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Why isn't button layout configuration a standard in all games now?

DR WilsonDR Wilson Registered User regular
edited May 2008 in Games and Technology
Hi All

I'm new to this forum and I would like to ask this question and hopefully something will come from it....
I've e-mailed EGM, OXM and even Tycho and Gabe to see if I could get an answer to why this is but so far nothing. So here goes...

Why is the ability to map out your own buttons on a controller still not a standard in all games? Several games like those in the orange box let you change the button configurations while others do not. I loved playing Bioshock on the 360 but having the Y button for jump threw me off more than once and I’ve played several other games that had great potential but were diminished because of the control scheme with no way to change it. Why with all the various ways to be unique do game designers choose controls to be one of them and with all the various developments made in graphics and gameplay mechanics do they still leave out the ability to change the button layout that would let people play the way they want to? It would be as if the car companies started to change around where they put the steering wheel and not allow people to move it back to a place they’re used to… and with some games it feels like they’ve placed the steering wheel in the trunk. If you want to take the car analogy further they do have adjustable seats as a standard now. What should it matter to game developers if people map out the controls to be as if they’re playing Halo so long as those people are having fun playing the game? And that’s the most important thing about video games. Having fun. The ability to pick up a video game and play it the way you want to and have a good time. They really should give players that option in all games because as good looking and powerful as a Ferrari is…. It’s no fun to drive it from the trunk.

Have a good day
Ted

DR Wilson on
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    TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu PIGEON Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Because it's work to let people remap the controller.

    TychoCelchuuu on
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    NickTheNewbieNickTheNewbie Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Though I agree that you should be able to change all your controls, your car analogy really breaks down since you can't change your car's controller configuration...

    NickTheNewbie on
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    ze swift classze swift class Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Yeah I was wondering about this while I was playing GTA4, hoping I'd grow a second right thumb so I can run and look around at the same time.

    ze swift class on
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    jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I suspect that it's a matter of pride. Control setup is viewed as a significant element of game design, so developers prefer to try to arrange the best setup possible and then lock that in in order to preserve their vision. Allowing players to remap controls is sort of like a lesser version of allowing players to ignore all of that in-game music that you spent so much time and money creating and play whatever music they choose to import instead.

    jothki on
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    mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    jothki wrote: »
    I suspect that it's a matter of pride. Control setup is viewed as a significant element of game design, so developers prefer to try to arrange the best setup possible and then lock that in in order to preserve their vision. Allowing players to remap controls is sort of like a lesser version of allowing players to ignore all of that in-game music that you spent so much time and money creating and play whatever music they choose to import instead.

    I actually kinda like it when they do that, too. If their music sucks, I'm just going to mute the music (nearly all games now allow this) and play my own anyway. If it's good, I'll listen to theirs. They just need to have some confidence, and/or get the fuck over themselves.

    mcdermott on
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    ASimPersonASimPerson Cold... and hard.Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Because developers get a good laugh when they see people like me who still haven't gotten used to the primary stick strafing instead of turning.

    At least that's how I figure it.

    ASimPerson on
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Actually, most console SDKs have extremely detailed documents explaining how to set up the control scheme for the game you're developing. As crazy as it sounds, button layouts are pretty much standardized by the console manufacturer. Stuff like "the jump button should always be 'B'" and what not.

    I'm not entirely sure how some companies are able to get away with customizable controls and how others aren't, but this isn't really a problem with the developers, it's a problem with the console manufacturers. Blame Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.

    TheSonicRetard on
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    Captain KCaptain K Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    jothki wrote: »
    I suspect that it's a matter of pride. Control setup is viewed as a significant element of game design, so developers prefer to try to arrange the best setup possible and then lock that in in order to preserve their vision. Allowing players to remap controls is sort of like a lesser version of allowing players to ignore all of that in-game music that you spent so much time and money creating and play whatever music they choose to import instead.

    It's kind of ridiculous, but this is true in a lot of cases. Some developers, especially big-name guys with Producer credits on a lot of big-name titles, have done this.

    "We feel that allowing the player to control the camera would compromise the overall vision for our game" is another line we've heard in the past... Resident Evil, anybody?


    It's retarded, but you see it happen over and over again. Remember The Duke? It took millions of customers complaining very loudly before they released an Xbox controller for non-Sasquatches. They fed us the line, "We've tested the controller on a lot of focus groups and this is the one they liked the most." But come on. You've got to be kidding me.


    Anyway, this "trend", if you can call it that, probably isn't going anywhere, and if you notice that the highest-profile titles are often the guiltiest, it means you're paying attention. The biggest-name producers seem to be the most likely to refuse any compromises.

