Control Schemes

How important are controls? Do you deal with awkward control schemes or is that something you have no patience for?
It depends on the game. Awkward control schemes can be annoying to pick up, in general it makes more sense to stick to something standard. Mastering an awkward control scheme can be rewarding, but fighting with an awkward control scheme is a pain in the ass. You want to make the action as direct as possible, so players can put their attention on the game rather than necessarily the controls.

On the flip side, a weird control scheme can work for some games in ways that a less awkward one just wouldn’t. Like God Hand, Mirror’s Edge, and Dark Souls. Dark souls wouldn’t make sense with its left hand right hand thing without putting the various weapon and shield options on the shoulder buttons in my opinion. God Hand doesn’t really work without the tank controls given how the movement options work, it creates this feeling of commitment that you don’t get in a lot of other action games.

Awkward control schemes that I don’t think worked include The Witcher 2, I think their weird softlock, directional sword swings, and other business was more confusing and communicated information poorly than functional. MGS3’s crawling controls seizing up along the ground and the difficulty between stance changes made things irritating (though I generally like the game otherwise) Also having the button for holding someone in a CQC lock be pressure sensitive and have you slit their throat for pressing too hard, I just don’t think that was a good idea at all. Another bad design decision was having to press both R3 and L3 in MGR to go into jack the ripper mode. Makes it annoying to do in the middle of attacks.

Sometimes a nonstandard control scheme can help define a game, and sometimes it ends up being awkward and hard to adapt to. You want options to be readily accessible to the player and for it to flow from an intuitive model of the game’s operation, not to have them get confused and forget where things are, or press the wrong button in the wrong context. At the same time, the controls will be dependent and reflect on how the game operates, choosing to have the player defend themself by a button press and smashing the stick in the direction of the incoming attack is a unique control decision that helped define and set MGR apart from other action games. Same for how they forced you to commit to that defense. Similar deal in Mirror’s Edge with the large number of contextual actions for each button, especially the jump button, and requiring turning around as an actual key to make their movement system work, then having complicated wallrun chains with all the turnarounds. Doesn’t flow from prior understanding, but it’s necessary to the design of the game.

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