Computer RPGs and the Game Controller

With a public showing of Frayed Knights 2: The Khan of Wrath coming up next month, Rampant Games' Jay Barnson has editorialized about the evolution of the PC, game consoles, and input controllers, and why he's revisiting the UI in the RPG sequel in order to more easily accomodate players who favor a gamepad over a keyboard and mouse.

There's still something about the keyboard and mouse for me. Especially the mouse. It's convenient. It's precise, unlike thumbsticks and touch screens. Even though the world is changing and people are using a dedicated desktop (or laptop) less and less, I'm still a fan. I'm still a PC gamer. I think in those terms. Sometimes to my own detriment.

But reality intrudes. I have to show my next game, Frayed Knights 2: The Khan of Wrath, at Salt Lake Comic Con in about a month, and . well, people really respond better to controllers, especially when faced with a new game. The left stick and right buttons are the first to be experimented with. And as the adventure games of the 90s illustrated, context-sensitive verbs are a pretty good thing. I really want to hand them a controller, not point them to a keyboard and mouse.

So now I'm frantically re-thinking my UI in terms of game control input. And it really changes everything. It's actually a good thing, to a point because it really forces me to think in terms of simplifying controls for the player. Players of Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon and its rather ungainly UI will no doubt appreciate the effort. This doesn't mean that players of my beloved keyboard and mouse are going to be stuck with something like an emulated console controller. no way, no how. Keyboard and mouse are still going to be, in my mind, the primary way to play the game. But it does force me to think about economy of movement, careful nesting of what menus are necessary, and well, simplifying the control of things, even if the stuff going on underneath the hood is still pretty hardcore.