    Captain K on
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    From the Sega Saturn software development standards manual, section 8 subsection 2:
    8.2.1 Basic Control Pad Setup
    
       Required                          The following rules must be observed when assigning operations
       Compliance Item                   to the Control Pad:
    
                                         •   A Control Pad must always be connected to Control Port 1 in
                                             order for the player to start the game.
                                         •   Control Port 1 must always be assigned to player 1 functions
                                             and Control Port 2 must always be assigned to player 2
                                             functions (Except when a Control Pad is not connected to
                                             Control Port 2).
                                         •   When a 6Player is used, the first port must always be
                                             assigned to player 1. The next port to the right is assigned to
                                             player 2.
    
                                  8.2.2 Basic Button Setup
    
       Required                          The following rules must be observed when assigning
       Compliance Item                   operations to the Control Pad buttons:
    
                                         •   Make sure that the “A, B, C” Buttons are all used.
                                         •   The START Button (used for the Start and Pause functions)
                                             input must be recognized regardless of input from other
                                             buttons.
                                         •   All button presses must have an immediate effect (unless a
                                             delayed response is a wholly intentional aspect of the
                                             game/application design).
    
    
    Recommended                      •   The use of buttons A, B, C must be given priority over the use of
    Compliance Item                          buttons X, Y, L, R.
    
    Recommended                      •   Button C should be given priority over Button A for use as a
    Compliance Item                         “Select Button”. Button B should be used as a “Cancel Button”.
                                                      (This takes into consideration the relative accessibility of each
                                                      button.)
    
    Recommended                          As a rule, the Control Pad button usage priority is C>B>A.
    Compliance Item                       Button functions should be assigned based on criteria such as
                                                     the frequency of use, the degree of skill required, or the power
                                                     of the shot/action.
    
                    8.2.3 Basic Button Setup Examples
    
                          Although the following should only be used as examples, button
                          functions should be set up so that they do not differ too much from
                          other games. In addition, the user should be free to reconfigure button
                          functions (refer to section 7. Options).
    
                          Examples:
    
                          Action                             Racing
                          L,R      Not used                  L,R     Drift
                          X,Y,Z    Not used                  X,Y,Z Not used (or may mirror
                          A        Special attack                    A,B,C functions)
                          B        Normal attack             A,C     Accelerate
                          C        Jump                      B       Brake
    
                          Fighting                               Shooter
                          L,R      Defense, etc.             (Typical air-to-air/ ground shooter)
                          X,Y,Z Weak, medium and             L, R    Change view
                                   strong punches            X,Y,Z Secondary attack (ground
                          A,B,C Weak, medium and                     attack)
                                   strong kicks              A,B,C Primary attack (air attack)
    
                          Role Playing / Adventure
                          L,R      Special function
                          X,Y,Z Special function (display map, etc.)
                          A        Inspect area, etc.
                          B        Cancel
                          C        Confirm, open window
    

    And trust me, everyone does this.

    EDIT: Lemmie clean this up a bit...

    TheSonicRetard on
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    ÆthelredÆthelred Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Actually, most console SDKs have extremely detailed documents explaining how to set up the control scheme for the game you're developing. As crazy as it sounds, button layouts are pretty much standardized by the console manufacturer. Stuff like "the jump button should always be 'B'" and what not.

    I'm not entirely sure how some companies are able to get away with customizable controls and how others aren't, but this isn't really a problem with the developers, it's a problem with the console manufacturers. Blame Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.

    Console manufacturers don't specify button configuration to that degree. Usually all they encourage is standardised menu buttons (eg, PS2 X goes forward, triangle goes back). Developers are free to do want they want in the game itself.

    Æthelred on
    pokes: 1505 8032 8399
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    MiserableMirthMiserableMirth Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I see the frustration of some poor soul who mapped shooting to the A button in Halo 3.

    MiserableMirth on
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    LarsLars Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    It certainly annoyed me to no end when Silent Hill 3 came out and had dropped controller customization, as I had used my own control scheme for 1 and 2. They even took out the option where the "Ready Weapon" button would act as a toggle instead of having to hold it down.

    I can understand some cases where a certain function may need to be tied to a trigger or something (ie. Revving Nero's sword in the 360 version of DMC4), but that doesn't mean the other buttons can't have full customization.

    Lars on
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    ASimPersonASimPerson Cold... and hard.Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Well, they have those guidelines for a reason, because it's worse when you-have non-standard controls that aren't customizable.

    Final Fantasy VII, I'm looking at you.

