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Feedback on touch controls for StarBouncer 2.0

07-07-2009, 02:29 PM
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 56
Feedback on touch controls for StarBouncer 2.0

I am working on a heavy revision of my game StarBouncer, which is loosely modeled after the classic arcade game "Omega Race". StarBouncer has a love/hate relationship with users, which seems to focus on the control input.

In versions 1.x, I used tilt (accelerometer) to rotate the ship. This works great in my opinion, and I like the idea of making the most of the iPhone architecture with full screen content, and using the device itself as the controller. However, other people just don't like tilt controls, and this was made clear to me when watching someone else spastically trying to control the ship via tilt. Some players are just not capable of using tilt well, no matter what sensitivity level is used.

I have implemented two touch screen control options for version 2.0. First is a touch paddle, where dragging directly rotates the ship as if your finger was on the nose of the ship:

The other is a typical D-pad arrangement, where you tap and drag right or left to rotate the ship (analagous to the tilt right/left convention):

Both of these options are "virtual" -- they allow the user to invoke the touch control instantaneously by tapping anywhere on the screen (anywhere that is not a button that is), causing a ghost image of the controller to become visible. So they are quite flexible as far as user preference. The controls appear and function on-demand, then go away.

The controls work well except when the game's action moves to the area where the player is using a finger for touch control. Unlike the buttons, which are tucked in the corner and take a small amount of fixed space, the rotation controls tend to use up a lot of space as the user goes through the various motions needed to rotate the ship. For instance, I may start in the lower right corner, but by the time I have moved the ship around a lot during frenzied gameplay, my finger invariably migrates around randomly. It's just the nature of touchscreen paddle/joystick controls. When the game action moves to this area and I have to lift or reposition a finger, gameplay suffers quite a bit.

So, I keep coming back to the notion that tilt is the best option for a fullscreen game, and it puts me in a dilemma. I would definitely like to accommodate players who prefer on-screen touch controls over tilt, but it's clearly not a viable solution with the current implementation. At the same time, I don't want to wreck the game by devoting a certain area of the screen for the rotation control inputs, which would require reducing the playable area. I like having fullscreen gameplay.

I have looked at other games that use a virtual control, and they all seem to have much slower action or less frequent input. This means that short breaks to reposition a finger or add input are acceptable. In the case of StarBouncer, things happen fast and the gameplay can quickly migrate to the area where the finger is. I am starting to think that onscreen virtual controls are just not feasible for this game.

If anyone has thoughts/feedback, I'd appreciate it. At some point, I'd like to solicit a few ad-hoc testers to put 2.0 through its paces and try out the new online high scores and other improvements in the game. It's turning out rather nicely.

07-07-2009, 02:55 PM
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 11,187
Circuit Strike One has a similar control scheme. (advanced)

The only game like this that I play with tilt controls is Blue Attack! Everywhere else I can, I play with on-screen controls.

Also, it seems that most games I've played like this put move on the left and fire on the right (I think patterned after the NES controller, seems that before that the fire button was on the left...) so you might want to at least have an option for that.

One more game that comes to mind that might be similar to this is Asteroid BBQ, you might want to check that one out.

(P.S. Omega Race is a fantastic game, I've still got a copy somewhere for my C64...)

Originally Posted by NickFalk View Post

Worst idea ever!
07-07-2009, 08:40 PM
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 56
I just checked out cs.one -- the big difference with that game is that the ship is always in the middle of the screen, so there is a lot more room for controls without overlapping the play area. Unfortunately that won't work for Omega Race derivatives as you can guess, since the ship really gets around the whole screen.

I'll check out the others -- thanks for the reccomendations.

I do allow buttons to be rearranged in StarBouncer, so players can decide how they want to position the move / fire / thrust arrangement.
07-07-2009, 11:05 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Chicago
Posts: 1,750

Even though I don't like tilt controls, I have just purchased your game for two reasons:

1) I want to encourage you to implement some kind of on-screen touch control for rotation, as I am one of those player who are just too spastic for tilt controls.

2) I am a sucker for the phrase "modeled after the classic arcade game Omega Race". I spent many many dozens of hours in this: http://ggdb.com/img/ggdb/vol1/1976_1_fs_gm.jpg

Here's what I think.

Idea 1) You already have two spots on the screen that a user will need to tap. How about putting the rotation controls around the fire button? That way if the user drags left or right from the fire button the shp will turn that way. The player may fire sometimes when then don't mean to, but so what?

Idea 2) Put the Fire and rotate button on the lower left and right corners of the screen and make the entire left side of the screen (except for the button) a rotate left and the right side of the screen (except for the button) a rotate right.

I would be glad to be a beta tester if you need one.

One last thing, could you please add options to save the game state (at least through the end of the previous stage) when the program ends, and also to allow players to listen to their own music.

Regards, Michael
07-07-2009, 11:29 PM
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 56
Michael, thanks, I appreciate it. I will get in touch with you within the next week or so to provide an ad hoc copy of version 2.0. I think you'll like it.

I really like idea #2 -- that makes a lot of sense, and I think it will probably be far better than the paddle / D-pad options I am using right now.

Idea #1 is OK, but I have actually found that people get so excited shooting that I had to enlarge the virtual touch area around the buttons. In version 2.0, the buttons are the same size on screen, but the "hot" area around the buttons is double the size. This allows some wandering of taps when the action gets intense. So based on that, I think trying to implement any finesse controls in the area of the fire button will be tough. However, the thrust button might be a better place for this....

thanks again,
07-07-2009, 11:41 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Location: Chicago
Posts: 1,750
Yea, I liked idea 2 better too.

The problem with putting the rotate around the thrust button (in idea 1) is that an inadvertent fire is no big deal, but an inadvertent thrust can get you killed.

Looking forward to trying out version 2.

Regards, Michael