Thursday, September 15, 2011

Physical Feel

I've suddenly become very interested in physical games. Not like board games, but like these.

There are a lot of amazing things you can do with physical games that you can't do with a genericized controller, from the "snap" of the box closing itself when you lose to the feel of moving your body in the game's physical space. Even something as simple as those tiltable wooden "marble labyrinths" have a more immersive feel to them than their virtual variants.

It's fun to think of the cool things you could make. For example, that karate-chop game looks pretty amenable to modular design. You could have a lot of different modules and, as the game progresses, it demands that you put more modules on the base unit, to have more complex interactions.

But, being that my skills at actual electronics are nonexistent, I have to stay pretty much in the software world. This got me thinking about how you can add that kind of depth, sharpness, and immersiveness to a game using a much more generic controller (for example, keyboard or 360 controller).

Some games have done a pretty good job: Katamari Damacy probably reigns supreme at this, although I suppose the Kinect has bred some challengers. But I'd love to hear about others. What games can you think of that have interesting and immersive controls? How would you implement such a thing?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the magic behind physical, almost toy "feel" of some digital games emerges when game world works in accordance to real world physical logic. The fun probably emerges from recognizing and predicting game world changes by observing it and interacting with it.

I think there's two ways to foster such physical "conformity".

First is, as you said, to implement controls that logically correspond to things happening on screen.
Besides Katamari good example would be Robot Alchemic Drive for PS2, where robot's legs and arms are controlled separately by four triggers and both analog sticks.
It doesn't conform to "you moving legs and arms", but conforms to "you controlling giant robot and making him move". Protagonist is even shown using remote control similar to PS2 controller.

The other way for achieving "toy" feel, I think, is to implement game world logic recognizable as real world laws. It's "physics" and it's why "put the can in the trash can" is fun. Without depth it's only fun first time though, so it looks like only physical systems that are complex enough (Populous, Vangers, Stair/Truck Dismount) can preserve toy feel. But upside here is that we don't even need to change conventional control scheme to make them feel "physical".