Friday, March 8, 2013

Game Controls Can’t Be Transplanted

I’ve played a few sessions of two games recently: XCOM on the Xbox 360 and FIFA 13 on the iPad (big boy, not mini). Both games are quite good, but what holds each of them back from being great is the physical control interface of their respective platforms.

Nothing about XCOM requires quick twitch controls. The game interface flows consists of either A) selecting between options or B) “pointing and clicking” units around without any time sensitivity (because the action pace is Turn-Based Strategy). An Xbox controller feels like an awkward pain for both modes A and B. Both modes on a Xbox controller requires arrowing around between locations on the screen; it’s kludgy and slow.

I really wish XCOM had been launched on the iPad. It launched on Console and PC only. I could have chosen the PC version of the game, but I dislike sitting in front of my PC at a desk when I want to play games. My couch is so much more comfortable. The tap anywhere mode of interaction of an iPad would be perfect for this game.

By contrast, FIFA 13 is nearly unplayable on an iPad due to the mode of control. It’s entirely quick twitch, like most sports games. The on screen control buttons are never right below your fingers where they need to be. The lack of tactile feedback from the screen feels like using a controller while wearing metal mesh mittens.

I say “nearly” unplayable because last night I led Reading to a decisive 4 - 0 stomping of Stoke City, despite tolerating the soupy controls.

The point isn’t that gaming on one platform is superior to another. Could you imagine Angry Birds (iOS native) or Starcraft (PC native) on an Xbox controller? Various platforms have game styles that are perfectly suited to their native controls. Some of these choices are a matter of taste: many people like FPS on a console controller, but I strongly prefer WASD and a mouse to control a FPS. But other transplanted control schemes are just wrong (on screen controls on a touch device) and significantly impair the enjoyment of the game.


  1. dankantor said: Totally agree on Fifa. Have you tried Temple Run on iPad? It’s perfectly native for the platform.
  2. thegongshow posted this