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Stock Control Settings

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You're playing an NES game, a typical sidescroller, and the control is what it usually is. A is jump, and B is run, or attack, or whatever action the developers had in mind. Breaking this conformity just for the sake of being different has the greater risk of frustrating the players, and breaking the immersion the developers otherwise worked so hard for. When these are altered, Damn You, Muscle Memory! may occur. When unique new control features are added and not shown to players in tutorials, Noob Bridges may occur.

This is why we have Stock Control Settings.

Naturally, the exact control settings depend on both the genre, and the controller used. To cover the controllers, see General Gaming Gamepads. Here, the focus is mainly on the layout of the face buttons. Those come in a few varieties:

  • Single Row — Two or more buttons are placed in a (mostly) horizontal row. Systems using this include the NES, the Game Boy systems, the Sega Master System, the Sega Genesis, the Neo Geo.
  • Double Row — Two horizontal rows, one above the other. Systems using this include the Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64 (in that the top and bottom C buttons each aligned with B and A respectively), and arcade joysticks used to play Fighting Games.
  • Cross — Four buttons arranged like points of a cross. This was popularized with the SNES gamepad, and then became the standard for gamepads.
  • Shoulder Buttons — Two or more buttons on top of the gamepad. This was also popularized with the SNES, and became the standard.
  • Analog Stick Buttons — Activated by pushing the analog sticks into the controller. Usually written as "L3"/"R3" to fit in with the numbering of the Shoulder Buttons.
  • Keyboard & Mouse — Typically a QWERTY keyboard, and a three button mouse, preferably with the center button being either under the scroll wheel or the wheel itself pushed down. For the menu systems of pre-mouse games and console ports, usually confirm/toggle is Return/Enter, cancel/pause is Escape, and navigation is done with the arrow (cursor) keys. Many games bind heavily-used functions to modifier keys (Shift, Control, and so on) by default because most keyboards don't fully respond to a whole bunch of non-modifier keys being pressed at once.
  • On-Screen Buttons — Control schemes relying exclusively on these are awkward for many action games, but they're a practical necessity for iOS Games, where no other buttons or keys are available. This kind of control scheme was used as long ago as 1987, in the Psygnosis game Barbarian. Dungeon Master, released the same year, made it popular for Western RPGs.

This is largely unimportant in personal computer games nowadays, since PC games are expected to let the user reconfigure all of the game's controls (especially given the PC's numerous selection of niche controllers), and most of them do allow this. In the past, however (especially in the 8/16-bit era,) the bulk of games on most PC platforms had hardcoded controls. A burgeoning market in software and hardware to remap controls (even reserved ones like the Windows key) still exists from those times, many of which also allow inflexibly programmed games to be played with controllers that they weren't designed for.

