Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lumines PC Demo

It's amazing how a set of simple mechanics (rotate cube, move cube, and drop cube) can feel so right on my Xbox and so wrong -- at least according to the default keyboard setup -- on my PC.

I tried the Lumines demo from Wild Tangent today. Neither keyboard/mouse default layout was satisfying:

  • Mouse layout: LB = Drop Cube, RB = Rotate Cube (clockwise), Mouse Move = Move Cube.
  • Keyboard layout: Down Arrow = Drop Cube, Z/X = Rotate Cube (clock/counterclock), Left/Right Arrow = Move Cube.
The mouse settings were unwieldy because the mouse move never homed to the middle of the screen (which meant that my cube often started off to the side instead of near the center of the screen -- a disadvantage as the game gets harder and the pile grows higher). Also, there was no way by default to rotate the cube counterclockwise -- a severe impediment to serious gameplay.

The keyboard settings were equally unwieldy. Move cube was easier -- and it was nice to at least be able to rotate the cube clock- and counterclock-wise. However, I kept making transformation mistakes -- I'd hit the down arrow (drop cube) when I meant to rotate it and the vice versa. This was hard enough to overcome that I decided to try to modify the keyboard commands. But this didn't seem possible. Whoops!

Regardless of whether these default control schemes tested well, it is easy to think of a couple of alternative schemes that might serve equally well (if not better). The fact that I failed repeatedly tells me that it was probably hard to determine adequate default settings. Unfortunately this problem was compounded by not allowing users to select amongst some popular alternatives (or create a custom setup).

Suggested alternate control mappings:
  • Mouse/KB Layout: Space = Drop Cube, LB/RB = Rotate Cube, Mouse Move = Move Cube, experiment with some sort of mouse homing/centering algorithm after cube is placed.
  • KB only Layout: S = Drop Cube, A/D = Rotate Cube, Left/Right Arrow = Move Cube.

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