Control

There’s obviously a lot of cosmetic work still to be done, but now that power-ups and the “superzapper” are in place it feels like there’s enough “game” to justify working on some of the actual levels.

I’m still having a degree of “control angst” though.

I’m a huge fan of Jeff “Llamasoft” Minter’s games, and two of those – Gridrunner++ and its sequel Gridrunner Revolution – are major influences on Shootah. Both are abstract, mouse controlled, vertically-oriented shmups, though they are based on the “closed screen” Centipede-like structure rather than the scrolling bullet-hell design I’m going for.

Of the two, GR++ is probably my favourite. It was originally intended for release on the Pocket PC, though for various reasons never made it to that platform. Its control system on the PC mimics the touch-based interface of its intended platform, with the mouse pointer taking the place of the player’s finger. The ship lags behind the mouse a little, acting as though attached to it by a rubber band. It works well, and the player always feels in control without simply dragging a sprite around a screen.

Gridrunner Revolution was developed with the PC in mind. Again, your vessel is controlled by the mouse, but this time the correlation between the movement of your hand and that of the ship is more direct. There’s a little bit of inertia, sure, but there’s no mouse pointer for it to follow around.

Somehow that feels less satisfying to me, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. So far, in Shootah, I’ve chosen mouse control with a 1:1 correlation between your mouse and the ship. (With a bit of a speed limit imposed so you can’t just whack it to the opposite side of the screen when a sticky situation arises.) A lot of the time, however, it feels more like moving a mouse pointer around than steering a spaceship, and I don’t think that’s just because it’s arrow-shaped either. There’s something about that immediate reaction to mouse input that makes it feel somehow false and uninvolving. Perhaps because moving a mouse pointer around is generally work rather than play.

So my options are thus:

  1. Drop mouse control, add gamepad support. Tempting, because gamepads are more fun than mice.
  2. Adopt GR++ style “rubber banding” Would adding a mouse pointer be naff? Maybe not.
  3. Ignore it and stick to direct mouse control. Maybe I’m making a big fuss over nothing and I’m the only one who feels this way.

If I do decide to change the controls, I have to do so before I can really press on with level design. A level that works well with analogue mouse control might prove to be way too difficult with a digital gamepad.

I might experiment with options 1+2 and see which one feels best, but I’d love to hear your opinion, especially if you’ve tried the current build.

2 Comments

  1. David M

    I find the 1:1 mouse control method unsatisfying, and I was trying to think why. Maybe it’s also because you can whip across the screen at high speed with high accuracy, so the enemies need to be fast and able to do the same to keep the difficulty up. It feels like survival is lucky rather than as a result of reading the situation and using careful positioning. Or something. And I find it more fun to weave through bullets at a slightly slower speed than a fast one, though I can’t quite explain why.

    I’d favour game pad support of some kind, especially the wired 360 pad as that’s my pad of choice – I expect lots of PC gamers use it too. (I haven’t tried any games with rubber band mouse control, so can’t comment on that.)

    You could have two control methods and two high score tables. (As an aside, separate high score tables for different difficulties is a must! I’m always amazed when I play a shmup that groups together easy scores with hard ones. Madness.)

    It’s looking great btw, love that vector glow! Runs zippy fast on my machine, and the auto-update works a treat.

    Reply
    1. Alex (Post author)

      Thanks David. Most games with pad support seem to default to the 360 button mapping these days, so I reckon you’re right about it being the most popular choice, though I guess it also makes ports to the XBox easier. I’m still using an old PS1 dual-shock, and it’s a massive pain in the bum whenever I come across a game that’s configured for the 360 pad only and doesn’t allow you to remap the buttons. I’m looking at you Super Meat Boy.

      If I take the gamepad route I’ll pick up a wired 360 controller for the PC, but there will most definitely be configurable button mappings.

      Reply

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