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Metallon

cRPG's on computers - control issues?

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I had a discussion with someone a little while ago where we discussed advantages and disadvantages of different platforms - for instance, the touch screen of an iPhone or Nintendo DS, the well-known and comfortable gamepads of console games, and the versatility of a keyboard (and mouse) and relatively easy internet accessibility. Most of us are familiar with games like Zelda or Terranigma, games that are played with gamepads on Nintendo's consoles and many feel comfortable playing with gamepads. Many - including myself - do not like to play console games on computers. Some games have been ported between platforms in a great manner and have dealt with these issues. I have scraps of design work for an Action-Adventure game. I'd like to work more on this because it's a genre I like. After the beforementioned discussion, I realized that playing such a game on a keyboard would reduce the game's fun factor. Using a keyboard and mouse works, of course, but it certainly is not as comfortable as a gamepad. How would you feel about playing Action-Adventure games on a computer? Do you prefer gamepads or keyboards - or do either work just as well? Please give examples of games you have played on a computer or both a computer and stationary console, and tell us about how you felt about the controls. How much harder would it be to develop the game for a console - X-Box Live Arcade for instance - and what difficulties lie in developing a game aimed at a console? Please share your thoughts and knowledge regarding this issue. How would it affect the game's accessibility/popularity if it were not released on a computer?

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Action-adventure? You mean like Diablo? A more action-oriented King's Quest? Unless you have platforming aspects (jumps over bottomless pits, etc...) it should do fine. Most console games can easily be ported to PC, it's just a few one either side that don't work well.

Platformers and racing/sports games are better with a pad (or wheel), while shooters (1st and 3rd person) are better with a mouse and keyboard. GTA is oddball because the shooting aspects are vastly better with a mouse and keyboard, while the driving is much better on a console gamepad.

Without more information on the type of game (action-adventure is a broad category, and cRPG is an entirely different one to boot) and some of the gameplay aspects, no one can really say what control scheme would possibly work best.

As to developing for PC vs Console, it is my understanding that you have to get a development kit for the specific console. However, XBLA may not need one, since it looks like MS is trying to promote an indie-friendly service. Someone else needs to comment specifically on this.

The advantage of a PC platform is that pretty much anyone who plays games has one. So does quite a few who don't play games. So you have a potentially massive market.

The disadvantage is that you have almost as many hardware combination's as users. A myriad of sound cards, video cars, the odd physics card, differing RAM sets and motherboards and so on. While theoretically the OS should handle all of this, in practice it doesn't. On a console, all the hardware for every user is the same generally. A X360 developed game will run on any X360, assuming the X360 doesn't RRoD.

I think there are 58 million X360's, 50 million PS3's, and some 70+ million Wiis. There are quite likely hundreds of millions, if not billions, of XP PC's, not counting Vista systems, Macs, and Linux boxes.

The potential market for PC is far larger, but again not everyone who owns a PC is a gamer, even casually. Whereas every Wii, PS3, and X360 was bought to play games. So in terms of popularity, I doubt it would be affected much by choice of platform.

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Ahh, lovely input, sheds light on some of my questions. Even picked up on some things I had never really thought about or truly considered.

As for genre, while I may've come off as vague, I was hoping that the games Zelda and Terranigma (as mentioned in the original post) would hint at what sort of cRPG we're talking about. I'm not entirely keep on slapping genres on games that are not even fully designed, and I intentionally used the term cRPG because I intend to have elements of the genre in the game, both from WRPG's and JRPG's, though that's not fully set in stone. Basically gameplay will involve exploring and fighting in a 2D 3/4 top-down-view environment with relatively fast gameplay (not as fast as Ninja Gaiden, but not as slow as Zelda) and with an element or two from platforming, jumping being the primary one.

I hope that clears up a bit on the subject.

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Then to me, it sounds like it may be a bit more intuitive and easier to control with a game pad. Just going by the very rough description.

If you do end up going PC, I would highly suggest supporting a few common PC gamepads. I think the XBox controller is Windows-compatible; but other than that I am not generally familiar with them. Last one I had personally was back in the AMD K6-2 days. Win 98 had just came out.




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Including the option to use a gamepad is of course a given. But I was contemplating whether or not one could make the use of keyboard (and mouse, possibly) comfortable enough, or adapt the game so that it works with a keyboard but without sacrificing quality and good gameplay feel. It's quite possible that I may have to design the game to be less action-oriented, but still try to keep the same tempo by employing more strategic aspects of combat gameplay, and perhaps eliminate the need to manually jump by implementing a system similar to Zelda. Of course, regardless of how the game is designed, having the option to manually jump will always have its advantages. Jump across gaps, jump down ledges, jump up to a higher platform (assuming it's not a mid-air platform) can all be solved through an Action Button similar to that of the newer Zelda games for stationary consoles. But if one wants to jump up to another platform in the midst of a battle, or anything of the sort, then a manual jump command is by far the easiest approach.

