Alternative Input/Control Ideas

Nibbie
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Joined: 2008.08
Post: #1
First of all, I don't expect anyone to remember me or really care all that much, but "hi!" Smile The site's looking great (it's been a few years now, which is hard to believe), and it's good to see it still going strong. So anyway, on to my post...

Obviously the iPhone/iPod Touch don't have the benefits of D-pads and analog sticks as a method of controlling a game. Or for that matter, any buttons that would be appropriate for gaming.

So looking at the alternative input methods available - the accelerometer, microphone, touch screen and camera - what sort of options are there for more traditional-style games?

Games like Dizzy Bee and Super Monkey Ball are perfect for accelerometer control, but I'm afraid this "innovative" style of input is going to be way overused - and as fun as these games are, there are some accuracy limitations to the accelerometer itself. It seems to me that it wouldn't work well for the "Run & Jump" genre...

I haven't looked into the microphone or camera yet a whole lot yet, but again, I don't think they'd lend themselves well to action-oriented games. The microphone could be interesting as an accessory control, but there's probably not too many people comfortable with shouting at their phone in public. Reminds me of the first Brain Age on the DS and shouting " Blue, you piece of $@%#! - BLLUUUEEE! -"...

So the most obvious input method is the touch screen. Works great for the DS, but the DS also has the fallback of a d-pad and a couple of buttons. I can't really imagine playing the New Super Mario Bros. with the touchscreen alone...

Faking a controller onscreen is an option, but can take up some serious real estate - without a stylus, the buttons have to be an appropriately large size to deal with potentially fat fingers. And the lack of any tactile response (like the resistance of an analog stick, for example, or trigger buttons) hurts the experience.

Gesture-based control seems like it could be effective, but maybe a little difficult to implement (I honestly have no idea on this, so correct me if I'm wrong). The app WritingPad does a great job of gesture-based typing, and I could see a similar system used in a game to link together actions (like a combo in a fighting game).

So after all this, I'm not really looking for an answer to any questions (not directly, at least) - mostly I'm curious about everyone's thoughts on this topic. It seems like touch control is going to become more and more popular on a variety of devices - do you think this will render some classic game types obsolete? Or is it just a matter of coming up with the right control scheme?

Sorry if this turned into a bit of a ramble - I think I had a little more to say than I intended at first Rasp

- Chris
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Apprentice
Posts: 14
Joined: 2008.08
Post: #2
Hmmm... interesting question, I have two thoughts going on about this:

First, for me the most obvious input method would be the accelerometer. It's proven to be extremely flashy on the iPod touch, but it's not clear to me at the moment just how usefull this function is.

On one hand, there is this website (don't have the URL close at hand) that's claiming the accelerometer works "like a loose analog stick: the game is getting a lot of random input". This would mean the accelerometer is not very accurate, and using it as the main input for a game would be a pain in the behind.

On the other hand, there are many gamers stating that they took the time to master the controls of Super Monkey Ball and allthough very hard at first, the controls turn out to work out great with some practice. This would mean that the accelerometer is indeed very accurate, so accurate even that it takes some time to master it. If this is the case, possibilities for gaming input will be infinite. It will probably also cause some frustration on the gamers side, because this kind of input is something not seen on any other device and it appears to be "uncontrollable" at first.

(At the moment, I'm waiting for my iPhone 3G to be delivered and I have no idea when this will happen. When I get it I'm sure I will be able to form an opinion on which of the above is true.)

Second, I think the touchscreen would be great for additional input. But, game designers will have to be very creative in making up iPhone-specific games/controls. I could imagine soft-buttons popping up depending on game-context. (That is, only buttons you need in that situation are visible. Keeping the screen as much clutter-free as possible.)

I can also imagine iPhone-specific motions being integrated into games. The multi-touch features are great, you could use them in-game to open doors or rotate levers with two fingers. Also the iPhone unlock-button is something i would love to see in iPhone games. Instead of the usual press-a-button-to-activate, make it a slide-button. This involves more movement and time, and as so can add to the gaming-experience.
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Nibbie
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Post: #3
Eckie Wrote:On one hand, there is this website (don't have the URL close at hand) that's claiming the accelerometer works "like a loose analog stick: the game is getting a lot of random input". This would mean the accelerometer is not very accurate, and using it as the main input for a game would be a pain in the behind.

In a few games I've tried, it's recommended to hold the phone vertically - this does seem to make the accelerometer more accurate, but isn't the most comfortable position for playing. It could be that the event information isn't being filtered by the developer properly, or maybe just the nature of the technology.

