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Ken Levine Defends Lair's Control Scheme 72

Posted by Zonk
from the it-needs-defending dept.
A recent Gamers with Jobs podcast (well worth listening to) features co-hosting duties performed by Ken Levine of Irrational/2K Boston, makers of the title BioShock. During the podcast, Levine comes to the defense of Factor 5's Lair , saying that the folks over there may not have had much choice in how to proceed with their game. "Let me speak in these guys' defense for a minute as a game developer. I'm sure somebody came to them at some point and said, 'We have this motion control controller, and we have to make a go of it. And we really think you should try to make your game exclusively on that.' I think you're seeing a lot of this lately. Aren't there a lot of games where you're just like, 'Dude, can I just use the d-pad or the analog stick?' Ever since the DS came out I feel that there have been a lot of games like that. They've been so impressed by their control mechanic that they just really, really want you to play with that." It's still really, really bad.
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Ken Levine Defends Lair's Control Scheme

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  • They probably were told "do it this way" by those on high.

    Gotta love being forced to an agenda rather than making a fun game...
    • by xenocide2 (231786)
      I like how since Sony or whoever told them to do it, it's now not Factor 5's fault. Instead they got an order on high to "make this game suck" and they followed through.
      • by XenoRyet (824514)
        It's a dodge. The problem with Lair isn't that they used the motion controls, it's that they used them badly. If they had managed to develop a good motion based control scheme, or even an adequate one, it wouldn't be an issue.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      When you come right down to it, a video game is still a software project, and it's subject to all of the potential for weird politics, unrealistic deadlines, and irrational demands from on high that any other software project is. I'd be totally unsurprised if one or more of the above did indeed drive the crappy control scheme. The developers probably aren't idiots and knew it wasn't good but for whatever reason couldn't do much about it.

      Developer sympathy/solidarity isn't enough to make me actually play t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pluvius (734915)
      Factor 5 itself basically admits this in their "Mastering the Beast" video. To quote one of the developers:

      "We got the controller, it's great, new hardware! Everyone huddles around the desk and looks at it... So the first thing we did is just take the controller and use the tilt as a replacement for the joystick--we tilt left, we tilt right--and everyone tried it and it's like, 'This is crap. I don't want to play this.'"

      But instead of just doing the logical thing of scrapping the idea of making Lair con
      • by cyborch (524661)
        Is there a way to watch this without a Windows box? Did soneone put it on youtube or something similar?

        I tried reading the source (usually there's a .wmv or .avi url somewhere in all the javascript mess), but I couldn't find an url for a stream or media file to fetch.
        • by cyborch (524661)

          Nevermind, I found it myself...

          For those besides me who would like to get hold of the raw movie file, without all the javascript and ad mess, here's the plain .wmv [gametrailers.com].

  • by nweaver (113078) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @01:34PM (#20685221) Homepage
    Is there a game, with the exception of Wii Sports, that you've been thrilled that there's no option to go back to a regular d-pad?

    Yes. Metroid Prime III
    • WarioWare
    • by Piata (927858)
      I second Metroid Prime III. The game controls absolutely perfect.
    • by Tadrith (557354) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @01:53PM (#20685629) Homepage
      Seconded.

      Retro did an absolutely amazing job using the Wiimote in Metroid Prime 3. The smoothness, the reaction time, it was absolutely perfect. I was dreading it for a while after seeing what it was like playing Red Steel, but it was nothing like that. Some of the most fun gaming I've had in a long time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Itchyeyes (908311)
      They mention that in the podcast. Levine admits that he has not played it yet.
    • Ooops, moderated wrong! Ignore this post!
    • by Bardez (915334)
      Except how shitty the game responded to the Wii-mote. Turning? Nope, you're pointing off the screen, so you must not be trying to turn at all. I'll just leave you there halfway through your turn, to get hit by that boss, and then let you wait a second or two once you are pointing at that screen again.

      I tried all sensitivities and it was still a pain on all of them.

      Prime III's control scheme wasn't all that great.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Have you tried not waving your hands around like a hyperactive monkey? If you're having trouble with pointing that far off the screen, you're doing something really, really wrong.
    • by adisakp (705706)
      Is there a game, with the exception of Wii Sports, that you've been thrilled that there's no option to go back to a regular d-pad?

