The Language of the Controller.

Something I have been pondering from the start is the concept of a game controller. As these tools are the medium that translates the players thoughts and instincts into action on a screen. These devices are essensial to understand the concept of Game Feel.
As I have experimented with many different controllers and input during this project I feel this topic is worth discussing.

Steve Swink says that Game Feel is:
“Real-time control of virtual objects in a simulated space, with interactions emphasized by polish” however after pondering that it also could be defined as “Visual feedback that fufills the players expectations expressed by the input provided by the player”. This definition places more importance to game controllers role to game feel. The circle of gameplay goes player thinks on what they see on the screen and react to that by inputs, the inputs then changes what’s on the screen so the player has something new to react to. Removing one of these 3 components and there won’t be a video game anymore.



When a player uses a gamepad they first have to get used of the physicality and mindset of it all. You don’t walk or run forward in a physical space with a traditional controller but presses a stick or a button and that is a scarp difference. However after playing enough the player doesn’t mind it all and projects the experience without thinking on the controller. Without this there wouldn’t be Game Feel. There has been experiments trying to give more physicality like the Kinect and Wii.
These attempts have lead to many core players complaining on these games is destroyed due to the controllers while the actions preformed with these devices is closer to real life it feels less natural a sense of a “Uncanny Valley”. Developing devices like Occulus Rift and Omni (a walking platform) is also trying to expand what a controller can be.

Most controllers (except for Steel Battalion) is designed to work for as many games as possible so even when the controllers are the same it will feel different depending on how the game works. As every game will have it’s own meaning on what the buttons and sticks that creates the tongue of that game. Even inside the game the meaning of the button can change depending on the context. For an example in a console FPS moving the right stick up makes you go forward while in the menu it will move the menu pointer up and down instead.

I can much about what the standard control schemes is but that’s not all that interesting. What’s more interesting is why they are blinded to these buttons. Most of these like pushing up to move up in menus is pretty obvious but there is others that’s not. Usually a button forms a command to say to the game like “JUMP” and”Shot”.  Some positions try to reflect real life actions like pushing trigger buttons to drive or brake trying to emulate real life actions. This idea has grown in popularity in the last 10 years. Other is much harder as there is no close real life equivalent on a game pad like “Swing a sword” and “Talk”. However even if the commands is the same the response speed , visuals and actions might differ slightly making some feel better than others.

Awareness of this phenomenon is very important as being aware of this means that you know why you set the buttons in those positions or copy from others.  I might post more about this in the future.



The Language of the Controller.

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