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Mobile Gaming and the War On Fat Fingers 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the two-thumbs-up dept.
Gamasutra reports on a talk at this year's Game Developers Conference by Mike Pagano, game producer for EA Mobile. Pagano brought up the difficulty in designing games for devices like the iPhone, where screen real estate is already limited, and a poorly implemented UI will result in players' thumbs and fingers blocking crucial parts of the action. Quoting: "Pagano recommends button maps on the bottom of the screen, finger-sized, whenever possible, keeping interface away from the play area. 'Apple puts the main interactions on the very bottom of the screen,' he said. 'When you're unlocking for example, you know you can read what's on top. That's a huge thing, especially when you're designing games.' ... For accelerometer input, 'we did a lot of tuning with this SOB,' Pagano said, referring to Spore Origins. Pagano stressed that games using the accelerometer should have a mechanism to allow players to change their zero positions, effectively letting them play in a variety of positions — sitting in bed, leaning over the device, or holding it up. Early in development, Spore Origins had a touchscreen control scheme. 'Where it started to fall down was, again, sausage fingers.' Said Pagano. 'We made our decision right there to flip to the accelerometer.'"
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Mobile Gaming and the War On Fat Fingers

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  • Learn from the Wii (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:16AM (#27308971)
    The accelerometer can be a very immersive addition to gameplay, but it needs to be used with great restraint. You should always ask "would having a button be simpler and less frustrating?". The vast majority of times it seems to be a tacked on, frustrating, gimmick.

    Still, the potential is excellent, and when used well it can open up a whole new style of gameplay. I'd like to see some learning routines implemented. Have the player 'dodge' a few times, for instance, and have the computer learn what movements on the player's part constitutes a dodge. This would be similar to training a speech recognition program.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Overuse of an accelormeter for gaming is akin to a website filled with animated gifs. Case in point: red steel.

      Developers: just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Have the player 'dodge' a few times, for instance, and have the computer learn what movements on the player's part constitutes a dodge. This would be similar to training a speech recognition program.

      Unfortunately, this functionality belongs in the operating system, and it doesn't seem to be there. Sure, you could add it to some games, but it needs to work for all games. Without it you have to count on the game makers to get it right, which is futile.

    • I like your train of thought, unfortunately I have no more points to assign....bummer

  • Developers can always design games around players' actual physical usage patterns, even if that means dealing with a bit less real estate pixel-wise. What a crazy idea, designing games to fit real people and real devices.
    • by Fumus (1258966)
      What happened to the stylus? It's thin, allows for better precision, and is added to every touchscreen product.
      • That's a really good point. The Nintendo DS uses one pretty effectively, what about other mobile devices?
  • Let's see (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @04:45AM (#27309081)
    Yo momma is so fat, she was the motivation for a new game control paradigm.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @05:44AM (#27309345) Homepage

    Wait, this is thie iPhone we're talking about, right? Made by Apple with the geniuses who pioneered the one-button mouse? Surely they can harness some new synergistic paradigm and market it differently so it works.

    I mean, the iPhone already has one button. How many more do they need, anyway?

  • You will always have this problem where input and output share the same space. The obvious solution is to separate input from output.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cerberusss (660701)

      Very obvious, perhaps, but not at all a necessity. Great iPhone games like Dropship don't suffer from the touchscreen controls in my opinion.

    • I sense the creation of a paradox...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MistrBlank (1183469)

      Most females will agree with this statement.

    • by drerwk (695572)
      In writing Repton - I worried about this. But I put the controls away from the map center and entirely off of the main view. So if you are in the action you would not want to pick up your fingers and other wise it is OK to do so.
      So far the uses seem to like it.
      I also think that the accelerometer is easy to overuse.
  • Bluetooth joystick? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Crookdotter (1297179) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @06:19AM (#27309529)
    What about a folding bluetooth joystick? I've wanted one of these for years and that would eliminate any need for buttons and touchscreen use, AND it's another peripheral to sell to the gamers out there. With MAME being enabled for pretty much any device these days, I want to see a standard bluetooth joystick (or joypad for the young uns) that you can fold up and put in your pocket.
  • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @08:04AM (#27310035) Homepage

    Please order a special dialing wand by mashing the keypad.

    • To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad with your palm now.

      If you are gonna quote, quote it right! The on-topic variation, of course is:

      We are sorry. The fingers you have used to play are too fat. To obtain a special players wand, mash the touchscreen now.

      And yes, this is the first thing I thought of too.

  • Now that Apple is allowing developers to create apps that can use the dock, expect all manner of options for non-screen input.

    It's likely these games won't be very cheap but they certainly will be richer. There's still a problem in how to hold the iThingie with the game input.

    A good (and fun) example of a sausage-finger-compatible game is Zombieville USA.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

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