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Molyneux and Harrison say controllers too complex

Molyneux and Harrison say controllers too complex

Molyneux has slated modern controllers - but to us everything since the Dreamcast is an improvement.

Phil Harrison and Peter Molyneux have provoked gaming communities all over after commenting to GI.biz that game controllers are too complicated and get in the way of good gaming experiences.

Speaking to GI.biz, the soon to be former Sony boss Phil Harrison and controversial gaming mogul Peter Molyneux said that games controllers often deter casual gamers.

"We don't use half the buttons on the 360 controller, simply because the whole dream I've got is that someone will sit down to play Fable 2 who has never played a game before and they can play with someone who's played games the whole of their lives," said Molyneux.

"I wish there wasn't so many buttons on the controller. You have to approach that in design terms by thinking you've only got one button."

Oddly, the Sony boss praised the Nintendo Wii and the iPhone as being far better designed than anything for the PlayStation.

"I saw this first hand a few weeks ago where a two-year-old was playing with an iPhone and he knows how to get the pictures up of mum and dad," said Harrison. "He's right and the rest of us are wrong - that should be applied universally. Apple should be applauded for that innovation."

So, what do you think are the best and worse controllers ever made? Let us know in the forums.

45 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Krikkit 27th February 2008, 11:19 Quote
Best console controller = PS1/2 Dualshock, then I'd say the SNES controllers, then probably Wiimotes+'chucks. I don't think the 360 pads have too many buttons, many, more complex games are lacking enough buttons. Just because he doesn't like making games with complex control systems doesn't mean there's something wrong with everyone else...

In fact, I'd be less inclined to play a game with simple controls, if only because it's more engaging to have to use a bajillion buttons.
steveo_mcg 27th February 2008, 11:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krikkit


In fact, I'd be less inclined to play a game with simple controls, if only because it's more engaging to have to use a bajillion buttons.

Then how come no one plays flight sims any more.
CardJoe 27th February 2008, 11:38 Quote
I think the 360 is the best controller I've seen personally. Simple. Grippable. Plenty of buttons. Only thing I'd change is the bumpers. I always forget about them.
badders 27th February 2008, 11:42 Quote
In actual fact, I think I prefer a few buttons for separate things. Not "Gajillions", just a few.

GOW for the PC with the space bar doing EVERYTHING really bugs me, for instance.

It would really limit the experience, just having movement buttons/stick and one button that does everything, depending on what's going on.
Cobalt 27th February 2008, 11:43 Quote
Dual shock was obviously designed for smaller hands than mine. The shoulder buttons are awkward to use and the entire shape is completely different to that which fits naturally into the human hand. The 360 controller is my favourite because it sits nicely in the hands and all the buttons are easily accessible.
Saivert 27th February 2008, 11:45 Quote
Flight Sims are just that, flight sims. It's not games in that respect. You have to actually learn how to fly a plane the proper way or you break the simulation (just like you would crash and die in real life). So that was a bad example really.

As for simple controls I agree. Too many games require too many button presses to do simple tasks. You can reuse buttons for multiple tasks too you know. Don't have to have this button does that thing through the entire game. Just look at softbuttons on mobile phones. Context sensitivity is a secret artform.

As for PC games it's a bit different as you also have a large keyboard with at least 102 keys, so you have more freedom. FPS games have simple controls (WASD = movement, E/F = use, Ctrl = crouch and numberkeys for weapons). Even though they are many they don't interfere with the gameplay.

And Gears of war was just perfect with the controls. Spacebar doing what it was supposed to in that given situation worked for me. Not like you are going to jump up and down when you are pushing up against a wall.
p3n 27th February 2008, 11:54 Quote
Its frustrating trying to manipulate the D-Pad on a 360 when using the sticks to move (ala Assassins creed), I wouldn't see any harm in controllers having more buttons or indeed some sort of module system (I think someone did a similar thing for an accessible 360 controller) so you could have another set of buttons (like ABXY) instead of a dpad for some games.
Bauul 27th February 2008, 12:03 Quote
Sega Megadrive F T W !!!
[USRF]Obiwan 27th February 2008, 12:20 Quote
Best allround controller ever: Mouse + keyboard
teamtd11 27th February 2008, 12:38 Quote
The best controller ever was the n64 controller
DXR_13KE 27th February 2008, 12:46 Quote
the dreamcast controller was very interesting, the visual memory card and all... the design was meh..... it was a console beyond its time.

