Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Defense of Tank Controls

It has always bothered me that some people completely dismiss a game based on the way it controls. The goal of controls is to give the player a way to interact with the game, and, to me, a game has good controls if they facilitate logical interaction with a game. Basically, if the controls allow the player to do what needs to be done in the game, then they are good controls. Most complaints that a game has “bad controls” seem to boil down to a player that wants one game to control like another instead of attempting to understand why the other control scheme may be more suited the that particular game.

The Resident Evil series constantly gets shit for having tank controls, but I never understood this complaint. For one, a control scheme in which up is always forward makes sense in a game with multiple static camera angles. If the controls were camera-relative, pressing the direction the player wants to move based on the current camera angle, it would make things confusing when moving from one camera to another. While holding a single direction the character would move one direction, the camera angle would change, and then, while still holding down the same direction, would move in a different direction. The only way to use the “more standard” control scheme would be to completely change the way the cameras are set up to a simple overhead view, and that would completely destroy the artistic intent of making a B movie-like experience.

Another complaint is levied that the sluggish controls “hurt combat.” The thing is, in older Resident Evil titles combat wasn't really important, and so the player didn't need smooth combat controls. Bear with me. The enemies in the first few games don't do a whole lot or move very fast, so the player really doesn't need to be able to move and shoot, or lock on, or whatever thing people think they need. Some people just dismiss the games as poorly designed, but they are actually perfectly designed. The player is given all the tools that are needed in order to fight off everything in the game.

When later games added the ability to aim freely, the enemies were similarly crafted around the player's abilities. Enemies became able to move faster and attacked in larger groups, but they didn't use any weapons that could be considered “cheap.” Again, they never sent anything after the player that the player was not capable of handling with the controls at hand and a certain degree of skill. So what if Resident Evil doesn't control like the a modern FPS. It's not like the player is going to be engaged in gunfights with engaged in firefights with a bunch of dudes or blowing up national monuments or whatever the fuck happens in a Call of Duty game.

A game should be designed around a control scheme, and disregarding game because it doesn't have familiar controls is ignorant. How lame would it have been if Mega Man, Castlevania, and Super Mario Bros. all had the same jump physics and attack mechanics? Metal Gear games have always had unconventional control schemes, but they work for what needs to be done. It's important for games to have diverse controls because it allows for different experiences and encourages innovation. A game truly has bad controls when they don't give the player the reasonable ability to do what a game needs. Of course bad controls should not be confused with a high level of difficulty, but that is a topic for another time.

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