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Control Yourself! 18 Jul, 2009, 22:45 / 71 comments

Surplus Gamer, AKA Mr Coloumb, AKA "that guy from the podcasts," wrote up some thoughts on the control system argument, currently raging its way across the barren plains of the Internet, like a microcosm of the Iraq war.

For those who don't know, some people are angry at Telltale for forgoing the hallowed point 'n' click control system in the latest Monkey Island game. These people, says Mr Gamer, are wrong.

Comments

  • Twilo on 30 Jul, 2009, 17:16…
    Article could do without a "The Argument Against Change" section, it's rather straw-man-like

    Is someone supposed to be working on the counterpoint?
  • akis on 21 Jul, 2009, 01:06…
    I don't understand why do I have to interfere with the control system on an adventure game. Really, I must focus on other things rather the control system.

    The direct control is NOT something new also, it is a rather an old phenomenon. To bring up the argument of "evolution" for the control system is inappropriate for me.

    I liked TOMI, I didn't expect it to be so much fun (but I disagree with the episodic form) but I want to focus on the game.

    PS. If you want a good paradigm about a 3D adventure game and how the player interacts and moves through the enviroment correctly, see GK3.
  • Jayel on 21 Jul, 2009, 02:23…
    Funny, I thought that GK3 had the worst UI for a game ever. There's something very wrong about having to avoid your character on screen so that he can move about the world faster.
  • akis on 21 Jul, 2009, 03:36…
    Apart from that 3D graphics are used mostly in today's video games and adventures aren't an exception (either we're like it or not), they can give more freedom to the player, in order to explore the enviroment.

    I believe that TMI is static in that section. Moving around with different camera angles, doesn't elevates the game's exploration level. Something that the past Monkey Islands (except from EMI) had without the 3D enviroment.

    The thing is that we are not focusing on the adventure elements of the specific adventure game, but we are arguing for the controls, and I wonder why... (apart from that we MUST be pretentious with Monkey Islands games obviously).

    As for GK3, many players had the same opinion with yours, but many players like direct control also :). The fact is that the specific adventure game with the *specific* engine was working as it should. What about TMI...?

    We should focus on my first arguments more imho.
  • laffer on 21 Jul, 2009, 03:36…
    I don't know, I liked it.
  • laffer on 20 Jul, 2009, 22:45…
    Your issue with point & click controls could easily be solved by allowing the player to scroll the screen independently of the character.
  • SurplusGamer on 21 Jul, 2009, 00:04…
    see below for problems I have with that.
  • Snugglecakes on 20 Jul, 2009, 12:29…
    I agree with you SurplusGamer that the new system does work quite well and I love the camera angles. I do however still prefer traditional point&click affairs. The main problem is the whole concept of dragging the mouse. It's not the most intuitive or comfortable motion to perform and relying on it for primary movement is not a great idea.

    Something that may be worth trying is having a button on the mouse activate a "walk mode", and then you simply move the mouse in the direction you want to walk in rather than having to keep the button pushed down. Just click the button again to deactivate. I'd find it a lot nicer to use than dragging, and it could even be an option alongside the current system.
  • SurplusGamer on 20 Jul, 2009, 13:00…
    Did you try the keyboard/mouse combo controls? I wasn't a big fan of the click-and-drag scheme either (that seems to go along with the general consensus, though some like it).

    As to your suggestion, I seem to remember in a forum post that they tried that, but it didn't work well for some reason.
  • Snugglecakes on 20 Jul, 2009, 13:21…
    Ah ok that's interesting. Would still like to give it a try though :)

    I really don't like playing with the keyboard, it's fine for shortcuts but I prefer these types of games to have mouse character control.
  • SurplusGamer on 20 Jul, 2009, 11:16…
    After talking to lots of people about this the real sticking point of the debate seems to be whether the change is percieved as worthwhile:

    Some people ask: 'Is it worth sacrificing point-and-click controls just to get a more versatile camera?'

    Others might just as well ask: 'Is it worth sacrificing a more versatile camera just to keep point-and-click movement?'

    Personally, I'd answer yes to the first and no to the second because I don't think point-and-click movement is that great to begin with, and I think the hybrid system works just as well if not better, but it's all dependent on preference.

