Game Eaters

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pirates of the Caribean MMO

So there's going to be a Pirates of the Caribbean MMO,768,1765543734

Mind this quote from the managing director of Disney Online: "Fans of the movies and theme park attraction will be able to live their own unfolding pirate adventure through the game, including searching for lost treasures and battling numerous enemies on land and at sea."

Well, there's already a very cool MMO that does this very successfully, Puzzle Pirates. It's easy to play, you can play for hours or for five minutes. There's swashbuckling, pillaging, drinking, gambling, ship crafting, rum brewing, dye mixing, and a bunch of other stuff (all made into puzzles). And it's not very expensive. Give it a try (you can get 10 sessions for free) before Disney realizes and tries to buy it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Metal Gear vs. Splinter Cell.

I've been playing Metal Gear Solid 2 and Splinter Cell 1 for the past week. I like them both, but I'm going to say something crazy: MGS2 is more accessible than SC1. From a gamer's point of view, this is absurd. MGS, in hindsight, has a very weird control scheme. It's fixed camera top-down, with many strange controller actions one needs to perform in order to do simple things like aim.

Wait... *thinks*

Okay, so let me take that back. The *basic directional controls* in MGS2 are more accessible than SC1. Although you need to do all these strange acrobatics to get to the 3D elements of MGS2's gameplay, the basic controls themselves are actually more sensible than SC1's. Up is up, Down is down, Left is left, and Right is right. SC1's behind-the-back controls are perfectly designed the sense that they are an intuitive evolution of the fundamentals of 3D gameplay (established in games such as Tomb Raider and Doom) but if you are unfamiliar with those genres it's basically very difficult to get the hang of them.

I once tried to "teach" someone how to play videogames, someone who hadn't played games but wanted to learn how to play them. And you know what? It was a LOT easier to teach them how to play 2D games than 3D. 2D games they got the hang of after a few tries, but when I popped in an FPS I could feel the enormous leap in videogame literacy it demanded. Even someone unfamiliar with videogames could understand that in MGS2 you press up to go up, down to go down, etc. But show someone who's never played videogames Time Splitters and watch how hard it is for them to come to grips with the look/move dual-analog philosophy of controls. And then there's body consciousness. Those of us that grew up with games like Ultima Underworld and Doom understand how a mere camera view can be, itself, an avatar. But this ain't as obvious to someone just starting out. It's just not as fundamentally intuitive to human experience as a simple control scheme rooted in 2D navigational concepts.

Not that a newbie gamer would necessarily find MGS2 accessible. Its control is esoteric in many ways, but that's not because its 2D controls are dated. It's 2D controls are the most accessible thing about it because they don't require a strong literacy of 3D interface design. SC1, on the other hand, requires this literacy in ways that make it less accessible to people who might like to play games but don't.

I've been having fun with both MGS2 and SC1. But MGS2 just feels more playful and fun to me. Frankly I can imagine someone not as interested in games understanding the basic nuances of MGS2 faster than SC1--its 90-degree angle architecture, its 2D controls, its simple punch-punch combat, and its insanely simple inventory GUI. These pieces may get really convoluted when they come together, but as isolated elements they show a strong conviction for the fundamentals of intuitive interface design... fundamentals that are based on much broader concepts of interaction than SC's evolutionary 3D paradigm.

My point is this. Although SC is in some ways a more intuitive game for gamers, I think MGS could teach us more about the fundamentals of design that might attract more people to videogames. Frankly I think MGS (both 1, 2, and 3) could do a better job of it, but the fundamentals they subscribes to have always been very clear...

And worth more study, I think.