There is no One Controller

One of the most common complaints I’ve heard about video games is that the controllers are so complicated. All the people who grew up with any of the older machines will testify that this wasn’t always the case. For old computers like ZX Spectrum or Atari we had one joystick with one button. The NES had a D-Pad and two action buttons plus two menu buttons. That’s three buttons more already. Then we got to the SNES, which again increases the button amount and it seemed that from almost every generation onward the amount of buttons increased.

Then the Wii hit. The Wiimote wasn’t a great controller because it was something different or that it had waggle. It was because it followed the same ideology that the NES and immense amounts of other machines from that period; multiple controller. You could plug in many different controllers to the Wiimote and to the Wii itself via the GameCube controller port.

Different games are played better with different controllers. Flight sims require a flight stick to be played properly. Fighting games are meant to be played with an arcade stick. Pong and Breakout are best with a trackball. Mouse is the only proper choice for RTS games like Command & Conquer. Keyboard is essential to text adventures. There is no one universal controller for all games out there.

Designing games is not just a software job. Arcade games were built from hardware up to play the games, including the controllers. I find it completely mind boggling that modern developers are not even giving a thought on designing their games on a controller that would suit them the best. There is no reason to stick with one controller that is moderate. I don’t know why anyone would like to use a game controller for Doom.

The Steam Controller is antithesis for Valve’s Entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world claim. PC gaming has always been about multitudes of ways of controlling, and now Valve’s pushing out a controller that they really claim is just an option, but if it was just an option, then why did they keep it as the third big surprise? It’s because they want this controller to be the One Controller. Valve is offering you an option, and saying that you really should take it because they want you to take it despite everything else. They’re after the Wii phenomena while misunderstanding it completely. Then again, Nintendo misunderstood Wii and Wiimote as well, so that’s no surprising. Sure, it’ll most likely be a decent controller for a genre or two, but who in their right mind would like to sit on their couch and play Civilization or Command & Conquer with a pad?

The Steam Controller has nothing to do with PC games. It’s the equivalent of any and all console controllers meant for their respective mother console.

I have to wonder how often people have designed game controllers? It’s hard, tough and it has immense amounts of details involved. It’s an impossible to design one controller to play all games. Much like in warfare, there can’t be one unit for all areas. That’s why you’ll never see Macross’ Valkyries in action. It is more effective and useful to design a game and its controller at the same time for the best result. That’s why I have always loved arcade games, from crane games to video arcades, as the one game was completely different from the other in every possible way. Then there’s PC games, where I can use my mouse and keyboard in all kinds of possible combinations to defeat the enemy in a strategy game or shoot bad guys in your selected FPS. When needed I could always put that flight stick in use. Then we have consoles. The consoles used to be a mix of PC and arcade, by games and by controls. The NES had large amounts of different kinds of controllers you could plug in and that was great.

Whatever the game software was, the controller was designed around the game. It’s lack of craftsmanship and design ambition that we see games designed around one type of controller, thus resulting larger and larger amounts of games that control the exact same way.

I was once part of a school project to design a game. I was given the task to design the controls for the game and I was given parameters to work with, what functions it should the player be able to do and so on. I won’t go deep into it due to agreements, but what I did was that I designed a new controller that would be able to pull the required thing the best way possible for the player without leaving anything required out. A week alter when I got back the response from the coding personal, who also ran the project, asked me what the hell was a I thinking. What they had forgot to tell me was that the controls should have worked on a PlayStation controller. Needless to say, things didn’t work out and I had to adapt rather strict and complicated controls unto a PS controller. It became what you’d call a GTA clone simply due to the fact that the controller limited the game design. This kind of dead-ends has been the fate of many games, and the game has then morphed around the controller.

Now that Steam has a standard controller outside keyboard and mouse, no doubt more games will start to morph around that controller.

But will the actual Steam code audience care for this? Perhaps a little bit, and it’ll most likely be in many top lists of PC pads. The question will be the price. Vast majority of the Steam users are there because games in Steam are dirty cheap. For example, La-Mulana is three bucks on Steam, whereas it’s fifteen bucks on GoG. Same goes for majority of other games. I know people who have literal thousands of games on their Steam catalog that they have never played. Steam offers people to amass large amounts of games in a form they really don’t control in very small overall sum. Games on Steam have lost their value and weight. Games have become a common commodity with Steam and it’s shows in the rest of the industry.

There is no and never has been One Controller, and neither there ever has been One Gaming. There is a legion of controllers and at least the Trinity of Gaming; PC, Arcade and Console. The sad thing is, Valve is supporting the last more than the first one of the three.

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