    In hindsight if there's anything I'd change in the article I'd emphasise more that there IS no right answer, but the decisions Telltale are making about the controls are for the right reasons - even if there is work still to be done.
  • neon_git on 20 Jul, 2009, 13:14…
    I think the question is slightly more complicated than that. You need to separate the issues of control schemes and camera angles and look at them independently.

    If we take the control schemes first, there are subtle, but not insignificant, differences in the way a player experiences a game depending on whether the controls are direct or indirect.

    If the controls are indirect (in our case point and click but it could be anything really) the player is an observer who gives instructions. The role of the player is more like a general commanding an army rather than a soldier.

    Direct controls, on the other hand, put the player directly in the shoes of the character(s) you are controlling. You are now the soldier. So the first part of the question here is do I want to observe Guybrush Threepwood or do I want to be him?

    Secondly we want to look at how and when the use of dramatic camera angles is useful in the context of an interactive story. We all know that camera angles work great in tv and movies, but these are passive forms of entertainment. Unless a scene is shot in first person, it is unlikely that a viewer will imagine themselves as one of the characters (or not to the same extent as as someone playing a video game). I would suggest that if a video game makes use of direct controls then dramatic camera angles can be disorientating for the player. I can't really back this up, but what I can tell you is that the change in camera angels between the dock and the bridge was quite jarring for me personally, whereas a similar change in camera angles whilst walking up to the fisherman in MI2 was not.
  • neon_git on 20 Jul, 2009, 13:32…
    Urgh, horrible post. Basically what I was trying to say was this:

    Direct controls create a direct connection between the player and Guybrush. Dramatic and inconsistent camera angles disconnect the player from Guybrush. This can (may) provoke cognitive dissonance.
  • SurplusGamer on 20 Jul, 2009, 14:01…
    I see what you're trying to say there, but I'm not sure I agree. I don't see that the camera angles create any disconnect between me and the character. If they do, some how, I'm not detecting it.

    As you say, you can't back it up, it's just a feeling you have ... though I'm not sure it's a common one, since out of all the complaints I've heard, I haven't heard anything similar from other people. So it's difficult to know how to respond to that - again, it just seems to boil down to a matter of preferences.

    Also I'm not sure it's really necessary to seperate out the issues of control and camera angles so much, since the one informs the other in very direct ways. In fact, I'd say it's useless to try to treat them as seperate issues.

    I don't think I'm -over-simplifying anything. There's lots to talk about re: the controls/cameras etc but the impasse in the debate seems, fairly consistently to be at the point where one has to choose the relative importance of each advantage/disadvantage.
  • neon_git on 20 Jul, 2009, 16:18…
    The camera in TOMI absolutely does create a disconnect between the player and Guybrush. The player is constantly being sent visual cues as to their position in the game world. This position has no consistent relationship to the position of Guybrush as the camera movement is always custom made for the location. This lack of a direct link between Guybrush the players view puts the player very much in the role of an external observer, as opposed to the standard first or third person views seen in other games where you take on the role of the main character.

    Whether this being a contradiction to the direct controls does or does not cause cognitive dissonance I can't say for sure. If people are experiencing it though, then they wouldn't necessarily know what it is or be able to articulate it; they'll just have a general feeling that something's not right. This may be the reason people can't explain why they don't like the new controls and just bang on about how point and click is better.

    Having said that gamers are notorious for complaining about any kind of change so this could all be complete shit.
  • Jayel on 21 Jul, 2009, 02:18…
    I remember when I was playing Grim Fandango for the first time with screen-relative controls, I had to spend a few seconds mentally re-orient myself to Manny's new heading every time the screen changed. It's not so bad with TMI, however, since every camera angle during game play is sort of oriented in the same general direction (towards north).
  • QueZTone on 20 Jul, 2009, 11:32…
    I think the current interface is good.

    As these adventure games are more and more stepping into the realm of 3d immersive games (such as FPS and 3rd person games like Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones Emperor's Tomb and such) they are bound to adapt the according control interface as well. Imagine playing these games point and click. That wouldn't work.

