Friday, August 17, 2012

Controller Style Confusion

I was playing Super Meat Boy the other day, or more likely, I was trying to play Super Meat Boy and since I don't have a USB or an xBox 360 controller for computer games, I was forced to use my keyboard.  The keyboard controls for SMB (Not that SMB), uses the arrow keys to move and the space bar to jump and shift to sprint.  I didn't make it through the first level.  I didn't like using the arrow keys to move, although, more specifically, I didn't like using  my right had for directional controls.  That last thought is what got me thinking, because that's a contradictory statement based on my controller preferences for games on other systems.

I started my video gaming life playing the Intellivision and the Atari 2600 and for both of those systems, I played right hand directional control and left hand/fingers buttoning.  With the advent of the NES controller, that all flipped to left handed directional pad and right handed for buttons.  Despite the apparent flip in hand orientation, this layout seemed very intuitive and I never questioned it.  With Goldeneye 007 on the N64, you were allowed to customize the N64 controller so you could decide which buttons moved you, meaning either the directional C-pad or the joy stick.

So now we'll go through the differing control styles that I seem to favor and if there's a reason why.

Consoles Games
The majority of games on consoles and hand held consoles are played by moving around with the directional pad with the left hand or the analogue stick and button mashing with the right hand.  The exception for me though is with FPS'.

When Turok: Dinosaur Hunter came out on the N64, I was pretty new to FPS'.  I had played a bit of Doom and Castle Wolfenstein, but only very little, and only enough to know that I didn't like that you could only look left and right, but not up or down.  But with Turok, my world was opened, and I gladly entered.  The controls for Turok were that you moved with the C-pad and looked around with the joystick, which is what I used when I began playing Goldeneye, which had an even greater amount of semi-customizable (new word) control styles and I quickly fell in love with 1.2 Solitaire, the same controls as Turok.

What drew me to moving with the C-pad buttons, controlled with the left hand instead of the joystick which would be controlled with the right hand, was the fact that I felt that I had more control when looking with the joystick and the C-pad felt very stilted.  Granted, moving with the joystick, you could go between walking and running, but I felt that was a bit unnecessary.

Oh yes, and the y-axis controls (up/down) had to be inverted.  Why?  It just felt more natural for me.

This control style held true for the other FPS' that I've played on consoles, which coincidentally were also made either by Rare or those who split off from Rare to create Free Radical: Perfect Dark, TimeSplitters, TimeSplitters 2 and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect.  Additionally, any time that I play any FPS' on a console, I always have to go to the controller customization and tinker around until I can move with the left joystick and look with the right and making sure that the controls are inverted.

The only problem I've run into with the above mentioned control scheme was with Halo and Left 4 Dead II, both games had the ability to jump which took my right thumb off the movement controls to be able to jump. I don't recall if there was complete button customization or presets to choose from, but I remember that I wasn't happy with the control set up.  Oh, and with Perfect Dark: Zero, which only had one control scheme and it was something that I didn't like and couldn't get used to.  I think I fired a single shot, opened one door and turned the game off.

PC Gaming
Control styles in PC games can be a bit more varied, but my preference for "moving" is with the WASD keys.  Going back to SMB, I can't stand moving by using the arrow keys with my right hand.  I feel very uncoordinated and clumsy.  However, with platformer PC games, I still feel very clumsy using WASD with my fingers instead of using a directional pad with my thumb.  I mean I could probably fumble my way through SMB with either the arrow or WASD controls, but it would take a lot of frustrating time.  Think going through Super Metroid with only WASD for movement.  However, with VVVVVV,  despite the fact that I haven't beaten the game yet, I find using the arrow keys to move around very easy to get used to.

As for FPS' on the PC, it's all about WASD for moving and the mouse for looking.  With the mouse y-axis being inverted.

Huh.  I guess it's slightly simpler than I had previously thought.  But when playing any game, on any system, I know that I might have to tinker around with the controls to suit my personal taste.  And when transitioning between say, Doom III and Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Which I like a lot more than Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and I'll cover at a later date), I know that my brain won't have any troubles moving from one control style to the next.

up-up-down-down-left trigger-right trigger-left trigger- right trigger-b-a-select-start

And now I present to you the ultimate in controller design:
It can only be called "Awesome."


  1. That's RIGHT, I forgot! Turok was where we first discovered the Solitaire style. Which was why I went straight to that control style when Goldeneye came out. Turok was a pretty good game. Underrated I would say. I never did play Turok II, did you?

    I think that using the keyboard, WASD or Arrow Keys, is just no good for platformers. I used to not like WASD because it confused me, but after playing a couple games with it, I tend to agree that it is the preferable replacement for the control pad, most especially when combined with a mouse (How I play Portal).

    WASD is good for minimal platforming only. SMB is a full-on platformer, requiring very precise movement and timing. Great game; no way to play it effectively with a keyboard. But don't worry, I think you'll find that this won't be a problem for you for long.

  2. I completely forgot about Turok when I started writing this. And I did play the first level of Turok II, but I didn't like the look of the dinosaur hybrid creature things and I couldn't really tell what they were and what I was trying to kill.

  3. I'm glad you remembered. Turok was a pretty cool game at a time when I had only about one toe in the FPS pool.