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!


The Great Control Scheme Throwdown

5550 comments (add a comment)

T Ross

Mar 24 2012


I reviewed your game for our site, and like many other reviewers and many other games (for example, the people I played the game with on co-op), I could not get used to the controls in your game. Even if you are right, and single-stick was a better way of doing it, the control mechanism is still too tought to get used to.

Arguably, it would have been better to alter/simplify your game mechanics so that your controls worked better, than to have to choose between two awkard control schemes. It’s hard to know without trying it out, but, you could free up an entire button if you made revival time/proximity (stay near for 3 seconds) based rather than forcing players to have to press the button, something I found really hit and miss, especially while trying to fight off loads of robots.

I would be quite interested to hear (given that the likelihood of me turning up in PAX East is quite low - I live in Great Britain) how your twin-stick layout worked. I could definitely imagine plenty of ways it would work badly, but I’m still pretty convinced that it could work and would be the better system.

Either way, the fact that you are responding to feedback in this way is admirable, and I’m interested to hear the results of the showdown. Regardless of the result, I would urge you to patch the game to include twin-stick controls.


Mar 25 2012

It would be nice if you patched in 4 player local co-op.


Mar 28 2012



Mar 31 2012

It’s a pleasure to find such rationality in an answer. Welcome to the dbetae.

Fix it

Apr 10 2012

It must have support to joystick, bad decision to remove it from pc version.

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Apr 12 2012

Twin-stick all the way baby ! Look at your pc version it is twin-stick already.You use the Mouse to aim and kb to move. Move and shoot. Need a button to free up ? Left trigger aiming is not needed with twin-stick scheme to begin with. I want to shoot with triggers instead of awkwardly pressing and holding X all the time.


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