Controls are the most important aspect of how you interface with a game. They come in all shapes and sizes but sometimes they aren’t ideal for the player.
Sometimes controls can be weird. Or fun. Or intuitive. Sometimes they can be downright bad.
Now for reference when talking about “Controls” in this context I am referring strictly to the device in your hands that you use to move the player controlled object and interface with the game, not the actual movement of a character, as that’s an entirely different discussion.
So why do controls matter? Well it’s simple. If the way you are playing the game isn’t comfortable, then…well you won’t have as much fun, obviously. This is down to a few things, namely preference, necessity, and layout.
For instance with controller layouts, there are some that just end up with your hand like a pretzel, the immediate thought being Terraria on PS3. That is definitely a doable experience but is in no way optimal, given the game and it’s design is based around a keyboard layout.
For preference, let’s take aiming in a FPS or Third-Person Shooter. Using an analog stick for this, while doable, is miles from using a mouse or gyroscopic aiming. For note, in Splatoon I use gyro controls for aiming with the analog stick being reserved solely for minor movements on the x axis. Attempting to play something like DOOM (2016) on PS4, while certainly doable, feels slow and clunkier compared to a mouse or gyro. Most likely this is an issue with precision and how fast a mouse/your arm can move compared to an analog stick. Sure, sensitivity adjustment helps, but on an analog stick you lose the ability to stop precisely. You’ll aim in a direction pretty quickly, but stopping where you want is a hassle.
Another famous anecdote from across the web is that keyboard and mouse is “Superior”. Now, this is true: But it depends on the game. I can wholeheartedly say playing a 3D platformer with a keyboard is the definition of a nightmare, and actually crosses with something I’ll bring up on a personal level later. But something like ARMA III, you won’t play that in any way other than a keyboard, out of necessity.
And now we come to the personal anecdote, and I realise that most likely no one else will ever play this game in this way, but it works for me.
So I was gifted Overwatch on PC by a friend and after many months of just…well never booting it really, I finally gave it an honest go, keyboard and mouse. And I hated it. The main complaint I had is both personal and one I have stemming from consoles.
So my personal complaint is that keyboard and mouse is just uncomfortable for me. My right hand has injuries that make prolonged mouse use not fun and my left hand doesn’t mesh well to a keyboard for jumping between inputs on a moments notice given the sheer volume of keys.
The issue stemming from console gaming is actually that of the D-pad. See, WASD at the end of the day on most keyboards is basically a D-pad. The keys are digital, meaning they are either on or off. There are no precise movements like those gained with an analog stick (And Overwatch does in fact have this built in, just you can’t do it with most keyboards), and another huge problem is that Overwatch is a game in a 3D Space, that is based heavily around movement.
Now for the life of me, no matter what it is, I can’t stand the imprecision of digital movement in a 3D space. 2D is more bearable, but in 3D there is more precise movements to be made, due to the nature of the space. Further to that, using WASD is effectively using a D-pad (Only not in an exact + formation, which I admit is fun for muscle memory in 2D games!). You have what is ultimately 8 directions of movement, via 4 digital buttons. It’s a D-Pad in principle. And in Overwatch, as I started to play it, I found not only was I mis-clicking, but also suffering from awkward movement, and my hands were aching. This was a truly miserable experience.
So, with some Discord game development friends they suggested I try a controller. Now that would mean I have to aim with a stick, but we gave it a shot. Now I don’t own an Xbox branded controller anymore (Because of my hand issues that right analog stick is discomfort incarnate) so we went to my next best thing – My default PC controller: The Switch Pro Controller.
And It’s not supported by Overwatch (Figures, it’s a DInput controller not XInput) but we whipped out some keybinding software, and have it an honest go. Movement with an analog stick, despite still being digital at the end of the day, felt better due to how the analog moves compared to, again, 4 buttons in a 3D Space. So my movement grievances were solved! But then came the aiming.
Never map a mouse to an analog stick. Just don’t. That’s a sensitivity mess that just doesn’t work, as you map the free movement of mouse to a more limited stick.
So we ended up (And props to Nintendo for making Joy-Con individual controllers) a controller setup now dubbed “Controller and Mouse”. And my God, does it work.
So on the Joy-Con I mapped Jump to ZL, Ability 1 and 2 to ZR and Up, Ultimate to a click of the Stick, and reload to SL where my finger rests. On the mouse is just Fire and Ability 3/Alt Fire where applicable. This obviously requires reconfiguring based on which hero I use, but man. The free aim of the mouse and movement of the Joy-Con has opened this game up to me.
Is this ideal? Probably not. I’m sure Blizzard wants me using keyboard and mouse but again, if you aren’t comfortable in playing the game, you want to stop playing. I was determined to give Overwatch a go, and I did, and I really enjoy it. I don’t love it, but it’s fun.
And across the internet you can find people using special controllers, really kickass fighting game players who are blind, some who swear by fight sticks, and hell, you can even find Super Smash Bros. Melee players who use the Gamecube controller…upside down! That controller is still supported in the series to this day.
Controls are a huge factor of a game: The single most important if you ask me. If the game is unintuitive or uncomfortable to play, people will seek a work around where possible.
What do our readers think? Leave a comment down below with any games you had hard times controlling, or crazy control schemes you’ve seen, and as always, share the article and happy gaming! 🙂