Saturday, March 24, 2012

Complexity VS Simplicity

When I started gaming at my old Atari 2600, games were very simple, but they weren't simple because that is how the developers wanted, but because the limited hardware and input methods forced them to do games simple. The controller had only on 4-directions stick and one button, so you couldn't count with several interaction between the sprite in the screen and what was happening in game.

Forward to today, more than twenty years after, and controllers have what? 14 buttons, two analog sticks and on D-pad. And even that number of inputs seems few to certain developers, considering the quantity of games who use combined buttons to execute certain actions. Today it feels like developers want the player to perform an infinity number of actions. While good on paper, it render certain games almost too complex.

In Metal Gear Solid 4, I never used Closed Quarter Combat because it was too damn difficulty to execute the moves. Shooting was way more effective. And in many games I just spam the same combination of moves to victory, because we tend to do things the most efficiently possible and not the most flashy as possible. Of course I respect players who can perform some complex movements and do some really cool move, but me, and most players I know, tend to stick with what works better.

I think developers sometimes add all those 'unneeded' moves to add variety, but other times I think they just want to give a lot to players, who may never use them. And them we have games like Tetris or Journey, who are very simple yet very fun to play. Even the Super Mario platformers, who had simple commands but compensated it with interaction with environment, can be considered simple games. And yet they are some of the best games ever made.

Games don't need to be complex to be fun, neither to have so much things you can do that you ended up not doing it. Games can be simple and yet joyful to play. I think developers must always ask themselves if the complex move they are putting in the game will be used and if the players will not have access to some easier and more effective way to perform the action intended. Because if they have, maybe adding another layer of complexity will not be very useful.

Sometimes less is more. And this can be applied to games as well.

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