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Whenever we discuss responsive controls in games, we usually talk about the time between a button press and the action being completed on screen.
And while that is certainly true, that is not the full definition.
Responsiveness is the time between a button press and FEEDBACK, which is what makes our brains register that the button has been pressed successfully.
We will talk about why this distinction is important on the example of Bloodborne.
Combat in Dark Souls and Bloodborne is known for the aspects of deliberation in its pacing, even in a faster game like Bloodborne.
When you press an attack button there, even a light attack, the actual hit will follow a little time after the button press.
And yet, this doesn’t mean that the game is unresponsive.
Because as soon as you press the light attack button, the short windup animation begins, and it is accompanied by the character starting to make a step forward and the camera following, so players instantly register that something is happening - feedback.
And then the actual hit animation with appropriate sound effect happens.
With charge attack, things are a little bit different.
When you hold R2, you quickly get into a windup pose alongside a sound effect, that instantly define that you have pressed the button.
And then as soon as you release the trigger, the actual slow but strong attack happens - again with a step forward and the camera following.
So even though in both cases the actual act of hitting is technically delayed, the feedback of a button press is shown as soon as you press it.
It then becomes a matter of skill and game knowledge to time attacks correctly.
But the interval between feedback and button press is just one part of responsiveness.
The other is consistency.
If you put a Bloodborne light attack in a more fast-paced action game where most light attacks don’t have a windup of any kind and a button press would lead straight to the action, then the Bloodborne attack would feel very unresponsive due to inconsistency with the rest of the game.
While in Bloodborne every attack behaves by the same rules - it has a windup, be it quick or slow, that is then followed by an actual attack.
That said, the consistency is important in the actions of the same category.
For example, in the same Bloodborne, picking up items is instant - and that is fine.
It all depends on what you want to focus on in your game, and thanks to clear feedback signs and consistently used mechanics, Bloodborne is a good example of what defines responsive controls.