    Keyboard + mouse control is how 3d games work. It's how Tales of Monkey Island should work and I'm glad it does.
  • lincolnlobster on 20 Jul, 2009, 10:53…
    Nice try defending a clearly flawed system. The control is frustrating. There is no denying that. Sam and Max' controls were not frustrating, they worked fine, like the classic games. Tales' controls makes the game completely unappealing for me to play, like EMI. I have only played Tales a couple times due to being extemely fed up with the control system. I wanted to throw my computer out of the window during that whole opening ship scene. I don't care about impressive camera angles. Give me a game that I actually want to play over and over again without pounding the keyboard with my fist! This is not progress. Keep what worked well with Sam and Max, and a lot more people will want to play these games.
  • SurplusGamer on 20 Jul, 2009, 11:18…
    I didn't find the controls frustrating. I found the Sam and Max controls, at times, frustrating (though not overly so).

    There, I denied it.
  • jp-30 on 20 Jul, 2009, 10:58…
    The rolling ship scene was a tough introduction to the new controls, I will admit. On solid ground, much easier. Once on ground, I had no problem at all adjusting to the mouse control. It helps that I had a glass of wine in my "empty" hand and didn't need to put it down at all (except the lab puzzle, obviously) for encouragement I guess.

    Replaying the opening scene once I was used to the controls was a piece of cake. There is nothing 'deeply flawed' about ToMI's control at all.

    If the controls made you want to smash your keyboard, why not take 3 minutes to get used to the mouse control?
  • The Tingler on 20 Jul, 2009, 11:56…
    ... except that you had to change control systems at one point. That's a very big flaw.
  • neon_git on 20 Jul, 2009, 12:45…
    It was irritating for sure, but I wouldn't call it a big flaw.

    The puzzle was probably designed before the mouse controls had been considered so I'm willing to overlook it. If this crops up again though I'll be less inclined to let it slide.
  • jp-30 on 20 Jul, 2009, 12:06…
    It would have been nice to have the lab chair controlled by the mouse, sure. But the short swap to keyboard wasn't "a very bif flaw" at all.
  • jp-30 on 20 Jul, 2009, 12:06…
    "big flaw", bah.
  • The Tingler on 20 Jul, 2009, 18:14…
    I'd argue that it was, for the simple reason that a perfect control system would remain the same all the way through. I HATE games where you have to learn about four different control schemes for different scenarios.

    The mouse + keyboard combo, for instance, is used all the way through. If you can't do that with the mouse control too, well, then there's clearly a problem.
  • Logic on 20 Jul, 2009, 07:36…
    To me this demonstrates that we all care about Monkey Island enough to even talk about this stuff, and even if it's not expressed directly I think we are all primarily appreciative of what Telltale are doing for the adventure game fans of the world. Fussing over details seems to be intrinsic fan-community behavior.
  • blueskirt on 19 Jul, 2009, 19:42…
    I've yet to play TMI so I don't think I can judge whether the controls are a step in the right direction or in the wrong one, as long keyboard is only for movement and not interaction and as long I don't receive a phone call from my dad asking me to come over to solve that pesky puzzle for him because the controls are awful, like it happened with that stupid timed puzzle in EMI, it's fine with me.

    However, your paragraph on scrolling backgrounds fall completly flat for anyone who played Goblins 3 or Woodruff. In these 2 games the scrolling backgrounds automaticly scroll anytime you put your cursor on the edges of the screen, allowing you to go anywhere and do anything without having to go clickclickclick to make the screen scroll.

    You may argue that this only happen in these 2 games and it's hardly the norm for point and click but if game developers are too lazy to play lot of games and steal the other games' great ideas to add to their own games, it's their problem, not the point and click system's fault.
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 20:47…
    No, that's true - there are ways to solve that particular problem; I pointed out a solution Telltale have tried. My point was more that it point and click movement isn't without its challenges.

    As for that solution you mentioned, it has been a while, but I seem to remember being annoyed at the screen scrolling when I didn't mean it to, and feeling somewhat detatched from the main characters because they seemed more like extra props in the puzzle than anything else.