      Mortal Kombat Armageddon for the Wii is actually easier to control with the WiiMote than the d-pad. You do the special moves with simple gestures rather than memorizing long button combinations. For example, to throw Scorpion's spear, you just press the trigger on the WiiMote and make a small throwing motion towards and away from your opponent.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MemoryDragon (544441)
      Super Paper Mario... they added a lot of useful functionality to the D-Pad, Zelda also works exceptionally well. Rayman Raving Rabbits basically lives from the Wiis Control scheme, just check out how poorly the game works on other platforms than the Wii. Resident Evil 4 also works better on the Wii than on any other system. Also on the DS it finally is possible to play strategy and point and click games decently, many games which use the pad as mouse replacement work exceptionally well, those which dont wor
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Then I realized he wasn't defending Dragon's Lair

    Hell, anyone who could defend the control scheme of Dragon's Lair, probably eats puppies for breakfast.
    • Hell, anyone who could defend the control scheme of Dragon's Lair, probably eats puppies for breakfast.

      ON switch for stove under puppies' cage flashes white.

  • by PlatyPaul (690601)
    From TFA:

    Is there a game, with the exception of Wii Sports, that you've been thrilled that there's no option to go back to a regular d-pad?

    Yes [wikipedia.org], there [wikipedia.org] definitely [wikipedia.org] is [wikipedia.org].

    Why does he think the d-pad can necessarily provide better control? The issue isn't that motion controls are by-nature loose; it's that developers are new to doing it right. Lair sucked because they did it wrong, pure and simple, and it might (or might not) have been OK if they'd worked harder at really nailing it.

    • by Sciros (986030)
      It depends entirely on the game, of course, but it IS true that a lot of developers have been utilizing the DS touch screen and Wiimote seemingly just for the sake of utilizing them, and to no good effect.

      Think Castlevania for the DS with the "trace this BS shape to finish off the boss" mechanic that we all fell in love with (just kidding WTF was with that) or the "press the screen to change map types" functionality in Mario Kart DS or the horriblicious controls for games like Mario Hoops 3v3. There are man
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geeknado (1117395)
      You're probably correct-- the developers are new to doing it "right". Given that that's the case, is it really good business to force them to adopt new control strategies, good or bad, before they're really ready for them? By doing so, it seems to me that a) many potentially good games will suffer for these directives and b) the merits of these control schemes in general may be unfairly called into question due to bad experiences with these games.

      IMO, motion sensitive controls work best when we're capturing

    • by p0tat03 (985078)
      I haven't played some of the games on the list, but I can tell you that RE4's motion controls, while well done, was not superior to the traditional gamepad, IMHO at least. At no moment did I ever go "thank God they invented motion controls, or otherwise this game would be significantly inferior!", and in fact in a few moments i truly wished I had a control pad.
      • by Piata (927858)
        I kept wondering how you could possibly play that game [i]with[/i] a dpad. Using the knife was so damn easy! But MP3 really shows what good motion controls can do for a game. It pretty much sealed the deal for me on motion controls. Any remaining doubts I had washed away.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by iainl (136759)
        Really? Everyone I know who bought the Wii release of RE4 did so specifically for the new controls, because they had already played the Gamecube or PS2 versions.
    • He's not saying that the D-Pad or analog sticks are just purely better, he's asking "were you ever thrilled to not have a choice."

      The problem though wasn't so much that the controls sucked per se, after all there might be some extremely masochistic people out there that actually like Lair's controls, it's that if you didn't like them you couldn't switch to something that you were more comfortable with. There's simply no excuse for that.

      How many fighting games give you the option of D-Pad or analog sticks

      • by iainl (136759)
        If Lair's could have been implemented on an analogue stick (I wouldn't know really; I only played it for about 2 minutes on a demopod, as it's not my sort of thing), then it's perfectly reasonable to offer it.

        But at the same time, to pick another example have you ever played DDR or Guitar Hero on a regular pad? It's absolutely hideous, and breaks the point of it all. Wii games that work well implement the motion sensing to do things that are either plain impossible on a pad, or would feel unnatural and stup
        • As I said though, I'm not arguing that it would be better with a D-Pad or analog sticks...just that the option should have been there.

