Created By: Recon5 on July 15, 2012 Last Edited By: Recon5 on November 10, 2012

Twin Stick Controls

Full circle rotation for both movement and aiming with independent controls for each.

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Trope
EDIT: Seems like the description needs quite a bit of work. I do know that the twin-stick style of gameplay dates at least as far back as Robotron 2084 and I did play quite a few of the 90s examples, but I know barely anything about the (proto-?)genre in-between R2084 and Geometry Wars. Assistance would be appreciated.
A specific kind of control scheme often seen today in top-down and isometric indie Shoot'em Ups which has different sets of directional controls for movement and aiming. The term comes from its usual manifestation on consoles where one thumbstick steers the craft while the other aims one or more turrets. The main distinction from 'regular' dual-thumbstick controls is that the player entity's movement and aiming lines can be rotated full circle independent of each other.

In truth, the control scheme itself is far older, going at least as far back as Robotron 2084. It had a strong showing in PC Shoot'em Ups of the early Nineties where in lieu of dual sticks, the directional arrows (as opposed to WASD) were used for movement and the mouse was used for turret control.

Though the modern resurgence of this control scheme is arguably driven by the success of console indie titles like Geometry Wars, the PC indie scene has kept the fire burning while Webgame developers are picking it up. WASD is often used for easier access to the number keys.

NOTES: As a 'genre label', the term 'Twin-stick shooter' tends to be applied to games with a Top-down or isometric camera. Games in First or Third-person perspective and side-scrollers do not receive this label even if they have similar controls. In addition,
  • Games that allow characters to lock on to a target while moving freely do not fall under this trope unless the full freedom of aiming is also available.
  • Top-down games where aiming is independent of movement but restricted to a 'realistic' arc relative to the character's facing technically count but are not usually given this label.
  • Thumbsticks have been the most practical controls for console First Person Shooters and Third Person Shooters for most of their history but such games are not usually given this label.

Examples:
  • Robotron 2084 and its various iterations have a variation where the Player Character can only move and shoot in specific directions (8 ways each in the original arcade version, 4 ways each in some newer editions and home ports).
  • Smash TV was an early home console game using this control scheme.
  • Geometry Wars is the game that arguably led to the modern use of the term. Quite a few indie titles have since followed suit.
  • The Alien Shooter series does the PC version with humans, allowing them to spin at the waist like a helicopter if the player feels bored.
  • Less well known isometric PC shooter Gromada: Revenge justified this control scheme with the player controlling a tank.
  • Many PC shooters of The '90s such as Firefight used this control scheme.
  • There are quite a few browser games using this type of control in line with the overall Retraux tendencies of the scene.

Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • July 15, 2012
    Bisected8
    Console based First Person Shooter games have used this since dual analogues become common (it's also one of the reasons people were keen for Nintendo and Sony to add them to their handhelds).
  • July 15, 2012
    TBeholder
    "For each" what?

    > both movement and aiming have a full 360 degrees of freedom

    What on Earth and in the thrice blessed Galaxy ever NEEDS 360 degrees of freedom? And how this can be implemented?! Given that one human hand by different counts has from 22 to 27?
  • July 15, 2012
    Recon5
    Touche. I shouldn't do a write-up right before going to bed.
  • July 15, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Part of the Stock Control Settings among General Gaming Gamepads.

    Can involve Always Over The Shoulder for some games.
  • July 16, 2012
    Rognik
    Realm Of The Mad God has this. Movement works with WASD or arrow keys (I think), shooting works with the mouse.
  • July 16, 2012
    Arivne
    The idea behind this goes at least as far back as the original Castle Wolfenstein (1981). Two different set of keys controlled movement and shooting directions. The joystick and paddle could also be involved.
  • July 16, 2012
    Stratadrake
    It's important to note that this is a control system for two-dimensional gameplay (but not strictly 2D games).

    There is a subtle difference between this and standard dual-analogue FPS control:
    • In an FPS the second stick essentially adjusts the camera and you use a separate button to actually trigger your attacks.
    • Here, the second stick both aims and executes attacks. Simply point it in a direction and the character executes an attack at it.


    • A few minigames in the Sly Cooper series, such as Bentley's hacking missions, provide this control scheme.

    • In Ape Escape, various gadgets (like the Net and the Stun club) are controlled by pointing the right analog stick in whatever direction the player wishes to attack, independent of the player's direction or movement.
  • July 31, 2012
    Recon5
    Bumping this. Anyone have more background on the label popularized by Geometry Wars? Ur Examples and possible trope makers/codifiers would be appreciated.
  • July 31, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Robotron was likely the first. Similar games include Smash TV.
  • July 31, 2012
    Prfnoff
    Predating Robotron with the two-joystick setup is Taito's 1981 Arcade Game Space Dungeon. Other early examples included Taito's Front Line and Wild Western (both of which used a paddle for aiming), and Atari's Black Widow. Other examples include Total Carnage and Renegade Ops.

    Karate Champ, though not a shooting game, used the left stick for movement and the right stick to direct attacks.
  • July 31, 2012
    BOFH
    The Xbox Live Indie Game I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1
  • November 10, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ...that is its actual title?
  • November 10, 2012
    Recon5
    Yeap. Very Retraux.
  • November 10, 2012
    azul120
  • November 10, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^ Explain that one more.
  • November 10, 2012
    Recon5
    Cursory search shows it's Robotron style. Adding.
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