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I hear in many game reviews, how gamers complain about the controls of a game, when they hate it, or how they praise them when they work right. This expression comes up: "Tight controls".

It seems like when it comes to games, "controls" is a critic point for a game to succeed, so I was wondering if we could have a discussion about what exactly are tight controls.

  • What makes "controls" feel good?
  • What kind of things do gamers hate when it comes to "controls"?
  • What examples could be given?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Typically a loose control means one with back lash - where a slight backwards movement (from the last direction of travel) of the control actually causes no action in the game. A tight control is one without any discernible backlash. A secondary desired characteristic in this regards is often non-linear behavior - where moving the control position twice as fast provides game behaviour more than twice as far. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 27 '15 at 4:05
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"Tight" controls are the opposite of "loose" controls. Generally speaking, these terms are used to indicate whether or not a control scheme responds quickly and appropriately to a player's actions. If the controls lag or otherwise cause slowdown and other undesired behavior, they're not tight. (Another term for "tight" would be "responsive").

For example, I played a PC game recently (not naming any names) where the mouse cursor did not immediately update onscreen as I moved the mouse, and on top of it the cursor was slow, with no option to speed it up anywhere in the game's options. This led to the cursor lazily "floating" around the screen about a half-second behind my actual movements, which was a royal pain when you're trying to click on moving objects with any kind of precision.

It's usually a sign of poorly optimized/programmed control routines, and definitely affects a game's playability.

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There is no cut and dry definition for tight controls. So while sandalfoot's answer is not wrong, I would give it a different answer.

Tight controls mean less momentum affecting change. If a character is moving in one direction, turning them in another direction very rapidly would be tight controls. If you need more time to get them moving in the desired location, the controls would be looser.

Let's take FIFA for example. If you change directions 180 degrees, it takes time to stop and gain momentum in the other direction. If it was instantaneous, the controls would be too tight. If it took too long to turn around, the controls would be too loose. You can also turn in a semi circle to maintain your momentum, while taking longer to turn around. The momentum lost while turning this semi circle can be adjusted to change the tightness/looseness of the controls. Or for other games, such as Mario, how drastically you can change your direction while mid air reflects the tightness/looseness of the controls.

You do not want tight or loose controls - you want balanced controls. If they are too loose, and it takes too long to change direction, the game can feel unwieldy. If they are too tight, and you can immediately change directions, they can see unrealistic. You want to hit a middle ground.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks like two concept got merged in this answer. Response time (controls "tightness") and Physics (momentum and such). E.g. in a typical racing game players would want a 0 response time when hitting a handbrake (start applying deceleration, add sound and brake strips), but they would do not want the car to stop immediately (unless that's some crazy Carmageddon physics). \$\endgroup\$
    – Kromster
    Sep 2 '15 at 5:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KromStern I did not intend to mention response time in my answer aside from noting other definitions such as sandalfoot's answer. Which part did you take in this way? \$\endgroup\$
    – Evorlor
    Sep 2 '15 at 10:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ My bad, worded it out rather poorly. What I meant was that blaming everything on momentum is unfair (i.e. merging 2 concepts into one). I believe that response time (and/or indication) are important pieces of the puzzle. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kromster
    Sep 2 '15 at 10:47
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After playing a lot of games you simply start preferring a certain type of controls for certain genres, it's a learned bias.

When someone makes a game with different controls it just feels like something is wrong.
It's not like players can't get used to it, it's just that it will bother them for a while.
This mistake often comes from people who are working on a genre that they aren't used to playing or it's just their first time making a game from that genre.

And I'd disagree that controls are a critical point for the game. Sure the reviewers might complain if you make a mistake with controls, but they will talk more about other aspects of your game.

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