As certain games continue to get more and more realistic I suspect that we are going to need more buttons on the controllers. When you have a gameworld that features 80 trillian polygons, groundbreaking A.I, and a physics system that makes the original HL2 engine look like Pong, the gamer is probably going to want more out of there character than just the normal run, duck, jump and shoot commands.
What button scratches my butt again?
In the long run it is impossible for developers to make games like The Last of Us, Just Cause 2, Grand Theft Auto, etc... and have the controls be 100% perfect. It's inevitable there will be glitches and fustrations along the way. So while certain developers want their titles look and seem as realistic as possible, from the input perspective this just isn't possible.
Obviously some genres have it easier than others. For instance: Side Scrollers. Sure, you could have a game as simple as Knytt and Super Meat Boy and the controls should end up being like gravy. But even more complicated side-scrollers like Mark of the Ninja with more character controls still feel tight, smooth and like warm pumpkin pie.
Um, do you mind just stayin' there for a sec? I think I just pulled a back muscle.
So let's just say 2D games have it easier. You can even say that first person shooters have it easier as well. Gamers aren't asking much out of that genre anwyays. We just need to move, aim and shoot. Ok, it does get more complicated than this, like how do the weapons feel and react, hitboxes, etc.., but for the most part the formula has been hammered out already (well, the two formulas, the old-skool fast paced Unreal controls and the new skool CoD controls). Keep in mind this is not to say first-person shooters won't suffer the same fate as many third-person perpective games will as they also push for more realism.
For me it all boils down to what is possible to achieve and what actually works. While it is starting to be possible to create gaming worlds and engines that mirror our world, it is still impossible to have a character be controlled by a gamer in a way that reflects that same realism. This explains why more games are using quick-time events, cut scenes and character animations to fill that disparity than ever before. What I fear is that this is starting to pull the gamer more out of the game than in the game.
Those blisters from NES Mega Man days are coming back again.
Then there are other cases where developers will take that risk and give the gamer more controls than ever before. This scenerio usually leads to 50% coolness, and 50% hair-pulling fustration. Just Cause 2 is a good example of this. The concept of what can be achieved is pretty awesome, but most of the time you'll just be screaming at the TV because the main dude you're controlling is haveing a squat instead of beaming out his manly grappling hook. Sometimes you're just standing an inch too close or too far from something to have the controls do what you want them to do. Sure, to an extent this is what we call a learning curve. The controls take a bit of time getting used to. But what we're getting used to is their quarks and their imperfections.
A game with good controls by no means feels and plays like another game with good controls. Mainly because great controls are often predicated by the gameworld they live in. This is why I feel the controls of games that strive for realism end up falling short. However a game like Super Mario 64 (or any of the Mario games really) have incredibly sharp and pinpoint controls. This is one reason why Mario games made such a good transition into 3D and, quite frankly, are the some of best games the gaming industry has ever seen. What you'll notice in Mario games is that the world itself is shaped around those controls, and vice-versa. It's not a case of, let's create a magical place then later on figure out how to control Mario through that magical place. It's a case of, this is what we want Mario to be able to do, now let's build the world around that.
That's some serious butt burn.
In Just Cause 2 where you're actually have to spend time getting used to these bonky controls, in Mario they feel natural and almost come as second-nature. I remember when I first played Super MArio 64 I just ran around for an hour without going into the castle because the controls were that much fun to dick around with. In Just Cause 2 the fun is not with the controls themselves but with the potential of what the controls can do. A potential that costs much more fustration than its worth.
While realism ( a different type of realism than what games like Tomb Raider are going for) does play a part in a game like Dark Souls, the controls are kept simple and match the gameworld exceptionally well. Yet at the same time they still have that "Mario" quality about them in the sense that it's interesting to just move your character and watch him/her swing a sword or whatever weapon you happen to be holding.
As obvious as it sounds, controls for me are a big part of what makes a game or not. Maybe this is why I tend to think simpler looking games are more pleasurable because the controls are better. I'll take playing Mark of the Ninja over The Last of Us any day of the week. I'll also take driving an M5 over my Toyota Corolla any day of the week. Only if I could figure out a way to afford one.