Button Mapping: DIY or developer supplied

I assumed that Orcs Must Die did not support an Xbox 360 controller for PC as mine was plugged into my gaming PC and didn’t register. So laboriously, we wrote a GlovePIE script to enable it. Today I switched to the laptop and suddenly, the controls were very confusing as there were two scripts running. I disabled GlovePie and the controller kicked in, well, not well unfortunately. The viewpoint was all over the place, I couldn’t move properly and the game was generally unplayable. Please note: none of these are issues with the game; it’s a great game with smooth controls that isn’t buggy and I love it so far; the issue is one of a customised system that’s not running smoothly.

Back to my system issues. I am left with two options that would get me out of tinkering and into gaming; either switch to the laptop and use the built-in layout or switch to my PC and use my button mapping. My own button mapping was working great for me and so I’ve decided to just return to my PC and play the game in the lounge only rather than being able to squeeze in mobile gaming time elsewhere. It’s a Teen rated game in any case, so it’s not as if I can pull the laptop and controller out of my bag so that my one year old and I can sit in a coffee shop and enjoy it together. I’ll get back to the enigma of why it works on one and not the other (I have a feeling it has something to do with the gaming PC being on the mature side) after I complete the game.

It reminded me why I generally prefer console gaming over PC gaming. I know that a lot of disabled gamers out there do not find the 360 or PS3 controllers suitable; but for me they’re pretty comfortable. I have use of two hands most of the time, my splints do not get in the way of any of the buttons and although some buttons are more comfortable to use than others, most games are mapped well for me, making console games accessible and even better, ready to play two minutes after they arrive on my doorstep.

PC gaming is a whole different type of gaming. It allows for a lot more customization, but it starts at a hurdle. I suck at mouse and keyboard gameplay. Despite owning a Razer mouse and keyboard, I still can’t use the mouse and keyboard reliably or sustainably. Some PC games, like Trine and Trine 2 that’s about to come out, support Xbox 360 controller input at which point,  I use my computer as a very flexible console, making the PC platform similar to the 360 or PS3. However, when games do not support it, I need to button map for myself.

The upside – when the button mapping supplied by the developers do not work for me, I can map any key to any button, making a game that otherwise would’ve been inaccessible, playable. The downside – I start my gaming experience muddling through a level with mouse and keyboard to see which keys are used most frequently and spent some time putting together a script for the game, which usually requires tweaking after each level or two, as my guesstimate of how the game would play is rarely spot on at the start. Practically, this means I’m stuck on my first play through going back and forth between gaming and coding, which isn’t a nice way to enjoy any game.

In a perfect world, all games would support complete button mapping, Valve style, (also the only game developer I know of that actually does full closed captioning rather than just subtitled dialogue), but I understand why games as a rule do not. I can’t imagine there being that many people who make use of it and spending resources on a fringe function is not a great business decision. Still, if it was there as a standard feature, I think it might become more popular. Love playing Halo on an alternative configuration, well, you can map any other shooter to your Halo weapon and grenade buttons. Needless to say, for people with disabilities this is one of the big issues, as it’s not one of convenience but necessity, making a game playable or totally inaccessible. I’m one of the lucky ones, I can make a standard controller work quite well for me, making very few games truly inaccessible. Would be nice though to plug, assign and play all the time.

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