The Hand of Merlin devs discuss how their adapting the game's PC controls for Switch
With a little magic from Merlin himself
Independent developer Room-C Games, in co-production with Croteam and indie publisher Versus Evil, revealed that their roguelite RPG ‘The Hand of Merlin’ Version 1.0 will come to Switch on June 14th, 2022. The console version will include all eight major updates from the PC version released during its time in Steam Early Access, and developer Room-C Games has implemented lots of new features and gameplay enhancements including meta progression, passive skills, alternate maps, varied difficulty modes and overhauled its visual VFX.
Since this game first released on PC, it was obviously built with mouse and keyboard in mind. How did the dev team go about adapting these controls to work with the Switch? Room-C Games founder and CEO Robert Sajko spoke to The Xbox Hub to share details on the process.
Oh, this took a few tries to get right! Simply getting the low-level support for various input devices was the easy part. Figuring out a control scheme that feels natural and intuitive, while at the same time being efficient, was the hard part.
The very first implementation we did was a naive emulate-the-mouse approach. We knew this wouldn’t be the best UX, but at least it allowed us to a) test the low-level code, and b) actually get ideas on how to directly control the UI without a virtual cursor.
So the second implementation was a full-on mapping of everything you could access on one screen to the physical buttons of the controller. That means each screen had its own control mapping. It was pretty fast and efficient once you got the hang of it – but, that was also the problem. You needed to spend time learning the controls. We ended up with a large-ish hint widget, different for every screen, that tried to teach you these controls, but it just wasn’t intuitive and the helper widget felt clunky.
Finally, the third approach was something of a hybrid. We settled on reusing the same basic control scheme for every single screen: there’s the concept of a “current selection” indicated by a selector frame around the active element, and you move the selector using the directional buttons or a stick. Then, there’s a few actions you can take upon the active element: by default, there is “accept” or “activate”, which is always the standard “accept” button for the controller in use, such as A for Xbox or X for Playstation. There’s “back” / “cancel” which is B or O, and sometimes there’s a special action with one of the other buttons. This turned out to feel very natural and intuitive, and only required a small hint bubble next to each UI element to indicate which actions you had available on them, in the form of controller button icons. Even things like hold-to-activate or hold-and-drag ended up being quite easy to grasp just by reading the small pictograms next to interactive elements.