out of control

Several months ago I bought Darksiders on Steam during a sale. Upon first launching the game, however, I noticed a problem: the camera was pointed at the ground, and I couldn’t get it to budge from that orientation. Neither my keyboard/mouse nor my controller seemed to work properly. It wasn’t just the camera, either–it seemed like controls were mapped randomly, sprinkled like dust in the wind to land in patterns governed only by nature. I tried to force the game to comply with my wishes, to no avail. After some lookups, I discovered the game was designed specifically to use the Xbox 360 PC controller. So specifically, that it was programmed not to make use of any other controller.

This is a massive failure of programming. I’m not even sure this is a failure, per se. This is something that takes actual effort to do. One has to actually program the game to refuse other controllers for this tactic to work. I imagine the effort involved to enable general support would be significantly less than that which was consumed to make it only use the X360 controller. I found numerous solutions for using my controller, most of which invoked the dark magics of custom firmware and the unreadable tomes of custom-written executables. None of these I was comfortable using.
Eventually I gave up and steamed over the loss of my money for an unplayable game.

Now it’s a few months later. I recently finished my playthrough of Batman: Arkham Asylum, although I will probably go back and do the challenges and find the rest of the riddles and all the completionist nerd stuff. ANYWAY, after finishing Arkham, I was a little listless, unsure of which game to play through next. I randomly decided to give Darksiders another go. Experience expand.
This time when I launched the game, by chance my controller wasn’t plugged in. The game loaded up, I skipped to the murdering and desecration courtesy of my spacebar, and…it worked. It just worked. I could run around and fight via the WASD/Mouse control scheme. It was as if there had never been a problem whatsoever. To say the least, I was a little confused. I did some forum searches and came up with this post. I was even more confused now. How could the mere presence of a controller, even a disabled controller, affect how a game interprets input commands? This is asinine.
Having a discussion with a friend over this, I was told that the PC version of the original Halo suffered from a similar retardation. Apparently the game does not interpret joystick inputs as analog commands, but digital ones. What does this mean? The effect of tilting the joystick foward a millimeter, or tilting it to its full extent, is exactly the same. The character moves at the same speed. It’s just like pressing the W key. Why could Gearbox not have programmed the game to actually make use of the joysticks? It’s not like they were exceptionally rare at the time the game was made. While I hear arguments of “programming for controllers is difficult because they’re all different”, I don’t buy that. They may have different layouts, but there are only a handful of individual layouts used for controllers nowadays, and in the case of joysticks–they’re joysticks. There’s no reason why they can’t be accomodated for in the programming.
In another related rant, there is Magicka. Great game. Absolutely fun. And ridiculous. In more ways than one. When the game is launched, you are asked to configure your controller. This is done in a surprisingly intuitive manner. However, you can’t not map commands to the controller. That is to say, if you’re out of buttons and/or you reach a command you will rarely use, you can’t choose to map it to the keyboard or not at all. You have to map every command it asks you to. There is no way around this. I don’t know if it detects controllers and configures itself based on what it detects, but it so happened that the number of commands exactly matched the number of buttons on my controller. This is a problem for me, as the lower shoulder buttons are mapped, via the Logitech driver, as dedicated screenshot and recording functions. You never know when you might want to grab a screenie, and when you miss the moment, you regret it forever. So, I have two leftover functions I have to map to the keys already reserved. While Arrowhead has mostly done a superb job with Magicka, this is one minor detail that is a big annoyance.
And for my conclusion: Braid. You can’t use a controller at all for this game. Why not? It’s a fucking platformer!

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