Balancing Aiming Between Platforms

With Games of Glory being a cross-platform title, we need to balance not only the powers of the different Clones combined with the different weapons, but also the different control schemes:  mouse and keyboard vs hand controller.

Our developers and game designers have invested months into trying to get this right, and it is not easy! Games of Glory started development as a PC game, and it was not until about 2 years into development and a lot of users playing it we realized that with its twin-stick controls it would really shine on consoles. For that to happen we had to make sure that controls were perfectly suited to the handset.

Buttons and Skills

Even on the hand-set there one has to define the ideal set-up of buttons and controls. We have gone through a number of iterations and in the end the decision was easy: by going the twin stick shooter route (left stick to move, right stick to aim) the player should NEVER have to release the left stick with his thumb. We then played around with launch skills or shooting through pushing down on the sticks. We could however not play one minute without pushing on the stick by mistake, especially as fights got intense. Hence we were left with the four triggers, and with one trigger used for shooting, we were left with three triggers for skill use… Yep, one each of the skills on the Clones had to go!

We went through all the characters that we had already designed, looked critically at their skill set and tried to identify the skills that really made the character’s uniqueness. This was tough but in the end quite rewarding. This also gave us the opportunity to radically reduce cool-downs, making skills available much faster and increasing the already frenetic tempo of the game.

Directional Only

The precision of the mouse is the key real advantage to the mouse and key-board setup, while the ergonomics of the two sticks and correctly used triggers is the benefit for hand-controllers. Most players however, (and by most I mean myself) see it as much easier to handle the two sticks and triggers compared to the WASD to move, mouse to aim and a combination of other keys and the left and right mouse button to fire and use the different skills. The precision and the speed of the mouse however makes any try to make first person shooters or top down RTS cross-platform doomed from the get-go. So after having decided the buttons, and hence the basic numbers of skills and actions we wanted, we had to rework skills to make everything directional.

We were already close to being all-directional, but we had certain skills where a place or a character was indicated. All of these had to be remade to work in a balanced way on both platforms: Ultimate calling down a huge laser strike on an area – changed to automatically target all Clones, Flash grenade thrown to specific location – scrapped totally, exchange position with an indicated character – changed to a projectile which lets you swap position with any Clone IF you first hit it, etc…

Aim Help or no Aim Help?

After having all the core mechanics down we now needed to tweak the aiming system to get the feeling right. We started out combining two approaches – aiming help and soft lock. The aiming help basically slows down the angle speed as the aim moves over an opponent, making it a little easier to aim straight at the enemy. The soft lock means that after you have aimed at an enemy and stop moving the right stick, the aim gets “locked on” to the enemy you just aimed at.

We spent a long time working on a combination of these two systems that seemed to work well, until we started playtesting the game more with external players. They kept being frustrated by the aim getting stuck and not letting them aim exactly where they wanted. We listened and eventually realized that the only way to be able to let people aim freely was to remove the soft-lock. And so we did.

Pressure Testing

We had a system that felt pretty good, but how could we know if it was really balanced between platfoms? We had to test it! The problem with testing is that the experience varies with different skill levels. In the studio we could see people at a certain level felt good playing with both control schemes, but in order to get a better feel, we had to use good and great players.
We found pro and semi pro console players and matched them with fantastic mouse and keyboard players from PC. After more tweaks based on their feedback, we now have two control schemes that work great and seem to be quite balanced.

We are keeping a close look at player feedback and will continue to tweak the controls if necessary.

Anders, “Asseraj”, Larsson

About the author: Corentin

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