Control Freak: The Evolution, Progression, Variety & Argument of Game Controls

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Posted by XNEXUS666X (99 posts) -

Over the years we've seen many changes and advancements in game controllers across all platforms, from PC, to console and handhelds and even arcade machines just for the hell of it. Obviously we're all aware that varying games require specific controls, but with home devices we see a few crossovers, and each player has their own preference.

To avoid a long history lesson, let's start from the first NES, we had the most basic of gamepads, then later as games evolved we saw the arrival of analog sticks, made popular with the N64 and soon after by the Playstation. It seemed to be when more games became 3D that we needed a controller that had more than four directions on console, and it really did help bring us into those new worlds which now had more depth and were viewed from a first or third person perspective, so the type of controller we see on current and last gen Playstations & Xboxes have seemed to be the industry standard for well over a decade now.

For a moment back when the Nintendo Wii was released, I though this would be the next evolution in game controls, even for first person shooters, but instead it seemed to have stayed exclusively with the original Wii and with the end of production on the system it seems we'll never see it on any other system, since the WiiU seems to have gone back to the more regular controller with a screen essentially. Perhaps with the WiiU nunchuck, it was that it required more physical input to operate, which obviously limits it to specific and niche games and there's no doubt it had it's market in the family fun section, not that that's a bad thing, it's just not going to be the standard device to navigate the more broad, mainstream or hardcore game.

Since the release of touch screen smartphones, we've seen games being played on these devices, also incorporating gyro and motion controls, which I hate with a passion. Although the new technology might be good for simple commands, it's very clunky when trying to play a game like GTA or some kind of shooter, it get's even worse when they want you to wave your phone around like an idiot to look around on screen or something equally inconvenient. Even with the PS Vita and Uncharted: Golden Abyss, I was forced to wave the device around to balance while walking across a log, since you're most likely to be using your handheld on public transport or on a plane, I don't wanna be attracting any attention to myself by waving my arms around like a freak. But with the release of analog controllers for smartphones increasing, fortunately mobile gaming can still be salvaged to a respectful level, and I think it's worth it considering since I can get a better GTA game on my iPhone for cheaper than say Vice City Stories on the Vita.

But the main debate I always seem to become engaged in (and #1 purpose of this rant) is the argument of keyboard & mouse Vs controller. Since it really does boil down to personal preference in the end, and anyone serious enough about defending their claim of superiority could quite possibly be retarded, (when dealing with the element of opinion) but I understand that both have pros and cons. Let's start with PC players claiming the mouse to be superior for first person shooters. Yes, I bet the mouse is quicker, you point and click, it's very easy indeed, but to move around with flat keys (WASD) that have no speed sensitivity cannot be better than a left analogue stick, one thumb is assigned to this task, and it works a charm. So in my opinion, what you gain in aiming quickly, you lose with the chunkiness of a keyboard to control your crawling/walking/running. Speed and movement is all controlled with one stick, rather than multiple keys and tapping for varied speed, so I think this is a logical and more efficient improvement. I'm not going to go through all the arguments, because quite frankly it gets silly, so I'll try to summarise why I like the current console controller, in particular the Xbox One controller right now. I grew up with controllers, I like having one tidy little unit in my hand, where each digit is ergonomically positioned to each button/stick/trigger. I like slouching on my couch in front of my TV when I get home from work, rather than sitting in front of another desk for entertainment. I just prefer the convenience and comfort of a controller and I can use it in almost any position I choose to sit, rather than being bound to a desk.

So now with the Steam Machines on the way, and their new design controller (that could just incorporate the right elements of new and old technology), I still see that there is room for improvement over both kbm & controller. You need to understand, a keyboard and mouse wasn't designed for games initially, it's just the common tools that everyone uses to operate a computer. Of course the controller has it's limitations even though it's ever evolving. But the Steam controller may just have arrived at the right time for me, since I enjoy my gaming on consoles mainly, but believe that PC's offer a more practical platform in an era of rapid technological progression, it seems stupid to own a piece of hardware that can't be upgraded when software developments steadily progress.

I have to say I'm excited and scared about the Steam controller, since I'm building my own PC (for a few casual titles and media), the Steam controller is promising broad control capabilities, that might encompass more non (conventional) controller enabled PC titles, and has unofficially become the bridge over the gap between the PC and living room, so obviously a device like this seems ideal for someone like me who refuses to sit at another desk after work. But as with anything new, it can be hit & miss. Although my fingers are crossed and hoping it does work as well as it seems, there's still a part of me that thinks 'is this just going to be another piece of technology that got a little too excited by new developments and not actually deliver the precision that's required for most games now?' I hope that's not the case though, either way, work is quiet at the moment and my coffee was strong!

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#1 Edited by sirkibble2 (941 posts) -

Your analysis of keyboard and mouse controls comes off as if you haven't played with them but you criticize it as if you have. Leave out the armchair analysis because there are plenty of people who've adapted to the PC to play even controller oriented games just fine on keyboard and mouse.

I do hope the Steam controller is good but so far I'm not into the idea of having trackpads as my thumbsticks. One of the nice things about thumbsticks is that they don't lift off the stick. Your thumbs will with trackpads just like if you're using a mouse with a super small mouse pad. The overall concept can work but judging what I'm hearing from press, it's not receiving a ton of praise.

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#2 Edited by Ish_basic (4692 posts) -

Moving with M/KB in an FPS is not cumbersome at all. In fact I find turning and moving about generally easier and quicker with M/KB. Now if you introduce precision jumping or platformer style elements, everything goes to shit.

Really it's a game by game deal. I use a controller a lot playing PC games (specifically the 360 controller). Some games, like Witcher 2, are just so much easier to play with a controller. But then if I'm playing an RTS or certain MMOs or any kind of game where I need a lot of functions at my disposal at any one time, then I go with my KB and a mouse that has 17 buttons on it. Whatever feels right, basically.

The only time I have issues is when I have a game that features gameplay that is sometimes better served with KB/M and sometimes a controller. Like jump puzzles are becoming quite the trend in MMOs. I'd rather play these games with a KB/M only these jump puzzles drive me nuts when I do. Like datacron hunting in ToR. **** YOU, BIOWARE, IT'S NOT A PLATFORMER!...*adjusts collar* aherm..excuse me. But yeah, hate when games do that.