What makes a good control scheme? As John Harris points out in this latest Game Design Essentials feature, it's not as easy a question to answer as one might think. Some theories hold that controls should "get out of the player's way," or be standardized so that a player can use the same scheme from one game to the next.
But Harris picks out control styles that stand in defiance off these popular theories, to provide ideas for developers and share stories of what worked -- and what didn't.
For example, he analyzes the multi-button complex arcade control panel as seen in Defender
"These games often suffer from the complexity of their controls when encountered by current players. In the old days it'd usually take players a few games to get used to Defender's formidable control setup, where today most players don't have the patience for that. As the proponents of the Wii would suggest, there's something to be said for not giving the player too many buttons to keep track of at once.
And yet... stop for a moment and consider, is Defender, with its vertical lever and buttons for Fire, Thrust, Reverse, Smart Bomb and Hyperspace, really all that complex by our standards? The current most popular game system in the world, the PlayStation 2, has ten buttons, a control pad, and two analog sticks on its controller -- and the sticks can themselves be pressed to provide two extra buttons. It helps greatly that the Dual Shock is held in the player's hands and not spread out over a flat control panel, but neither has it the luxury of printed instructions lying next to each button.
You can now read the full feature
, which examines 20 unusual control schemes with examples and in-depth analysis of each one (no reg. required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).