    ASimPerson on
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Console manufacturers don't specify button configuration to that degree. Usually all they encourage is standardised menu buttons (eg, PS2 X goes forward, triangle goes back). Developers are free to do want they want in the game itself.

    Yes they do, read the above.

    TheSonicRetard on
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    LewiePLewieP Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I blame the commies.

    LewieP on
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    FunkyWaltDoggFunkyWaltDogg Columbia, SCRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    From the Sega Saturn software development standards manual, section 8 subsection 2:
    8.2.3 Basic Button Setup Examples
                          Although the following should only be used as examples, button
                          functions should be set up so that they do not differ too much from
                          other games. [B][color=red]In addition, the user should be free to reconfigure button
                          functions[/color][/B] (refer to section 7. Options).
    

    And trust me, everyone does this.

    EDIT: Lemmie clean this up a bit...

    Did that bit just get ignored, or was the Saturn an anomaly? Am I missing something else?

    FunkyWaltDogg on
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    ÆthelredÆthelred Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I already read some of the Saturn manual; the part you quoted only reinforces what I said - console manufacturers suggest, not impose.

    edit: i.e., for the Gamecube, all Nintendo said was A is the primary button, B is the secondary. Which was obvious anyway.

    Æthelred on
    pokes: 1505 8032 8399
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    DR WilsonDR Wilson Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    How does my car analogy break down? We have adjustable seats because one size does not fit all and as for the steering wheel I said it would be as if car companies started moving it around on drivers and not giving us a chance to put it where we're used to. The control scheme may be a point of pride to developers but what's that old saying? Pride goeth before a fall.... in video game sales. We've all played games that were diminished and or ruined by the control scheme. Games we would have liked to play because of the story or gameplay elements but it was too damn frustrating with their messed up controls. Designers can take pride in other features but should let gamers decide what control scheme they will use. Designers can create some schemes for gamers to use if they want but if gamers find a way to tweak the controls and make the experience better where is the harm in that? Another reason why we should be able to change the control scheme on games is because not all controllers are the same either. The original xbox controller is different from the 360 one and having a feature like that would help when playing some of the older games on the new console.

    DR Wilson on
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    From the Sega Saturn software development standards manual, section 8 subsection 2:
    8.2.3 Basic Button Setup Examples
                          Although the following should only be used as examples, button
                          functions should be set up so that they do not differ too much from
                          other games. [B][color=red]In addition, the user should be free to reconfigure button
                          functions[/color][/B] (refer to section 7. Options).
    

    And trust me, everyone does this.

    EDIT: Lemmie clean this up a bit...

    Did that bit just get ignored, or was the Saturn an anomaly? Am I missing something else?

    According to Chris Senn, that requirement is subject to approval.

    You had to give the players the option to reconfigure the controls upon sega's request, but any time you do so you had to submit it to the standards review board.

    EDIT: And sega only ever requested it for internal development, namely from AM2.

    TheSonicRetard on
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Also note that, as friends who worked for Crystal Dynamics, Interplay, and Amusement Visions have told me, it wasn't too rare for Sega to say, "no, your controller configuration hasn't received approval from the standards review boards. Make these changes"

    EDIT: considering the number of games which use a control scheme similar to gears of war, do you honestly doubt this sort of thing still doesn't go on?

    TheSonicRetard on
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    DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Bungie has said that they don't allow custom button layouts for two reasons:

    1) There are only so many ways they can map controls to allow you to be able to reasonably access all abilities at the same time. Many proposed 'superior' control schemes by people don't take into consideration that what they suggest would mean it would be impossible to crouch while zoomed, to name one example.

    2) More importantly, with a game that has multiplayer aspects, it could give players with a certain layout an unfair advantage over other players. Of course even a single player game would have concerns about control abuse.

    DarkPrimus on
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    nickystixxnickystixx Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    fighting games have been pretty good with letting you configure your own controls like street fighter and marvel vs. capcom 2. maybe thats just capcom? i dont know about 3D fighters like Tekken?

    nickystixx on
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    MonaroMonaro Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Very few games I've played do I have a problem with the default layout, so rather than reconfigurable controls, I have a problem with games with just badly laid-out ones.

    Another reason I see for some companies locking their control scheme is that it encourages you to play the game as intended, with certain functions at hand. I can't think of what PSone game it was back in the day (I'd like to say Air Combat maybe?), but I stayed with default, while a friend changed the control layout to something more noob-friendly, thereby putting advanced (ie, important for later success) functions out of reach, so to speak. I started to excel or grow with the game, while he struggled to get anywhere once the shit hit the fan.

