17 December 2010

Virtual Dual Stick Controls Usability - by Nikita Gazarov

      Posted 12/16/10 12:30:00 pm  

Virtual dual stick controls are a standard choice for top-down shooters on iDevices. Left stick usually controls player character's movement (speed vector), and right stick handles character's shooting angle. Let's examine the usability issues with this control scheme.

 

INDIRECTION AND CHANNEL MIXING

Problem

In top-down shooters players want to do two things: get their character to some point, and shoot at some target. With dual sticks this involves a lot of mental processing. Given these two coordinates, you need to determine which speed vector you want your character to move at, and then you need to determine which angle to shoot at. That's a rather inconvenient indirection even if we could assume that dual sticks were perfect for specifying these two variables. To make things worse, the angle at which you need to shoot a fixed target changes as your character moves, effectively making it a moving target. Apart from forcing players to perform continuous angle corrections as they move, this also limits gameplay possibilities (e.g fast shooting and moving becomes very hard).

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