“Flash is the next-gen console”; designing for multiple input schemes

Flash, Games, Interactive Design, Wii

Raph Koster, president of Areae and designer of Ultima Online and Star Wars: Galaxies, made this and other interesting statements at a private GDC lunch as reported on gamesindustry.biz. Koster argues that Flash’s ubiquity and device-independence puts it in a leadership position among next-gen gaming platforms, and notes that as devices proliferate, “a lot of games… are not going to know what devices they are landing on”.

As it becomes increasingly common for a given experience to be run on multiple devices, some fundamental design issues come into play, as I’m discovering trying to develop works that will accommodate both the mouse and the Wii remote. While in this case I’m talking about multiple control schemes on a single hardware platform (a PC running WiiFlash), the problem is essentially the same as if I was designing a PC experience that could also run on the Wii.

It’s one thing to design a casual game in which the vocabulary of user actions is defined relatively independently from the control scheme, and then figure out how to make that game work with various input devices. It’s something else, however, to design an experience that takes advantage of the unique capabilities of the Wii remote, while still making the interface functional and rewarding for a mouse user. Of course, the fallback position is always to design for the mouse user and then use the IR pointer capability of the remote to emulate the mouse, and this might be perfectly appropriate for especially complex interfaces. A more customized bit between experience and controller, however, will always be desirable.


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