I mean, was there some nerd rage memo I forgot to pick up? With the level of raw hatred it gets, you would think it caused AIDS or something.

It didn't start the glut of FPS (thanks, WW2 games!).

I wasn't "grim and gritty", and if you say that you haven't played it. It has a pretty cliche setting, but at least it runs with it and can be a little bit silly at times.

I haven't seen a more colorful FPS in a long while.

It's not a bad game. No really. It has some of the best controls. But then, I guess were supposed to hate it for what it represents, right? What was that again?

Okay, I'm done now. But man, Halo gets a lot of shit for being one of the best examples of it's genre in the last generation, and doing the most to bring in new gamers before the Wii.

Let me repeat: doing the most to bring in new gamers before the Wii.

I have to say Bob, although I do understand why you bash the "hardcores", every time you do I just hear "casual gamers". Because they're said exactly the same way.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy camera control because it allows freedom to explore the level and to study the graphics.

After all, what's the point of making a complex and immersive gameworld if the camera will only allow you to see the people you're fighting at most times? And don't get me started on time limits.

Back during the early years of the playstation, sometimes backgrounds were ignored for splashy fractl animations, as the player should really pay attention to the foreground and the enemies in it.

Also, what's so bad about Bionic Commando? Sure, the guy has some jewlocks, but, would you prefer the spikey hair and sunglasses look from the eighties? The colorful look was as popular and mainstream in the eighties as the brown and gritty style is nowadays. You can't blame the gamemakers for going with the flow.

Besides, it's not like the original Bionic Commando game had the most interesting character design - it was pretty much army attire for everyone except the robot monster.

Neither game is bad. But they're all rooted in their time.

Shawn said...


Remember the last Stage of Halo?

Remember the exact same Stage as the last Stage of Halo 3?

There you go, that is why people hate Halo cause the games were a tease, they set up something great and ended with a Driving Stage with poor controls.

xaer0knight said...

i dont like to start e-drama but one of my favorite reviewers out there " the gaming goose" decided to take shots at you... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io_kYEWzCsM :( its a sad day in gaming when people can't get along....

John said...

Shawn, I understand this. I'm not saying Halo is the greatest thing ever. I personally hate how the Library was one big copypasted hallway, too.

The game is eight years old. Surely, there's a new target for everyone to hate? Or better yet, we could move on from scapegoats.

BUS100 Team said...

This is a game that would've been great for the Wii's control style.

Stick = Move

Z + Stick = strafe

Pointer = target stuff

A = shoot, or melee if you're close (there's that contextual thing)

B = Use arm

D-pad = Select weapons

There you go.

Also, right stick to move?! Are you kidding? Way to counter a decade and a half of muscle memory! I tried that grip on my controller, and my thumbs were having to dodge each other. Possibly the dumbest control decision since Megaman Anniversary Collection on the Gamecube swapped the buttons for jump and shoot.

What were the designers thinking?


Anonymous said...

I think you stretched your rant way too far on this one by trying to apply your control complaints to games in general.

"Streamlining controls" sounds like a horrible idea to me. You ask why games need jump or evade actions mapped to buttons. Why not just throw in the auto-jump like in Zelda or just move out of the way? Because players should be in control of the games they play.

Most evade actions are different than simply moving out of the way. Auto-jumping like in Zelda requires the entire game to be built to completion with the concept in mind.

One bad game is no reason to generalize more complex control schemes as bad. Is UFC 2009 Undisputed's control scheme bad because it's complex? If so, how would you propose it be improved while still retaining the integrity of the game.

Stop overgeneralizing "problems" just because you had a single bad experience.

Drawing said...

As much as I appreciate your insight, Mr Overthinker, I simply cannot concur.

Maybe it's because I have good reflexes, or maybe it's because I've been gaming for the better part of my life, but to this day I've never run across a game where the control scheme was "too difficult".

The only way it could be difficult would be if I am not a frequent player of a particular genre of videogame, ie, handing an FPS to someone who primarily plays Wii Sports.

I'm taking liberties here, but from watching you, and listening to you, you seem to not be much of a fan of modern gaming, thus you keep it at arms length, making you more unfamiliar with it as a whole as it pertains to controls and the like.

With that said, your idea of "fewer buttons" would drastically cut down the abilities a player has in certain genres.

A simplistic scheme should be relative to simplistic games. Everything has a learning curve, but to declare that just because a few people aren't as adept in picking it up as others (whether new or old) makes it a "bad" thing is rather subjective.

Nevertheless I enjoyed your take on it.

Niels said...

A bit off-topic and for Bob:

What's going to happen to Episode 24 and 25, the shows that you used for the contest? Will you post them on YouTube or will give ScrewAttack you a page for these (and all future) episodes? And what about your YouTube account?

Alcibiades said...

The argument in favor of complicated control schemes is similar to the argument in favor of using complicated language. It isn't that they introduce a layer of skill in mastering the controls, but that complicated schemes are often necessary to communicate what the developers need to communicate- in much the same way that using large words is not in order to confuse people are make people consider how smart you are, but because complicated language communicates nuance that is impossible in simpler communication.

You're correct that complication of control schemes ought not be pursued for its own sake, but I think you're overestimating the extent to which complication is there unnecessarily.

Gabriel said...

I'm probably going to get some shit for this, but while I agree with most of the points made in this video, I disagree with you on one point: Camera controls.

Having a camera that you can control at will is something that most semi-competent game designers have included since SM64 because it allows players to choose an angle that they are comfortable with at any point in the game. If you're not going to include a controllable camera in a third-person shooter, don't bother having a third person perspective, just make it another FPS because a good part of the screen will be taken up by your own damn character. Mass Effect had this problem, and making it the standard would just be idiotic.

