One of the chapters in the game design book, A Game Design Vocabulary by Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark, emphasizes the importance of the physical layer in video games. The authors, define the physical layer as the actual means using which the player inputs into the game. Further an effective game design should have the physical layer being as close as possible to the action that it represents. As such, a game that has the player mashing buttons to get a character across, might not translate well if the same game was to be played on a touchscreen device. Similarly a game that has touch gestures as its main control mechanic, might not translate effectively to a console with a non-touch controller. Thus it always make sense to evaluate the mode of interaction in the physical layer for a given platform, before porting a game to it.
ExamplesIn May 2009, Wolfenstein 3D was launched for the iPhone. The game with the original graphics maintained, added touch & tilt controls to the iPhone port. Did that deter me and other players from downloading this childhood classic on their iPhones though? Definitely not! But every time that glorious monster popped around the corner, my fingers would fumble around the touchscreen in search for the right button back off. In short, before I could finish shrieking, the touchscreen controls would put me off and I would simply swear at the game instead. The experience just felt incomplete without the textured feel of the buttons and comparing it to the original, just made it uncomfortable to play. Its just a thought, but maybe Wolfenstein 3D was never meant to be played on the touchscreen...
Batman: Arkham series PC controls:
The majority of the game's controls transfered over very well. However, the game is designed with a console joystick and certain actions can become very difficult to navigate. There is an evade control that, on console, involves double tapping a button while using a joystick to set the character's direction. Using a mouse and keyboard the player only has 4 directional options instead of the full range of a joystiq.Certain enemies almost require this move to be used with precision and become very frustrating for the player.
Even more frustrating are some of the AR trainings in Arkham City that require the player to dive and then glide near the ground in an encolsed space. Using the mouse to both steer and as your view almost always results in the player, "pulling up," instead of gliding, hitting the ceiling and failing the challenge. The generally accepted advice for this problem is to just buy a controller to complete a few optional challenges if you want to unlock the rewards.
GTA: San AndreasGTA: San Andreas got ported to mobile, and while it is the same game as was released to PC and consoles, the controls ruins a lot of the feeling of moving the character or driving a car. The player navigates the character using a virtual joystick and touch buttons, and these never feels very responsive like a real joystick and buttons would. You just don't have that physical feedback.
These problems become especially apparent when trying to navigate a car through traffic. The fine touches you need to get past cars at high-speed is not possible to get through with something as unresponsive as a touch joystick.