Player controllers usually follow the line of getting more intricate and diversified, trying to adapt themselves to some preset conventions that players, as a community, have developed through the time: dozens of buttons, joysticks, peripherals and combinations that can make any newcomer to feel less than dizzy. But when the new era of social gaming, and with a huge emphasize on handheld titles, the use of controls have been simplified to the use of a simple finger.
The download charts are topped with such titles, where the base skill depends on several factors in which using one finger is a sinequanone condition for them to work properly without making any unusual sound on the scene. So the fact of such simplified controls is somehow related to the amusing success this compressed and engaging systems has.
Nothing far from reality, games requring just one finger to maneauver them are, if not the most popular, the ones taking advantage in the most wide spectrum of players
While focusing on mobile games, by analyzing some one-finger titles (if it’s ok to name them this way), I found what I could presumably understand as a category, based on two variables. Input, which in this case means the quantity of actions (with a single finger) that the player needs to take in order to activate a global mechanic; and Output, defined as the given feedback and/or intangible reward the player gets from such action.
So by it’s combination, some types appear on the finger scene:
Low input + high output: games that usually require on finger to give as feedback as much as possible. The games are based in its core with the formula of maximizing the results for a deep engagement once the game starts and randomizing the rest of them by performing very little actions. Games such as candy Crush brings into the scene the power of seeing tons of results, colors and messages by doing a few moves (and more accused on its first levels), providing the player a feedback that was not expected and even more not asked to, but still profitable and rewarding.
Just a single move and a bunch of colorful feedback will happen , 80% guaranteed
Pushing towards this line of flow for players to have an experience close to anxiety is based on the mechanics, which are deeply studied in order to maximize its results, but controls play a very significant role, minimizing the effort the player takes to reach an objective. Players usually will remember the core mechanics and controls of such games by instinct, rather than having to take on another onboarding process of skill re-assimilation, making it easier to take on whenever they feel to.
High input + low output: games based performing diverse actions by using one finger, which usually requires more skill and reflexes than the other types. Low output is not a correct word at all for determining the feedback the player gets, its more related to a moderate pace of rewards than a limited one.
It’s part of those titles that haven’t crossed enough the boundaries of the sweetened social titles who seek for a fast engagement and a powerful outburst on the first times. They belong to the field of adapted genres to handheld devices, which still drink from certain mechanics inherited from other more intense and broad games. It’s need its to simplify the input in order to fit the requirements of handheld devices.
It doesn’t really matter if the overall moves the player can perform are complex or diverse, it’s a mishmash between the frequency, the skill needed to perform the action and the overall gestures.
BattleHeart as an example requires a diverse set of moves and a fast reaction capacity in order to fulfill the levels. As long as the game evolves, the player will need to adapt the way he interacts with the medium to success. It’s a simplification of what a “party” means in mostly all RPG games, with preset roles and a variety of moves.
Battleheart’s control sytem, even though its based on a single finger, it has lots of stuff to do and in a very straight reaction times.
Is easy to see that no longer strategy and puzzle games are the kings of one finger low input games, right now the ecosystem is growing so strong that other genres (in the way mobile titles tackle them) are being driven towards an smart direction, offering a variety of actions to perform in each of them. Single finger controls are just a more simplistic way to resume the required input to perform an action in hardcore games, and they not always come together with the word easy. They’re an optimization of resources and a way to determine if newcomers are ready to enter in the medium of games with the most standardized way to remember and perform by instinct the core mechanics of a game. If Bruce Lee could manage to do push ups with two fingers…