Your Thoughts on Miyamoto's Videogame Training Wheels?

Bill Loguidice's picture

Bad-with-naming-them-but-still-undeniably-legendary-videogame-designer Shigeru Miyamoto has confirmed to USA Today that the forthcoming New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be first to incorporate a special "help" feature, otherwise known as "demo play". What this comes down to is whenever a player so chooses, they can pause the game and let it essentially play itself, then resume control whenever he or she chooses. While superficially this sounds like it's turning interactive videogames into passive entertainment no better than television, as someone who sometimes gets impossibly stuck in games and doesn't like to use cheat codes, I can see this being a useful feature. This is also one of those "so obvious, why hasn't someone done this before" type of deals.

While I support the concept, I can't help but feel a bit "icky" about the whole thing, just like I do with cheat codes. Certainly the whole idea of this is to continue to make videogames accessible to everyone, from the very, very young to the extraordinarily uncoordinated, but wouldn't dynamic difficulty adjustments or even - at its simplest implementation - having more selectable difficulty levels at the beginning address this issue just as well, particularly for what is ostensibly an action game (i.e., no difficult puzzles to figure out, just hard jumps to make)? What do you think of this new design wrinkle that will surely make its way into lots of other games?

Comments

Clemenstation
Offline
Joined: 11/04/2008
Thumbs down...

Foolishness.

Games are designed in such a way that they teach you basic mechanics early on, and then have you test your ability to manipulate these mechanics in increasingly complex ways in order to progress. Mario games, in particular, are all about reflex and timing. If you're allowed to skip through the first area that proves challenging or difficult, what makes you think you'll be able to get through the NEXT challenge (which will likely be even harder)? You'll just have the game skip you through that one, until by the end you aren't really 'playing' at all because it's way too tough for your underdeveloped abilities.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Excellent point
Clemenstation wrote:

Foolishness.

Games are designed in such a way that they teach you basic mechanics early on, and then have you test your ability to manipulate these mechanics in increasingly complex ways in order to progress. Mario games, in particular, are all about reflex and timing. If you're allowed to skip through the first area that proves challenging or difficult, what makes you think you'll be able to get through the NEXT challenge (which will likely be even harder)? You'll just have the game skip you through that one, until by the end you aren't really 'playing' at all because it's way too tough for your underdeveloped abilities.

Excellent point about games like that training you to be able to play what is generally a progressively more difficult game. With that said, there ARE times where there are seemingly impossible jumps or overly frustrating parts in even the best games, so instead of giving up on the game after what I would hope would be many, many attempts, you can just let the CPU get through it for you so you can progress.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
I see it being very useful,

I see it being very useful, as long as the player is still able to play the level after watching it demoed. It could be compared to watching someone do a task and then trying it out yourself. What's wrong with that? Of course, it would be pretty lame if the game just played itself and you just sat there and watched. I haven't read the article, but I'm wondering if the player would still be required to get through the level himself before moving on?

n/a
yakumo9275
yakumo9275's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/26/2006
games are short enough as it

games are short enough as it is when its all new to you, but when you can watch the hard bits played for you, why not just make the player invulnerable for a short time or give them unlimited lives or some other cheat mechanism.

I think things are dumbed down enough as it is.

-- Stu --

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
I don't see it as

I don't see it as necessarily dumbing something down. If you wanted to teach someone how to play tennis, it'd only be natural to have them watch a few games to get some idea of the game before trying it themselves. This simply seems to be taking that concept to a finer level.

Indeed, it seems like this could lead to more complex games, since seeing something modeled a few times would allow you to go beyond stuff that just has to be guessed or learned via instructions or tutorials. This system might let you learn a really complex game in a hurry rather than having to start off with long tutorials or lots of up-front reading.

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
It IS actually the game

It IS actually the game playing it for you. You choose when to resume control. It's not a movie showing you the right way. It's the game playing itself. Think of it as the equivalent of automatic pilot on an airplane. The plane is still flying to your destination, you just take control when you want to.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Thanks for the

Thanks for the clarification, Bill. I can definitely see something like being useful. I eventually gave up on Final Fantasy IV for my DS; just the raw tedium of all of those random encounters was just too much for me. I would have loved to be able to automatically play through that and just pick it back up when things got interesting again. It'd be nice if the player could make some basic decisions about the autopilot, though, perhaps giving it some goals or setting some basic priorities.

I can think of lots of other places where this would be useful. Imagine a flight sim--landing and taking off are so hard, but flying is usually pretty easy. Just let the computer get you off the ground, and then you can fly around for awhile and then get the pleasure of watching an expert landing. Kinda like being a co-pilot.

