Thursday, September 22, 2005

Okay, Fine, a Revolution

I just wanted to say: yes, I think the Revolution's controller is a revolution.

People like to say, "at best, it's an evolution". Nothing like this has ever been mainstream before. Now, it will be. That's a revolution.

People like to say, "it's the games that matter, not the IO device!" But until consoles came out with two thumbpads for control, the entire FPS genre was essentially computer-only. Now that two thumbpads is the norm, it has changed the entire landscape of consoles.

"But RPGs don't rely on IO devices! Any kind of device will work!"

El Wrongo! The RPG genre has undergone several major shifts as new IO standards have come into play. The ability to display graphics was a big one. Is "Zork" the same genre as "Quest for Glory"? They have, fundamentally, the same gameplay. But Quest for Glory has several play features Zork can't match. Minigames of skill, for example. Exact comparitive locations. Intuitive and interactive displays both for skills/inventory and for the world itself.

Born from this same set of features came the "puzzle game", in my mind epitomized by Lolo. Impossible with a simpler display, because it would be nearly impossible to display the spatial relation of the puzzle pieces.

When we broke from a one-dimensional text writing display two a two-dimensional graphical display, the nature of the game changed.

Similarly, once 3D became common, we changed again. 3D adventures and platformers came into being with the same basic play design as "Zork". But are "Zork" and "Beyond Good and Evil" the same genre? That would be quite a stretch, despite the fact that they are both about going from place to place, uncovering secrets, and beating puzzles.

As the game display grew more complex, the games grew more... real-time. You could make a move in Zork then stop for a week. While in many places you could simply stop for a week in Beyond Good and Evil, in many situations that would make you lose.

However, output is not the only part of IO. Input is critical, too. The more in-tune the input and output, the more flawlessly interactive the game is. With Zork, it was 1D. We used a keyboard to do text entry, which is also 1D. With adventure games, it became a 2D display, and we began using arrow keys, joypads, and mice - 2D input devices. Since then, we've moved to a 3D display. More than that, we've moved from a 3D, 3 degrees-of-freedom system to a 3D, 5DoF system. Our controls? We're still using joypads and mice. We combine several 2DoF input devices to try to control a 5DoF output device. That's like trying to draw how the gravitational influences of the planets will cause wobbles in their orbits over the next five thousand years on a sheet of paper. Because using more than one pencil really makes that simpler!

Have you ever noticed how incredibly irritating flight simulators are to use? Why? Because you're trying to control 5DoF with only 2DoF controls! If you're one of the people who loves flight sims, how about fighting games? We're controlling what is a 6-10DoF game using a variety of pre-scripted buttons that execute not-so-complex maneuvers in most of those freedoms simultaneously.

Can you imagine how much of an advantage a fighter who could spontaneously innovate new maneuvers for his fighter would have over the guy who does "A, X, X for triple uppercut"? Pull the controller to the side to jump back, then, using perfect timing, whip the controller to the other side to close, twist it and click a button to kick. He's still stuck following the same pre-scripted routine! He wouldn't stand a chance!

As I said, new genres are born with the birth of a new system of IO.

I'll be buying a Revolution. I will NOT be buying either of the others.

No comments: