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  Game controls - simple or sophisticated?  (Read 6451 times)
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Offline ags1

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« Posted 2012-05-28 17:32:16 »

I'm old enough to remember how amazing the original Doom was. You could see the bullets hitting the walls, breathtaking realism back in the day. Smiley

I've never enjoyed FPS games as much since then, and I think it is to do with the controls. In Doom, you moved where you were looking and shot where you were looking. I think there was a command to sidestep as well. In more recent titles, the notion of body orientation is separate from head orientation, which makes physical sense, but am I alone in finding it horribly confusing? I'm always walking into poles and falling off stuff. Do you think there is an argument for simpler game controls, at least as an option for those who don't want the power user interface?

Offline Cero
« Reply #1 - Posted 2012-05-28 18:07:35 »

I'm always walking into poles and falling off stuff

well just like in real life, you have to watch where you're going...


Do you think there is an argument for simpler game controls, at least as an option for those who don't want the power user interface?

I don't think so, it should be intuitive but powerful enough so you can do everything. ATARI had only one button because you couldnt do much in those games for example.
Think of nice third person games, Infamous for example: You can run and jump everything, shoot, throw stuff, independent of where you are going...
I mean, people who think this is complicated play wii, and just swing around and are happy something happens on screen...
But in a game, in which you want to be able to do exactly want you want do, you need control.

Offline Danny02
« Reply #2 - Posted 2012-05-28 18:15:30 »

Controls depend a lot on which game you want to make, for example when I compare the movement of a newer game like Call of Duty(or other modern Shooter) with Counterstrike the standard movement differs a lot. There is no Camera bobbing(?)(up and down movement which simulates running) in CS and you can stand on any surface even if it is only 1 pixel big. In these old-school game is also a lot of more "unrealistic" stuff like air-control(can change direction while in air after a jump) bunny hops and so on.

For some games this old-school behavior makes a lot of sens cause one can do a lot of cool tricks and moves and it is more precies especially in MP. On the other hand it can be bad for the atmosphere of the game, bunnyhopping around in a game like Deadspace would kill the mood^^
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Offline ags1

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« Reply #3 - Posted 2012-05-28 18:20:25 »

Yes control is good, but not too much! I'm relaxing, not learning to play the piano Smiley

On the subject of controls, I can't stand those games where the avatars jump around like fleas doing impossible acrobatics or (worst of all) jumping and changing direction in mid-air!

I think the restricted motion you had in Doom added to the atmosphere. You were heavy, gravity was real, you were only human. It wouldn't have been right if the Doom guy could jump ten feet up and do cartwheels with a gatling gun.

One thing Doom did lack was the ability to look up and down - which goes against my demand for simplicity, but you needed it sometimes. Monsters might be throwing fireballs at you from a balcony, but you couldn't look up/aim up to shoot at them. It would have been great to keep the simple orientation system of the game, with the small addition of look up/down.

Offline ra4king

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« Reply #4 - Posted 2012-05-28 21:32:14 »

Yes control is good, but not too much! I'm relaxing, not learning to play the piano Smiley
Whoa whoa whoa the piano is very relaxing. Angry

Concerning controls, since I play FPS's all the time (Battlefield 3 FTW!), I don't agree that controls are confusing. I used to play old FPS's too but I find today's controls are very intuitive and comfortable. It probably just depends on who you are.

Offline philfrei
« Reply #5 - Posted 2012-05-28 21:50:35 »

(warning -- topic hijack)
Thank you ra4king for that!

I just bought a Yamaha P-95 and am loving it. 88 keys, weighted. I should have done this years ago, it is so nice to be playing piano again.

But seriously, what a well-designed interface! I wonder what could be done with a computer keyboard if it allowed "touch sensitivity"? The keyboard really is a constraint if you are trying to add another "dimension" to play, such as tilt as suggested by ags1.

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Offline Mads

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« Reply #6 - Posted 2012-05-28 22:02:16 »

Depends on the game. Castlevania had really hard controls, and you had to be a ninja in order to use the jump-arcs. They were used in the game-design, and it was part of the insane difficulty level.
However, in MegaMan the design was completely different and the controls were easy - that didn't mean the game was easy though.

Different controls for different situations. Take a look at Super Castlevania too - that has really tight and easy controls, but that ruins the design around a difficult control-scheme. It's just too easy with awesomely accessible controls.

Offline ra4king

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« Reply #7 - Posted 2012-05-28 22:26:18 »

(warning -- topic hijack)
Thank you ra4king for that!

I just bought a Yamaha P-95 and am loving it. 88 keys, weighted. I should have done this years ago, it is so nice to be playing piano again.

But seriously, what a well-designed interface! I wonder what could be done with a computer keyboard if it allowed "touch sensitivity"? The keyboard really is a constraint if you are trying to add another "dimension" to play, such as tilt as suggested by ags1.
I have an upright piano, a Bergmann, and I love it Smiley
I'm a professional pianist btw Wink

Offline ReBirth
« Reply #8 - Posted 2012-05-29 00:21:19 »

In my experience, the most complicated game to control by me is Crysis. I mean, I should change my suit in a milisecond after running with blue to jump high with red.

But my real pain was Xbox controller. I remember I played Xbox for first time, and it's Halo, and I falled to cliff over 20 times before got into actual fight.

Offline ra4king

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« Reply #9 - Posted 2012-05-29 01:49:37 »

But my real pain was Xbox controller. I remember I played Xbox for first time, and it's Halo, and I falled to cliff over 20 times before got into actual fight.
No way, the Xbox/Xbox 360 controllers were the best and most comfortable controllers I've ever used in my life.

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Offline Cero
« Reply #10 - Posted 2012-05-29 01:54:17 »

On the subject of controls, I can't stand those games where the avatars jump around like fleas doing impossible acrobatics or (worst of all) jumping and changing direction in mid-air!
...
You were heavy, gravity was real, you were only human.

You're arguing different things here of course. How much control the player should have, obviously depends on the setting and what the character can actually do in the story.
If you have a superhero type person, you want him to be able to do incredible fast, cool, unrealistic and powerful shit.
In a simulation type game its different, although I am not a big fan of all these war simulation games...

If the setting is appropriate, players want to feel power, that they are in control, that they can do everything they want.
Of course in a survival horror game, part of the horror is that you can't even move that easily - like the resident evil / dead space games.

That being said, you're talking about FPS games here... I think it is not impossible to build an appealing FPS with limited controls...
However the FPS market is obviously like the hollywood of games, or rather the michael bay hollywood of games.
In that genre, people expect the same shit you see everywhere.
Thats obviously why we see so little change in AAA games and so much innovation in indie games.


But my real pain was Xbox controller. I remember I played Xbox for first time, and it's Halo, and I falled to cliff over 20 times before got into actual fight.
No way, the Xbox/Xbox 360 controllers were the best and most comfortable controllers I've ever used in my life.
Nope, they all suck. Even today. Try playing a game with the XBox360 d-pad, its horse shit. Xbox controllers are shit for arcade games.

Offline ra4king

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« Reply #11 - Posted 2012-05-29 02:26:14 »

But my real pain was Xbox controller. I remember I played Xbox for first time, and it's Halo, and I falled to cliff over 20 times before got into actual fight.
No way, the Xbox/Xbox 360 controllers were the best and most comfortable controllers I've ever used in my life.
Nope, they all suck. Even today. Try playing a game with the XBox360 d-pad, its horse shit. Xbox controllers are shit for arcade games.
To each his own then... Emo

Offline Cero
« Reply #12 - Posted 2012-05-29 02:35:38 »

But my real pain was Xbox controller. I remember I played Xbox for first time, and it's Halo, and I falled to cliff over 20 times before got into actual fight.
No way, the Xbox/Xbox 360 controllers were the best and most comfortable controllers I've ever used in my life.
Nope, they all suck. Even today. Try playing a game with the XBox360 d-pad, its horse shit. Xbox controllers are shit for arcade games.
To each his own then... Emo

well you know... the xbox controllers are descendants of the dreamcast controller, and even if you are a dreamcast fan, like I am, you know the controller was an abomination
and the d-pad is just so bad, I cannot even navigate the menus because the cursor jumps left or right when I push down... trying playing a fighting game which require precision inputs...
there is a reason the playstation controller stayed virtually the same ever since, because it was already perfect
although Saturn controller is pretty nice too

Offline ra4king

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« Reply #13 - Posted 2012-05-29 02:58:26 »

Playstation controller sucks ass.

I am a HUGE fan of Dreamcast, having 2 of them and over 100 games, but I do agree that its controller was an abomination. Grin

I don't know why you're arguing about the D-Pad, I've rarely come across a game that needed use of it. The Xbox 360 controller's D-Pad might be bad....but I don't care since I never touch it anyway XD

Offline sproingie

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« Reply #14 - Posted 2012-05-29 05:35:25 »

Playstation D-pad is a bit slow to work with but at least the separate buttons are precise.  The 360's D-pad is really just awful, but the sticks are great.  Sega Genesis had the best D-pad ever. 
Offline princec

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« Reply #15 - Posted 2012-05-29 09:15:51 »

What I've found is that the simpler a game's controls are, the more accessible it is to people, and the more people that get to enjoy your game. Purely in financial terms that means more money but from a karma perspective it means a little bit of extra joy in the world for more people and that's a big win for me.