          Your DDR and Guitar Hero examples just prove the point. What if you don't have a DDR pad, or it broke? What if you did a Hendrix number on your Guitar Hero controller, or just couldn't afford one? You have the option to use the game pad on those games...it may suck, but at least you were given the option.

          • by iainl (136759)
            I suppose that's the problem with analogies, though. Unlike those games, every PS3 owner can be assumed to posess a SIXAXIS, because it came with the machine. You're not really expected to try Guitar Hero on a pad either, it's just possible (barely) due to the way the guitar's buttons are rewired to a standard pad.

            Hell, I remember having a great laugh trying to play Crazy Taxi on the Dreamcast's fishing rod controller, and I'm fairly sure the designers didn't expect it to be used that way.

            I suppose though,
    • Well, there's a question of appropriateness. For flight sims, it's all about the analog stick. For fighting games, you usually want to use the D-Pad because of the precise input sequences. In the case of this game, the use of motion control was not appropriate and was evidently tacked on because of politics. The end result was something that was both incomplete in execution and an inappropriate design choice. Even if you had all the engineers in the world working on it, you couldn't have made it anything bu

  • d-pad (Score:2, Insightful)

    I played some Mario game or other on my little brother's DS a few months ago, and I was absolutely confused by its insistence that you actually use the touch screen to work the menu. Intuitively, if a menu item is highlighted by default (and it was), using the d-pad should change which menu item is selected... but it didn't.

    I absolutely hate the whole "use the [touch screen/motion sensor/whatever] just because it's there" fad. It drives me insane.

    I haven't tried Metroid Prime III yet, so I can't say wheth
    • by Cecil (37810)
      I fail to see how the Wiimote could provide a good duel experience with light sabers. You'd have no feedback when you hit your opponent's light saber. Your arm would continue to swing while your on-screen avatar's saber is blocked by your opponent's, and more than likely, if you move your hands back to match what shows on-screen, it'll move your saber while you do that in a direction you don't intend.

      First of all, "no feedback" is not entirely true. The Wiimote has a pretty intense rumble ability. And what'
    • by Altus (1034)

      I will agree with you, but it would be even more annoying if the opposite was true. If you couldn't use the touch screen.

      most of the games on the wii allow for both pointer and d-pad driven navigation. Its good to have choices.

      I hate the menu navigation in Tiger Woods 08 (for the Wii). So far the rest of the game has been ok (Ive only just started playing it) but the menus are a pain in the ass.
      • I certainly don't think they should have dropped the whole touchscreen thing, I just think they should allow both the new way and the "old" way so everyone is happy. I don't believe it's a whole lot of extra effort to add in d-pad support on a menu.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rjung2k (576317)
      "Intuitively, if a menu item is highlighted by default (and it was), using the d-pad should change which menu item is selected..."

      This is only "intuitive" after you've spent years being accustomed to using D-pad-based control schemes. For ordinary non-geek mortals, the "intuitive" response when seeing a control is to *cough* touch it.
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by provigilman (1044114)
        Wow...that must suck at work. Always touching your monitor, never getting the cursor to move. Oh, and ATMs...how do you get money out?

        I'm sorry, but everyone who has spend more than 5 minutes with an electronic device in their lives tends to look for a button to control a device. I don't know though, maybe you're the exception...maybe you're the guy pawing at his car window because he's trying to drag it down rather than hitting the "button".

        • Wow...that must suck at work. Always touching your monitor, never getting the cursor to move. Oh, and ATMs...how do you get money out? Ahem, have you ever heard of a mouse, that is basically the equivalent to touching something directly. When whas the last time you used the keyboard for your graphical user interface without any mouse interaction.
          • Wow...that must suck at work. Always touching your monitor, never getting the cursor to move. Oh, and ATMs...how do you get money out? Ahem, have you ever heard of a mouse, that is basically the equivalent to touching something directly. When whas the last time you used the keyboard for your graphical user interface without any mouse interaction.

            ATM's have a mouse now?

            But seriously, a mouse is another device with buttons that you press, instead of pressing the screen directly. It's no different than us

      • "ordinary non-geek mortals"?

        You mean everyone over the age of 8 who plays (or played) console or handheld games? You don't have to be a non-ordinary geek to know how to use a dpad-menu. D-pad menus are, in fact, intuitive - I have a four-directional button on the left of my controller (gee, what does that do?) so I would expect that pressing the 'down' button would move the current selection down, 'up' should move it up, and so forth.

