Chopsticks Controls (1/3) – Design

This blog post will focus on the process of designing the chopsticks throughout the project thus far.

To begin with, there was some debate within the team as to whether the player character should be holding only one pair of chopsticks, or having a pair of chopsticks in each hand. The factors considered at the time were:

  • Only having one pair of chopsticks would be truer to how chopsticks are actually used. 
  • Two pairs of chopsticks would require more complex controls than one pair of chopsticks
  • Picking things up would be easier with two pairs of chopsticks.
  • It’s often said that limitations can breed creativity. Working within the limits of one pair of chopsticks might be more interesting.   

Despite the fact that in hindsight there was more in favour of only using a single pair: the decision made for the time being was to go ahead with two-pairs prototyping in real life. This did prove to make many activities a lot more doable than if one only chopstick was available to someone, the only added difficulty was only due to playtesters lacking ambidexterity: a weakness that wouldn’t be present in the game.

Despite initially feeling pretty good about having two pairs of chopsticks, I did experiment with performing some activities with only one pair of chopsticks and found it an interesting challenge, and I surprised myself with what I could achieve with only one pair (and in one instance, what Edward managed to achieve: writing his name with only one pair of chopsticks). 

This is where I began to suspect it might be a better direction, but the thoughts were in the back of my mind.

That is, they were in the back of my mind until I started actually drafting control schemes for the chopsticks. It was quickly apparent that achieving all the flexibility that the chopsticks would need to fairly accurately cover all the movements one can perform in real life.

Note: Text in square brackets [ ] was added retroactively to communicate more clearly, the rest was written before editing over the original image.

This first draft had many flaws. Realistically right and left click did not need to be ‘left’ versus ‘right’ chopstick, considering only one chopstick actually is moved in real life. But the worst issue with this was a lack of ability to rotate the chopsticks or point them in any direction other than ‘forward’. It was a very flawed design, but that’s to be expected with a first draft.

Attempts to improve on this whilst maintaining the idea that the player would use two pairs of chopsticks still had a level of complexity that made the controls less user friendly than I desired. The difficulty of using chopsticks is intended to be a core part of gameplay, but if it’s hard to even understand the controls: it fails to be difficult in the correct way. Furthermore, having too many different buttons spread across the keyboard alongside the mouse slows down the maximum efficiency of a player. In short, the skill ceiling is lowered whilst the skill floor is increased, and that’s not what I wanted.

Trying to make the game accessible through relatively simple controls was a thought in my mind from the start as well, and my ideas for controls with only one pair of chopsticks allowed for this significantly more. Below is the draft I first implemented into the game’s unity project.

After getting a feel for these controls, I started to work on improving them to be more smooth, with people who only have one functioning hand in mind whilst also being a potentially useful option for others too. Many gaming mice have buttons attached to the side, which if present the game automatically allows them to rotate the chopsticks, and the mouse scroll-wheel can move the chopsticks forward and backwards. This means that every control except for movement can be executed through a gaming mouse. 

There’s more to learn about the chopsticks in Stik-Up. An abandoned custom controller concept, and the challenges faced trying to implement them in the Unity project, involving Unity’s physics engine, colliders, and scripting. So make sure to check the site every now and again to see the next blogpost!

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  1. Pingback: Chopsticks Controls (2/3) – Abandoned Idea: Custom Controller – Stik-Up

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