Thursday, February 7, 2013

In Which I Shamelessly Port-Whine

A post on Joystiq yesterday reminded me that Terraria is coming to PS3 and 360 which is something that I have forgotten at least three times since it was announced.  I -should- be fairly excited about this because I was always pretty interested in the game and, despite having a copy of it gifted to me, I couldn't play it because my computer is a total shithog with a ten-year-old graphics card.  That has no shaders on it.  You say "Graphics Card, what are shaders" and it responds "I HAVE NO IDEA, GET OFF OF MY LAWN" because it is that old, you see.  Being that I already have potentially $500 in video games lined up for this year (I wish I was kidding, but the 3DS is most likely getting bought by me in the very near future so I can play Rune Factory and Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing when it comes out) a new laptop is still far, far out of reach and I really should prioritize it, but come on, these are like the only games, out of the multitudes that are releasing this year, that I'm interested in just yet, so I'm going to get them.

Anyways, back to the original point, Terraria is still getting a PS3/360 version and the linked Joystiq article speaks on the technical hurdles that the porting studio had to get over to actually conform the game to a Twin-Stick setup rather than Keyboard/Mouse.  I hadn't really thought about it to this point because I was just thinking "Oh, it's a sidescroller, you jump, you attack things, can't be hard" but I completely neglected the fact that free-form aiming, because of the mouse, -is- a big part of Terraria and I realized that is quite the problem, actually.  Terraria, in a sense, is a very different game than most because of that layout and it becomes a rather tricky beast to take anywhere but the home it was built for.  Terraria relies on the mouse for the following purposes:  targeting specific blocks to mine/place (sometimes behind blocks that are directly between you and them, using sorcery), aiming projectile weapons, aiming a grappling hook and selecting/interacting with NPCs among other things.

Some of those things are easily replicated - aiming with a stick is practically child's play by this point, using  the full circle of analog to more or less guarantee you can aim just about anywhere, same with a grappling hook (since it's basically the same thing), and interacting with NPCs can have a less elegant scenario of, perhaps, having to be closer to them than in the PC version and navigating through their shops and conversations with the D-Pad and face buttons.  That's all simple.  The other things are quite a bit less intuitive and simple to do, specifically the mining and placing blocks since, as mentioned, you can use sorcery to place and mine blocks that are not directly in front of you.  This was used a lot of times by folks who would carve out large containers and manipulate physics to safely create and contain infinite sources of water and lava.  As well as having uses that -weren't- there to exploit the mechanics, obviously.  The solution of using the second stick to control cross-hairs for these targeted purposes isn't quite the most elegant one, but I'm sure it'll work in the long run.

Of course, you all know -how- I think and, more or less, -what- I think of all the time, day-in and day-out, so I imagine you know where I'm going with this.  I am thinking Vita Vita Vita, how can this be on the Vita because I want this on the Vita.  This specifically, actually, and not just this as in how I want -everything- on the Vita because I love it dearly.  Terraria, as a building game that can obviously be ported (to consoles, whether or not it -could- be on the Vita is in question, certainly and I don't dare state that I know one way or another) just sounds absolutely delightful as a title you can play on the go, doesn't it?  Have a few minutes on the train?  Pop into your world and continue working on building your castle.  Spot a particularly wonderful or inspiring piece of architecture while you're out?  Take a picture with your Vita, and use it as a basis for a different kind of build.  Just can't sleep and can't be assed to turn on your console or PC?  Mine down about two dozen layers and start looking for some lovely ores and bits that you need.  It is delicious-sounding to myself personally and while I jones for something a little more Minecraft-flavored, I will gladly take what I can get, and I have been warming to the idea of Terraria for a long time now.

Most importantly, there is a practical reason for this.  Stay with me, because I know what I'm going to suggest is going to seem appalling at first, but it makes sense.  Now, the problem with the control method on the Consoles basically stems from the lack of a proper pointer control for consoles and that's understandable.  As said, the solution isn't very elegant, but it certainly sounds serviceable.  But the advantage that the portables, both the 3DS and the Vita have is that they do have the next best thing from pointer controls in the touch screens.  Hey, hey, I said stay with me, don't make that face.  Yes, I saw it.  Just hear me out, alright?  Now, let's speak specifically of the Vita.  I know controlling things like cross-hairs for mining by covering up half of the screen with your hands is not a -more- elegant solution to using cross-hairs aimed with a stick.  I'm not suggesting that.  I'm not suggesting that at all.

I can hear you now, saying "No Mogs, no, I know where you are going and that way lies madness" and this is potentially true.  Yet, I cannot think of why it -wouldn't- work.  Were a game like Terraria (or, quite specifically Terraria) to be on the Vita, using the Back Touch Pad as a pointer for things like mining and the like might not be a bad idea as an option.  I certainly wouldn't suggest it being the only method available, which would have it fall back on the Consoles Auto/Manual switch as the other option, but with a little finangling, it's certainly a more elegant option.  Just think about it - using your middle finger (easiest to maneuver with the longest reach, though you could certainly use others) on the back of the Vita keeps it completely out of sight and with the cross-hairs actually appearing on-screen, you have an actual idea of where it is.  Combine that with using a 'function button', possibly Cross or Square and then blam, you are freely able to mine, place, do whatever the hell you want with a cursor that is quite a bit swifter and more responsive than the analog stick, in theory.

Will it happen?  Certainly not.  I'm amazed we're getting the PS3/360 versions and I worry for the amount of post-release support they'll see, so yet another version is inherently out of the question.  A man can dream, however, and we know that I dream big.  Or...well, in this case, little.

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