Wednesday, February 25, 2009

EXP Podcast #14: Controlling the Periphery

The video game world is buzzing with the release of Street Fighter IV. It is a franchise that helped usher a generation of gamers into the fighting genre, and arrives greeted by a wave of emotionally-charged expectations. Further complicating any attempts at objective analysis further is the fact that Street Fighter is rooted in the arcade tradition. With the game's release come peripherals (by the way, it looks like Jorge was right: MadCatz is the pricey one!) that capture the arcade feeling. Mitch Krpata of the site Insult Swordfighting raises the important question of how to analyze games that rely (either implicitly or explicitly) on peripherals. We trace a brief history of non-controller pad input devices and muse on their effects on the games that use them. As always, feel free to jump in with your experiences and thoughts.

Some discussion starters:

-Should Street Fighter IV be reviewed a specific way (either arcade stick or control pad)?
-How much focus should the hardware have in game analysis?
-What do you think of the "fairness" argument: Should games have a standardized control scheme to ensure a level playing field? Should developers ensure that third party peripherals do not undermine this?

To listen to the podcast:
- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
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Show Notes:

-Run time: 28 min 19 sec
-Mitch Krpata's article: "A Peripheral Concern "
-Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. "Should Street Fighter IV be reviewed a specific way (either arcade stick or control pad)?"

    Perhaps a seperate box/paragraph/footnote regarding an attempt using whatever control method they *didn't* use for the review?

    "How much focus should the hardware have in game analysis?"

    In the case of the much-loathed 360 dpad: rather a lot, as it is likely to impact your enjoyment. The hardware is like the tires on a car - it is a key point of interface.

    "What do you think of the "fairness" argument: Should games have a standardized control scheme to ensure a level playing field?"

    How I wish that were the case! I play a lot of racing games and FPSes, and going from one to another is never pleasant as the controls are never quite the same. I'm sure we've all thrown a grenade instead of reloading because we've just come from a different control scheme. What's worse, many console developers are loathe to let us fully reconfigure our controls, leaving us unable to even make a consistent set of controls for ourselves.

  2. The interesting thing about the 360 Dpad issue, is that it has nothing to do with the software. I agree it should be in a review if its troublesome though. Developers know what console they are developing for, and if that setup is flawed they need to adjust accordingly.

  3. Branch-me-do:

    I think we originally meant "should one game have a standard control scheme (in regards to peripherals vs. controllers), but your response opens up a wider discussion that I'm always thinking about.

    I have often been on the receiving end of my own grenade because of those slight differences between games of a similar genre. On one hand, I wish for more standardization, since it feels like every game reinvents the wheel to some degree.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't want to hog-tie the developers or hamper the gameplay by being too rigid. Like with everything else in life, it's about balance.

    If you had to pick a standard control scheme for a FPS or racing game, which game would you model it after?