The sheer success of Angry Birds (and Cut the Rope) should give you an idea of what can happen when you take the simplest control scheme possible and wave it under the noses of 50 million people.

Only just beyond Angry Birds in terms of complexity we have non-reflexive point-and-click games which sometimes involve a tiny bit of drag and drop; these too are incredibly accessible and lend themselves to huge mass market penetration and enjoyment. In this group we've got games like Farmville and Scrabble and all those hidden object games.

Then we move on to realtime control which immediately excludes about half the playing population right there. Many people simply do not have the hand-eye coordination to play reflexively, nor even the inclination to try. Even so you're still talking about a massive number of people who can potentially play your game and enjoy it. Plants vs Zombies is one of the simplest distillations of realtime point and click. At the other end of the spectrum you've got Revenge of the Titans and StarCraft, which though very complicated and probably very difficult games to actually master, are reasonably trivial to actually control in a basic fashion just using a mouse to point and click at buttons. All the extra buttons used - right mouse, scrollwheel, etc. - are all optional controls which are unnnecessary to actually play.

We can branch out explosively at this point into game control mechanisms which are basically "difficult" at this point, excluding huge swathes of potential target audience simply because they are, well, too hard for most people to master. I should remind the reader of my wandering post at this point that you are not most people. Twin-stick shooters and other controller-based schemes; WASD+Mouse-to-aim; pretty much any variation on those two control schemes augmented for 2D (Ultratron, Astro Tripper, Gravity Wars, Renegate Ops, Soldat), 2.5D (Doom), or full 3D (the entire FPS and TPS genre), with increasing complexity for each dimension further massively shrinking your potential market and the number of people who are going to enjoy the controls.

Then you get into just plain broken schemes like Arma II (I bought this specifically the other day to check out the Day Z mod but got on so badly with the irrelevantly complex control system that I stopped playing and never tried the mod). But the less said about that the better. Let's just say that if there's a genre your game appears to fit nicely into don't break the accepted wisdom of how control should work - i.e. in an FPS it's WASD to move, mouse to aim, LMB shoot, there's an interact key, etc.

Cas Smiley

Offline gimbal

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« Reply #16 - Posted 2012-05-29 12:11:20 »

What I've found is that the simpler a game's controls are, the more accessible it is to people, and the more people that get to enjoy your game. Purely in financial terms that means more money but from a karma perspective it means a little bit of extra joy in the world for more people and that's a big win for me.

Speaking as an avid gamer coming from retro times and still keeping the hobby strong today, I prefer the "context sensitive controls", as long as they're intuitive. In other words controls that change depending on the situation that the character is in in stead of having pre-defined buttons for each specific action you might do in the game. Space might be jump, but when you're facing a ledge it becomes climb, as a simple example.

Ah the times of Thief 2 where you had to use more than two handfuls of keys and key combinations to do all your stuff Smiley Still love the games, just not the controls Wink
Offline ReBirth
« Reply #17 - Posted 2012-05-29 12:13:41 »

Xbox controller is great, just need time to get used. However it is only good for FPS type. In other side, PS controller is bad for FPS.

Offline R.D.

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« Reply #18 - Posted 2012-05-29 12:26:08 »

People will also play games with complicated controls als long as they can handle them. Look at Assassin Creed. To Run you need to hold 3 Buttons xD
Offline Orangy Tang

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« Reply #19 - Posted 2012-05-29 12:31:00 »

Ah the times of Thief 2 where you had to use more than two handfuls of keys and key combinations to do all your stuff Smiley Still love the games, just not the controls Wink

Although interestingly Thief was (iirc) the first game to have a context-sensitive 'mantle' command on the jump button. I still don't know why more games haven't copied that idea. Instead we end up with knee-high walls everywhere we have to run around.  Angry

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Offline gimbal

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« Reply #20 - Posted 2012-05-29 12:39:21 »

Ah the times of Thief 2 where you had to use more than two handfuls of keys and key combinations to do all your stuff Smiley Still love the games, just not the controls Wink

Although interestingly Thief was (iirc) the first game to have a context-sensitive 'mantle' command on the jump button. I still don't know why more games haven't copied that idea. Instead we end up with knee-high walls everywhere we have to run around.  Angry

It works 50/50. Its great when you're standing on the ground and you want to mantle up somewhere; its not too great when you want to latch onto a ledge in mid-jump. However, Thief 3 handled that very well so it can be done right with the proper world structure.

