Anatomy of a Video Game Part 2: Design and Controls

Penny-Arcade.com's satirical control design for "Starfire Saga V: Laserion"

Penny-Arcade.com's satirical control design for "Starfire Saga V: Laserion"

Designing a video game is rather like designing a movie and a car at the same time.  It has to entertain the player as an audience member and act as an extension of his/her body for purposes of interaction.  Designing is hardly an easy job, but that’s the nature of video games as a medium. The designer’s goal is to give the player a feeling of immersion, both emotionally (through the game’s narrative or premise) and physically (through interface and control design.) One of the reasons Angry Birds is so successful is its very well-designed user interface and control scheme.  Pulling back the slingshot and firing a cartoon bird is completely intuitive, and feels exactly the way we as players expect it to feel.  The reason I have never been able to enjoy a Grand Theft Auto game is because, at its core, GTA games are about driving around (using clunky driving controls that would disgust any racing game designer) and shooting people (using clunky shooting controls that would disgust any third-person shooter game designer.) Obviously controls are not universally adopted by every player the same way, but as a general rule (GTA notwithstanding) higher-quality games succeed in making players feel like their thoughts are being directly translated into the actions of their on-screen avatar.  Every time a player yells out “Stupid game, do what I’m telling you to do!” that player becomes more likely to turn off the game in frustration and never play it again.

 

GAMES WITH GREAT DESIGN/CONTROLS:

 

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 (Xbox 360, Playstation 3)

Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)

Devil May Cry 4 (Xbox 360, Playstation 3)

Super Meat Boy (Xbox 360, PC)

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Minecraft (PC)