Controllers Control Everything | Game Maker’s Toolkit

Controllers Control Everything | Game Maker’s Toolkit


This is Game Maker’s Toolkit, I’m Mark Brown. Does the controller put a limit on the imagination
of game designers? I mean, this weird mess of buttons and sticks
and bumpers is going to impact the sorts of games that developers can feasibly make – and
you only have to look to the controller’s history to see what sort of games the pad
has evolved to facilitate. Back in the day, arcade games came with their
own set of controls that perfectly suited the game so Pong had dials, and while Dig
Dug only needed one joystick, Robotron required two for its twin-stick robot mayhem. Meanwhile,
Marble Madness used a trackball. But when consoles came onto the scene, they
needed universal controllers that could be used with every game. This led to solutions
like the iconic Atari 2600 joystick and the far less iconic Atari 5200 phone pad – but
Nintendo set the standard with its NES controller. This thing is perfect for controlling characters
on a 2D plane, like in Mario and Zelda. But it did make some types of games unfeasible.
Marble Madness and the Robotron sequel Smash TV felt awkward on NES, and we’d have to wait
until the Super NES controller, with its extra buttons to get anything close to the twin stick thrills of Robotron. When games went 3D, the d-pad was no longer
fit for purpose, as seen in clunky PS1 games like Tomb Raider. Nintendo again set the standard,
this time with the analog stick on the N64 controller which made it effortless to move
Mario about in a 3D world. Sony struck back with Dual Analogue controller
(which was quickly replaced with the DualShock), which had two analog sticks. But this second
stick wouldn’t actually be used for much, outside of swinging your net in Ape Escape,
for a good few years. Then, developers realised it could be used
to control the camera, and that soon led to fluid first-person shooters like Medal of
Honor Underground and Alien Resurrection – though, it took a while for players to get used to
them: Gamespot said the now-universal twin stick control scheme made Alien “almost unplayably
difficult to control” in its 2000 review. And so that’s how we got to today’s pads,
which have a fossil record that shows how these controllers have evolved to play games
where characters move about a space – and, surprisingly, let you aim a crosshair with
some amount of accuracy, no small thanks to liberal auto-aim and slow combatants. But many other types of interaction just don’t
work on this thing. Real-time strategy games, which require lightning fast access to any
part of the screen, have famously been awkward fits on console, outside of games like Overlord
and Pikmin where – you guessed it – you move a character about a space. If you’re unfortunate enough to have experienced
Duke Nukem Forever you might remember trying to draw on this whiteboard with a marker and
realising just how crummy an analogue stick is for fine motor movements. So if you took a game like Trauma Center,
which is about quickly making precise incisions in your patient, and tried to play it on an
Xbox you’d probably end up with a game that looks more like the clumsy, bumbling Surgeon
Simulator. Trauma Center is better left on the Wii with
its motion-sensing remote or the DS with its touchscreen. And because of these unique input
methods, these consoles are stuffed with innovative games that simply wouldn’t be possible on
a controller. The DS touchscreen gave us Elite Beat Agents,
Kirby Canvas Curse, Cooking Mama, and Drawn to Life – and more modern touch devices have
produced touch-sensitive wonders like Fruit Ninja, Flight Control, Blek, Eliss and Cut
the Rope. And the Wii has games where you hold a sword
or swig a drink or point a flashlight or swing a tennis racquet – and you do all that by
manipulating the remote in the same way as the character on screen. These control schemes are direct and intuitive,
which means anyone can understand how to play – if you’ve ever seen a grandma play Wii Sports
or a toddler operate an iPad you’ll know what I mean. But traditional controllers are abstract input
methods. So to swing a tennis racquet in an Xbox game, you have to press an arbitrary
green button. This means that every game has to explain to the player what every button
does – and that has some major consequences. For one thing, this means that developers
are going to be biased towards games and genres where the controls are already known by most
players. And so, with so many first person shooters using the exact same controls for aim, fire,
crouch, reload, run, and melee, it’s no wonder that we so many of these games on consoles. But, that being said, developers can use this
