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I am making a game that will support a XBox 360 controller but I would like to try and keep the default button mappings to be what is expected from a user's past history from playing other games. Is there a set of guidelines from Microsoft on what should map to what (do you use A for fire or left trigger?), or has the gaming community picked up a common set of controls that is just not written anywhere, everyone just "knows" it (like WASD for movement).

The hardest thing for me is I have walking movement, vehicle movement, and airplane movement. I plan on allowing custom configuration of each, but I don't know what to set as the defaults.

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When in doubt, just copy halo/GTA/CoD –  Tetrad Oct 20 '12 at 6:13
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

There is no standard. About as close as you get to one is using the left stick to move and the right stick to look around or aim and using B for Cancel/No options (but no general standard for the Accept/Yes option!). Other than that it's all over the place.

A number of popular modern games have used all of the following for a primary fire button:

  • A
  • X
  • Right trigger
  • Hold left trigger and then hit one of the above

Note that right-trigger is very popular for shooters simply because it allows you to use both sticks (move and aim) while firing. Games that don't use the right-stick for anything in combat are more likely to use face buttons for attacking.

For secondary/melee, I've seen:

  • A
  • B
  • X
  • Y
  • Left trigger
  • Hold left trigger and then hit one of the above
  • Tap right trigger

For opening a mini-map, I've seen:

  • Y
  • X
  • B
  • Menu
  • Start
  • D-pad (several different directions)

If in doubt, just go play a couple games in a similar genre to your game and see what they did. See if you like how it feels.

However you do it, do your in-game help properly! When a user is first expected to do something, tell them to do it and show them how. Don't just put some text that says "Press A to shoot." Pop up a picture of the A button (green circle, A in the middle) with "SHOOT!" next to it. If it makes sense in your HUD, keep the buttons displayed next to equipped items, so the user can instantly see what to press to use something he has picked up. If the usage is even remotely complicated or non-obvious, have some kind of tutorial (preferably in-game, not a popup/video!). Good tutorials are generally similar to ones where the user is stuck until he uses/masters the new move/item, with some kind of in-game reminder of "press [button image] to [action]" messages until he escapes the area.

Point being, you should be more concerned with ensuring your game can teach your player how to play it than hoping that you can rely on the player intuitively knowing how to play your game. Even if there was some standard-ish layout, you want to support new and casual players as well as hardcore gamers.

A wise man once told me that all games are basically just really long tutorials on how to play that one game. While I'm not sure that's true for every genre or type of game, it's a very good rule of thumb to keep in mind.

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+1 for quoting the phrase "all games are basically just really long tutorials on how to play that one game" - keeping that in mind is the key to creating a user-friendly and intuitive game. –  Philipp Oct 22 '12 at 9:17
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I used this, its a kind of standarized "Keyboard to Controller" map, but when you are diving deeper you may just google something like "xbox360 xontroler mapping", the picture search gives you the mapping of some games.

For your multiple game modes just make sure you keep the cmmon functions in the same place, so that you wont steer a car with the left stick and a plane with the right one.

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That map is terrible. The shoulder buttons are commonly used but are mapped to u and y, which is pretty far from where your left hand usually is. The back and start buttons are infrequently used and they are mapped to w and q, which is close to the neutral position of the left hand and interferes with the standard WSAD movement on keyboards. They suggest IJKL for movement which I've never seen before. Try putting your left hand on IJKL without moving your keyboard, that's extremely unergonimcal. –  Roy T. Oct 20 '12 at 12:02
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@RoyT. I believe that mapping is so you could map a controller to the keyboard for something like a Player2 functionality without affecting Player 1's controls. –  Scott Chamberlain Oct 20 '12 at 13:28
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@ScottChamberlain I don't believe that, since the controls are all over the place (from Q, one of the left most keys, to the right arrow key, one of the most right most keys). –  Roy T. Oct 20 '12 at 14:00
    
I dug a little deeper and that controller map is just some fallback map for a gamedev course in case you dont have an Xbox controller, nothing standard or special about it, just some super quick made up fallback mapping. –  Roy T. Oct 20 '12 at 14:03
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