23 March 2018

The Importance of satisfying control.

   It goes without saying that satisfying controls can make or break some games, however this topic is extremely deep, as a definition of satisfying control could mean many things, and is entirely subjective. In this article, I wish to discuss the definition of satisfying control, and provide analysis on good and bad examples of it, and what we can learn from them.

   When we talk about satisfying controls, we mean to ask three questions. Do the actions have believable forces acting on them, do the actions feel responsive, and are the controls mapped to reasonable buttons on the controller. If you can truthfully answer these questions in a possitive light, it will be a solid step up for your game. Any one of these missing can significantly hurt your game, and sadly when everything is as it should be, people just won't notice it unless you know what you are looking for.

   For the first question, a perfect example to discuss is Ori and the Blind Forest. Every movement feels real, you moving left to right, there are no stuttering animations, no now glitchey movements, however what there is, is gravity keeping the character on the ground, there is momentum in the fast, powerful enemy charging, there is a push behind the protagonists dash, you grip into walls with the wallwalking abilites, you brush past vines and leaves as you pass... subsequently the world feels as complex and alive as the real world. Everything makes sense for you, and THAT is satisfying to play.

   Similarly, examples of this done badly are countless indie games that, whilst a lot of these are still fine games for other reasons, some examples of games lacking that substance would be indie games like Paladins, and older games like Demon's souls. Starting with the former, a lot of the weapons in the game just kinda, exist. You don't feel like you're shooting a gun, it feels like you're playing laser tag. The animations lack movement and energy. Demon's souls, a lot of the weapons lacked weight, theu felt light as a feather. When you attacked with them you didn't feel the weapon behind your swing, it felt like a papier mache prop you were bludgeoning people with. These games are still great in their own right, however it is still important to murder our darlings once in a while.

   For a game to feel responsive, it's all about timings. The less time between an action occuring and the command to initiate it, the more responsive he control. Good examples of responsive games would be games like Hollow Knight, where everything has little to no start or end lag. You're in total control of your character, and if you mess up it's your fault, less than the games. Whilst it is worth mentioning you can absolutely use a longer animation with more lag to add emphasis and meanimg to an action, however those are two seperate things entirely to responsiveness.

   An example of a game that feels unresponsive, would be DotA2, where even majority of heroes suffer from a delay and lag on just turning around and walking in the other direction. This makes the game feel slower and clunkier. Whether thats a good thing or not is subjective, it works for some people, less so for others. 

   The final category, button mapping, is somethong that isn't really a problem anymore. A mixture between devs learning from past mistajes, and cobtrollers being more tailored for their platforms. Things like trigger buttons for guns and car's is intuitive, thibgs like a face button for each type of attack in a fighting game, they just fit. I could likely name any game in the past year and say why its controls are really smart.

   On the contrary however, we have to look at some older games such as the Sly Cooper game series. The first 2 games have an inverted camera you can't change. You make an instinctual move for camera left and get camera right. This takes you out of the moment qith the game, while you gather your bearings on the situation.

   In conclusion, there is a lot behind making a game fhat is satisfying to control. The Ori: and the Blind Forest's and Hearthstones of the world have had some serious thought put behind them, they weren't just crazy coincedences, and it's a field almost every genre from Platforners to RPG's to Bullethells to Rythme games can learn from.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree about controls being vital to gameplay, especially action-oriented, but certainly not important in story-driven games like Life Is Strange. So it makes sense that most games offer customizable mapping. But you'll be surprised that some AAA titles still don't let you button map, which is why I was very impressed with Ys VIII:Lacrimosa of Dana, where you can literally map any button you want to any action.

    The most prominent game that has really unintuitive controls is the universally praised Zelda:Breath of the Wild, clearly an AAA title. I believe you can only map the jump button, and the other control schemes were very unintuitive. I'm sure with emulation, you can fix that, but let's be real here. Clearly Nintendo as the publisher doesn't want anyone to pirate their games and run emulators on it, so by saying you can bypass through emulation is not a "correct" or "legal" response, so it fits squarely on the publisher's fault for not considering button mapping.

    I believe that Xbox is coming out with a new controller that really is for all the players, as it's made for people with disabilities. Playstation, in system management, allows you to change circle for square and so forth, so that can get around games that lack button mapping. Ideally, I'm hoping that Playstation and Nintendo will follow Xbox's lead. It's time for all game developers to allow full customization so everyone can enjoy video gaming.