  • Platformers usually have at least two buttons. One for jumping, and the other for secondary actions, which can be running, using a weapon, or interacting with the environment or other characters.
    • Single Row — If there are two buttons, left is the secondary action, while jumping is right button. If there are three buttons, jump is center, while both side buttons are the secondary action, or splitting them between different actions.
      • Some early platformers and puzzle-platformers mapped jumping to Up on the D-Pad. This is rarely done on consoles, but many simpler browser-based games still do this (usually mapped to W, the Up key, or both to allow for preferences).
    • Cross — Jump is the bottom button, while there are usually two secondary actions, both split between the side buttons. A "continuous" secondary action, such as running, is typically on the left button, allowing to jump while running.
    • Keyboard & Mouse — W/A/S/D for movement, Jump is the space bar, while secondary actions are with the mouse buttons, and a few of the keys.
      • Q/A/O/P/Space was a popular keyboard-only setup in the days of the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC. The Amstrad CPC allowed the "copy" key (the Left Alt key on a modern PC) for secondary actions.
      • BBC Micro and Acorn Archimedes games tended to use the converse, Z/X/@/?/Enter, i.e. the left hand for horizontal movement, the right hand for vertical.
      • Most PC games since the dawn of the 32-bit era have stuck to inverted T-shaped key layouts (W/A/S/D, I/J/K/L, arrows, keypad) for movement. In the 8/16 bit era, as indicated above, there were all sorts of different layouts used. Even the arrow keys were arranged horizontally at the time on many platforms (←, →, ↓, ↑, for Apple), though they were the standard keyboard controls for MSX games. IJKL was used as early as Lode Runner for the Apple ][.
      • A very popular control scheme for old DOS games, such as Duke Nukem, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, and Commander Keen was to assign both Ctrl keys to jump and both Alt keys to fire or some other function ("bring out pogostick" in the case of most Keen games). This was nice since it would let you have your choice of jump to the left or right of fire. Using the Alt keys became less popular with the rise of Windows operating systems, which tended to cause minimization and accidental context menu problems with Alt, so either Z or the spacebar has taken over that role if Ctrl is used for jumping.
      • Troper Tips: Windows Key getting in your way? Try remapping Ctrl and Alt to Z and V. They're about the same distance apart.
      • Many freeware platformers also use Z for jump and X for secondary action. This is also popular with users of emulators. The reason may be because this effectively gives the left hand a corresponding mirror-image role to the usual role of the right hand on a console controller. (However this may cause problems if the controls are bound to specific letters rather than specific key positions—imagine trying to reach for Z on a QWERTZ or other non-QWERTY keyboard, for example.) When more buttons are needed, players and games often use some combination of the first nine letters on the left of the keyboard (Q W E A S D Z X and C).
      • There is some amount of disagreement over whether jump should be on the other hand or linked to the up button (or whatever's mapped to it).
      • A number of PC Platformers like Abuse use the mouse for aiming or looking around.
  • JRPGs: There are four basic commands: Menu, Interact (talking to someone, examining an object, pressing a switch, etc.), Confirm, Cancel. Any extra commands depend on the game. In fact, which button is used for what basic command depends on the type of game.
    • Dragon Quest setup — Menu and Confirm are the same button. Interact is actually part of the menu. Only Cancel is its own button.
    • Phantasy Star setup — Similar to the Dragon Quest one, only Interact is separate from the menu (in the first game, it was walking up to a person/object; in the other games, it was its own button).
    • Final Fantasy setup — Confirm and Interact are the same button. Menu and Cancel are their own buttons. Oddly enough, Dragon Quest VIII adopted this setup.
      • As for the actual gamepads, it's unfortunately often varied. For example, with the Cross configuration, sometimes Confirm is the right button, and sometimes it's the bottom button. Cancel is usually the opposite, but not always. And who knows where Menu will end up.
      • There was a time when Eastern and Western control schemes were different: For Cross Western had the Interact and Confirm button on the bottom, Cancel next to it, and with the Menu over on the Pause or Start button. Eastern had them all on the cross, Menu at the top and the others switching. These blending may be adding to the unpredictability of the matter now.
  • First Person Shooters and Third Person Shooters: There are seven basic commands. Move, Aim, Fire, Run, Switch Weapon, Interact, and Menu. Typical additions are Secondary Fire, Jump, Crouch, splitting different types of interaction, and allowing two-way weapon swapping.
