Hey Harvey!

Posted on Sep 7th 2010 at 11:32:12 AM by (slackur)
Posted under southpaw, gaming, Gears of War, Vanquish, stoopid developers

So the Vanquish demo arrived on XBox Live.  I thoroughly enjoy developer Platinum's titles (Bayonetta, Okami, Viewtiful Joe Series) but until this demo arrived, I had little interest in another third-person sci-fi shooter.  Any other time of the year it might have blipped on the radar.  But in the same time frame as Halo: Reach, a new take on Castlevania, and another Call of Duty (I'll be honest, I'm only getting it for the radio-controlled RC car equipped with an AV feed for spying on/playing with my kids) it had to stand out, and the screen shots didn't really sell it for me.

Then I tried the Demo.

Whee!!  Fluid, stylized action that felt like a hyper Gears of War, set in a clone of a  Robotech universe, with a character in Issac Clarke's armor and wielding a gun stolen from the new Transformer movies.  It was fast, over the top, Sega-brand arcade-y while containing depth, and I could see how the game's presentation and control combined into a beautiful player guided ballet in the vein of the new Ninja Gaidens and Devil May Cry.

At least, I think that's how it would feel if I could play it.

You see, I'm a southpaw.  No, not a feline from Mississippi, a left hander.  In a 3D space, my left hand has to control the look, and my right hand the movement.  This, of course, is reverse of the traditional play control.  No, it's not as simple as 'just get used to it the normal way.'  Try playing one of the few games that manually allow a southpaw setting on the opposite of your preference and you may get a glimpse of my pain.  And to all the Lefties in the forums that say an alternate control setup is unnecessary because they can play on the default, I'm happy you don't have a problem.  I literally get nauseous playing the 'normal' way for more than ten or fifteen minutes, and I refuse to take Dramamine or other dimenhydrinates or medications to play a game.  I've tried off and on for years, and it still makes me motion sick.  Its not a problem if I can simply have the thumb sticks swapped.

Except it is.  Because developers aren't really paying attention to between 10% and 15% of their gaming population, they may offer a southpaw control option that swaps the analogue stick controls, but obviously don't play test it.  Let me give you a perfect example:

Gears of War supports an internal southpaw control option.  It makes the left stick the look controls, and the right stick movement.  We good now?  Not hardly.  Because G.o.W is a 'stop and pop' shooter, the player uses the 'A' button as a context sensitive control for taking cover, rolling to cover, jumping over cover, etc.  The 'A' button is probably the most important button after the shoot button.  Its directly above the right stick.

And. You. Can't. Change. It. 

For normal controls, not a problem.  But for southpaw, I need to move that right 'movement' stick in a direction while pressing the 'A' button.  The button directly to the right of the stick.  Let me give you a visual example of what my hand has to do to press 'A' while moving my character to cover:

Yeah.  Any game requiring me to move the right thumb stick while pressing a face button (pretty much every 3D game) requires some crazy move like that.  If I just move all my fingers across the face buttons 'arcade stick' style, then I can't reach the top bumpers and triggers.  For Gears, they could have just let me change the 'A' functions with one of the bumpers (the left bumber is only used to give an arrow locating AI team-mates for crying out loud!  I need that more than the game-designed-around-it cover system?!?!)  Obviously, someone at Epic never play tested the southpaw option much, or this GLARING oversight of the unmappable 'A' button would have been addressed.

In fact, any 3D game requiring the use of face buttons that can't be remapped to the four top-side buttons on the 360 or PS3 controller is just a slap in the face to any southpaw-required gamer like me.  It gets worse; many games won't even let you swap the thumb sticks anyway.  Even the 360's internal southpaw preference is unsupported in many AAA games, including Battlefield 2, Lost Planet and Lost Planet 2, Bioshock, and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, just to name a small few.  I had to buy a hardwired modded controller that internally swapped the sticks just to play these games, and that still doesn't address the face button problem.

What, are we still in the '90s?  Why on earth, in this day of unprecedented mainstream gaming popularity, can we not get universal control mapping options on every game?  Especially the large-scale developed ones?  Sure, developers have their preference on how a game should be controlled; make that the default.  Why alienate even a small percentage of the gaming population over such an easily correctable issue?

Maybe it's just me.  For a long time I assumed it was.  Then I read this:


I'm not alone! 
Every time I submit a complain about this (I even called a few companies directly) all I would hear is a standard, 'thank you for bringing this to our attention, all of our customer's feedback is important to us, and we'll consider it for future releases' reply that would be the same line if I complained that their games didn't feature enough custard filled donuts.

Us southpaws have struggled in vain over this control issue ever since the Playstation era (though strangely, the Dreamcast featured several games with Southpaw defaults.)  Please, help us bug developers enough so they will listen.  Everyone wants to play games with the controls set up the way they are most comfortable, and even if you aren't a southpaw, there is almost certainly a game you would change a few buttons around on.  Why are we still waiting?

