On the Importance of Game Controller Support

I was somewhat out of gaming action for medical reasons for more than a month. During that time, I was pretty much unable to use keyboard and mouse to play games. I was, however, able to use my Xbox 360 controller for Windows to play games that supported it. And that led me to discover how poor the support for game controllers is in many of the games I enjoy.

One of my favorite games, Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), doesn’t support game controllers, so I was out of LOTRO for a month or so. Sure, I logged in occasionally to check mail, but couldn’t play it even a little bit. But TallGuy, you say, MMOs and controllers don’t mix. Well, there you’re wrong.

My other favorite MMO, Star Trek Online (STO), has native support for game controllers. Even more importantly, it has a fully programmable binding mechanism that lets me customize button combinations, so I can use the triggers as modifiers (think Shift or Control) for the few face buttons. Therefore, I can easily get to 2 rows of the skill bar without touching a keyboard or mouse. I can fly my ship or move my captain with one stick, move the camera with the other, crouch, run, shoot, and do pretty much everything I need with an Xbox controller.

Games like Diablo III and Torchlight II didn’t support the game controller, of course. But the PS3 version of Diablo III shows that it is entirely possible to convert a clicky game into a controller game. The PS3 version is great – my wife and I have lots of fun playing it. She’s a wizard, so can nuke the enemies from a distance, while I’m a healing tank (monk) to take the pressure off her. And a lot less chance of getting carpal tunnel on the PS3 version.

Very sadly, Sins of a Solar Empire can’t be played with a game controller. Nothing would have been better than to conquer the Sins universe many times during my convalescence, but it was not to be.

A thoughtful friend gave me a nifty game, Evoland. It is pretty cool and supports game controllers very well. If you want to experience the evolution of RPGs over many years, give it a shot. I spent a good few hours with it.

The laptop computer I was using wasn’t overly great (thanks to HP for abandoning it and not releasing modern drivers, since it is an i7 quad core with an AMD 6770 GPU), so it can’t run graphics intensive games like Skyrim or Borderlands 2 or Batman Arkham City well, so I didn’t use those, even though they work with game controllers.

Instead, I gave up on the PC and finished Halo 4 on Xbox 360 and then finished Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood on the PS3. I enjoyed both, but I especially loved AssCreed because of exploring Rome and its historical buildings.

So, my point is that PC games should have better game controller support. Keyboards are fiddly and not appropriate for all games (sure, for a shooter, I’d prefer keyboard and mouse any day), and there may be people that have some limitations or are bedridden that would be better off with a controller.

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