    • Keyboard & Mouse — Move is with the arrow keys or W/A/S/D keys. Aim is with the mouse. Fire is the left mouse button.note  Secondary Fire, grenades, looking through a sniper scope and/or zoom focus is the right mouse button, though grenades are often put on middle mouse and/or G. Switching weapons is with the scroll wheel and/or with the numerals at the top of the keyboard. Jump is space bar, like in platformers (which often have similar setups if it's an action third person game), Interact is the E key (or sometimes the F key, such as if the game has lean commands which themselves are almost always Q and E), and the other commands are located around the WASD keys. Pause/Menu is Esc.
      • Slightly less common but no less uniform are Crouch, either C, Shift, or Left Ctrl depending on if it's a toggle or hold crouch; Prone (usually found in more realistic shooters), Z unless Crouch isn't on Left Ctrl; Sprint/Walk, often Left Shift; Flashlight, usually F (even if/especially if the Flashlight is already a numbered weapon slot); Firing Mode (ie Burst, Single Shot, Auto or ammo type switching) is V; and Reload, R. In multiplayer games, the Scoreboard is usually Tab. With the rise of modern 'realistic' shooters, Secondary Fire has been replaced by the new king of the right mouse, the Aim Down Sight button (though no one can agree whether it's toggled [Call of Duty] or held [Far Cry] to aim). In these games most if not all guns have sights and not just specific sniper rifles. As these more modern shooters generally avert Hyperspace Arsenal, an Aim Down Sights game with a Secondary Fire will usually relegate that second function to a specific numbered weapon slot, often pushing the main guns number to swap between the secondary and the primary firing modes.
      • Precursor to this, in ye olden days when FPSes were called "Doom Clones", a different setup was common. The arrow keys were used to move and turn. Shift was used to run, Ctrl was used to fire, Space as Interact, and Alt+Direction was used to strafe. This was used in Wolfenstein 3D, Doom (and all the Doom ripoffs,) and is even set up by default as an alternate control scheme for many modern FPS games which support multiple key-bindings.
    • Dual Analog — Move and Aim are done with the two analog sticks, respectively the left and right sticks. Primary and and Secondary Fire are done with the shoulder buttons, respectively right and left. Switching weapons is done with the D-Pad if you have more than two main guns, or the upper-most face button if you don't (with the D-Pad left for other odds and ends). Other functions are mapped to the face buttons, but more commonly used ones like throwing grenades are mapped to secondary shoulder buttons, if available.
    • Single Analog — Two different setups prevailed on the Nintendo 64. Turok-style used the stick to aim and the C-button quartet and/or D-Pad to move in a WASD-like fashion. GoldenEye-style used the analog stick to move and turn, and the C-buttons to look up and down and strafe, though GoldenEye also supported Turok style. Both setups used Z (on the back of the controller) to fire, and the A and B buttons to switch weapons and reload.
  • MMORPGs often have a similar Keyboard & Mouse control to First Person Shooters, but use Q and E for rotating due to the fact the mouse is mainly used for clicking stuff. Alternatively, a keyboard or mouse button is held to enable mouse-controlled camera, then released to free the cursor again.
  • Racing
    • Dual Analog — Left analog stick steers. The right analog stick is less standardized, but is mostly used either for the camera/looking around or the car's transmission. The four face buttons will be divided up into Brake/Reverse, Accelerate, Handbrake, Rear-View Mirror, and if present, Nitro Boost, though mapping any of these to the shoulder buttons is not unheard-of. Secondary automotive functions like horn and headlights (if present) will be relegated to the shoulder buttons; and switching view modes (from cockpit mode to chase cam, etc) are usually mapped to the D-pad or the analog stick buttons.
      • There are a few variations for the shoulder buttons - shifting up/down a gear, sharp turning and initiating powerslide are common uses.
    • Gamepads with shoulder triggers (which roughly means sixth generation onward) — Left analog stick steers, right analog stick looks around, throttle goes in right trigger, brake goes in left trigger, and the face buttons are mapped to handbrake, Nitro Boost, camera change and secondary function. This has the advantage of using the triggers' analog nature to better control your virtual pedals.
    • Vehicular Combat games will typically use shoulder buttons for gas and brake, leaving the face buttons and D-Pad for weapon switching and firing.
    • Keyboard controls are typically basic third-person movement keys with Forward/Back for Accelerate/Brake and Left/Right for steering with various other keys assigned to whatever other functions the game includes.
  • Fighting Games and Beat Em Ups: There is at least one kick, and one punch (or sword) button. Optionally, there may be different powers of those attacks, or there is a block button (especially if it's a 3D fighter). Jumping is usually done with Up.