for me the most comfortable "standard" controller i had in my hands was the 360 controller, the most comfortable "non standard" one was the N64, it was amazing and very well designed.
hawky84 27th February 2008, 13:00 Quote
Logitech G25 wheel, a specific controller for a certain role that does its part perfectly. Great build quality, look and feel, works well and if you have the right desk for your size ergonomic too.

Just saying keyboard and mouse are the best is very open, there are so many different variety's of the two which are meant for very different circumstances.
Xir 27th February 2008, 13:24 Quote
I feel that consollero's tend to use button combinations...lots of them.
Leavin inexperienced users in the dust.
Personally I#d prefer:

A game that needs less buttons
or if thats not possible
A game with dedicated buttons (so many buttons, but no combo's)

So usually, mouse an keyboard (and the occasional joystick and keyboard)
Zurechial 27th February 2008, 13:44 Quote
Anyone else getting sick of this pandering to 'casual gamers'?
Sure more money coming into games industry seems like a great thing... until you realise that the industry no longer caters to the afficionados of gaming who actually care about depth and complexity in their gaming experience the way it used to, because they see that the money is in shallow, small, quick games that appeal to everyone in your family bar your dog, and maybe even your dog eventually.

When developers and publishers jump from the deep-game ship, having seen the money in the opinionless mass-market, we end up with dross like Invisible War instead of Deus Ex, Oblivion instead of Planescape Torment, endless streams of games from The Sims series instead of....well..everything else on the bloody shelf - And just look how long it took for develoepers to see that there are those of us who still appreciate adventure games.

Mr. Molyneux may think that single-button combat and frustrating multi-function gestures in games are great, innovative features but I'd prefer a game where I don't have to stop and think about every action I do in the game just because I don't have dedicated buttons to do said actions.

Here's an analogy about it:
Why do we have shift keys on our PC keyboards? Because 101 keys is a comfortable amount in terms of size, reach and complexity and we wouldn't want a key for each letter/symbol and a key for each capital of each letter, etc.
This is a comfortable compromise, but if one were to follow Molyneux's design philosophy to an extreme logical conclusion, we'd have a keyboard with 2 keys: Shift and the 'Any' key, which could be any letter, symbol or function depending on what patterns you draw in the air or how you time your typing.

A silly extreme, I know - But the concept is the same. Extra buttons are a boon for those of us who actually care about engaging physically with deep, involving games (or even just brainless shooters that rely on manual dexterity and efficient control) - Is our gaming experience to suffer further still for the sake of the brainless masses who Molyneux wants to 'get into gaming' ?

To qualify my accusation of the mass-market being opinionless: I mean this in contrast to those of us who have been gaming for years, who know what we like, who appreciate the time and effort that goes into a game of high quality and who appreciate the time we can invest in said games for a return in involvement and satisfaction.
I may be an opinionated elitist, but at least I have an opinion and I know what I like.
Sadly, I'm obviously part of a dying breed who 'visionaries' like Mr. Molyneux don't care about, eh?
banshee256 27th February 2008, 13:48 Quote
I hate that everything is becoming more and more simple. It's the mantra of the decade. "Make it simpler." No! Make it harder.

Back in the days, every game out there was in English. So you had a choice: Learn English or stop playing. So, I learned English (I'm from Denmark, by the way). Result: From what I learned from playing computer games as a kid, I got the highest marks in my school in English. Also, back in the days, most games where not that easily accessible. You had to spend a fair amount of time getting to know the ins and outs of the game. How combat worked, how enemies reacted, what made the game crash, how puzzled could be solved, how to get your computer to run the game in the first place... Nowadays it's: Buy your localized version (no need to learn English), put in the DVD and press a button the install it, wait for it to install and automatically patch itself to the latest version, press another button and you're off.

