Weird Controls are Good for You

What do you think of games like Octodad or Snake Pass, where most of the difficulty comes from dealing with odd controls?

What do you think of Call of Duty, God Hand, or Mario Odyssey, where most of the difficulty comes from dealing with odd controls?


Learning new control schemes is fun thing to do. All the control schemes we regularly use used to be awkward or confusing when we first encountered them, what do you think of the first time people played FPS games with a controller? Or the first time they played with a mouse? Or the first time they played FPS games at all? Every game was that way for all of us at some point.

What makes these control schemes so odd really is just unfamiliarity. These games are modeling specific types of interactions, and are these the worst controls they could have chosen to do that? Or the best controls? If you want to make a game about slithering like a snake, about gripping objects and wrapping around them, how else could you possibly build it?

Mark Brown did a pretty decent video explaining snakepass, and something he showed rather well was the progression from being bad at the game to coming to a fuller understanding of it, which I really like.

Weird control schemes are a bridge to modeling new types of interaction, and creating new, unfamiliar systems to learn about and develop competency in, which is what games are all about.

2 thoughts on “Weird Controls are Good for You

  1. Yujiri April 28, 2019 / 4:13 am

    This is interesting. I remember about a year ago I got out the old Obi-Wan game for the original XBox and played it again, since I had such nostalgia for it. I thought it was good but too easy. I tried to make my brother play it and he complained that the controls were bad and quit (it gives you tank-like controls where the left stick moves forward and backward and strafes and the right stick turns). I think I’ll link him to this article 🙂


  2. main_gi June 22, 2019 / 2:15 am

    I’ve kinda been on ‘both sides’ of this because I’ll often defend seemingly idiosyncratic control choices when they ‘make sense’. I can’t help but think that this article could apply to any control scheme choice though, which I would no longer defend. Stuff like “Oh hahahaha your movement is now backwards!” and that being passed off as a serious gameplay challenge. Or binds that require multiple presses while another button on the controller isn’t being used.

    Tangentially, I also dislike “minor” gameplay changes used as options for tuning gameplay, because I think they screw with muscle memory. Stuff like “this level gives 25% acceleration” should be reserved in very limited use, and you should never do stuff like “-5% movement speed”. Robot-Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball had something like this where you got like a -5% movespeed penalty for holding a ball, which is such a common state (you’re switching between holding no ball and holding a ball all the time) that it seems like nobody would notice but your actions get slightly less consistent.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s