It all started nearly six months ago as I made my way to office one day. “Why don’t you expand your horizons Nash, to include some casual games in there” my boss asks me. “Why restrict yourselves to just console and PC gaming?” This was a question asked by many of my colleagues in the past as well so I decided to give it a shot.
My first tryst with casual gaming was Angry Birds and I’m not ashamed to admit it but I was hooked from the get go. I soon realized that for every Angry Birds, there are hundreds of crappy games out there that couldn’t hold my interest for more than five seconds. I needed another fix. And I needed it fast. And that’s when I discovered Gameloft’s games. This French developer (who by the way have now set up shop in India as well) have made a name for themselves developing “hardcore” games for mobile platforms. A lot of their IPs (Intellectual Properties) are not original, heavily “inspired” by older, more popular franchises but they’re still entertaining at the end of the day, backed by some solid production values.
I was a happy man now. I had discovered shooters and other action games on the casual platform so here I was killing two birds with one stone. Unfortunately my joy soon turned to frustration as I came across the biggest hurdle of them all – the controls. You see in all my games, be it PC or console ones, precise control is an extremely important factor for me, especially when it comes to first person shooters. And on the iPhone or even the iPad for that matter, playing a First Person Shooter is as precise as riding a bike with one hand on a slippery slope – with your eyes shut.
I wanna shoot you… I really do.
How am I supposed to control my character and pull off headshots while half my hands cover the screen, especially on one as small as the iPhone’s? Granted moving to something larger like the iPad offered me more visibility but do I really want to roam around awkwardly shooting the walls more than my enemies thanks to the annoying virtual controls? I really don’t. Step beyond shooters for a minute and come to Racers where you control your ride by titling the device to mimic a wheel. Sounds good on paper but it’s totally frustrating in practice. Not convinced yet? How about we move to a game like Fight Night Champion, an exhilarating boxing experience on consoles that turned into an exercise in frustration thanks to its awkward control scheme in which I had to control my boxer’s movements using the phone’s gyroscopic functionality. Pass.
And that’s when it hit me. Angry Birds was popular even among the hardcore crowd today because it offers a robust control scheme that complements gameplay. EA were smart enough to tweak Mirror’s Edge’s controls for the iOS platformers making it a side-scrolling game as opposed to a first person platformer on both PC and consoles. It was a surprising change of direction but it worked in EA’s favor as the control scheme never once got in the way of gameplay.
And this is why I personally feel mobile gaming is not a threat to the hardcore space. No matter how good a game looks on even something like the iPad 2, real gamers would not invest in something that doesn’t respond to their inputs or grant them razor sharp precision. Sure mobile gaming could entice the hardcore gamer and even provide somewhat of a respite from hours of shooting people in the face but will it ever replace consoles or PC gaming for that matter? Hell no.
Of course the world we live in is a messed up place and I could be proven wrong. How else can you explain the existence of a song like Friday?