That is for 3D games, 2D games should copy how Prince of Persia did it. Perfection (IMO).
Offline princec

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« Reply #21 - Posted 2012-05-29 14:38:17 »

Thief mantling is a perfect example of the developers understanding that a game is not a wrestling match with the controls. The controls are there to you help you achieve what the game will let you do; not get in the way. As many games nowadays attempt to tend towards realism it is a mistake to try and expound upon the control system to let you attempt to control every detail of what your avatar can act upon in the game world. In "Real Life" we do these things not without thinking but because we have had years and years and years of being immersed in an environment which requires our detailed interaction. You can't cram this into a game. Apart from your game world being hopelessly inadequate physically, a mouse and 100-odd keys is utterly incapable of replicating the hundreds of analogue-driven muscles you've learned to control with a thing so powerful we cannot even hope to replicate its function within our own lifetimes - that's your brain.

Games which are designed around mastery of controls are by and large of extremely limited appeal to a small minority of people, in the same way that being really good at ping-pong is of extremely limited appeal to most people. Platform games and shoot-em-ups are massively unpopular compared to their heyday now because of their total focus on reflexive control with reward largely and in many cases solely coming from mastery. This trick doesn't work any more.

So: instead we attempt to capture the intent of what the player wants to do, and then work out the best and most intuitive way to map this to the minimum possible number of controls, and even then, we do all sorts of little hidden things to make the player succeed in what they were trying to do if they're not quite got it right.

Cas Smiley

Offline sproingie

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« Reply #22 - Posted 2012-05-29 15:47:57 »

Mass Effect 3 got on the "mash butan" mechanic too: sprint, dive, cover, and mantle are all done with the spacebar.  The last two cause a bit of a problem if you mis-time it; I'd accidentally vault over cover instead of ducking behind it, and end up staring the enemy right in the face.  Oh well, that's what the omni-blade is for.  "Hi, name's Shepard, nice to meet you"  tinkletinklezrrrch *glitch*

Offline gimbal

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« Reply #23 - Posted 2012-05-30 09:31:16 »

That would be the disadvantage yes - too much of the same thing leads to "conflicts of interest".

Still I'm an advocate of being able to do all your repeating actions with at most two "action" buttons. I like how Limbo does it; only one "do something" button and the game never ever has to tell you when to use it. The game in stead invites you to try and do stuff by making you curious. There is something sticking out there that looks like I can pull or flip, let me try what happens... Hmm, the area is pretty much rounded but there I see a sharp corner, I can probably climb up there if I jump to it. Etc. etc. The controls there work because the world around you makes a whole lot of sense in stead of the other way around: the world starting to make sense because you understand your control capabilities.
Offline princec

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« Reply #24 - Posted 2012-05-30 09:59:24 »

To be honest one button control is best, but a lot of really nice little game designs spring forth from having two. I suppose this is why it's universally accepted that a two-button mouse is the norm. Oh wait, unless you're on a Mac...

Cas Smiley

Offline gimbal

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« Reply #25 - Posted 2012-05-30 10:10:16 »

To be honest one button control is best, but a lot of really nice little game designs spring forth from having two. I suppose this is why it's universally accepted that a two-button mouse is the norm. Oh wait, unless you're on a Mac...

Cas Smiley

True. Two, not three or more. As soon as games start to bind functions to a third button, I start looking for keys on the keyboard. On the other hand games that combine button presses (IE. hold right mouse button, click left one) don't bother me at all for some reason. As long as it sticks to two buttons.

I'm revising my statement: max two action buttons... per hand. Movement also counts as that is generally done with no more than two button presses at the same time (to move diagonally, to run or to sneak as examples of two button actions).
Offline Jimmt
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« Reply #26 - Posted 2012-05-30 15:11:20 »

But I hate the games where there's a different key for everything. Using the same keys/buttons might be more inconvenient, but it's a lot easier to remember and follow (like Doom).
Offline gimbal

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« Reply #27 - Posted 2012-05-31 08:29:08 »

But I hate the games where there's a different key for everything. Using the same keys/buttons might be more inconvenient, but it's a lot easier to remember and follow (like Doom).

Weird example. Not only was Doom itself far simpler than the average action game (no jumping, no sneaking, no looking up or down), it has a dedicated button for everything; shoot, run, strafe, activate, map, ...
Offline princec

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« Reply #28 - Posted 2012-05-31 08:37:16 »

Doom is perfection in FPS control for beginners. Quake consolidated the controls for all future FPS games to come.

Cas Smiley

Offline gimbal

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« Reply #29 - Posted 2012-05-31 09:51:23 »

Doom is perfection in FPS control for beginners. Quake consolidated the controls for all future FPS games to come.

Cas Smiley

I wish devs would relearn it again though - Quake was indeed near perfect. Don't need an action button to push buttons, just bump into them or shoot them. Brilliant!

Of course ID software learned it from Nintendo while doing Commander Keen, so we should all look at Mario to be honest.
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