player expectation to their advantage as seen in a game like Portal which uses the conventions
of a first-person shooter to deliver a non-violent puzzle game. The other consequence of an abstract interface
is that games can only offer mechanical sophistication over a tiny handful of different interactions,
or you’d need a tutorial every time you try to do something new, and the player would
have to remember dozens of special case controls. What I mean by this is that Call of Duty gives
you an unbelievable level of precision in how you aim and fire a gun but in this cemetery
scene you can only “hold square to pay respects”. That’s not to say that Advanced Warfare would
be improved by letting you manually move the character’s hand onto his friend’s coffin.
And there is, of course, incredible elegance to be found in games designed around a single
mechanic or a pair of verbs. But because these one or two interactions
must be repeated thousands of times over the course of an entire game, some verbs – like
punch, slash, shoot, drive, and jump – are going to be more suitable for repetition than
others and so hi, welcome to video games. We shoot things. There are games that feature characters who
do lots of different interactions – like Life is Strange where Max can play a guitar or
water a plant or take a photo – but because these actions are all activated through simple,
contextual button prompts, they lose out on the fact that directly controlling the action
can be tactile and playful, or lead to challenge and mastery. Games like Monument Valley and The Room on
iPad, with their more direct interfaces, show how fun it can be to do lots of different
things as you poke and prod and pull and twist bits of the game world. And that’s why I’m excited about VR controllers
like the Oculus Touch, the Vive controller, and the PlayStation Move. Not only do these controllers support fresh
types of gameplay, like in Giant Cop where you pluck criminals off the street, but games
such as I Expect You to Die and Job Simulator use the intuitive interface to let you do
all sorts of interactions – not with contextual button prompts or dedicated buttons
you have to remember, but just by letting the player reach out and grab, pull, and poke
things. VR games that use these controllers are largely
about sitting in a chair or physically walking around in the tiny constraints of the Vive’s
tracking zone because unlike the PS4 pad these controllers aren’t very good at moving a character about space. And I don’t think this is the solution. So different controllers are good at different
things, and it’s up to developers to make games that work to the strengths, and shy
away from the limitations of the input device. Though, designers should be careful to
not fall victim to convention because amazing games can be made by ignoring expectations
altogether. Skate, for example, says goodbye to buttons
and instead makes you wiggle the right analogue stick to perform ollies and flick tricks.
This is great: it adds to the grounded realism of the series, and brings you closer to the
character on screen as you’re both performing a tricky motor movement. And Skate’s inventive input means you need
genuine skill to unleash the most advanced tricks. Elsewhere, Grow Home use the triggers to mimic grabbing with your left and right hands. The Fight Night games let you throw punches with the
analogue stick. Katamari Damacy uses both analogue sticks at the same time to mimic pushing a gigantic ball of garbage with two hands, and Brothers lets you control two characters
at the same time, one with each analogue stick. That game also manages to tell a genuinely
impactful story about siblings entirely through the controller and the fact that an iOS port
with touchscreen joysticks exists makes me very sad inside. Playing Brothers on your phone
is like watching Citizen Kane in the form of 1,000 different Vines. So while controllers do dictate what sort
of games are possible, and the abstract nature of the pad limits the imagination of developers
further, plenty of subversive games are finding new ways to have fun by reinventing the wheel.
Or the analogue stick. And if a game simply isn’t suitable for the
traditional pad, other input methods might work better – whether that’s a motion-sensing
remote, a multi-touch touchscreen, Valve’s mouse-mimicking Steam controller, or whatever
the Nintendo NX pad will look like. Thanks for watching! I want to know more about
games that offer unique gameplay through creative use of the controller, or by using a completely
different input device – so leave your suggestions in the comments below. Game Maker’s Toolkit
is made possible by everyone who funds the show on Patreon, including these top tier
supporters.