Some might say that all this is a good thing, but I don't. Entertainment developers should force people to learn something, before being able to play their games. The should force their buyers to think for themselves, instead of dumb down everything and make it simpler. Be it controls, interfaces, general gameplay...

Give... Us... A... Challenge! God dammit!

Rant over.
Krikkit 27th February 2008, 14:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveo_mcg
Then how come no one plays flight sims any more.

Because the world is a distinctly messed-up place. I love flight sims, and every fibre of my being wants to see a revivial of them. It's a genre begging for reincarnation on the PC.

The saving grace atm is the Ace Combat series on the playstation - I've had a load of them now, and every single one has been brilliant. :D
Quote:
Originally Posted by banshee256
*snip*

I agree on everything but the install process, that should be as simple as possible - I hate overly complicated ones where you have to patch it and mess about. Game = complex, install = simple. ;)
Tomm 27th February 2008, 14:02 Quote
Zurechial, that's a really good post IMO.

I would totally agree. I have never considered that my xbox pad has too few buttons. If anything, a few more could be useful. But then I'm not part of the untapped masses that seem to be the focus of many companies at the moment.

With the design most modern consoles though, it would be feasible to have two differently designed pads - the normal 'advanced' controller and a simple one for toddlers and idiots.
Jordan Wise 27th February 2008, 14:05 Quote
n64 controller wups everything, plenty of buttons, a decent joystick (not them fat blobs on dualshocks) and a fricking trigger, which felt far more like using a gun than anything else available, even that zalman thingy
Krikkit 27th February 2008, 14:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
n64 controller wups everything, plenty of buttons, a decent joystick (not them fat blobs on dualshocks) and a fricking trigger, which felt far more like using a gun than anything else available, even that zalman thingy

They were also unbelievably uncomfortable, and the joystick went dead far too quickly... They were good, but not as good as everyone would like to believe... :p
hughwi 27th February 2008, 14:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krikkit
They were also unbelievably uncomfortable, and the joystick went dead far too quickly... They were good, but not as good as everyone would like to believe... :p

but it was worth it :p... right?

I have to say that my favourite controller really does depend on its use, for example, the SNES and Megadrive controllers were great for arcade games, and the n64 was awesome for goldeneye, but really, the best all-round controller has to be the PS2 or possibly the 360 pad (i do not own one and have spent little time with it). For the fun factor, the wii remote is awesome, but could be argued to be overly simple.
Xtrafresh 27th February 2008, 14:45 Quote
I remember upgrading from the NES to the PS1 and being mega-excited about one thing: the amount of buttons at my disposal.

I just kept turning the controller over and discovering more buttons. For a while, all i did with the PS was think of original ways to reach the buttons (anyone else that can play Ridge Racer with their toes? ).

Message: kudos to the guy who can design a game with just one button (pong uses just 2, so half a kudos for that), but personally i want moooooooooooooooooooooooooooore buttons to play with.

Also, this seems an awful lot like the discussion about sex on TV: people unable to ignore stuff they never use. Or better yet: people unable to resist using something they shouldn't use, and then venting their agitation on the object itself :p
naokaji 27th February 2008, 14:53 Quote
keyboard + mouse is still the only real controller.

what stops people that arent good at gaming (has nothing to do with casual or new) from playing more games is that games are too hard to figure out, yes, i've said it too often, but for example in doom 3, i never made it past the second or third level, why? i simply got frustrated from being unalbe to find the way because every freaking corner looked the same and it was simply impossible to figure out what direction to go. Or when the difficutly adjustment just reduces the enemies hitpoints, but doesnt make the complelty retarded puzzles that require a univeristy degree any easier.
It's terrible game design in combination with meaningless difficulty adjustments that ruin gaming, not too many buttons on some console controller.
proxess 27th February 2008, 14:57 Quote
Keyboard and mouse > SNES > 360 > everything else out there (gamepads that is)
E.E.L. Ambiense 27th February 2008, 15:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF]Obiwan
Best allround controller ever: Mouse + keyboard

QFT.
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamtd11
The best controller ever was the n64 controller

Yeah, that probably takes the cake for me too as far as console goes.
Hydra 27th February 2008, 17:34 Quote
All of Nintendo's controllers = Win

And, of course, Mouse + Keyboard.

