An Open Letter to Gaijin Games

Dear Gaijin Games,

I love your games – I really do! I own all of them. I enjoy getting horrendously frustrated at just how bad I am. Because let’s be honest, I’m awful at video games.

But they entertain me – I spend hours thumping my fists on my desk as I fail, over and over and over and over ad nauseam. Eventually giving up to only come back an hour later and start from scratch. Feeling the elation as I finally manage to get past that level that I’ve just not been able to get past. It’s great fun. I like these games. I also like Super Meat Boy (Hi Team Meat!).

I’ve been playing computer games since back in 1990 – games that back then required spending an hour listening to a tape play garbage into a computer to, after the excruciating wait, be able to direct a line around the screen to collect dots. I even spent hours copying code from magazines, then hooking up my cassette player to my MPC-100 and hitting the record button, tearing my hair out when the cheap tapes that were all I could afford at the time warped and I had to record again. (Maybe that’s why I’m balding so early in my life!).

I’ve since then progressed onto consoles – the NES, the SNES, the Master System (both 1 and 2 – oh how I’d spend hours playing Alex the Kidd!), the Megadrive, various addons for the megadrive.

I remember the childlike joy I felt when I opened up my Christmas presents one year only to find a Playstation. I remember hooking it up to my Grandparents TV on Christmas Day, having to re-tune their VCR player to a different channel – and then retuning their TV, and then tuning into the console.

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I remember then discovering the PC as a gaming platform – and I’ll be honest – I’ve never turned back. From Simon the Sorcerer, Carmageddon, through the days when I’d run the UK Unreal Tournament Leagues for IGUK, through to Starcraft, Broodwar (and racking up a £300 phone bill for my parents playing it on dialup at the time (I’d signed up for a freeserve account which was a “local call number” and ran an extension cord through to my parents bedroom – boy were they “pleased” to see that bill – I think I was grounded for a couple of months!)). World of Warcraft – spending my time hooked in a game. Second Life – helping run an online Radio station and DJing to boost my in-game funds.

I remember being extremely lucky to find myself a gamer girlfriend – who introduced me to the Xbox. I remember playing Fable – and enjoying the game… but alas – those hours of frustration – because of the controller.

Personally, the sight of an Xbox Controller makes me shudder… it was big, bulky, didn’t fit in my hands, made my thumbs and fingers hurt… *shudders*. Now – I’ll agree, the more modern Xbox Controllers are a bit better – but they still feel uncomfortable to me. I can’t play on one. Now – I know some people reading this will be raging now – and I expect some trolls in the comments. But this is my personal experience – my personal opinion, which I’m entitled to – and I’m sure I’m not the only one with the same feelings about the Xbox controller.

So, when I started playing games on the PC that needed a controller – I grabbed myself a Playstation style controller.  It’s getting a bit old now – but it’s my trusty controller that works for me.  It’s even got a weird little button on the back that I don’t know what it does – other than when I press it – the button 12 on the controller fires repeatedly.  Don’t ask me – I don’t know.

Now – most of your games, I’ve played with the keyboard.  Simply because I’ve never really thought to play it in any other way.  But enter BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien (yeah, Copy & Paste) literally PUSHES you to use a controller.  So I dig out my trusty old gamepad, load the game – and… get offered keyboard options.  Ok, replug the controller – try again.  Same.  Hit some buttons – nope – it’s not working.  Ok, reload the game – don’t hit any buttons on the keyboard – just mash buttons on the controller.  Still nothing. Go check that the calibration is right.  Yep – everything works – even the weird button that makes button 12 spam (seriously, what’s the point of that button?)

Enter Google. “bit trip runner 2 enable controller”. Nope. “Bit trip runner 2 controller not working”.  Nope “BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien controller not working”. Nope. ARGH! “Bit trip runner 2 controller not working” .. oh – steam link … to another steam link – and some discussion about Xinput… hmmm … more Google research.

screen7I eventually find out that Xbox Controllers being used in Windows have their own special way of talking to games called “XInput”. Whereas most games will happily accept “DirectInput” for controllers (including Super Meat Boy – such an awesome game which just worked with my controller).  So I go snooping around – trying to find a way to emulate XInput for my controller.  Here my Google-Fu works. I stumble across x360ce - so I download it, and I run it – and it crashes.  I try it again – it works! Now It detects my controller – and I press buttons, and it seems to work.  So I load up the game.  Ah… still no controller support.  I look back at the program “Close this program before running your game”. So I close the game, close the program, and run the game again.  Still nothing. Damnit.

