PDA

View Full Version : PC Gaming Control Schemes and Oncreen Prompts



thegooseking
30-10-2011, 05:13 PM
This is something a lot of games get wrong, but without reason. It shouldn't be too hard to get a consensus of how to do it right. So let's discuss it, and see what we can come up with. I've listed some of my particular bugbears below. I don't think anyone's going to disagree that they're bad, but I want to hear how people think they should be corrected.

Don't tell me to press the wrong key!
Ah, Mass Effect 2. You pointlessly changed your control system from Mass Effect 1, which was piss-poor from a usability perspective in itself, but what happens when I remap the control scheme to be the same as ME1? All your onscreen prompts tell me to press the default key for that action, not the one that is actually correct. What's worse is when you co-opt an action's key for a different action, and I have to guess whether I actually should press the key you're saying, or whether I should press the key that I mapped to the action that was by default mapped to the key you're saying. This is stupid.

But at least tell me to press a key!
I got this one from Mini Ninjas, but I'm sure it's not the only game that does it. Being sensitive to the fact that it's ported to PC, and that PC gamers might want to remap their controls, it helpfully tells me onscreen to "press the 'action' key". Right. Which one's the action key? I only have 103 keys to choose from! It seems like they're trying to circumvent the problem of telling me to press the wrong key, but they're actually making it worse.

Disassociate! Disassociate! Disassociate!
A lot of games have been encouraged by Grand Theft Auto to allow play in multiple contexts (e.g. on foot; in vehicle etc.) and the controls will be different in different contexts. So, Just Cause 2, I would like to use the spacebar for jumping when I'm on foot, and for the handbrake when I'm in a car. What? What do you mean I can't? You mean the key that I use for jumping has to be the same key I use for bailing out of the car? What stupidity is this? This one's a little different from the other points, though, because it's not even limited to PC gaming; this is a problem on consoles as well, albeit a lesser one.

But I'm not using an Xbox 360 controller!
In a lot of games, this is the horrible "Press Start" on the title screen. But it gets worse in games like FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage, where it tells me to 'Press A' to accept a menu option and 'Press B' to cancel. A and B are not exactly intuitive menu keys on a keyboard. As an aside, FlatOut has another problem that seems common to racing games; if I remap my keyboard controls, I want that to remap how I race; not how I navigate the menus. Not including mouse support is bad enough, but I want to press enter to select a menu option, not whichever key I happen to have bound to accelerate (especially if the menu is vertical and I've bound accelerate to W).

But I am using an Xbox 360 controller!
This was Alice: Madness Returns. I can live with it telling me to 'Press Enter' on the title screen (though the fact that it tells me to do so twice is rather curious) even though I have an Xbox 360 controller in my hand, but the in-game chalkboard tutorials tell me how to do specific things with a mouse and keyboard, even though I've been playing the whole game with an Xbox 360 controller, and that's curiouser and curiouser. It's nice that they've made the effort to make these assets PC-friendly, but they already had the Xbox 360 controller assets, so why can't we get them, too?

Have you ever seen a human hand?
Back to keyboard controls now. Rockstar is guilty of this, with its PC ports of GTA: San Andreas and Bully. Like 70%-90% of the world, I am right-handed. Repeatedly hammering a key with my left pinky, the weakest finger on my weaker hand, in order to sprint is not something I am prepared to do. Mercifully, I can remap it (in GTA:San Andreas, I actually mapped RMB to sprint, and used LCtrl for aiming; in Bully I just gave up until I could use an Xbox 360 controller), but it's simply not a default that works for humans. (I think in GTA IV, you only have to hold Shift to sprint if you're using a keyboard, but still have to repeatedly tap A if you're using a controller, so apparently Rockstar got something right in that PC port.)

So that's how to do it wrong. If you have anything to add, that's cool, but I also want to hear about what you think about how to do it right.

slick_101
30-10-2011, 05:20 PM
I'm with you about not using an xbox controller. I actually got fed up of The last Remnant because it was still telling me to press X and Y. So I gave up and brought the controller. I paid more money for it than the actual game!. Oh well.

sinister agent
30-10-2011, 05:33 PM
Very picky of me, but I wish games that do recognise a 360 controller (eg: Just Cause 2 and GTA 4, which as a bonus let you combine the two if you wanted to, although they didn't give proper reconfiguration options. Which even the bloody Spectrum did 25 years ago) would allow me to specifically deactivate it. I like to use xpadder, see, which lets me assign any keyboard/mouse function to any button on the controller, but I can't do that in GTA 4 because it still registers the defaults as well. Quite annoying.

Althea
30-10-2011, 05:37 PM
I'm with you about not using an xbox controller. I actually got fed up of The last Remnant because it was still telling me to press X and Y. So I gave up and brought the controller. I paid more money for it than the actual game!. Oh well.
You know, I was a little annoyed when I had to pick up my controller (GTA IV's helicopter sections were the reason why), but to be honest I'd say it's one of the best purchases I've made. I'm using it rather happily in Venetica, I use it for Fable 3, and with games like Pyschonauts it's a must.

Alone in the Dark was an offender too, gooseking. The game kept giving me 360 control prompts despite having no controller at the time.

Oh, I've got another one for you:
If I have a controller attached, don't lock out the keyboard
Some games like New Vegas default to the controller. That really gets my goat. I prefer what Arkham Asylum, Grand Theft Auto IV and Fable III do in that the changes are seamless. I can fly a helicopter in GTA IV with the gamepad, land, get out and start shooting with the mouse. It's brilliant how smooth the transition is.

thegooseking
30-10-2011, 05:59 PM
Oh, I've got another one for you:
If I have a controller attached, don't lock out the keyboard
Some games like New Vegas default to the controller. That really gets my goat. I prefer what Arkham Asylum, Grand Theft Auto IV and Fable III do in that the changes are seamless. I can fly a helicopter in GTA IV with the gamepad, land, get out and start shooting with the mouse. It's brilliant how smooth the transition is.

If you're using both, though, which set of onscreen prompts should the game use? The prompt for the device that was most recently used? The prompt for the device that's been most used throughout? Or perhaps just decided by a menu option?

(This is assuming, of course, that onscreen prompts are in themselves a good thing, and I know some people feel strongly against that.)

Althea
30-10-2011, 06:07 PM
If you're using both, though, which set of onscreen prompts should the game use? The prompt for the device that was most recently used? The prompt for the device that's been most used throughout? Or perhaps just decided by a menu option?
In my experience, it's the control method you've just used. So if I stand in front of a vendor in IV and I used the KB to get there, it'll say "Press E to buy..", whereas if I use the controller to look around it'll switch to the relevant prompt.