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Complexity is boon, bane of gaming now

Ryu and Ken are back in Street Fighter IV, and this time, they should be a little easier to control. Still has six buttons, though.

Capcom

Ryu and Ken are back in Street Fighter IV, and this time, they should be a little easier to control. Still has six buttons, though.

I'm by no means the original arcade rat, but I've been around long enough to remember video games having two elements: a joystick and a button. One button.

That button fired a weapon, or made a character jump. Then Super Mario Bros. came out and had two buttons that let you do both at the same time. By the time 1987 rolled around, a little game from Capcom called Street Fighter had four. Its sequel, 1991's Street Fighter II, had six, eventually allowing literally hundreds of special moves and combos.

It was a stunning evolution back then, but now, according to Capcom's Yoshi Ono, it's the problem.

"What happened was that gradually, the games became more and more focused on the hardcore audience, and we really shut the casual players out," he told Gamasutra in a recent interview.

That's been great for the rabid fans of hardcore-focused consoles like Xbox 360 and PS3, but the triumph of Nintendo's Wii has proven that simplicity still may be best. And while Ono was talking about fighting games in particular, what he said rings true for all genres.

"I think through our competitive spirit back then, we were always out to out-complicate each other, and make our systems deeper and deeper," Ohno tells the gaming site. "It was okay then, because there was a wide player base who understood how to play these games, but that's not true anymore."

What is true is that there's plenty of evidence that for every player who enjoys utilizing all 14 or so buttons on his next-gen controller, there's almost twice as many who enjoy playing a mock game of bowling with a Wiimote or running in place on a Wii Fit balance board.

All this became apparent as I noticed that friends my age (in the statistically prevalent 24-to-35-year-old range for gamers) eschewed certain titles because they took too long to learn how to play. Just give me shoot and jump, they say, which is ironic, because we're the same demographic that salivated over the advent of six buttons on arcade cabinets.

But Ono wants to change all that. He said his current project, Street Fighter IV, plays a little slower than other current titles and the control scheme has been streamlined, making it easier to pick up and not so focused on a small subset of diehards who become Street Fighter acolytes.

"What we're trying to do with Street Fighter IV is bring them back in," he told Gamasutra. "... Hopefully, if we play our cards right and get people back in to the genre, we can ... spread things out and get it back to the way it was."

And then I can find someone to play it with me.

Joshua Gillin writes about video games and entertainment news for tbt*. Feel free to challenge his opinions at jgillin@tampabay.com.

Complexity is boon, bane of gaming now 09/28/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 3, 2008 6:35pm]

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