Introducing the universal button layout for games

Okay game devel­op­ers, it’s time you all came together and agreed upon a uni­fied con­trol sys­tem for all con­sole games. Look at the great work the GSMA has done with tele­fony with all their stan­dards — hell even mobile charg­ers are all the same now (bar greedy, greedy Apple). We urgently need to do the same with con­trol sys­tems in games.

Deus EX Human Rev­o­lu­tion is the per­fect exam­ple of this. This crit­i­cally acclaimed game was on sale on PSN for £6.99, an unbeat­able price. So off i trot, down­load it, load it up and die over and over attempt­ing to get to grips with the con­trol lay­out that is full-on broken.



Aim down sight is on the right ana­logue and works as a tog­gle. Call of Duty and Bat­tle­field defined the left shoul­der for ADS. It works well. There is no need to ever change it. Sprint on Deus Ex is top left shoul­der but­ton and not the stan­dard L3. Why was this deci­sion made? Mus­cle mem­ory is essen­tial to gamers, the intu­itive way we pick up the pad and feel instantly at home with a game is manda­tory to con­tin­ued play. Think about how easy it is for you to use Ryu and Ken, you could play a round right now while read­ing this, just remem­ber­ing the cross ups, spe­cials and you’ll quickly notice your fin­gers danc­ing out the com­mands with­out think­ing about them. I’m sure I can learn to play Deus Ex but there are now to size­able bar­ri­ers to this — firstly, I died on a check­point about 15 times on the way out of the lab at the start (it’s on hard, ok! :P) and sec­ondly the prob­lem is com­pounded by but­tons that I’m not sure I have the will­ing­ness to overcome.

Con­trast this with Dis­hon­ored [sic lol]. What appears to be a rather com­plex power sys­tem is made eas­ily nav­i­ga­ble with the ease of the con­trols. I unlocked the pos­ses­sion skill and on the first try dived into a mouse, snuck past the guards emerged on the other side, ready to assas­siante a guard from behind. Every­thing felt nat­ural and this is solely because the but­tons are in the right place. Dishonored-concept-art_medium


Deus Ex might not get a replay for a long while.

Remem­bers the lay­out of Oca­rina of Time, it was per­fect and made tra­vers­ing the 3D envi­ron­ments — still fairly new in 1998 — and tack­ling boss fights sec­ond nature.

When sys­tems go wrong it’s bor­der­line far­ci­cal (like Bor­der­lands dri­ving con­trols). The ulti­mate pro­po­nent of this has to be Metal Gear Solid — every­thing is just so con­fus­ing — if you aim, you can only can­cel the shot by doing a mêlée attack. And then there is absolutely every­thing else — here’s Dara O’Briain run­ning through its myr­iad of problems.

Dara O'Briain Metal Gear solid re-edit (via 0xshotgunx0)

Of course you can always mas­ter it — but why do devel­op­ers put play­ers through the ordeal in the first place. It’s like the Bloomberg bank­ing ter­mi­nal — it’s out­dated and inef­fi­cient, but bankers like being able to say they can use the ter­mi­nal even though its inter­face could be rev­o­lu­tionised quickly . We for­give MGS because the rest of it is bril­liant and Kojima had the stones to make MGS2 utterly post-modern.

When con­trol schemes go wrong, they become more mem­o­rable than the plot or any other part of the game. Res­i­dent Evil will be for­ever remem­bered for its atro­cious con­trol sys­tem, the impos­si­bil­ity of walk­ing and shoot­ing, swap­ping weapons with­out going into a menu, and an aim­ing mech­a­nism that was like you were steer­ing a tanker or a very large tele­scope with two hands. It’s so bad, it’s as if they did it on purpose.

Back in the early 2000s, FIFA was an inco­her­ent mess com­pared to ISS Pro Evo­lu­tion Soc­cer. There were early Fifa iter­a­tions where the play­ers’ limbs had dif­fer­ent skin­tones — Michael Owen black arms a per­sonal fave. How­ever when they finally got their shit together, one thing that und­out­edly helped FIFA attract fans from its great rival was that it whole­sale stole the com­mand lay­out. Every­thing from how to exe­cute through chipped through-balls to dum­mies and even sprint­ing. To retain a mod­icum of their own IP they sim­ply swapped the shoot and long-ball but­tons and labelled Pro Evo’s lay­out as "Alternate".

Call of Duty and Bat­tle­field 3 have defined the FPS lay­out and if you swap from BF3 to CoD you’ll only bring up the score­board instead of spot­ting and knife instead of crouch. These minor tweaks mean swap­ping between play­ing both titles is work­able if a lit­tle clumsy.

So let’s get this done. This is the start of a jour­ney that will set out the stan­dard for games.

The new nor­mal lay­out for Action Adven­ture: FPS or 3rd per­son. Xbox but­tons in brackets.

Square (X) — Inter­act / Cover / Weapon-wheel

Tri­an­gle (Y) — Reload

Cir­cle (B) — Con­firm menu selec­tion / Crouch / Hold for prone

Cross (A) — Can­cel menu / Jump

D-pad — Quick select weapon or skill

Left ana­logue — Move


L1 (LB) — Aim down sight / Lock on

L2 (LT) — Tal­ent / Spe­cial / Other weapon

R1 (RT) — Fire

R2 (RB) — Grenade

(swapped Fire/Grenade buttons on Xbox/Wii U - thanks Spookyxelectric)

L3 — Sprint

R3 — Mêlée

Select — Menu

Start — Pause

Con­tact your favourite devel­op­ers and let them know we need uni­for­mity and if they are insis­tent on their own style, at least let us gamers reas­sign the buttons.



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