    It's a neat solution - but like every solution it has its own series of advantages and drawbacks.
  • laffer on 20 Jul, 2009, 22:47…
    Could easily be solved, I can think of many ways of the top of my head. You could have to hold down the right mouse button to scroll, for instance.
  • SurplusGamer on 21 Jul, 2009, 00:05…
    Which would once again add a further complication to the control scheme, making it less intuitive.
  • laffer on 21 Jul, 2009, 01:20…
    How is clicking and moving the mouse in any way complicated?
  • laffer on 21 Jul, 2009, 01:22…
    In fact I've played several games where you have to hold down a mouse button and drag the screen around. I don't think anyone ever had trouble figuring that out.

    It seems you just want this to be a problem.
  • SurplusGamer on 21 Jul, 2009, 08:29…
    I'm not saying it's complicated, I'm saying that in order to solve the inherent problems of point and click movement you have to make it MORE complicated than how it started out - you have to make compromises on the very basic initial 'click on a spot to move there' premise.

    Stop being so defensive. I'm not saying these solutions are bad or don't work, I'm just saying that they add complications and that the ideal point-and-click movement is probably at least as complicated as 'use arrow keys to move and mouse to point at stuff,' but without all the camera advantages the latter affords.
  • Jayel on 19 Jul, 2009, 15:58…
    Though I mostly agree with the article, I don't think TMI really benefited much from direct control. There were only 2 instances I can think of (the bridge to the marquis' house and in front of the jail) where the camera angle made it impossible for point & click. the new control scheme didn't hamper the experience, certainly, but didn't really improve it either.
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 16:45…
    I can think of a few more - some of the camera angles on the ships at the beginning, some of the angles in the screaming narwhal exterior and there are probably others that I just can't think of at the minute. And this is only Chapter One.
  • QueZTone on 19 Jul, 2009, 09:17…
    What!? So it's YOU! CAPTAIN MYSTERY!

    'shocking the monkey island community since 2002'

    http://www.scummbar.com/images/upload/captainmysteryh030703110027.gif
  • elTee on 19 Jul, 2009, 12:41…
    Test comment.
  • elTee on 19 Jul, 2009, 12:43…
    Heh disregard that previous comment. And this one!
  • The Tingler on 19 Jul, 2009, 12:52…
    Don't worry, we do. :)
  • QueZTone on 19 Jul, 2009, 12:54…
    i want real replies :(
  • The Tingler on 20 Jul, 2009, 08:40…
    No.
  • Sp0tted on 19 Jul, 2009, 15:28…
    Is that Cable?
  • Diduz on 19 Jul, 2009, 08:46…
    I can accept the new direct-control interface as long as they feature a more intuitive joypad support akin to the one in W&G.
  • neon_git on 19 Jul, 2009, 07:12…
    As some one who doesn't like the WASD controls I feel that this article misrepresents my views and makes me sound like a petulant child. It's just an exercise in setting up and knocking down straw men.

    Ultimately, though, I agree with the conclusions. I think it's great that TT are trying new ideas, I wouldn't want it any other way.
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 12:48…
    What you have to understand is that you are an exception to the rule. You're someone who doesn't like the controls just because they don't work well for you and that's fine.

    Most people who I've spoken to who don't like the controls like them BECAUSE they're not point-n-click movement which apparently has nothing wrong with it and BECAUSE they're 'obviously doing it just to make it easier for consoles (an argument that gets more ridiculous the more you examine it) and because obviously changing the controls sucks for -some unspecified reason-.

    Those people exist, they're not just straw men, and I'm talking about them. I'm directly responding to an argument I've seen time and time again, even weeks before the game was even released.
  • neon_git on 19 Jul, 2009, 15:31…
    I understand your position, but I don't think that I'm an exception here. I suspect there are plenty of people who, like me, don;t like the WASD controls but have not entered into the debate because we have nothing to say that Telltake is not already aware of.