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Ouch, I can see how that makes it very hard to play a lot of games. I'm left handed myself but never had a problem with the default controls. In fact, I find them very natural.

Do you also use a computer mouse with your left hand? You probably do, right?

If you want "universal control mapping options" as you say, you really need to start looking at getting a gaming PC. Complete customizable controls, and you can just use your mouse with your left hand. Not to mention the games play smoother and look far better than on any console.

Atleast 90% of the games you mention in this article are available on PC. So what are you waiting for? Cheesy
I used to be a big time PC gamer.  I was a Net-Op at my University for a few years, and it was filled with Unreal Tournament, Homeworld, Mechwarrior, Warcrafts (pre-World of), Quake III, etc.  I used a Logitec trackball and often placed in the top of the leaderboards. 

Then I moved and lightening took out my nice desktop.  And really, that pattern is part of why consoles retook the spotlight.  I'm actually typing on a problematic laptop I meant to get restored and never got around to, because the hard drive on my main computer abruptly went belly-up along with everything on it.

Sure, the lines between console and home computer are getting as blurry as the textures on an N64 game, but I can't afford the parts arms race for PCs, especially since I've really come to prefer laptops.  Its fun, I did it for years, but every time I upgrade I loose the ability and tweaking I had the system set for in order to play some classic or even current games.  If treated as part of the hobby, or even another hobby, it can be fun, but I don't have the time or energy anymore; I tend to just want to load up and go.  Our 360 LAN runs without a lot of problems or frustrations, and even with the Zoidberg-claw I occasionally have to make, it's a lot more user-friendly.  Less time problem solving, more time gaming!

I still play quite a few PC games (two of my recent reviews were for the classics Warning Forever and Small Worlds) but with so much of my free time taken up with social gaming, we end up playing a lot of 360 and Wii.

But your helpful suggestion is certainly valid and makes a good point; thanks! Smiley
I agree with your comment for the most part, except for the "parts arms race for PCs". That just isn't true. The reason why a lot of PC gamers are upgrading their PCs every couple months (and therefor why non-PC gamers think this is a must to play PC games) is because for some reason, they feel that playing a PC game at anything but the highest settings is an immortal sin. If you buy a decent "gaming" PC today, you'll have no problems playing all upcoming games for the next 3-5 years, easy. All you need to do is lower the settings a bit as time goes by and games become more demanding. Having to upgrade "all the time" is the biggest misconception people have about PC gaming. Not to mention that playing a PC game on medium settings with "only" 2xAA or whatever still looks far better than it would look on a console.

People also use the "PC gaming is way too expensive" but that's a bunch of lies as well. You're going to be buying a computer anyway, and most people pay $500-700 for a PC. Not to mention all the people who buy Macbooks/iMacs that cost well over $1000. You can easily build a decent gaming PC for $700-800, and a great one for $1000.

Atleast for the single player FPS games like Bioshock, I'd seriously consider getting back into PC gaming.
Wow, makes my kegal hurt just looking at that first pic.  While I do see this problem continuing with a few Japanese-made games, there is no valid excuse that a Western-developed game should be without FULL support of customizable controls.

You should send those jerks your medical bill.  Or something.
Oh, I know 'keeping up with the PC Jones's' isn't as pricey as it used to be.  Don't get me wrong, I've used PCs for gaming since the Commodore 64.  And many people are the personality type that a 1K gaming machine would do them well for at least the lifespan of your average console. 

My problem is that I'm not just a collector for hardware, but for gaming accessibility.  It took me years to tweak my machine to run everything, from Mean Streets and Full Throttle to Doom 3 and Far Cry.  Then would upgrade my RAM and somehow lose the ability to play several games.  I'm just too picky; I used to spend hours and hours playing with setups and alternate boot methods until playing around with my PC was a hobby that took up more than my play time.  I have degrees in Electronics and Industrial Instrumentation, and I was doing that stuff all the time anyway.  I finally cut myself off for a few years and started using laptops, and most of the 'problem' solved itself. Wink  I just had to choose between hobbies, and I sold or gave away dozens of boxes of PC parts.  Now I only run a few games on my computer at a time, on purpose, and try to mainly use it for practical uses.  Starcraft II threatened to start the cycle all over again, but now that I'm out of college and work as a house-husband I use my non-gaming time to be with my kids.  Wait, should that be the other way around? Wink

Trust me dude, if I could find a way to get developers to listen...
*whistles innocently*

PM sent.
It's amazing that there hasn't been a true lefty-designed controller on the market yet.

I mean, how difficult would it be to mirror-flip the design of the controller where the buttons would be on the left side?