        My 10-year-old little brother whose DS I used had a Game Boy, Game Boy C
      • Exactly, I never felt the touch screen to be annoying, especially since I played a lot of games on the PC and I know the merits of a good mouse controle for everything point and click related. The touch screen finally gives me that. The only thing annoying on the ds are those games which try to mimic an analog stick via the touch screen, which is exactly two games, Metroid Prime Hunters and Super Mario 64, both simply fail because the form factor of the ds simply gives you cramps on this control scheme.
    • by Loosifur (954968)
      Well, I'm guessing that when the two lightsabers are in contact both wiimotes will rumble and make noise, which they do pretty well. But I'm also guessing that it's either going to come with or soon be followed by plastic lightsabers to pop the wiimote in to. Sort of like the steering wheel they've got: just a plastic shell for the 'mote.
    • Yea. I mean they should just use the d-pad for that game too. Feedback issues solved, slam dunk!

      Proper feedback's pretty rare in all games man (if you can even called rumbling feedback), and until they come out with a fullscale Darth Vader robot with which to duel and play father-son catch, I'll certainly settle for the wiimote game thank you.
  • by Itchyeyes (908311) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @02:04PM (#20685851) Homepage
    As someone who actually listened to the podcast, I can say that I distinctly did not get the impression that Levine was defending Lair's control scheme as a good control scheme. He was just making the point that Factor 5 might have been pressured into using the tilt controls. He, in no way, defended how poorly of a job they did implementing the tilt controls. The headline and the quote in the summary are completely out of context.
  • Lair's problems (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Honestly, the control scheme isn't Lair's problem. I've got the game, and have played through most of it. The control scheme does have a high learning curve, but once I got used to it, it seemed realistic, like steering a dragon.

    Lair's real problems are elsewhere. The biggest annoyance is the way the damn thing inserts ten second cut scenes in haphazardly during combat. You'll be in intense combat, trying to get a bead on something and suddenly you're looking at some stupid scene about something blowing
  • by RogueyWon (735973) on Thursday September 20, 2007 @04:37PM (#20688523) Journal
    I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion around these parts, but I feel that the emphasis on so-called "innovative" controllers in the gaming market over the last 12 months or so has been a terrible thing for games in general. Lair is a particularly bad example - what could have been a servicable, perhaps even decent game crippled by a control system that is agonising at best. I had a horrible feeling that Heavenly Sword was going to be ruined by the same crap, until I found the option to turn the motion-sensing stuff off. Now, part of this is down to just how sheer bloody awful the motion sensing functions of the Sixaxis are, but Wii games are, in many ways, just as bad. Certainly, after the first two hours of Zelda, the novelty had worn off, my elbow was getting tired and I was desperate for a sensible controller. With the exception of Resident Evil 4, I've yet to play a *proper* Wii game (as opposed to one of those all-pervading tech-demo-cum-party-game atrocities) where the controller actually added to the experience, rather than being a distraction.

    Fancy controllers might be ok for games which get dragged out once every couple of months when you have friends over and nothing better to do, but for those who, like myself, like to put in a substantial amount of time every week gaming, you just can't beat either a traditional two-analogue-sticks console controller or a keyboard and mouse combo. Far more precision, far less hassle and far more engagement. Right now, the best console controller on the market is the 360 controller, hands down.
    • I agree totally. Every game that comes out on the PS3 and Wii needs to have the option to control it with a normal controller.

      Not everyone wants to play games with a remote control or swing their controller around for specific events, but we still want to actually play those games. I was thinking specifically of those two next gen consoles, but the DS is another great example.

      You either end up with games that are simply less fun to play because of the fact that there is forced motion sensing (Lair, Excite T
    • by argent (18001)
      With the exception of Resident Evil 4, I've yet to play a *proper* Wii game (as opposed to one of those all-pervading tech-demo-cum-party-game atrocities) where the controller actually added to the experience, rather than being a distraction.

      Wii Tennis rocks.
    • Bad Example, the control scheme in Zelda works really well, the Bow definitely does work well and I love it. If you want to pinpoint bad control schemes, then better use another game, Zelda definitely has a good one.

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