    [edit] DarkPrimus nailed it nicely with his Halo example.

    Monaro on
    steam_sig.png
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    ÆthelredÆthelred Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    2) More importantly, with a game that has multiplayer aspects, it could give players with a certain layout an unfair advantage over other players. Of course even a single player game would have concerns about control abuse.

    If a custom configuration turned out to confer an advantage, wouldn't that imply that the default configuration was inferior in the first place?
    TSR wrote:
    EDIT: considering the number of games which use a control scheme similar to gears of war, do you honestly doubt this sort of thing still doesn't go on?

    Developers tend to copy each others' control schemes generally. There's only so much you can do with a controller; most hardware layouts strongly suggest certain configurations.

    Æthelred on
    pokes: 1505 8032 8399
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    DigDug2000DigDug2000 Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    As much as I see people complain for this, allowing custom configurations just encourages sloppiness IMO. Devs, as it is, sometimes don't give a second though to what controls are appropriate, putting that in the hands of players gives them even less reason to think about it.

    DigDug2000 on
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    DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    2) More importantly, with a game that has multiplayer aspects, it could give players with a certain layout an unfair advantage over other players. Of course even a single player game would have concerns about control abuse.

    If a custom configuration turned out to confer an advantage, wouldn't that imply that the default configuration was inferior in the first place?

    Inferior in some respects, perhaps. But default configurations are chosen for intuitiveness.

    DarkPrimus on
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    TSR wrote:
    EDIT: considering the number of games which use a control scheme similar to gears of war, do you honestly doubt this sort of thing still doesn't go on?

    Developers tend to copy each others' control schemes generally. There's only so much you can do with a controller; most hardware layouts strongly suggest certain configurations.

    The dual stick, GoW style control scheme has been around for much longer than it's been used. Max Payne used it, yet devs didn't copy it.

    Suddenly we switch to the next generation of consoles and everyone is using them? Nuh uh, I don't buy that it has nothing to do with updated SDK standards.

    TheSonicRetard on
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    Mr RayMr Ray Sarcasm sphereRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    DigDug2000 wrote: »
    As much as I see people complain for this, allowing custom configurations just encourages sloppiness IMO. Devs, as it is, sometimes don't give a second though to what controls are appropriate, putting that in the hands of players gives them even less reason to think about it.


    In theory, the developers should aim to have their testers use a variety of control schemes, and choose the one which they say feels most natural. In practice... well, yeah.

    Regardless, just because control scheme A is scientologically proven to be better than control scheme B, that doesn't mean it should be ze one true control scheme which SHALL NOT BE CHANGED BY THE LIKES OF YOU.

    Mr Ray on
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    MonaroMonaro Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    Æthelred wrote: »
    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    2) More importantly, with a game that has multiplayer aspects, it could give players with a certain layout an unfair advantage over other players. Of course even a single player game would have concerns about control abuse.

    If a custom configuration turned out to confer an advantage, wouldn't that imply that the default configuration was inferior in the first place?

    Inferior in some respects, perhaps. But default configurations are chosen for intuitiveness.

    Indeed, a custom control may give you advantage on a single map that favours abuse of a certain action (melee perhaps), but be useless on others. In this respect a custom control might help in one instance, but not offer a consistent control quality across the entire game.

    Monaro on
    steam_sig.png
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    Captain KCaptain K Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    TSR, I think you're more correct than we're giving you credit for. I hadn't ever thought about it, but it makes sense that console manufacturers would suggest/require button configuration standards.

    Captain K on
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Another thing to take into consideration is that a button isn't just a button anymore. Not all buttons on a controller operate the same way. You have some that are analog, some that aren't. Some that are pressure sensitive, some that aren't.

    Not to say these are impassible barriers, but they're probably taken into consideration.

    TheSonicRetard on
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    Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Captain K wrote: »
    TSR, I think you're more correct than we're giving you credit for. I hadn't ever thought about it, but it makes sense that console manufacturers would suggest/require button configuration standards.

    This. I had never thought about it from that point of view before.
    If a custom configuration turned out to confer an advantage, wouldn't that imply that the default configuration was inferior in the first place?

    It might be superior in one set of circumstances - on only one map in Halo, for instance.

    Lord Yod on
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    MonaroMonaro Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Hey TSR - Why did the Analogue controller suck on Sega Rally? I seem to remember hoping it would emulate the racing wheel - it didn't.

    I remember looking forward to NiGHTS more for the fact my new controller would give me superior control on Sega Rally.

