The Great Control Scheme Throwdown
Hello Fans and Friends,
The past week has been one of the most exciting in our ten year history. Having had the privilege of working with some truly fantastic developers and publishers, we launched our first original property with our awesome partners at Ubisoft. With the game in the wild for a few days, we’ve begun the processes of collating the massive pile of feedback from our forums, reviews and fans posting to social networks. Having shipped many games in the past, we’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating feedback we will get from players, but Shoot Many Robots has started an unexpected fervent debate.
The debate surrounds our decision to go with an old-school single stick control scheme (Hard Corps: Uprising, Metal Slug) rather than the more modern twin-stick (Comic Jumper, Crash Commando) approach. Shoot Many Robots doesn’t fit perfectly into the mold of other Run-n-Gun games. We have several abilities (jet packs, body slam, etc) that muck with the old paradigm. Additionally, the volume of enemies is greater, but the amount of bullet-dodging required is quite a bit lower. Your player is way heartier - able to take several hits without dying. This debate is made especially interesting given the long history of the Shoot Many Robots design. The designer at Demiurge who originally pitched this idea had this to say in his original one-page design: “Apply a new control scheme to a classic genre…It is a side scrolling shooter like Metal Slug or Mega Man X that utilizes the dual analog stick movement and shooting controls of games like Geometry Wars.” If you watch the Evolution of Shoot Many Robots dev diary, the parts of the video where the character is a stick figure are actually being controlled twin-stick style. We user-tested the crap out of our control schemes early in development and continued to refine the decisions throughout development. The results of our user testing were crystal clear: When coupled with left-trigger aim-down-sights and jetpack abilities, single stick controls felt better to most players and enabled users to play more effectively (i.e., shoot more robots).
And now the players have spoken: Some praise us for the tight, simple controls, but a few have reamed us for having a pigheaded commitment to old-school gaming. While we frankly take that as a bit of a compliment, we made a mistake in focusing on the single stick control scheme. Both camps are right! Our testing showed us that the single-stick scheme was preferred by the majority - what it didn’t show was how strongly the minority would feel. If an FPS shipped today without the option to invert the Y-Axis most people wouldn’t care, but a sizable number of players would have a totally miserable experience. That is why ever since Halo 1 the Y-axis-inversion has been integrated into the tutorial for all top-tier FPS’s.
While we feel that both camps are “right”, we are all gamers here at Demiurge and that means we like to declare winners and losers. It is in that spirit that we’re announcing the great Control Scheme Throwdown at PAX East in a couple of weeks. On display at our booth, we’ll have a special build of the game rigged with both control schemes. We’ll have head-to-head competitions of SMR featuring each of the options and at the end of the show a victor will be declared. To show that we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is - if we end up patching Shoot Many Robots (which is not a certainty in the console world), we will include controller configuration in the patch and we’ll set the default to whatever wins at PAX!
We can’t wait to see everyone in our hometown of Boston in a few weeks. Our booth is #612 and as always will be staffed entirely by the game developers that work here at Demiurge. Whether you’re a traditionalist or not, please stop by, say “hi” and let us know how you feel!