Drew Murray, lead designer of Resistance 3 at Insomniac, explains how the team threw out everything and started from scratch when designing the game's aiming controls -- heavily relying on user testing.
"We threw out everything," says Murray, of the shooter's aiming control. The team decided to start from scratch and focus on testing the controls with external players in grey box scenarios.
"The first thing we did was define criteria for what is good aiming," says Murray. "It's balanced, it's tight, and it enables players to make fast corrections."
- Balanced: "We wanted to make sure people weren't over-aiming or under-aiming consistently."
- Tight: "If they were missing their shots weren't going all over the place."
- Fast correction: "We wanted them, with one flick of the stick, to be back on target."
Despite being on the third game in the franchise, Murray says that starting from scratch was the important thing in building great controls. "There are a lot of complex variables, and a lot going on, if you just start tweaking I think you'll work yourself out into a weird position, and not really be sure what's going on."
"We stripped all the controls back and started building up," says Murray. At first, these fresh controls totally lacked finesse and the players couldn't aim accurately, but it also made what to correct apparent.
To work with users, the team "defined some key scenarios that we thought would be typical of what they would be doing in single player and multiplayer," says Murray.
- Switching targets on screen
- Shooting a target that's off-screen
- Tracking moving targets
- Tracking while the player was moving / circle-strafing
- Seeing if aim assist got in the way when enemies moved into the line of fire
"We would build these little simple scenarios that basically embodied these testing scenarios," says Murray.
Just as important was limiting the tester's interaction with the game in these scenarios.
"When we first did the aiming test we just dropped players in," says Murray. These players would test all the weapons, move around the level, and generally ignore the objective of the test. "Over the weeks we took out all the controls until they could just aim, zoom, and shoot," he says.
The team would test with a player, adjust the control, and then test again. "We'd do this day after day till we got what we wanted," says Murray.
First the team at Insomniac worked on camera control, then acceleration and deceleration, and finally on aim assistance.
Importantly, says Murray, "we had the core controls and this aim functionality 18 or 19 months before we shipped."
"It was great, before we had started adding more features, to have these lacked down," he says. This affected a lot of other things, like level design."
The result? "We got a lot of positive feedback," he says. "Our core controls were called out in a lot of the reviews and previews for Resistance 3, especially for a third game in a franchise."