I've never had problems with the Playstation controllers, but I hated the first X-box controller and I still can't get used to the 360 one.
Vash-HT 27th February 2008, 17:42 Quote
Molyneux's idea of a fun combat system is pathetic. My nephew is 5 and he can figure out games with more than one button. Does this guy think that people want to just sit there and mash on one button and watch their guy fight, it would get insanely boring after like 2 fights. I realize the button presses are context sensitive, but why can't you have more than one action and make them all context sensitive so you could actually employ some kind of strategy to the fight and make it less 1 dimensional.
As for Harrison's quote, what can I say my 5 year old nephew knows how to use a ps2 controller fine so its obviously not above a young child's capacity to learn it, its just a matter of taking 5 minutes to learn 8 buttons that are labeled with simple shapes or letters...
rjkoneill 27th February 2008, 17:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF
Obiwan]Best allround controller ever: Mouse + keyboard
QFT

i must say console pads are ruled by te 360 though - its comfortable - funtional - and games use as much or as little as they need to - compare the controls of RezHD to COD4 for example

the pad feels good for both games and uses the buttons it need for both
Rekarp 27th February 2008, 17:49 Quote
Back in my day we only had 1 button on our controller and you know what? We liked it.
Arkanrais 27th February 2008, 18:23 Quote
SEGA master system controller F T W
but really, I like the playstation controllers, I dont think they have too much buttons. in fact with some games like Symphony Of The Night, the layout was just perfect, then again that whole games is the closest thing to perfection (aside from the dialog)
B3CK 27th February 2008, 19:02 Quote
"I saw this first hand a few weeks ago where a two-year-old was playing with an iPhone and he knows how to get the pictures up of mum and dad," said Harrison. "He's right and the rest of us are wrong - that should be applied universally. Apple should be applauded for that innovation."


OMG,, I love it when other people make decisions to make my some of my favorite free time gadgets, usable by a two year old. Because, you know, I havn't learned anything since I was two.
pendragon 27th February 2008, 19:06 Quote
huh..funny, I like my dreamcast controllers.. go fig
pendragon 27th February 2008, 19:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zurechial
Anyone else getting sick of this pandering to 'casual gamers'?

not really.. i don't have anywhere near the amount of free time i used to have when I younger and did not have a full time job.. so games i can pick up and play right away are fine with me.
dslickness 27th February 2008, 21:06 Quote
Best Controller - Gamecube > Wiimote & Numchuck > Xbox360 > N64 > SNES > etc
Worst Controller - PS1, PS2, PS3

I'd put keyboard and mouse first BUT this is a controller for a console - which brings the point that a serious first person shooter should never be on a console in the first place. Hardcore multi-player FPS gamers will most likely agree with this.

- I'd say the Gamecube controller is the ideal controller because it improves on the legendary N64 controller with improved Analog stick, larger/firm buttons, variable shoulder buttons and compatibility with the Wii. The only downside is the Z button isn't a trigger anymore.
- As for the PS controllers, they are an example of a horrible linear game play style. They are limited to certain game genres such as RPGs, fighting games, etc.
sui_winbolo 27th February 2008, 21:31 Quote
Too many buttons? :|

For Halo 3 there's only 3 buttons that aren't used. And that's 3/4 buttons of the d-pad.
casey_cole 27th February 2008, 22:38 Quote
I can't stand the 360 controllers. They're far too small for my gorilla hands. I can reach all the way round the back with my fingers and almost grip the other side. The wireless ones are even worse because the battery pack is in the way...

Best controller for me - the latest X-Box controller S - perfect layout, weight, grip and size. mmmmm

CC
cyrilthefish 27th February 2008, 22:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamtd11
The best controller ever was the n64 controller
I hear this a lot, personally i couldn't stand the things :P
Most uncomfortable mini-joystick ever designed in my opinion, killed your thumb whilst requiring too much travel and having no grip...

i find the Playstation controllers to be a bit average, not especially brilliant, but workable.

