RANT – 3 little things I wish they’d add to games

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I’ve been thinking lately about the things that make a video game experience a nice one.  Yes, all the amazing graphics, cinematics, gripping story, and characters we connect to are very important.  So much so that sometimes they put so much focus on those things that they forget a few little things here and there.

1.  Controls

While getting ready for a tactical entry into a building, you decide to put your silencer on your weapon… only to instead bounce a frag grenade off the back of your partner’s head.

If your controls aren’t smooth, you spend the first few hours of a game doing some very regrettable things.  Some things have become common sights in the settings screen such as inverting the Y-axis or heightening the sensitivity of the joysticks.  Control sticks seem to be where all the fun stops, though.  In many FPS shooters, they allow a few preselected button schemes to choose from.  They may allow you to rotate a few buttons but usually at the cost of sending another button you need to a stupid area of the controller.  The default setup for Call of Duty:  Black Ops and most of its predecessors on the 360 have R3 (right joystick click) for melee and B for crouching.  So if you turn around a corner a little too emphatically, you may just try to knife the wall or, if you are really unlucky in hardcore, stab your teammate in the face.  And after playing games like Halo and many others for years, you will attempt to toss a grenade into a room using your button/muscle memory, only to crouch or go prone right in the doorway and, subsequently, be turned into a fine meat paste. 

“But Scott,” you say, “You can change it to one of the other settings!”  Oh, I have my friends, I have.  Trading those controls for some other equally non-intuitive interface is not much of an improvement.  I’ve only seen a handful of games for consoles that have completely customizable buttons.  Half Life 2 and Portal from the Orange Box are an example, but that’s likely due to it being a PC game as well.

2.  Language Filters

Now I’m not too bothered with most dialogue in games.  Some characters seem unnatural if they don’t use proper obscenities.  But with many friends and family that enjoy video games I get asked to show or lend games to them often.  Now how am I supposed to show my dear old mother what I’m playing if even I get scolded in her Welsh accent for saying things as simple as crap or freakin’ A?  I’d be afraid she’d have a heart attack the first time an F-bomb gets dropped.  I also recently entered into fatherhood and even though I know that my new daughter will eventually have to enter the real world and be subjected to these audible annoyances, I’d rather keep my home clear of those things for now.  The only two games I’ve come upon that have a filter are Brutal Legend and the old 64 classic/remade xbox live title Perfect Dark.  The latter being even more amusing because the words they omit are pretty low on the obscenity scale like “damn”.

3. Subtitles

They are getting a little better with this one lately and most games that have dialogue that is necessary to further the storyline have subtitles as well. Before that though, you had no options if you can’t crank your stereo. If the baby is asleep, you had better hope you can read CG lips. If your neighbors are douchebags, you might have to sit right next to the screen/speakers like a kid with Saturday morning cartoons. They do make some pretty swank headphones that are almost as good as a surround sound system now (a friend recently picked some up), but they are costly and if it’s your turn to watch the baby, it’s hard to hear your baby crying over the lamentations of the women in Azeroth/Hyrule/Cyrodiil.

Please gaming gods (or developers), hear my plea.

Amen.

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