PC Controller Support Left in the Dust

Commander 86

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#1
TerraTech Steering Wheel.png

With all the emphasis on custom control schemes and keybinds, there is a disappointing lack of attention being paid to PC controllers.

I use a Logitech Dual Action controller for PC gaming; it has two sticks, 12 buttons, and a D-pad which gives it a great deal of versatility. I use it for sidescrollers like Sonic Mania, and 3D games like Minecraft. Even if certain games don't have official controller support, I make it work with a program called JoyToKey. I've created input configurations for over 30 games, so I know a thing or two about setting up intuitive control schemes.

TerraTech has controller support of course, but I feel it could use some improvement.

Most of TerraTech's default controls are serviceable, the control stick configuration is fine for driving and camera control, and the right trigger is an intuitive choice for firing weapons, but you should always give the player the option to change or disable something if they don't like it.

Probably the second worst offender is the default thrust 2 binding. This input corresponds with the left Ctrl key and generally fires boosters. Unfortunately, this function seems to be irrevocably linked to the right bumper on my controller.

Here's why this is a big deal. Prior to the customizable control update, the right bumper on my controller didn't do anything. That's when I had the bright idea to use JoyToKey to assign it to the middle mouse button so I can lock onto enemies. This choice is intuitive since the right bumper is very close to the right trigger which is used to fire weapons. Locking onto an enemy and firing at said enemy is a whip-quick process for me, because I don't have to take my right hand off the controller and fiddle with the mouse. Then this control update came around and a controller input was added for thrusters, -and darned if it wasn't the ONE BUTTON that I was already using for something else! This threw a wrench into my whole custom control scheme because firing boosters when trying to lock onto an enemy is annoying, and assigning lock-on anywhere else isn't intuitive.

Oh, but it gets worse. A controller input was recently added to access the skins menu of all things. This was assigned to the "clicker" on the left control stick (activated by pressing the stick in with your left thumb). As you may have guessed, I was already using this input for something too. This time it's the Pg Up key, very useful for helicopters and hovercraft. This particular change crosses the line from irritating to downright intrusive.

There are a lot of buttons on a standard USB gamepad and we should use them, but the result needs to be intuitive for the user. What works for one person may not work for the next, so customization is key!
 
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Commander 86

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#2
Now, some of you may be thinking, "If you're so smart, how would you set up TerraTech's gamepad control scheme?"

TerraTech Control Lecture.png

Creating an ideal control scheme is a highly subjective matter, which is precisely why we should make any configuration customizable.

-But if you're curious about my preferences, let's take a look.

Here's TerraTech's current control scheme.

TerraTech 1.2 Configuration.gif

As you can see, a few of the buttons simply aren't used.
I've listed many of the more useful unassigned functions on the bottom left, certain control modes do activate pitch, roll, and lift, such as aeroplane and helicopter, but there are several other functions that aren't available at all even though there are free buttons to assign them to.

The controls that are there work for the most part, but I don't like the right bumper controlling the boosters, and I REALLY don't like the left stick controlling the skins menu; I also think that helicopter controls need improvement (more on that in a sec).

Now, here's my preferred control scheme.

TerraTech Custom Configuration.gif

I've filled in most of the unused buttons with my JoyToKey support configuration. I can't guarantee that this control scheme would please everyone, but I find that for a vast majority of vehicles, this configuration works very well.

Most of the functions that are used regularly are on buttons 1-4. (Having the ability to swap control schemes with one of these buttons is especially handy.)

If I could reassign the bumpers I would put boosters on the left and target locking on the right. Clustering related functions is essential when setting up GUIs and control schemes.

Now let's talk helicopters, they're more complicated because they can truly move in 3 dimensions. I assigned lift to the "clickers" on the analog sticks since it isn't unusual for helicopter techs to have horizontal rotors for acceleration, and it's more intuitive to use the left stick's Y and X axis for acceleration and steering than to suddenly use it for lift, (seriously, guys, what were you thinking?) Once you get used to using the clickers to adjust the main rotor(s), helicopters become much easier to control. It is especially advantageous that you can do it without having to remove your thumbs from the joysticks. Helicopters have actually become some of my favorite vehicles thanks to my control configuration.

The only functions that I don't use my controller for are the ones that the mouse is better suited to handle, such as menus and build mode, (come to think of it, that's how I play Minecraft too). This may not be the case for the console versions of TerraTech, but that's a whole other can of worms. Terraria is another game that tried to make PC controls work on a gamepad, and the result is almost universally disliked. Picking up the controller is like grabbing the steering wheel, it's great for driving, but you wouldn't build a Lego set with one. If we're going to make a controller configuration specifically for PC, let's not waste any of those buttons on stuff that the mouse does better, it's only a few inches away.


And that's all I have to say about that.

Hey, if you stayed with me all that time, congratulations. I hope you found it interesting. And if you're a developer, I really hope you'll consider making control pad input more customizable.
 