100 thoughts on “Controllers Control Everything | Game Maker’s Toolkit

  1. Not a single mention of mouse and keyboard? Even when talking about precise movements, you instead talk about iPads. Really? The majority of video games in the world are played with mouse and keyboard; it's a real shame you made this oversight.

  2. I think the "NX" (ah, the good old days) Joy-cons do a lot of good for game design, having the strengths of both the wii-mote and basic dual analog goodness. And don't even get me started on HD rumble.

  3. Respect-o-meter is hilarious! 😀
    Why do so few games have mirrors??

    I have no luck with controllers. I have yet to really enjoy a game with controllers. That’s partially because of the games and partially because of the controllers.

    I’ve been a PC gamer since Tandy won the name “Tandy Graphics & Sound” from IBM’s failed PC Junior debacle. I used joysticks for a few games, but mostly played games that used keyboard, and then keyboard and mouse. I find keyboard (or rather a one handed gaming key controller thingy) and mouse together to be ideal for anything but flying/driving games. I stopped playing flying games after Wing Commander III, and never cared for racing games. I have historically hated console controllers (and their seemingly mushy, latent responsiveness; I have no idea why Nintendo so firmly established the trend of game characters that cannot start and stop walking without monumental acceleration/deceleration problems).

    The first time I wanted a controller on PC was when I got sick of the all-on or all-off binary turning scheme in Just Cause 2. The game was mostly fun, but driving is such a pain in the ass. So I figured an analog controller was necessary. I had an old Gravis Exterminator (or whatever) with analog stick… which failed to operate at all. I looked around online and almost bought an XBox controller for PC for this very game, until people told me that even then the controls for vehicle turning are still binary; all-left, all-right, all-fast, or none of anything. Sigh. Is it like that on consoles too??

    I hate consoles. Mostly because of checkpoint saves (or lack of saving) and their clumsy controls. I keep trying them, though, because it’s a tease.

    I played Lego Batman and Lego Star Wars on a PS2 given to me by a friend who was moving across country. It was kind of fun, especially with a companion playing along with me, but the tiny screen (or rather the low resolution graphics) made it feel like I was poking at things through a cage at a distance. I couldn’t even tell what some of the things on screen were supposed to be. I hadn’t played games with such huge pixels since 1990.

    She also gave me her GameCube. I played, and for a while enjoyed, Metroid Prime, but eventually it pissed me off and I abandoned it. Why? Checkpoint saves can go fuck a coal mine. Checkpoints, combined with the requirement to jump a character who’s legs you cannot see across many platforms resulted in me giving up on it forever. It’s just not fun to play the same damn part over and over again. There should’ve been more checkpoints at the very least, but fuck all.

    So I’m still left at finding controllers and consoles basically useless to me. At this point, I’d have to first buy a new TV to even be able to connect a modern gaming console. Since they’ve abandoned all their original conveniences over computer systems (near-instant startup, completely finished development, physical media, etc), what is the point in being forced to deal with the everpresent downsides of them? I don’t see myself ever getting any positive controller experience on a console.

  4. "Whatever the Nintendo NX pad looks like."
    The Switch controller is similar to the xbox one, only it is more like a square and the A/B and X/Y buttons are swapped.

  5. Not a single mention of keyboard and mouse. Probably because none of these problems exist for the PC gamer. The biggest limitation is from developers designing games around the limitations of the console. Games that are designed around the PC shine while their console ports are either unplayable or severely dumbed down to a boring imitation of the original.

    Some games are better adapted to special controllers like racing and fighting games

  6. If anything, our console brothers & sisters need some answer to the mouse and keyboard so they aren't left out of entire genres more suited to PC. Buuut Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo gotta have their fucking exclusives. They'd never allow any sort of universal peripheral like that.

  7. and then the switch came in with an absurd amount of stuff. touchscreen, detachable or retachable things for scaling, induvidual splitting for multiplayer, a whole lot of stuff

  8. This is exactly the reason why I want to buy PS Move controllers. I'm quite used to regular controllers when playing games and never really had the chance to try a new input method like motion controllers to see what it feels like. And nowadays it's not that expensive to buy used ones, or even brand new. And because PS Move has some interesting games that I would really like to try as well as some regular games that support PS move like Bioshock Infinite.
    Honestly I die a little bit inside everytime someone says that Kinect for Xbox 360 was a failure. Many great, epic and hilarious games were created for this, Fruit Ninja, Kinect Sports, London 2012 and Star Wars among them, and the underrated gem that nobody is talking about – Kung Fu High Impact. They all work just fine and I had so much fun playing these.

