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Posted on April 4th, 2011 by
Many video games allow you to configure your buttons the way you want. For example, if you don't like that you have to press X in order to jump, you can assign the O button to be your jump button instead by going to a button configuration menu. Unfortunately, not all games do button config menus the way you'd expect them to.
Lots of different configuration menu styles exist; take a look at the two examples below (they're just mockups and do not actually represent any real game).
Which one do you prefer?
I like option #1 better for several reasons.
A) It's easier to look at a given action, and decide what button I want to represent that action, than vice versa.
B) The full list of available actions is always visible, and has the visual property of looking static and invariant, so I know what actions and tools I'm working with at all times. I am already familiar with the buttons on my controller, but not necessarily the in-game actions.
C) Assigning all your buttons takes less time and requires fewer list selections in option #1. It's one button press per action, as opposed to going through several items in a dropdown list.
Option #2 is what a lot of gamers have mockingly referred to as "The Bad Kind Of Button Config". Regardless of whether you are a casual or hardcore gamer, setting and customizing options should be straightforward and painless. While there are certain more technical and advanced reasons you might want to use the Bad kind of config for complicated button mapping combinations, these reasons do not apply to 99% of the general gaming populace.
To take a personal example, one game series I have played has used both the Good and Bad button config menus throughout its various iterations, re-releases and sequels. The first few games went with the Good kind, but in recent years, their last two entries in the series have migrated to the Bad config. A lot of UI design choices were rehauled by a new team, apparently for the worse (in spite of TONS of negative feedback on the new design).
As it turns out, the Bad kind of config makes me a lot less inclined to play the newer games. Since I cannot save custom button configuration profiles (another no-no), I have to set my buttons every time I boot up a game. The more steps I have to take before I can actually play the game, the less likely I am to pop that game into my console and turn it on.
In the past this wasn't a big problem to companies because even if you didn't play the game after you bought it, the company already had your cash in their hands. But this was before the advent of the Internet and additional downloadable content. I think this should be a Big Deal to game companies today, because the less likely I am to play the game, the harder it is for a company to sell me add-ons or extras (for example, new stages, maps, weapons, or funny bowler hats for my characters to wear). That's extra money they will never see, because I can't be bothered to turn on the game and sit through a tedious configuration process.
So please, game companies, make it easier for me to play your game. Stop using the Bad Kind Of Button Config!