Refresh My Muscle Memory, Please

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I played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for a couple of hours the first week. The second week, life got in the way, and I didn’t get a chance to play. By the time I picked up a controller the third week, I couldn’t remember how the game controlled.

I’m not sure about you, but I come across this problem quite a bit. Modern AAA games feature complex controls that require the memorization of many buttons. Which works out fine as long as you play consistently. As an adult though, I go through periods where I’ll start a game and then come back to it weeks to a month later. This is a game killer for me.

My Odyssey boat has been dead in the water for a few weeks now. I’m stuck on a mission where I have to sink some Athenian vessels blocking a harbor. I’m good with the boat controls but things go south once I try boarding. I can’t remember how to block, my muscle memory draws a blank when it comes to the rhythm of combat.

Duh, I’m not sure what to do.

Sure, I could look up the controller button layout diagram and try and figure out how to parry/block. In fact, I did! Last night, I tried the boarding party portion of the mission again and failed. FAILED! At this point, I’m frustrated with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey just as I was with Batman: Arkham Knight (another game with complex controls that doesn’t look kindly on players taking a break from it).

Game developers need to include some sort of quick gameplay tutorial. A five minute run down that helps the player re-acclimate to controls and remind muscle memory of a games particular rhythms. I wonder if player retention and player percentage of completion would go up with a refresher tutorial feature?

As my gaming time stands, I find myself gravitating towards games with simpler controls. Controls that I can pick up quickly and get into the game faster with. Unlike a good book, which is easy to drop in and out of, most modern AAA games are a pain to take a break from. I want that pain to be eased, and I’m sure game developers would like that too. So I’m asking developers for a simple feature, refresh my muscle memory, please.

Do Video Game Developers Have No Regards For Children?

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My son and I are gripping our controllers, leading our small group of Avengers to victory. But wait, even though the screen is split, the onscreen action blinds us both to our positions in-game. Lego Marvel’s Avengers fails to provide a visual indicator to note where ones character is on screen. There is no “player one” or “player two” designation. The game’s camera pulls too far out of the action for the player to be able to follow their hero.

I am frustrated; my six year old son, even more so.

Lego AvengersThe Lego games have always frustrated me. There is so much potential with the Lego properties, squandered in the name of shoddy controls and split screen mode. What frustrates me more, as with Disney Infinity, is that developers market this half-assed game design to children. We love playing videogames together. My son is able to hold his own in Guacamelee. His skills increase every time we sit down and play. But Lego games block our fun together.

I would like to say that videogame developers hate children. But that isn’t true. Videogame developers lack a certain awareness of how kids play.

Kids games need to:

  • Provide clear visual cues
  • Make it easy for players to find themselves: a simple portrait of a superhero, in the top right corner of the screen, doesn’t cut it. For a great example, check out Diablo 3.
  • Offer different camera distance so that players can see the action
  • Give players control over the environment that engages motor-skill and muscle-memory

My son and I will probably continue to play Lego Marvel’s Avengers. I just wish it was more finely-tuned to my son’s early skill levels.