    I'm speaking based on my own experience from using these "unorthodox" means of controlling the game and it's a really interesting topic to talk about that not many people are covering, at least not as detailed as shown in this video. So yeah, great job Game Maker's Toolkit 😀 you never fail to deliver some interesting insight 😀

  9. The best part about VR is that we have the possibility to move around a space well now, using special equipment, which would be brilliant.

  10. I found Alien: Isolation did a good job making opening special doors and pannels feel more natural, by using multple buttons and analog stick input to let you manualy (by the player) manipulate the door. Although they used button prompts and you were pretty restricted in the movement. I felt it enhanced the immersion a lot. Much better than most games where similar tasks have to be performed (mash x to open door).

  11. I have a Joystick with four buttons, a two stage trigger and four multi directional hats, a separate throttle controller with two throttle sliders, three buttons, three multi directional hats, numerous switches and toggles on my desk and some rudder pedals under my desk. I also have a steering wheel with most of your basic gamepad buttons on it plus a dial, and a separate gear lever with 6 positions, and a pedal set (three separate pedals) next to my desk ready to switch in. I also have a PS4 controller ready to go. And then mouse and keyboard. PC master race, baby!

  12. Honestly, I want to see a VR game that plays like the Camera-hopping of Watch Dogs when you start moving camera to camera to get around rather than being an on-foot character, perhaps playing as some kind of officer of a police state, picking out alleged criminals, as the 'crimes' get more abstract and you start picking out Litterers, the player may start wondering "why am I doing this?" and there could be situations like functioning as security for a rally for the local governor, and yes, you can even choose to condemn the governor themselves at their own rally.

    There could be some kind of standing where you're more or less trusted based on your reliability in picking the actual criminals, including picking out crimes in progress that you're not told about explicitly, but if you see something that looks illegal in the background, you could pick it out and report them too, these kinds of things could be interesting

  13. Shooters with controllers still don't really work, I think the precision and the fact that it is so natural makes the mouse and keyboard for a lot of things a good option, though nothing is as horrifying as playing a driving game on a keyboard…

  14. Nice vid, but it was missing one point. A controller is not only restricting the creativity but better for accessibility. Not everyone can perform complex movements of the analog stick or precise movements. But almost everyone is capable to push a button.

  15. Octodad use 2 analog sticks in a very weird impressive way! Each stick control each leg of the protagonist, so it's like we learning how to walk again LOL

  16. i had always wondered why back in the early console days devs never tried a custom controller bundled with the game for more complex control setups

  17. The joycons are bassically like nintendo said "What if we ripped a Daulshock in half, and made it like VR but less sickening to move?"

  18. Can I make a fan channel analyzing how Game Maker Toolkit's Mark Brown makes a video about game design because this shit is genius sometimes. Like how the music synced up with the hypothesis of the video, not synced with his actual voice but with the plucks of the strings

  19. Reminds me of how this one guy I talked to thought video games were socialist…because of the basic premise of story telling

    You're gonna have one person or group facing a conflict with another person or group
    Its hardly collectivist philosophy

    He got so pissed when I rattled off a long list of examples where you're doing anything other than collecting taxes and spending it on war empires
    Which is ironically a tiny portion of the market

  20. I played some shooters on a console for years but i still prefer playing those games with kb+ mouse, strategy games too. Only Games with auto aim are really good playable to me.