    • More accessible fighting games use a simplified system; light attack, middle attack, and heavy attack is a common alternative. Whether a "light attack" means punch, kick, sword swipe, or whatever just depends on the character. Super Smash Bros. takes it a step further and has only one (primary) attack button, but gets a lot of usage into it, with normal attacks, strong or "tilt" attacks (tilting the analog stick while attacking), smash attacks ("smashing" the analog stick and pressing the attack button at the same time), aerial attacks...
    • A common default setup on keyboards was arrow keys to move, Enter for punch, and Shift for kick. If blocking was a separate key, it was usually the Spacebar.
  • RTS games also have quite a few controls we've gotten used to over the years. Even though the specifics differ, most games nowadays at least have several: Left-Click selects entities, Right-Click performs the selected entities' default action (i.e. right click on ground to make them move there, right click on enemies to make them attack, etc.), Numeric Keys (sometimes F-Keys) select groups, Control+Numeric Key assigns groups, Spacebar moves the camera to the last event, A activates attack command, S activates stop command.
    • Old style RTSes, such as Dune II, and the early Command & Conquer series used what was later called One-button control, where left selects and issues commands, right deselects. Rarely used nowdays, and leads to muscle memory problems when swapping between old and recent.
  • Shoot Em Ups typically offer one button for basic shooting, and a second that fired missiles/bombs or a Smart Bomb, depending on the type/orientation of the game. Some games had a third button for rapid fire shooting, especially if the game had a Charge Attack. If the game allowed for additional abilities (like switching weapons, transformations, or activating powerups), they often got their own button.
    • Mars Matrix instead maps all attacks to one button. The attack you use depends on how you press it (tapping, continous tapping, or holding it down).
    • On the other extreme, the Saturn port of Radiant Silvergun allows you to give each of your ship's seven weapons its own button.
    • DoDonPachi Dai Fukkatsu Black Label plays with the existence of both normal fire and rapid fire buttons. In other Cave shooters, pressing both will have the effect of pressing only either button, not both. But in DFK BL, pressing both allows you to fire your normal shot and laser shot, but this comes at a dangerous cost: the "red mode" meter will increase, allowing you to score more points but causing the Dynamic Difficulty to rise significantly.
    • Common keyboard controls are arrows to move, Ctrl or Alt to shoot and Spacebar for superbomb. If the mouse is supported, it's usually mapped to movement and the left mouse button to fire. The superbomb function is either left on the keyboard or mapped to the right mouse button, depending on what other functions the game includes.
      • However, most doujin shmups would employ Z as normal fire and X as superbomb, with C as rapid fire, left shift as slow and A/S/D as pause being used occasionally and their functions varies with different games.
  • Puzzle Games—particularly of the Falling Blocks variety—usually have a button for clockwise rotation and a button for anticlockwise rotation. Moving the pad, stick, or arrow keys horizontally slides the current piece sideways, while moving it vertically will drop the piece (sometimes instantaneously, sometimes it will simply make the piece move down faster).
    • Many older puzzle games only offer rotation in one direction. Annoyingly, one version of Sega's 1988 Tetris game has three rotation buttons... and they all rotate in the same direction!
      • On the other hand, Tetris: The Grand Master offers two anticlockwise buttons and one clockwise button. This scheme was probably implemented to allow your leading finger to do rotation in either direction and the adjacent finger to rotate in the other direction, though some players take advantage of the existence of two ACW buttons to do quick 180-degree rotations.
  • Roguelikes traditionally use the entire keyboard. Many of them actually have no menu except that for selecting a target of the chosen action. Popular commands include comma to pick something up, the numpad for movement, 5 to rest/skip a turn, s to search, o to open, c to close, l to look or loot, d to drop, e to eat, i for inventory, q to quaff a potion, r to read, t to throw, w to wield, z to zap a wand, / to ascend/descend stairs, ? for help, and so on. (Yes, these letters need to be in lowercase, since uppercase letters are often mapped to completely different actions.)
    • Rogue used h/j/k/l to move left/down/up/right (as in the Unix text editor vi, whose use of these keys was inspired by the Lear Siegler ADM-3A dumb terminal), and y/u/b/n for diagonal movement. Angband supports this as an alternate keyset.
  • MOBAs use the right mouse button to move your character and attack enemies, the left to select objects, QWER for spells, S to stop moving, A to force attack (used to attack friendly units to deny), as well as 1-6 to use items, and some games add D and F for extra spells while others feature hotkeys to set and reload unit groups. Ctrl, Space and Alt tend to do something as well depending on the game. The original Dota did not yet use the standardised and easy to reach QWER button mapping; its spell buttons were all over the place and very hard to reach quickly, prompting players to use a remap tool to fix this.

Alternative Title(s): Standard Control Schemes