Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sly Cooper

Darius: hey, re: your space/­time post, what do you think was so fancy about Sly Cooper's handling of space?

me: Have you played it?

Darius: yes
I liked it a lot

me: Did you notice how every move felt natural?
Sly leaps off into space and when he comes down, it's just where you wanted him to?

Darius: I noticed how the control system massively over­com­pensated for me, yes
it bordered on annoying, since i'm used to far less forgiving systems

me: No need for expert aim - it could ready your mind, react to your in­ten­tion.
I thought it was in­cred­ibly nimble.

Darius: once I got it, I thought so too
it reminded me of the new Prince of Persia games, actually

me: It cut GROOVES in the space-­time of the game.

Darius: which had a similar flow to the movement
yes, I see that

me: There were invisible roads which were, non­the­less, perfectly obvious.
It was quite well done.

Darius: that last statement about invisible roads reminds me of Mario 64

me: I actually never played it.

Darius: I only played a little
but Miyamo­to's genius has ALWAYS been in his ability to draw you through space im­pli­citly and in­tu­it­ively

me: BTW, I suggest Sly Cooper to non-hard­core gamers (like the security guard's wife). I've had many satisfied "cus­tomer­s", and nobody who's disliked it.
Yes, Miyamoto does the same thing.
Except Miyamoto says, "jump here!"
Sly Cooper said, "jump to there!"
IE, Miyamoto requires timing, skill, and aim.
He tells you when to jump, guides you to the moment.
Sly Cooper just guides you to the des­tin­a­tion.

Darius: right, right, the more classic control scheme... of course, it was obviously not class, but in fact re­volu­tion­ary when he debuted it
I com­pletely see what you mean about Sly now

me: Huzzah!
Should I post it?

Darius: yes.
actually, you had me convinced as soon as you said "grooves"
that was all I needed. very concise metaphor


Mory said...

Control simplification is a double-edged sword. (I've never played Sly, so I'm speaking only from my experience with Prince of Persia.) It can make the game accessible to a wider audience, but at the same time it loses much of its depth. The player has no way to improve himself! Once he has touched the controls briefly for the very first time, he has seen everything the game has to offer as a learning experience.

Then again, maybe I'm misunderstanding the nature of Sly Cooper's control. I know that their earlier game Rocket: Robot on Wheels used very precise control.

Craig Perko said...

There's always tradeoffs. But play Sly, tell me you don't enjoy it.

PoP didn't have any control simplification. It was a Miyamoto-style game, rather than a Sly-style game.

Mory said...

"Darius: it reminded me of the new Prince of Persia games, actually"

Unfortunately, I have no PS2, so I won't have any opportunity to play Sly Cooper. I don't doubt that I'd like it, considering how good Rocket was.

Anyhow, PoP is very very simplified. Did you even play it?- it's not much like Miyamoto at all. There are only four directions to jump in, even though it is in a 3D environment and walking is fully analog. Any complicated moves (running on a wall, swinging on a pole) are done entirely in motion capture, so the player has no control whatsoever over how well it's pulled off. He just presses a button, and watches the animation. If he aims in the general direction of something, he'll get there, because the controls are so oversimplified. And the game gets boring after about five minutes.

Craig Perko said...

Mory: That's not what I found at all. I found my prince leaping of at an angle from what was obviously intended to be a straight jump, falling one step short of something he should be able to reach, and numerous other "if your timing and aim isn't perfect, we punish you" moments.

Nearly all games have mocap. What game has a more complex control scheme, aside from a straight fighting game?

Patrick Dugan said...

What you're talking about is the "Blind Captain" scheme Chris Bateman suggested:

What he calls the "Blind Captain" I call the "Interactive 3rd person", in that the player is given not just an avatar vessel, but a role, a character, to inhabit, so that every jump isn't just a physics calculation, its Sly Cooper or the Prince jumping, and theres guiding AI or just really good analogue/camera ratios making it feel smooth.

Doom was one of the first examples of this in 3D, where you'd sort of slide a bit along walls, say into a door frame. Thats an example of an "empty vessel" or interactive 2nd person, but they managaged to give a few forgiving mechanics, such as the automatic lateral aiming, that makes it borderline blind captain.

However I think to really empower the player with a mediating AI, you need a character or integral role, such as the invited friend in Facade. Facade is an extreme example because no interaction at all would have been possible without the AI interpreting and guiding the discourse.

More on the need and virtue of 3rd person later.

Craig Perko said...

Patrick: Yeah, read it. Semi-automated roles are a passion of mine. Like so many things, I suppose.

You're perfectly right, although I didn't think of it in those terms. The grooves can be thought of as the character guiding the player, rather than the gameworld guiding the player.

Interesting angle. That means in a game like Sly, maybe you could choose a character who isn't as good as Sly at landing, and therefore the grooves aren't as deep. Interesting.