  21. I dont know why but the vibration soundbyte for the dualshock entertained me far more than it should have haha
    It was a nice touch

  22. And yet on PC games with dual wield systems some godless sociopath still think it's acceptable to bind the left hand attack to the RMB which makes understanding what's happening and why needlessly hard and continues to frustrate me because I'm left handed and thus put my primary weapon in my left hand

  23. You should also say that the D-pads are for precision, so don't fucking make a d-
    pad that connects all directions, like the xbox 360 controller

  24. To the keyboard and mouse folks I will repaste this here as I mentioned to another commentator:

    They're not mentioned because they're not actually controllers. They're a mouse and keyboard and were used IN PLACE of controllers because PC gaming had not yet become popular to the same degree as consoles. Now that devs are putting what used to be console exclusives on PC too you see a HUGE surge of controller support.

    M&K were never controllers. They weren't designed for that purpose. They were designed for typing and navigation through an OS. Someone just one day discovered they could also be used as a substitute for game controllers.

  25. I like the semi motion controls the nintendo switch offers reather than holding the controller in the same position all the time

  26. The seventh generation consoles from Nintendo were brilliant. It was amazing how many people who were not gamers owned a Wii. It was an amazing generation to play video games for the first time.

    It's sad to hear the Switch's (referenced by codename) controller referenced as an example of controller variety, only for them to turn out to be pretty typical in the grand scheme of things. If only joycons could do everything that a Wii Remote was made to do in its heyday.

  27. Mark, thanks so SO much for this video. I'm currently making an article about games, mass culture and art, and the discussion that you give in this video is simply amazing for a part of my argument on the logic of production in the industry. You're amazing!

  28. You really left out mouse and keyboard, the real FPS controllers. (and easy the best for third person perspective to)

  29. Now that Nintendo wants to reinvent the controller again I wonder what this video will look like when it happens

  30. @6:20 TIL i've been pronouncing the Vive wrong the whole time.
    i always say Vive la France, not dive with another v.

  31. Enjoyed the video… 7:59 @[email protected] wait… is that a male character following/working with another male character? (is that better than a female character following a male character? I dunno… maybe they should just both be females to be safe…) ;p

    Warioware was one of my favorites!

  32. Wow, man! This is mind blowing. I've never thought about how controllers determine the sort of games that are made and the experience we get while playing them. Your videos allow us to dwell on games critically. Keep at it!

  33. Me: this whas a very fun and good video!
    Video: 8:50 or whatever the nintendo nx pad will be
    Me: wait looks when the video whas uploaded
    THIS WHAS FROM 3 YEARS AGO

  34. A very good and entertaining way of using right analog was final parts of Metal Gear Solid 2 in which you control your blade using right analog stick. It felt way much beter than pressing square or something else to slash to actually control the movement of it. And, for some reason, I never felt that Metal Gear Rising's sword using mechanics were as good or entertaining, because it felt more like a Quick Time Event in Blade Mode (which is limited) rather than actually controlling it. It's true that it is kind of impossible to do it due to using manual camera control in modern video games, and it is obviously better in regard to exploring and controlling your movements et cetera, but deep inside I miss it I guess.
    Now when I think about it, I wish first three Devil May Cry games had the same mechanics (or at least it was optional) considering that the camera is uncontrollable. It would make all those combos much more satisfying, in my opinion.

  35. Is there something interesting to be said about VR controlls, now that the space is growing out of it's infancy, and is in full-on toddler mode?

  36. Sony making ps1 controller:” we should put the movement keys on the left and buttons on the right for a comfortable controller”

    Nintendo making n64 controller that only a person with three hands could feasibly use: c O C a i N E

  37. Considering how popular smartyand tablets are, we might see games that ask you to link your own devices to be used in concert with the standard controllers of the system

  38. I would say that Sony's Dual Analog and DualShock controllers for the PS1 are among the most important gamepads in history. They pretty much defined the layout that has been used by almost all game controllers since then.

  39. Honestly, I LOVE my xbox Elite controller.
    I love the customization, the extra buttons and back bumpers.
    It almost feels like cheating sometimes when I use the back pads for jumping or sliding in FPS games which give me a crazy advantage, because I can slide and aim at the same time or jump and wall run and aim all at once… etc.
    I feel like controllers could evolve even more, but I think it should remain optional. Because my niece and mom can't figure out my Elite controller at all and hate all the extra junk on it. So… idk. Lol

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