Seems like there's definitely an untapped market there!
Every game should have mappable buttons period.

It is an issue for southpaws but there are plenty of games i have played where i would have rathered a personalized mapping to their standard one.
never thought about this. Great post man.
The playstation claw returns!!

A MLG player named Walshie was famous for using a claw action like that back in the Halo 2 days.  I think the Halo series has some of the best alternate control settings.  I'll tell you my story and you'll see.

I grew up on Goldeneye a great game with great multiplayer.  The controls are great for anyone starting out.  You can just use the joystick for turning motion and forward back motion.  When players got that down they could add look up/down and strafing with the yellow buttons to really get make themselves a difficult target.  Real masters of this control set could circle-strafe... and that's with the crap-O N64 controller.  The default Goldeneye control set is still great for beginners and I try and introduce first-time gamers to multiplayer games this way.  Many modern games often still call the button/stick map "Legacy" or "Golden". 

I never learned it but Goldeneye had a contol set called "Honey" which did the standard run/strafe on the left and aim/turn on the right.  This kind of stuff is standard for PC games because turning is actually part of aiming.  In fact some games like Quake have features like auto-run since you're always holding down that key anyways.

Back to console gaming.
The PlayStation came close to having an awesome controller but the fingers slip off of the #2 button too easily.  Dreamcast also came close, but missed the whole SECOND JOYSTICK thing necessary for 3D gaming.  Xbox fixed that, and the Xbox 360 perfected it by removing superfluous face buttons put the action into the bumper buttons a la Playstation.  Don't worry, they managed to make it suck by sticking it with the worst D-pad of this generation.

Halo 3 is a popular Xbox 360 game using this mostly good controller.  Default settings are what the kids are cutting their teeth on nowadays, so expect to see this default repeatedly over coming decade.  Here is why it is good in general and great if you think otherwise.  The big idea is to keep your thumbs on the joysticks during action sequences.  For starts X is hardly used, in fact MLG doesn't even have equipment in their games so it is a wasted button.  Y is weapon swap.  In Halo you can only carry two weapons, and the swap animation takes a short time.

Here is where variation comes in.  RT is shoot, LT is a Grenade/Dual fire.  RB is right reload.  LB is change grenade type and left (dual) reload.  A and B are jump and melee respectively.  Now my favorite alternate control type goes like this... Why not put the action of jump and melee on the bumpers and keep my thumbs on the sticks.  That means reload goes down to the face buttons, but I'm usually in a safe place when it happens anyways.  This reduces the need for any active claw action.

I've heard another theory on it too.  A friend of mine uses the other popular alternate setting.  Lefty swap on stick is as one would expect.  How about a lefty swap on the triggers too?  This friend is actually a righty, but he claims that the repetitive trigger pulling throws off his aim.  Aim, once again, is usually controlled on the right stick by default.


I'm always looking for a better console control set.  I've gone through some painful changes in the past from being Golden to Spartan.  And the most natural invert look.  Whenever I play a crappy FPS game I always remember Marathon on the Apple Pippin.  It's a doom-style game with disgusting controls.  D-pad is Golden... move/turn.  Face buttons do all the actions of the game, but the top two don't do a proper turn or strafe... They do a 45-degree look to the side.  If you keep running forward this could be a substitute for a strafe, but it is always sharp and difficult to handle.  I should mention the enemies also seem to fire 8-direction-wise.  This means if your quarter-strafing and trying to shoot them, they'll be lined up perfectly to hit you back.  I imagine the Mac and XBLA incarnations include proper strafing.  There's just some wrongs in the gaming world that you really can't forget no matter how hard you try.
I would Figure that all the motion controllers for the Wii, Xbox 360, and the PS3 would be south paw compatable no?
Being a righty I've never had that problem, but that pic made me laugh a lot.

My brother and I were playing Mega Man X a little while ago were complaining about our right hands being sore afterwards. Turns out we were playing pretty much the same way you are in your picture. Thumb on Y and B for Charging/Shooting Mega Buster and Jumping and the bent over index finger to use the dash. It does get uncomfortable after a while, but I still like it for some reason.
Usually motion controls aren't a problem.  Sometimes mildly disorienting, like in Twilight Princess; I would swing with my left hand and Link's right hand would move.  Not a deal-breaker, of course, but it can mess with you a little.  Especially since LINK IS LEFT-HANDED!!  At least, in the entire series canon until that game.