Or imagine you get hopelessly stuck in an adventure game. Instead of just going for hints or consulting a walkthrough, you could turn on the autopilot to see what it's doing. As soon as you see what you're supposed to be doing, you could turn it off and continue on. I just see so many good applications for this.

n/a
Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/04/2006
Games playing themselves.

While there have been MANY games that I hit a "brick wall" in that I couldn't get past, I'm not sure that it's such a good idea to have such "cheats" as part of the game, and it certainly should be done in a case-by-case basis.

Shigeru Miyamoto didn't get where he is today by being an idiot, so I'm sure he has some valid reason(s) to include such a feature in this game. We may not know the whole story here.

Despite a lot of games being too hard for me, I'd rather give up in frustration than cop out and have the game spoon-feed me my victory. The real thrill of seeing a new level or outright beating a game is knowing that you EARNED IT. Switching on "training wheels" when things get just a bit challenging not only reduces the thrill of victory, but it sends a poor philosophical message to our kids, in my opinion. The feeling of "OOHHH, AAAHHH!" at seeing a new level, plot twist, or character upgrade would largely be lost if you just passively just sat back and watched the game play itself.

I never did beat the original "Half Life." I spent perhaps two weeks of continual play trying to beat the final boss. I did indeed check the internet for hints on how to beat the boss, but it appeared that I was doing the right things, I just didn't have enough weaponry, and I made some unwise choices on my "save-game" points to where I couldn't go back to an earlier save to collect more ammo before the final boss battle. I spent more time trying to beat the final boss than I did completing the entire rest of the game, and I finally got tired and set the game aside for a later date, which I never got back to.

Yet, if I had "training wheels" on the final boss, what would be the whole point of playing the game? The victory would have been totally hollow.

All that having been said, as long as the "training wheels" can be disabled, giving the player a CHOICE as to how they want to play, I don't see a major problem. I would never use such a feature, but if I could, at the push of a button, let the game get me past a hard part, that might be too tempting to resist.

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/31/2008
A slightly different perspective

"When I was your age, we had to PLAY our games!"

First off - Matt: I hope you have at least played through the original Final Fantasy IV before its DS remake. FFIV is one of my favorites in the series, yet I found the 3D remake for DS to be a bit stale. One major flaw was the terrible music compared to the SNES renditions of the same themes. I believe the encounter rate was upped in the DS version, but then it has been awhile. You still have to deal with the random battles in the original version, so perhaps you still wouldn't quite make it. Ha. I have numerous other complaints about the DS FFIV, but that is not why we are here.

As a programmer, I have to wonder how complex and evolved this "anytime a.i." could possibly become. Of all things, our first example is a "2D" platformer. This is quite a simplistic genre that could easily have an on-the-fly help-me-out available. What of something like Fable 2? Where do you engage it? Standing in town? In battle? In the middle of a quest? I assume that this couch potato gaming would be limited to only the specified times at which the game has told the player they can engage the training wheels. That is an awful lot of "ifs" to handle if you are standing in town doing nothing. Follow the main quest? Do we need a sword first? Do we have enough gold for the sword? Where can I work for gold? Does the wife take priority? Clearly there are errors that can be made by the a.i. If you turn on the cheat and the a.i. goes off and kills you...then what? We're talking extra money, programming, debugging, and time that goes into this sort of thing.

Of course you then have to ask yourself - Would Nintendo seriously crank out anything NEAR Fable 2 in the future? No.

That said, I wonder what would happen if I were to buy the next Zelda game, engage lazy mode, pop some popcorn and proceed to watch the entire thing unfold. Aside from dying of total boredom, watching the a.i. accurately (a relative term) play the entire game would cause me to have to stand and applaud the programmers for the feat. ...or would it? If Nintendo is committed to making games accessible to wider audiences, this also means they are most likely quite content to dumb down games and suppress the innovation in the area of game mechanics in order to simply make their games easier to play.

Could this help feature be quite useful? Sure. Have games been developed simply (and solely) to make use of the wiimote, nunchuck, DS touch screen or dual screens? Sadly, Yes. Could Nintendo first party games be developed in such a way that they lend themselves to an "easily supports help mode" design by simply suppressing forward thinking and creativity in the area of game development? I fear the answer is "you betcha."

n/a
davyK
davyK's picture
Offline
Joined: 05/21/2006
I think in context of a 4

I think in context of a 4 player platform game that an auto-mode makes sense - it means someone can drop out for a few minutes and then join in later when it suits without spoiling it for everyone else who would normally have to pause the game and wait.

You shouldn't get credit for anything done while in auto-mode though (e.g. coins or power-ups gathered etc.) and if the AI isn't perfect (or scripted) then it all adds to the fun that an absentee player is taking on a certain amount of risk by opting out for a while.

I really don't see the point of having it in single player mode.

The concept isn't new - it is in the Lego Star Wars games.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.