Sometimes it's fun to think of things in terms of controller mappings. I'm using some device or performing some activity-- how could I map this interface or action onto a standard (or non-standard) game console controller?

One recent example that translated very intuitively was mapping the iPod's interface onto an Xbox 360 controller. I was thinking, what if a character carried an iPod with them ingame, and could use it to choose selections from their custom soundtrack playlists on the fly?

Upon selecting the iPod from his inventory, the player would be presented onscreen with the familiar iPod interface.

Luckily, the 360 controller has a layout and array of buttons that translate perfectly to the iPod's interface.

1) Rotating the left analog stick on the 360 controller maps to sliding your thumb around the touch-sensitive input ring on the iPod. Rotating the stick clockwise and counterclockwise navigates menus and changes volume and other settings, as sliding your thumb clockwise and counterclockwise does on the iPod input ring.

2) Clicking in the left analog stick ("L3") maps to clicking the button at the center of the input ring on the iPod, to confirm selections.

3) The four face buttons on the 360 controller map to clicking the four input symbols on the face of the iPod input ring. Y maps to Menu, X maps to Back, B maps to Forward, and A maps to Play/Pause.

I think it works out particularly simply and nicely. I'm not sure if this exact thing has been done in a game before-- I think that in Mark Ecko's Gettin' Up: Contents Under Pressure and in Saints Row the player character has an iPod and can use it to choose the in-game music track. Were they presented in such a way as to map the player's direct input onto the iPod interface itself? I could find out, but suffice it to say I came up with this mapping in a vacuum.

I find this to be a nice design exercise, especially with increased complexity (for instance, attempting to map classic mouse-driven PC games onto a console interface, or dreaming up a port of a current game from one system to another with a completely different interface.) Try it sometime.


FreakyZoid said...

I would be amazed if either of those did feature an iPod - I can't see Apple wanting to be associated with crime-themed games.
I would also expect the iPod control scheme to be patented or somesuch, so you can't just copy it for the generic mp3 player your ingame character has.

Steve gaynor said...

Ah, I was right about the iPod being in Getting Up (photographic and anecdotal evidence here,) and that it does not emulate the actual iPod interface to change your selections. I guess I should know; I was a tester on that game. However, Saints Row doesn't seem to use the iPod, though I believe your character does have some sort of generic mp3 player. Or maybe you can just choose music from your 360's custom soundtrack without it being rationalized ingame. I don't know, I only played the demo.

Unknown said...

I wish more designers tried to do exercises like this.

I would find it impossible to list all the games I have played with unintuitive controls at various points, all of which could be fixed with a simple remapping! They make me cry.