Eckie Wrote:This would mean that the accelerometer is indeed very accurate

I seem to remember reading somewhere that accelerometer readings should be averaged over time and that each device would be different... I honestly can't remember where I've read that, so I won't go into it further (NDA and all that). One app (one of those bubble Level apps) actually has some sort of calibration setting, which I guess is a pretty good solution.

Eckie Wrote:I can also imagine iPhone-specific motions being integrated into games. The multi-touch features are great, you could use them in-game to open doors or rotate levers with two fingers. Also the iPhone unlock-button is something i would love to see in iPhone games. Instead of the usual press-a-button-to-activate, make it a slide-button. This involves more movement and time, and as so can add to the gaming-experience.

I think those are great ideas - I think most iPhone users (me, at least) love to just be tapping and sliding away at the screen. It's just fun and feels right. One thing I've considered is having game-context-sensitive mini-games for various events, like opening locked doors - similar to the sliding button you mentioned but maybe even a little more complex (simulating lock-picking or safe-cracking, etc).

The aspect of control I'm just not sure how to handle would be fast and easy-to-control running and jumping, as in a traditional side-scroller. Something that might be kind of interesting is having the player draw a path for the character to follow, and allowing for a jump button that could be used at anytime along that path to avoid obstacles. Not sure how that would work in practice, though...
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Apprentice
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Joined: 2008.08
Post: #4
chrisco Wrote:The aspect of control I'm just not sure how to handle would be fast and easy-to-control running and jumping, as in a traditional side-scroller. Something that might be kind of interesting is having the player draw a path for the character to follow, and allowing for a jump button that could be used at anytime along that path to avoid obstacles. Not sure how that would work in practice, though...
This is where I think the iPhone-specificness comes in. (Heh, I just made up a word! Wow) Maybe we shouldn't be thinking about porting the usual gaming archetypes to iPhone. One of the most popular gaming types, FPS, will never ever work on the iPhone. It was created for keyboard and mouse, and quite succesfully ported to consoles (with some consessions in speed of gameplay) but I don't think someone should even try porting it to iPhone.

Concerning the traditional side-scrolling platformer... I'm not sure. That really worked with a SNES controller (or any other) but maybe we should be looking in different directions.

As for me, I think the iPhone has a very distinguished style and feel that I would love to see reflected in it's games. These games can be as quick and compelling as on the consoles or desktop, but maybe without the bash-head-into-block-with-question-mark-to-get-power-up elements. I feel like the iPhone asks for novel ways of gaming, not solutions to get the feeling of existing genres on the iPhone.

(Of course, this doesn't mean existing games can't be used as an inspiration. F.e. take Super Monkey Ball...)
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Nibbie
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Post: #5
Quote:Maybe we shouldn't be thinking about porting the usual gaming archetypes to iPhone.

The only thing that scares me about that is how much it sounds like the Wii philosophy Smile But I think as long as the controls can support more than mini-games, it'll be okay. I have to admit, Rolando is looking pretty good, as is Spore...
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Apprentice
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Joined: 2008.08
Post: #6
chrisco Wrote:The only thing that scares me about that is how much it sounds like the Wii philosophy Smile But I think as long as the controls can support more than mini-games, it'll be okay. I have to admit, Rolando is looking pretty good, as is Spore...
Wow, I hadn't seen that one before. Rolando is exactly what I'm talking about. This would never work with a joypad, but it still has a nice platformy feel about it. Looks great. Grin

PS: Spore is coming to iPhone? Shock

PS2: I've just watched the Spore footage. It's looking nice so far, but I'm a bit disappointed that they're using levels. (Considering that the desktop Spore game is completely free.) However, they seem to be using the accelerometer without problems.
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Moderator
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Post: #7
The desktop spore game is not free, the teaser character creator they released before the game was free however.

Kyle Richter
DragonForged.com
Twitter: @kylerichter
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Apprentice
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Post: #8
kodex Wrote:The desktop spore game is not free, the teaser character creator they released before the game was free however.
Hmm I'm sorry for using the wrong word there.

I didn't mean free money-wise, but free as in: The desktop version doesn't feature any kind of levels, but has a free kind of gameplay. It's one big environment in which te player advances gradually. (That is, if I'm well-informed.)
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Member
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Post: #9
Eckie Wrote:Hmm I'm sorry for using the wrong word there.

I didn't mean free money-wise, but free as in: The desktop version doesn't feature any kind of levels, but has a free kind of gameplay. It's one big environment in which te player advances gradually. (That is, if I'm well-informed.)

Spore Origins is what is coming to the iPhone. Spore is what is coming to the Mac/PC. Origins is just the bacteria phase.
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