Do you think that trading some of the action elements for more strategic elements will alienate lots of gamers who are into this genre or will they think that it's worth a shot? We're not talking about specific game mechanics here, we're talking about marketing the game and sending a message to the player before he or she plays the game. I'm probably being too vague by now.

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It'll be a trade off either way I think. There are always those who would prefer the strategic elements, and then there are those who would prefer the action elements. I'm not really knowing much about the Zelda games, actually, so I'm not sure what demographic those appeal to. Besides which, you are too vague for me to accurately guess where the game would appeal to either way.

A more strategic game would appeal to me; but that is the style game I love second-best (first being classic cRPGs).

As far as action games on a keyboard goes; try the freeware platformer Iji. The controls were just fine for me there, using X and C (and I think Z) as well as the arrow keys. It was, in fact, better than Sonic '06, but pretty much everything is better than Sonic '06 controls-wise or otherwise.

At any rate, they can be done, and done well. So long as the level design is such that you're not making split-second movements and pixel perfect jumps (like Mega Man).

In other words, if the player can jump at will, give him both rewards for making difficult jumps, and making sure any necessary jumps to continue the game are forgiving enough that the controls won't mean death for 99% of gamers. Playing the same area/level over and over and over is not really fun when you're just dying due to a cheap, near impossible leap and poor controls.

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Action Adventure games can work on both platforms and a lot it has to with how you deal with combat in the games(which is most of the game). Let's Diablo/Diablo II for PC and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance for PS2. Both are action games and both have different control schemes and both deal with combat in a different way. Diablo uses a d20 type combat system where when one entity attacks another entity there's a roll to see if a hit occured, despite seeing an animation of an attack passing through the target. Baldur's Gate however uses a more reactionary system when an entity attacks and you see the hit physically connect with something, something occurs, whether it be an entity losing HP or the sound of a weapon striking a wall.

Both use different movement controls as well. Diablo you point to a desired location and a path is generated and the character moves along that path. Baldur's Gate you move an analog stick to increase a character's velocity in a certain direction.

Basically in PC titles the player controls things at a higher level, it's more about issuing commands and letting formulas resolve the low level details. Console games tend to be about letting players make a series of low level decisions about reaching a goal. For PC it's basically being a commanding officer where as in console games it's about being the grunt who actually performs the tasks.

Developing for consoles has its good points and bad points just as developing for PC's.

The big hurdle is getting hold of an SDK for a console, for even if you can afford it getting the approval takes considerable effort. Next up is getting your game through Certification which is a long grueling process to absolutely make sure this game will run with no major crippling bugs on it and it will not damage any of the system's internal workings(though lately the Certification process seems to be getting more lax as crippling bugs have cropped up and with consoles having an online presence with mass storage media it has started hopping onto the "Oh we can patch it later" bus that PC games have been on for a long time).

Your next big challenge is finding information about the hardware as your competing companies try to hide their secrets. This generation of consoles however is starting to break that a bit. There's lots of information on how the Cell processor works and even neat tricks developers have learned(especially from those over at Insomniac Games). You can also install Linux on the PS3 system however you are locked out from the RSX hardware which leaves only the Cell processor and 256 MB of RAM(A recent update to Yellow Dog Linux however makes it quite easy to use the video RAM as swap memory). The 360 hardware works closely with DirectX so a lot tricks learned with that API will work on the system. If you're looking into XBLA you can almost forget about the hardware completely and use XNA. The Wii pretty much from what I hear works similar to the GameCube so it should be a bit easier to find information on how that works.

The big issue will all of them is going to be memory. The PS3 uses a PC style 2 different RAM setup, 256 MB XDR system memory and 256 MB of GDDR3 video memory for the RSX processor. The big issue with memory on the PS3 is fitting things into the Cell's SPE 256k local storage, of which you have 6 available(1 is devoted to the Game OS and the other is locked out to increase chip yields(which I understood for a single moment then couldn't remember how that worked)). The SPE's use local storage instead of cache so code optimized for cache hits will be useless on them, however on the PPE they will still be effective. The 360 uses like a 512 MB shared memory system(can't remember the type) between all the hardware, main processor and video processor. I'm not exactly sure how the cache works on the 360's Xenon processor(whether all 3 processors share the same cache or only certain levels of it). I am unaware of the Wii's memory architecture however.

Those are just a few issues for developing on consoles, there are several more.

The popularity of the game is not necessarily dependent on what platform it is on, mostly it's dependent on how it's marketed. If you choose not to make a pc version then that gives you more resources to market it on a console. But having it on more platforms does give more users access to it. Now there are differences in the kind of games that PC gamers and console players play so studying the market and seeing how other similar titles did on those platforms would help. But you need to look beyond the sales numbers you need to find out why a particular title did or did not work on particular platform. For instance, Oblivion and Fallout 3 have done well on all 3 platforms it was released. However games like Resident Evil 4 and Lost Planet did horribly on PC yet Devil May Cry 3 and 4 did fairly reasonable on PC. Now you have to find out the why...

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