    It didn't :(

    Monaro on
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    Rhesus PositiveRhesus Positive GNU Terry Pratchett Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    DR Wilson wrote: »
    How does my car analogy break down? We have adjustable seats because one size does not fit all and as for the steering wheel I said it would be as if car companies started moving it around on drivers and not giving us a chance to put it where we're used to.

    But the point is that car manufacturers don't move their steering wheel, and what's more, you can't either, beyond adjusting for your height. The adjustments you can make in a car are more like when you decide how close you sit to the TV screen, or whether you use a beanbag chair or a sofa.

    For a car to have equivalent "remappable controls", it would have to be possible to swap the indicator switch with the gear stick and the ignition key with the cigarette lighter.

    Rhesus Positive on
    [Muffled sounds of gorilla violence]
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    VariableVariable Mouth Congress Stroke Me Lady FameRegistered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I'm not really finding any of these to be good reasons why we shouldn't be able to remap controls.

    Variable on
    BNet-Vari#1998 | Switch-SW 6960 6688 8388 | Steam | Twitch
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Monaro wrote: »
    Hey TSR - Why did the Analogue controller suck on Sega Rally? I seem to remember hoping it would emulate the racing wheel - it didn't.

    I remember looking forward to NiGHTS more for the fact my new controller would give me superior control on Sega Rally.

    It didn't :(

    Because the Arcade Racer and the NiGHTS pad work in completely different ways, although they're both analog.

    The NiGHTS pad wasn't designed for analog input in the same way that the dual shock or N64 controllers were. Rather, instead of allowing for degrees of tilt, it accounted for degrees of rotation. So, it can't really do what the arcade racer does.

    The arcade racer, by the by, IS analog and offers degrees. of tilt. I.E. you pull left a little, you go left a little. Pull left a lot, go left a lot.

    I doubt many people knew what analog control was back in 1994, so that feature never really got very much publicity.

    TheSonicRetard on
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    TheSonicRetardTheSonicRetard Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Variable wrote: »
    I'm not really finding any of these to be good reasons why we shouldn't be able to remap controls.

    no one asked, "whats a good reason remapping isn't a standard feature?"

    They asked "why isn't remapping a standard feature."

    and it just so happens that the reason why isn't very good.

    TheSonicRetard on
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    DR WilsonDR Wilson Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    Okay my point is "IF" the car companies were ever too. Not that they have but IF they choose to do that and not give drivers a choice in the matter... okay IF they were to do something that idiotic and give drivers a control scheme that would impair the ability to drive and enjoy the car. All because they wanted to be unique or whatever reason.... IF

    Basically the ability to remap the control scheme comes down to two things.. choice and having fun. Developer's pride in their control scheme or what manufactures want to see as the primary buttons don't mean a damn if the game is unplayable. People want the choice to either play the schemes developers create or to play however they want. If they can't do that the ability to have fun or the amount of fun with the game is diminished due to the poor control scheme. It's the reason why sandbox games like GTA are so popular. They give gamers the choice to do whatever they want and have fun. Game developers have a decision to make as to what matters more to them. Their control over button layout schemes or the gamer's ability to change the button layout if they choose and have fun playing their game.

    As for control schemes that might give gamers an unfair advantage? Never…. EVER in the time I have played online computer games like counterstrike have I heard of anyone accusing another player of cheating with their control configuration. Okay.. You don’t hear people complaining “oh you’re using T,F,G,H for directions not W,A,S,D” That doesn’t happen. If it’s not an issue for computer gamers why would it be an issue for console gamers? I don’t care if you’ve remapped your controls to play with your left foot. You want to do that… should be your choice if that will help you enjoy the game more.

    DR Wilson on
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    jothkijothki Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    DR Wilson wrote: »
    As for control schemes that might give gamers an unfair advantage? Never…. EVER in the time I have played online computer games like counterstrike have I heard of anyone accusing another player of cheating with their control configuration. Okay.. You don’t hear people complaining “oh you’re using T,F,G,H for directions not W,A,S,D” That doesn’t happen. If it’s not an issue for computer gamers why would it be an issue for console gamers? I don’t care if you’ve remapped your controls to play with your left foot. You want to do that… should be your choice if that will help you enjoy the game more.

    That's one of that reasons why people who play Starcraft scare me.

    jothki on
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    TimmerTimmer Registered User regular
    edited May 2008
    I doubt many people knew what analog control was back in 1994, so that feature never really got very much publicity.

    Which is so sad, considering the Atari 5200 I grew up used a very nice analog joystick. It was so disappointing that this was forgotten about for about a decade until the N64 came out (at least that was the next console I remembering seeing it used predominately with).

    Timmer on
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