    In retrospect my silence probably is part of the reason this article has ended up being aimed at a vocal minority of idiots rather than being a springboard for intelligent discussion. Oh well.
  • SurplusGamer on 20 Jul, 2009, 11:22…
    Why can't it be both? After all, I made the same points in the latest podcast and we discussed it at the start and one of our Telltale friends thanked us for having an intelligent discussion about the controls.
  • WorldMaker on 19 Jul, 2009, 05:44…
    My only issue with the control scheme was that the 360 controller only half worked. (Whereas I was playing W&G solely with the 360 controller.) Someone pointed me to a tool to let the 360 controller's right stick spoof mouse input and I was happy, but that would have been nice if it had worked out of the box in the game...
  • Capn_Nacho on 19 Jul, 2009, 05:13…
    Great article!
  • Logic on 19 Jul, 2009, 04:35…
    I agree that there are scenes in TOMI EP1 which would have become fiddly with a purely point&click interface, and suited mouse+keyboard better.

    HOWEVER, I would have much, much, much preferred if Telltale had have decided that the game was going to be a point&clicker, and designed the environments and scenarios accordingly. None of the 'advantages' of keys+mouse would have been necessary or even advantageous if the environments and camera angles were planned with pointing and clicking in mind to begin with.
  • Capn_Nacho on 19 Jul, 2009, 05:13…
    (presumably) The design decisions made regarding the control method vis a vis the environments and scenarios of the game are just that: design decisions. The game they made (and continue to make) isn't a failed attempt at a point&clicker with a slipshod control scheme tacked on; I'd guess it was designed to be approached this way from the beginning.

    And, honestly, I doubt that this design decision was ever seen as particularly advantageous; as surplusgamer and other people have stated, it is an almost perfectly functional alternative that enabled TTG to explore different aesthetic possibilities. And, when facing a community overwrought with fear of three-dee environments, I get the feeling they needed to exploit every interesting possibility they could (for example, the over-the-shoulder shot as Guybrush ascends the bridge toward the Marquis' tower.)
  • Logic on 20 Jul, 2009, 08:15…
    You make a perfectly valid case.

    I think part of the origin of my friction with the controls is the fact that the game is SO CLOSE to being a straight forward point and clicker. The point and click mechanics are right there in the game, and there are times when, because you're clicking on objects, you don't need the extra controls and everything still works perfectly fine.

    The crux of my point? It seems to me that a whole extra layer to the controls is adding needless complexity to the equation. As the Lucasarts adventures evolved, they moved towards more minimal, streamlined and elegant interfaces. The idea behind this evolution is obviously to minimize the barrier between the player and the experiential content of the game. In an ideal situation the player would become unaware that he\she is even using an interface.

    In my opinion the design missteps of TOMI:EP1 are just failures to recognize a more straight forward or streamlined solution. A perfect example of this is the object combination system. Rather than simply allowing for item combination during natural use of the interface, there is actually a unique part of the interface created specifically for item combination, with two slots and a button. In an effort to make things easier, they have actually made things more complex. I feel the exact same thing has happened with the controls. To me good game design (good software design for that matter) goes for the most concise and intuitive interface possible which allows the required range of activity.

    The bridge scene comes up a lot in these discussions. My first and honest-to-god reaction to that scene was the feeling that the camera work there was chosen not for it's compositional value or visual interest, but to hide Guybrush's feet as he walked across a part of the environment that is clearly so unfeasibly shaped that it would have looked ridiculous. Look how steep that thing gets at the end.

    Of course, like I said, I have nothing but appreciation for Telltale and will continue to give them my money and play their awesome games. I'm simply sharing the nature of my TOMI experience as honestly as I can.
  • Sp0tted on 19 Jul, 2009, 02:04…
    My problem is that I never realized you didn't have to click and drag Guybrush around... I was upset at the controls until I realized this.

    I wonder how many other people do not look at the "options menu" and had the same experience as me?
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 02:11…
    Lots of people had this same problem. This IS an issue, I think, but one I believe TTG are aware of now after lots of people mentioned it. We even talked about it on the podcast :)
  • The Tingler on 19 Jul, 2009, 12:54…
    Yes, especially as the tutorial describes one method of control and the puzzle with the monkey describes a complete different method of control!
  • elTee on 19 Jul, 2009, 01:15…
    What's this? A debunking running under 5000 words? What is this, amateur hour?
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 01:21…
    I did have 4000 other words, but they went "Ner ner ner ner ner ner" etc. They were edited out.
  • elTee on 19 Jul, 2009, 01:32…
    Probably wise. I blame Remi for the publishing of the waffling 5000 word essays anyway, he should have truncated that crap. Someone should have thrown Hemingway in my face or something.
  • Huz on 19 Jul, 2009, 00:12…
    My main problem with the new control scheme is that it has two modes of operation depending what you're interacting with. If it's an object, you can click on it to walk there; but you can't do the same simply to walk somewhere. A number of times I got comfortable clicking objects in the environment, only to then try instinctively clicking on a spot to walk there and fail. If your game is going to have a control scheme, it should either be direct control or pont and click, not both at the same time.