Favourite is definitely the Xbox 360 controller, i had a wired one for my PC many months before i brought an xbox360 as i consider it to be the best control pad i've used :)
Fozzy 28th February 2008, 09:13 Quote
My favorite controller Is also the worst designed.

N64 - The entire left side was worthless. Even when games were programmed to make use of the d-pad, it was still clunky and pointless.
The Joystick was extremely uncomfortable and broke easily. Also they added those weird diagonal lock things (an octagon around the joystick) that limited it's movement. I think that was a flaw.

But other than those too issues, I though it fit the hands very well and was very comfortable to use (except on the left thumb)

I loved the layout of the NES controller but it gave me terrible hand cramps after extended hours of play.

The Dreamcast controller kicked a whole lot of ass. I loved the memory card system with the minigames. I always thought the dreamcast owned everything. Too bad on that one...

PS1/2 controller was great for racing games and RPG's but that's about it.

360 controller's pretty nice. I don't own one so I never got the feel of it

xbox controller was horrendous

Joysticks for computers always amaze me. They're so cool looking yet they just don't seem to work well with anything but flight sims. Even then the keyboard/mouse work better it's just less immersive.

Keyboard/mouse has to own all though. Especially one like the g11/g15 I've been using mine for a few months and I LOVE the programmable keys. When you have them you never want to let them go.
Veles 28th February 2008, 09:22 Quote
Xbox 360's is the best console controller IMO, works really well, all the buttons are in the right place and there's the right amount of them. I have no idea why they're complaining they're too complicated, if you don't need to use all the buttons, don't use them.
Xtrafresh 28th February 2008, 11:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rekarp
Back in my day we only had 1 button on our controller and you know what? We liked it.
Ahh yes, back in the days...

In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.
Mister_X 28th February 2008, 11:38 Quote
To a degree i concurr with the article. a personal example is Sensible soccer on the amiga. Back then i used to play with an old atari console single button joystick. It was such a joy to play. A surprising range of moves available with only one button. Nowadays football games use every button on a 360 controller and to be honest Its a bit off putting for me (in football games anyway) and I've been playing games for nigh on 25 years now.

On the other hand I like the 360 controller some games work very well with multiple buttons ( GRAW 2 for example)

Though to be honest i find games that heavily use combo's a pain in the ass and more troublesome than using too many indvidual controls
Mister_X 28th February 2008, 11:39 Quote
oh and for the record, I have a PS3, my first Playstation ( other than a psp). I have no idea why that contoller is still being used its so uncomfortable compared to the 360 one IMO.
Xtrafresh 29th February 2008, 10:07 Quote
The PS controller is imho a very good one. It doesn't have all the 'ergonomic' preformed grips. That means my big hands are not hindered by ridges that they don't fit into.
Veles 29th February 2008, 11:20 Quote
I've got pretty large hands but I still find it really uncomfortable, the position of the analogue sticks just makes my hands cramp up. I used to think they were amazing but now I really prefer the S over the PS2 controller, and the 360 one is even better.
completemadness 29th February 2008, 17:06 Quote
Ive always preferred the PS controller, the others don't really feel right

The problem with the others that ive found, although the main set of buttons are in the right place, everything else is incredibly awkward to get at - so in the end i find the PS controller puts everything at my fingertips that i need
Bungle 29th February 2008, 17:36 Quote
I agree controllers are a pain in some respects but also bad game design for the controller is partly to blame.

/old fart mode
I use to enjoy fight games on computer. International Karate +and Way of the exploding fist are titles I still have found memories playing, against the AI and a friend.

Fast forward to todays. Fight games like Dead or Alive have a ridiculous number of button combinations to perform certain moves.
When was "rotate thumb this way whilst pushing button X-Y-Z to perform a move fun. What we need is a punch bag with sensors so that the impact determines the power and the point of contact ingame. Of course people would have to become fitter to play at the higher levels but that's a good thing right? Would be a good advert for gaming. Long has the gaming market been accused of creating the supersized society. Healthy gaming, that's the way forward....for fight games anyways IMO.
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