Even discomfort I can work with; anyone trying to repeatedly hit the 'Z' button on a GameCube controller knows that feeling.  My biggest problem is the nausea I get every time I play a 3D game the 'normal' way.  That I just can't get past.  I've forced myself to try repeatedly, taking breaks and just trying to plow through it, but it never goes away.  Something about wanting to vomit while controlling a game was a big turn off after awhile. :p
As a legacy control fan I know your pain.  I dont even buy console shooters if they dont support legacy anymore - just not worth it.  Full button remapping would take an intern a couple hours, so a professional programer should be able to put it in in far less time.  Why these companies refuse to do it just doesnt make sense to me.  I know its a numbers game, but we are talking about a couple hours and they would get atleast 100 more sales.  Hell I would rebuy Borderlands if I could play it with legacy controls.
@OatBob: GoldenEye's control scheme is actually worse than the default control scheme, even though it might seem more natural to some (which is only because they're used to it). It still uses the same concept of older 2D shooters like Wolfenstein 3D where arrow up/down moves your character forward backward and left/right makes him turn left and right. This is fine in 2D shooters like Wolf and Doom but doesn't really work in 3D shooters. It makes a lot more sense to have one stick control your character's movement in space (the left analog stick or WASD keys for PC gaming) and the other (right stick or mouse in PC gaming) control what he/she is looking at (= aiming).

Imagine GoldenEye's standard control scheme mapped to a keyboard/mouse setup in a PC shooter. Moving your mouse forward/backward would make your character move forward/backward and moving it to the left/right would make him turn left/right. A and D on the keyboard would still strafe but W and S would make your character look up and down. The reason why this control scheme is worse than the typical one is because you're splitting up aiming onto two controls instead of having it on one stick/mouse.

@slackur: Link is still left-handed in the GameCube version of that game. Smiley

@slackur: Seems like your brain mapped the GoldenEye style controls so hard that trying to use something else tricks your brain into thinking something is wrong and you get a bad feeling. We feel this way every time our brain does not understand the connection between what we feel/see and do. The same reason why some people get sick when they sit in the back of the bus, really.

@fastbilly1: The reason they don't implement it is not because of the work (it's barely an few hours of work) but because of the very concept that makes a console a console. The reason why so many people play on consoles instead of computers is because there's too many settings in PC games, too many things you can control yourself, too many shenanigans and incompatibility issues that can go wrong. Most people are dumb and would mess something up in the settings and then complain about it. That's why console games offer so little settings.
It's the same reason why Macs are popular. They "just work". The reality is, is that you sacrifice control over your computer when you buy a Mac in order for it to always "work".
@Sirigin I understand that, but I still think it is asinine.  Several games, ie Timesplitters Future Perfect and The Conduit, offer full remapping, while others offer little or none at all.  The thing that gets me the most is being left handed and having an upbringing that had me firing firearms from an early age, I have to shoot with my left trigger finger.  The inability to swap triggers makes these games unplayable in multiplayer.  I mean I can slowly work through them but when panic sneaks in I always pull left trigger first.  This is something that simply cannot be changed - Ive been shooting for over twenty years.

I am tempted to just pay a hardware modder to mod a 360 controller for me, or get a guy to build me one of these interface boxes:
But I keep telling myself, right after I buy one the new console will be released.
@fastbilly1: Oh, absolutely. There's always some great developers out there like Free Radical that do think about little things like this. It shows that they care, even for minorities within their audience. But that doesn't change the fact that 99%+ of console games won't have complete custom keybinding.

If I were you I'd try buying a modded controller/interface box TODAY. You'll feel much happier being able to play these games the way you want to. Either that, or buy a gaming PC and play and setup your games exactly as you like.

Don't be fooled, a new generation of consoles won't change a thing. It doesn't matter that systems keep getting more powerful and are fulfilling roles that used to be computer-only. They are and will continue to be closed systems. From Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo's point of view there are very few advantages to making them more like computers and many, many disadvantages. They're in this business to make money, not to meet the demands of every gamer on earth. The same goes for the publishers/developers.
@sirgin It is a shame, and is why I continue to buy PC versions of games over console versions.  The only reason I would want to play them on a console instead is because so many of my friends refuse to play games on the PC.  So while I can play Borderlands with a dozen of my friends, the other chunk that enjoy it only play it on the 360.
medal of honor, another fail. only have a lefty option in multiplayer, WTF??
this post is nearly two years old, but still one of my favorite blog posts on the entire site. Just thought I'd say that.
Thanks Smiley

Just bought a PS3/PS2/360 cord adapter that lets me play my 360 hard-modded southpaw controller on my PS3 (because I cannot find ANYone who southpaw-mods PS3 controllers.)

Now I can finally play Uncharted and Dead Space 2 (which is also on 360, I know, but I bought the PS3 version for the free HD version of Extraction, because I loved it on the Wii and hey, free game.)

Also just finished Warhammer 40K Space Marine, and even though it supported Southpaw on the sticks, it reminded me of how hard it is to play melee-combo fighters without mappable face buttons.  I had to play it on easy to finish it because I had to 'claw' it.

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