Input is hard — Intro

A series of articles about input in game design and development.

The episodes:
 • Deadzones

Input seems easy when you first start making games. Just strap the A button to jump and the X axis of the joystick to move and you’re good to go, right?

Kind of. I mean, there are so many things to deal with when making a game that going for a quick solution that requires no thought is actually a good thing. I’m always the first to advocate the quick and dirty solution first approach to design and engineering. Sometimes it’s okay to cut corners, maybe you’re on a tight deadline? Maybe it just happened to be good enough? And you can always come back later and improve the design if need be.

However, good input design is actually quite hard. There are issues to think about like cross-platform compatibility, accessibility, comfort, intuition, customisation, new technologies like VR and motion capture, and the the general pain in the neck it can be to fit all the different actions a player will have to perform onto a limited controller. And sometimes you’re simply making a game that just doesn’t map neatly onto the controller.

If your input design is poor, the game can feel awkward and wrong in a way that’s invisible and pervasive. It’s hard to spot too because as the developer, you get used to the oddities of your design, and you might not have the same assumptions and issues that your players have.

Get your input right, however, and only a few nerds will actually notice. Well, sort of. Good controls feel right on a subconscious level, the player will feel more engaged in the game. This is what immersion is about. Making you forget the controller is there so you can get your mind into the game.

In this series, we will explore various topics in input design, such as dead-zones, accessibility, and remapping. These articles will serve both as a resource for developers, and an exercise in deep diving into a seemingly shallow subject. Stay for the obsessive over-analysis or to learn a thing or two that might help you get your game to the next level.

Sources to articles, books and other resources will be included. If you know of a source that might be useful, please get in touch. These articles aren’t immutable either, if you see something inaccurate or missing, let me know!

All the articles will be linked to from this page, so feel free to check back later to start learning about input!