Friday, September 30, 2011

Designer Notebook: Inverted control

For those who don't know, Inverted Controls is the idea that the look/move operation is done inversely to the control input. Some have likened it to the idea of a camera rig, where pushing upwards is pointing the camera downwards. It's not a control scheme for everyone, but once you're stuck with one, it's very hard to unlearn it. Tons of people also debate about the validity of it, as if it's some sort of crazy holy war where one side is correct: both are valid, stop bitching, and just live with it.

People are usually surprised that I use inverted control (apparently most console gamers don't), I guess my early exposures to PC Flight sims (and an unhealthy amount of Independence Day) have really trained me to think that way (sidenote: I use normal for PC shooters, don't know why, but it makes more sense to me). Yet sometimes this causes issues in games that I want to play.

The recently released Splinter Cell HD caused quit a bit of outrage as the game didn't support inverted controls, and I know I won't even bother giving the game a chance unless it's patched in. In a game where looking and shooting are essential, I know I will be infinitely frustrated by the fact that I will fumble more on the control than the mechanics themselves.

Another example: I was trying out the Yar's Revenge demo, a third person shooter where you control both the aiming reticule and the craft. The game supported an invert aim option, but I was still messing up as I always end up jamming the craft to the bottom of the screen. The lack of invert option for both craft and aiming might seem like pointless whining, but that was the dealbreaker that prevented me from buying the game.

Game designers should be very concerned about this. Sure, you may find the controls acceptable, but offering the option so that other people can play it seems like an obvious no-brainer. I recall a conversation I once had with a designer who will not be named who said "inverted is stupid", and "people who use it are retarded". Huh. Way to think about your potential customer.


  1. I bought Splinter Cell HD not knowing about the option and was baffled when I could not invert.

  2. Weird, I always thought NOT having inverted was stupid, especially for shooting games. Wasn't really a flight sim guy. Maybe it's turret shooting influence.

  3. Really couldn't get inverted controls other than for flight sims. Crimson skies on the OG XBOX was annoying to no end, especially when it came to plane to turret back to plane. Had to hit the options everytime.

    p.s. don't think you would've bought Splinter Cell HD even with the inverted controls patched in. :P

  4. I might have... I din't recall really playing those, so I'd give it a shot.

    My point was, it's not about which one is right (there isn't), but it never hurts to have the option.