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Keeping it simple the 8-bit way

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Kevin Haynes

Recently I bought Madden ‘09 for Xbox 360. I enjoy the game well enough (though seeing how I finished 11-5 with the Detroit Lions I now question its authenticity”¦) but can’t profess to have nearly as much fun with Madden as I did with 1991’s Tecmo Super Bowl
for the original Nintendo. The reason is a matter of simplicity.

Madden encourages the player to take the reigns of an NFL franchise or player, and often gets lost in the details by requiring too many off-the-field decisions and too complicated in-game button combinations. Of course the graphics are amazing, and online league play opens up a world of possibility never-before-seen in sports gaming, but when it comes down to actually gameplay, an element of pick-up-and-play gets lost in the complexity.

Tecmo is fun, plain and simple. No trades, no draft combines, no adaptive A.I., no bobbled catches, no user activated celebrations, no booth commentary or virtual trainers.
Just two buttons on the controller, eight plays to choose from on offense and one formation on defense, a trick move that’s unstoppable if executed correctly, and perhaps the most addictive gameplay this side of Tetris.

The contrasts between the two games remind me of something that’s often forgotten while developing software ““ the end goal. It’s easy to get wrapped up in feature-itis, in making applications too complex for their own good. But software that’s easy to use and sticks to its principle function is almost always the most productive.

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Kevin Haynes

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