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Aardvark123

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#3
I'm impressed. No-one's ever taken the time to draw pictures expressing their favour for controller support before. I especially like those crew-cuts on the soldiers; great texturing for what I assume is a pencil drawing.

You have a good point about the control schemes. There are only so many buttons on a controller, it's true, so they need to be used responsibly; letting players customise their controls will prevent a lot of headaches. I'm all in favour of it.
 
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Rafs

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#4
I never played PC games on controllers so I got little to add, but all your carefully constructed argumentation makes so much sense :)

But forget about this.

DAMN.

THIS ARTWORK.

Look at the Terratech themes and details, look at the good humour (even when addressing an issue), please make more. I love it!
 

Django

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#5
Thank you for the illustrations and well written post Commander 86. It's great to see people engage with our game and lend their creativity to it.

If I understand correctly you're using a 3rd party program to map your Gamepad input to various Keyboard keys that allow you to do actions otherwise unavailable in TT. Unfortunately TT handles some gamepad input itself within the game. As a result you cannot unbind anything and may end up fighting with the available controls are you are.
For the console versions TT obviously has full controller support for all of its functions. In theory this same support is available for PC too, but it gets complicated when input methods are mixed and matched (eg partial menu navigation with mouse, then continued with gamepad) which is why we haven't enabled it yet. Furthermore the PC version has various menus that don't exist on console that would need to made functional (eg Steam & Twitter sharing).

I don't think we will be doing a 'partial' gamepad implementation aimed at playing with both gamepad and keyboard/mouse, or having those inputs remappable. Supporting one mode of gamepad input along with Keyboard+mouse is already difficult to maintain.
What we may be able to do is add an option to disable all gamepad input such that 3rd party tools like yours can be used to provide all input, fully customised.

PC gamepad support has been on our roadmap for a while but data suggests the majority of players prefer to play the game with keyboard and mouse. Instead we've been focussing our efforts on improving the game in other areas.
 

Commander 86

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#6
You understand correctly. I classify the control configuration I created with JoyToKey as a support configuration. None of the functions I originally assigned conflicted with TerraTech's own PC controls back in version 1.0. There were unused buttons on my controller, so I assigned them, it's as simple as that. As time went on, a few more functions were added to TerraTech's PC controls and that has created conflicts with my support configuration. There is one amusing exception though, I assigned camera zoom to the up and down directions on the D-pad before you guys did. Since that little feature is now officially supported, I can remove it from my support configuration.

What we may be able to do is add an option to disable all gamepad input such that 3rd party tools like yours can be used to provide all input, fully customised.
...You um, do realize that's already implemented, right?

TerraTech Control GUI Cropped.png

It also doesn't help, since it burns down the whole farm just to get rid of two bad eggs. Remember, most of TerraTech's PC controls are fine, and as great as JoyToKey is, it does have its limitations. I cannot, for instance, recreate the varied throttle and steering on the left stick, since the WASD keys are binary inputs while official control stick input is analog. (That's right, PC gamers, if you plug in a USB control pad, you will have the luxury of being able to drive at varied speeds instead of flooring the gas pedal every time you breathe on the W key!)

The solution is NOT to try to make a PC control scheme that can handle every function in the PC version. Nor is it advisable to subject all users to the same exact control scheme used in the console version. You gave us awesome flexibility with the keyboard. Control pad and console users are going to want a slice of that cake too. Customization is key!

Here are 3 plausible solutions:
  • Implement full controller customization (hard).
    This could be a long term goal for TerraTech when controller support gets a more serious look.

  • Allow us to disable individual inputs (less hard).
    You say we cannot unbind anything, I say, why not? This would require some work, but it would give us the option to unbind the inputs we wish to reassign with third party software.

  • Give us an option to disable all PC controls except for the control sticks (relatively easy).
    This would essentially allow us to switch off all non-analog controls. Or alternatively, simply revert PC controller support back to the state it was in back in version 1.0. It would certainly shut me up at least.
 
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Commander 86

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#7
I have noticed that the skins menu no longer pops up when I press down on the left control stick in versions 1.3.2 and 1.3.3. It looks like the same will hold true for the next version as well. Thank you so much for addressing my concern, this game is a lot more pleasant for me when I don't have to deal with annoying controller conflicts. I am very grateful to have full use of my air force again.

Just keep the PC control pad layout simple and we won't have any more lengthy lectures from yours truly!

I will be creating a tutorial for using Joy2Key with TerraTech. I may possibly also upload a video demonstrating my helicopters in action.

(I would have done this a while ago, but it's been a hectic couple of months. C'est la vie.)

Viper Beauty Shot 480p.png

I'll get to work on that. You all keep the creativity coming!
 

Sea_Kerman

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#8
Ideally I would be able to use my HOTAS and rudder/gas pedal setup to play terratech, but it's ok if custom controller schemes would be too hard to implement. 2FF38D63-5A46-44B8-BE97-44AC4D08113A.jpeg