Thinking gameplay mechanics by taking into account players controls

Gameplay mechanics and game controls are extremely linked. Taking into account the controls specificities of a platform can help you make better and more innovative game mechanics.

Hi, my name is Samy Badache and I'm One half of the indie studio Ducky Games, we just started working on our next mobile game when we face this question :

We wanted to make a racing game on mobile, but we didn't want to have virtual buttons.
They are complicated and do not fully exploit the potential of touch screens.

Of course, some type of games needs buttons to be fully playable, but that's not what we want for now.
We want to make a game with simple and easy to understand controls and for that we needed to find the assorted gameplay.

In a game like Forza Horizon or Need For Speed you have those types of controller mapping :

Basic Controls :

  • GAS



  • 360° STEERING

Sometimes you will also have 

  • Clutch

  • Shift Down

  • Shift Up

From this point, you have two options :
1. You decide to take into account the fact that your game will run on a touch screen device and use that as a start to think your gameplay.
2. You decide that it would be stupid to change something that worked on your PC and Console and you do this thing :

That's a lot of buttons...
(Of course, that's probably the best choice for an adaptation of GTA 3, but those controls wouldn't be the best choice for a GTA made specially for a touch screen device.

We decided to take the second option and to rethink our gameplay :

This mean that we will not be able to make a Forza Horizon / Need For Speed game like.
Those games need their controls, if you remove some inputs and mechanics, you will obviously change the gameplay.
But finding new mechanics doesn't necessarily mean that your core mechanic, the heart of your game, will be different. You can always find new ways to support the same core mechanic, the same goal, the same purpose. And this kind of constraint could make you view from another angle some things you thought was acquired.

So we decided to make a racing game that center around drafting and only drafting, this means that you will always drive at full speed and you will use the Slipstream of the other cars to overtake them.

That's a big change from what we started with, but making this choice made me realize that this could be a totally viable gameplay. 

We were inspired by old arcade games and decided to only keep two controls :

  • Turn Left

  • Turn Right

That's all, no brake, no gas pedal, no Clutch or Shift Up or Down.
Only a turn left and turn right button.

The challenge of course after that is to make an interesting game with only these two controls.

Removing some buttons forced us to question our own view of what a racing game could be and helped us to find a differentiating character.

This game is based on Drafting, you always loose speed and your only way to keep going is to stick to the other cars.
To move forward you have to take risks, but if you take too much risk, you may crash yourself on another car.
Our goal with this game is to offer the deepest racing gameplay possible while limiting ourselves by having only two buttons (left and right).









We even made an early prototype :)

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