Google here we go again.  Oh, apparently an older version works.  Let’s try that – yay – It’s detecting my controller and the things are flashing as I press the buttons.  Right – leave that running in the background.  Try the game.  No worky.  I’m getting a little frustrated now.

Oh, that old version has no docs.  Let’s see if the new version does. Oh yay – I missed an important (documented in one place that’s hard to find) instruction “Run from the folder of the executable you’re trying to run”.  So I do – and I try the game.  And – I hit the button – and it skips past one of the animations !! yay!!! but what’s this? I press down and nothing happens?  Ok. Mash buttons.  Wait – my up and down are flipped. What the hell?

So I go back to the program, spend an hour setting it up, and FINALLY get everything working the way it should be.

How long did this take me?  4 and  half hours.  So now it’s late, and I know I need to be up for my real job in the morning.  I can’t spend all night playing games.  Darn.  I wanted to play some of this tonight too – but I’ve just spent so long trying to get it working that I’ve ruined any chance I’ve got of playing it tonight, and I’ve still got loads of YouTube videos I still need to watch.  *sigh*

Retro!The reason I couldn’t play the game? Because of a needless reliance on a specific technology.  Why Gaijin Games do you feel the need to lock people down to an Xbox controller?  I mean – it’s not like the games mechanics require one.  7 buttons is all you need.  I can live with not being able to remap the controls (but wait, that’d mean that some controllers would have the buttons in weird places! Oh no!) but locking me down to a bit of technology that I don’t want to have to make my gameplay experience work well.  It’s just a bad idea.  Some people out there aren’t going to be as enterprising or as savvy as I am.  They’re not going to be able to use epic Google-Fu to find the solution to their problem.  Some people aren’t even going to consider that there’s an option to do that.  So, you’ve the potential of losing customers.  But, oh, they’ve already bought the game haven’t they?  Ah well.

I’m hoping that this is written in a way that’ll show up in Google results so that people will be able to find the solution via this post (or at least ask questions in the comments and get some answers about how to sort out their problems).  But Gaijin Games?  Please enable support for other controllers. You know it makes sense.

Oh, and for those of you who are reading this that aren’t Gaijin Games?  Go buy  BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien and all the other BIT.TRIP games.. They’re horrendously addictive – and oh so much fun!

Your Loyal Customer,
Martin “Mez” Meredith

P.S.  Why did I write this late at night?  Now I’ve got to go and add all the keywords and tags, and find some pretty images and stuff..

2 Readers Commented

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  1. Alex Neuse on April 6, 2013
    Hey Mez!

    Thank you so much for the excellent letter. Here's our amazing retort. :)

    Basically, since there isn't one standardized controller... method (for lack of a better word) on the PC, and since we're a very small team who cannot support innumerable options, we must make some hard choices as we develop for the PC.

    One of the choices we made is to only officially support the wired Xbox 360 controller. That's not to say that players can't use other controllers; but you're right, they'll need to be strong in Google-Fu to figure it out.

    Now, the reason that we chose that particular controller is because it is by far the single most popular gamepad used by PC gamers. Again, choices. We unfortunately had to make the choice to support the majority rather than supporting everyone.
    And of course, you certainly can play with the keyboard, which has a modified WASD control scheme. We know several PC gamers who prefer it to the gamepad.

    But you'll be happy to know, though, that in the future, we do hope to broaden our support. Since we are a small company, and primarily console developers at that, things like this do take time.

    Thanks for your enthusiasm and general awesomeness.

    -The Gaijin Team
  2. zomzom on June 7, 2013
    Thanks for this post, I'm currently struggling how to make my gamepad work in various games that require xbox360 gamepad. Finally I copied entire x360ce app into game folder and it worked :D too bad it doesn't work like that for Geometry Wars :\

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