Also, while you make good points on game designers using way too many buttons in their control schemes, there's also the danger of going too far in the opposite direction and assigning way too many functions to a single button. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but there has got to be games out there that are guilty of this.

Anyways, wall of text over. Flame away!

Blake said...

I just wanted to post before we got "But MovieBob, Ocarina used 3 C Buttons WTF man????"

Excellent post. I don't personally really mind developers using all the buttons if they (A) map them intelligently or {B} make them remappable. That was one of the best things about The Conduit for the Wii; I personally use their control scheme and resize the dead zone to my liking. If you don't like it, guess what? You can change 99% of the controls in the game (Nunchuck shake throws grenades and Wiimote shake melees; sorry guys).

Placing the movement on the right Control Stick when you have to use all of those buttons on the right to do all your other stuff is REALLY REALLY stupid design. How did play testing not nix that from the start? /shrug I won't be getting this game that's for sure.

Great vid; hope to see more soon.

nightbringer117 said...

greetings moviebob, first of all congratulations on your first video as a screwattack feature, I'm a big fan of both screwattack and game overthinker.

But I post today with a request, I'm chinese and I downloaded one of your videos on youtube, translated it and posted up a chinese game forum, within 24 hours I received 12 pages of replies. Without doubt your video was quite successful even in foreign countries. Many posters have requested me to post more videos of yours. And I wanted to translate a few of your more recent videos, especially the one concerning violence since video game is still quite a new medium to my country. But now that you've moved to screwattack, I am no longer able to download your videos. So if you're fine with it, can you post your newer videos onto youtube for me to access so that I can spread your opinion to farther places? Or if it's possible, send the video to me, I guarantee I will not take the product as my own, if you're uncomfortable with this I can stop translating all together. Please contact me via e-mail, I would be very grateful if I can have a chance to hone my english skill as well as spread your thoughts as the game overthinker.

Elvis said...

If I may speak for a moment, this video was good and nicely done, but I've noticed a trend in your work recently. Lately they all take a much more gaming-politics/society edge to them that have more to do with a critical look at videogame designers and audiences. This of course is completely fine, but I feel it's a different 'kind' of video that's what attracted me as a viewer to begin with.

My first video of yours was "Super Mario and the Sacred Feminine" and what I really enjoyed about it was the meticulous analysis of in-game minutiae. I feel like this element has become less and less existent in your later videos. I'm not suggesting that you stop making the kind you are, as they've certainly been successful, but I figured I'd say my piece in hopes that we get the occassional episode in the older style.

Elliott said...

Just a little nitpick (since I love to be smug about being able to talk about minor detailed junk)

The 6 button control in Street Fighter 2 actually got started back in a later version of street fighter 1 when the 2 hydrolic buttons scheme just wasn't working out.

As for Drawing's post, I think you're missing his point.

It's not that he wants the games to have LESS options, it's that he doesn't feel that the buttons are being used economically and it's layout is, dare I say it, unnatural.

It's like asking a chess player to have to juggle 6 balls before he can make a move. What purpose does that serve other than slow the game down and increase the game's entry barrier? nothing.

Drawing said...

I understand Elliot, but Bob seemingly attempted to lump all games in with Bionic Commando, when in reality, no other games I can think of share a control scheme like it.

In fact, most are reprogrammable, leading me to believe he doesn't play many modern games-- he just speaks on them.

Keith said...

You know, I've been following you since you started entering in the My Vids Don't Suck and am glad to see you win, but dammit man, don't act like you're God and deserve it. Seriously, listening to you gloat about winning in this video I wish I could just punch you across the face. Where's the more humble Game overthinker?

On topic to your argument, I justdon't see the point. Seriously, maybe I'm gifted or something, but I've never had a problem learning the controlls of a game. Never have I forgotten how to do a command or found it troublesome that there are so many. Yes if the controllers are poorly mapped around the controller (I really can't stand triangle as the jump button) that's one thing, but more commands makes the game more diverse an fun to play. I hate multiple actions being placed on one button and having the game confuse which action you're doing. Also I've yet to see a game with a fixed camera that couldn't be improved by letting you control the camera.

Overall, I'm really disappointed in your pompous attitude and I just can't agree with you this time.

P.S. I think its time to stop calling the PS3 a Bluray player tha incidentally plays games. The PS3 has, by this point, gotten plenty of games, both exclusive and multiplatform, to compete with the 360. It does much more than play Blurays and isn't even expensive anymore ($300 is incredibly reasonable for the slim)

Cam said...

I agree that the camera thing is kinda annoying, but I think that that was more of something brought over from the PC FPS games where you used the mouse to look and then the mouse button to shoot. With this in mind, now you use one of the buttons with your right thumb to shoot but also your thumb to look around as well. This is why I liked the Z button on the N64, or why in Call of Duty they give you the Melee and Shoot buttons as R2 and R1 respectively because that's easier than switching the thumb between 2 things, especially if you have to follow something and shoot in rapid succession, it just doesn't fucking work unless you like holding your controller with one hand so your thumb can use the right analog stick and your fingers operate the buttons.

With all that in mind, this is why I like the Wii controls because if you have the nunchuk attached then the work is done, it uses the wii sensor so you are just following with your hand, I don't know why people don't like that, it's comfortable, it's easy to do plus one thing I like is that with some of the port games where on the other system the "camera" was still involved, that is added by you having to tilt either the nunchuk or the wiimote and that is soooooo much easier to do than use analog sticks, especially when those should be used simply for moving and looking at something.

I dunno what I was getting at except plugging the Wii because I do like the controls because it sort of does feel natural, why they don't utilise this more often with FPS type games is beyond me, or why they half-ass them, like The Conduit

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