    To be honest, direct control and point and click are just about even for me. There's no point raking over their relative merits - any perceived strength can also be a weakness in the right circumstances. For instance, direct control is better when you have roving cameras - really? Did you spend long struggling to navigate Guybrush around his bucking, swaying ship using the mouse-dragging control scheme? I did (for some reason) and it sucked. I won't bother going into any other examples - my point is there are always going to be pros and cons depending on the situation.
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 00:20…
    "To be honest, direct control and point and click are just about even for me. There's no point raking over their relative merits - any perceived strength can also be a weakness in the right circumstances."

    Well, yes. This was largely my point - both have their strengths and weaknesses but TTG are probably right to think about new ways to do it.

    I'm still not entirely sure what your point is in the first paragraph even though we talked about it on IRC - there are several scenes in the game that are set up so that the camera angles would prevent you being able to click a spot to walk their in an intuitive way, and why have a system that would only work some of the time... wouldn't that be more confusing?

    Also - I don't like the mouse dragging control scheme, either, but mainly because it feels to me a bit like dragging Guybrush around by the belt rather than directly controlling him. Had no such troubles with the keyboard/mouse combo though. Certainly better than trying to click to move to a spot on the ground that was constantly moving around!
  • Huz on 19 Jul, 2009, 09:09…
    You're assuming that my preference is for the point-and-click interface. The point in my first paragraph is that having ONE or the OTHER is the way to go (even if that means going point-and-click and changing the composition of some scenes) - both together is just confusing.
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 12:52…
    Am I? Is it?

    Actually, the main thing I wanted to say is that I'm not sure it's fair to ask Telltale to give up all the progress they've made in improving the composition of scenes, making the presentation really dynamic just to appease a vocal minority - and it is a minority, I'm fairly certain - who don't get on with the hybrid mouse/keyboard controls
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 00:23…
    I meant 'walk there', of course.
  • Maratanos on 19 Jul, 2009, 00:10…
    I loved the controls in Monkey Island. My only complaint is that they weren't more like Wallace and Gromit. I didn't realize how much I loved the "highlight selectable objects" feature until they removed it.
  • SurplusGamer on 19 Jul, 2009, 00:10…
    If you press F4 you can get the selectable objects to light up. Pro tip!
  • Keon on 19 Jul, 2009, 00:04…
    Good article. I admit I was scared when I first played TOMI... then I realised that you could use the keyboard, and all was well again.

    Combination keyboard and mouse is definitely the way forward, much better than the control system in Grim. TOMI wasn't perfect, but a step in the right direction.
  • Huz on 19 Jul, 2009, 00:15…
    Hah, I posted my comment before seeing yours. Interesting that we hold opposing views on the dual control system. Just proves my point that there can be no One True Control System, I guess!
  • Keon on 19 Jul, 2009, 00:47…
    I used to use the keys in MI1&2 for actions such as pick up, use etc. Maybe that's why the dual control system feels natural for TOMI.

    True; there will never be one true control system. The answer is matching the game/camera/movement style with the control system.

    Had an idea (prob thought of by others); wouldn't the Wii remote be ideal for TOMI? It's a single control device, with the ability to point and click and use the d-pad to move using just one hand! Hmmm, anyone know how to use a Wii remote with a PC?
  • Izzy on 18 Jul, 2009, 22:57…
    I can't wait to read this article. MixnMojo articles are always well written! :)
  • Gabez on 18 Jul, 2009, 23:17…
    You're very encouraging. :)
  • MrSneeze on 18 Jul, 2009, 23:25…
    *pats back* Ah, you deserve it. *gazes into sunset*