Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Gaming Thread: Controls

One of the quickest ways to ruin a game is crappy controls. If you're struggling to get your character from one side of the screen to the other for reasons other than copious obstacles, no one's going to care how good the graphics are or how deep the story is. So, this is an open gaming thread about what sort of control schemes you love or hate for various genres, though I'm mostly interested in platforming at this particular moment.

Platforming no-nos:
Up as jump: It can work if you get used to it, but I find it irritating, especially since you can accidentally push it while you're moving left and right during frantic two-sided moments. It also gets annoying to jump upwards when you're trying to do some form of interaction, like going through doors or looking at signs.

Dash as A/Circle: To use SNES terms, I tend to see the configuration of Y=Attack, B=Jump, and A=Dash. I hate that, because while I'm running all over the place, I need to be able to keep both jumping and attacking as options, and I can't do that on the typical diamond button formation. One time I left that configuration on for Mega Man X3, and compensated by twisting my index finger around to press A to double air dash while I used my thumb to hold my X-Buster charge and jump. One of my friends was quite impressed by the uncomfortable trick. Since then, I always move Dash to an R button.

Platformers that did well:
Most Mega Man games I've played. Early games had it simple with just the two buttons. One for jump, down and jump for a slide. Other button fires and hold for charged shots. The X series added some complexity with the dashing that dipped into one of those no-nos, but they did let you reconfigure.

Bionic Commando: I loved how they handled the bionic arm. Moving around with that thing was tight once you got the hang of it. At times, I forgot about the concept of jumping, since I didn't need it.

Mario, most of the time: Having run and attack be the same button in these games generally works fine: Mario's more about jumping than shooting, especially since jumping on things is a favored attack.

Shmup Yes-Yeses:
Slow button: I don't play too many Bullet Hell shmups, but I found this extremely useful for rRootage. When you need to thread the eye of the needle, it comes in handy for aiding precision.

Variable speeds: For other shooters, I love the option of increasing/decreasing speed at will. For the open areas, you can max it out or lower it for tight squeezing through obstacle-intensive spots.

FPS games: ...Don't have that many preferences, since I don't play these very often. Does get really annoying when you have the occasional FPS that hasn't gotten the memo about being able to strafe and turn at the same time.

So, anything you'd like to add?


Tom Foss said...

If FPS is going to have a lock-on targeting system, it needs to be rigid, quick to change targets, and smart enough to go for nearby enemies rather than crates fifty yards away--Metroid Prime is a generally good example of this done right.

MP is an example of an FPS no-no, though, as well--first-person platforming. It's a common complaint, but for good reason: it doesn't work.

Also, there's a goldilocks zone for camera/aiming controls. It's easy for it to be way too sluggish or way too sensitive, so you're swinging your gun all around every time you try to shoot things.

Totally agreed about up-as-jump and 'run' as anything besides a trigger.

Bronze Dog said...

Metroid Prime's in an odd place with me, sometimes. I like to be able to strafe and turn easily when I'm inspecting a spot. I could deal with the platforming elements, personally, but when I was still getting used to it in #1, I loved the X-ray visor, not for the expected features, though: Color equaled distance.

I hope they decide to release another 2D series of it. One thought I had about post-Fusion Samus was to have her suit metamorphose to develop new abilities, rather than pick up all the Chozo artifacts they seem to have littered everywhere she happens to go.

On platforming controls: For my Untitled Platformer at GDL, I've kind of settled on the characters having three weapons each by the end of the game. The way it's looking for controls so far: 3 weapon buttons, Action/Run button, Jump. Up is for entering doors. In SNES terms, how does this sound?: Y, X, L = Weapons 1, 2, and 3. B = Jump. A = Action button. R = Run button.

Don said...

I think if first-person platforming is to be effective, you must be able to see your character's body, legs, and feet. This is why I'm looking forward to the day I go out and buy Mirror's Edge. It's not that FPS platforming is intrinsically bad, it's just that it's fucking impossible if you have no physical reference point.

A note on general 3D control: I like the control scheme of 3D platformers and action-RPGs far more than the klunkiness of Resident Evil games and early Tomb Raiders. That is, left on the stick moving you left is far superior to left on the stick turning you slowly left, and then forward moving you in whichever direction you're looking. That's just total crap.

Of course, now more and more games are going Over The Shoulder, which is basically FPS one step removed, and controls the same with either mouse and keyboard or two joysticks. I think this is a good thing for lots of games, but not all.

My general rule is if it seems like it would be far easier to perform the action in real life than it is in the game, the guys doing the design probably fucked something up.