Interviews

Interview: MachineWorks on update to Duke Nukem 3D's analogue controls

'A touchscreen will always yield wonky controls'

Interview: MachineWorks on update to Duke Nukem 3D's analogue controls

Tongue-in-cheek PC classic shooter Duke Nukem had a spotlight shining brightly on its arrival to the App Store.

The attention lavished upon Duke Nukem 3D wasn't rosy, however, as community fallout rained down post-launch, with an undesirable control scheme nuking what should have been a guaranteed hit.

The virtual analogue sticks didn't function as moving sticks, working instead like static D-pads. While alternative controls could be toggled, the fury over the broken analogue control scheme was intense.

Long awaited update

Since the release of version 1.0 of the game, developer MachineWorks Northwest, in conjunction with creatives from the now-defunct 3D Realms, has coded an update to address community complaints about the controls.

But it's languished in the approval process, having been submitted nearly a month ago.

General manager Andreas Vasen insists that the game's problematic control scheme stems from poor communication.

"At the most basic level," Vasen plainly states, "it came down to miscommunication - that's it."

The developer's advanced mobile game engine, Ripp3d, had been used in other first-person shooters it had made without issue.

For example, Pocket Gamer praised Prey Invasion for its analogue control scheme. "The default controls are remarkably intuitive," we wrote in June.

Touchscreen limitations

Vasen is quick to point out that other controls schemes are far from perfect, and the problem with analogue method are minor in comparison to the overall success of the project.

"We're immensely happy with the quality, speed, and stability of the game," he says. "A touchscreen will always yield wonky controls and I think we've given a number of options to the player from which they can choose the one they are most comfortable with."

Community anger hasn't discouraged Vasen, either.

"I have no frustration to the reaction," he says. "We must listen to consumers, then react - we've done exactly that, listened to complaints."

Competition of the fittest

Since the release of Duke Nukem 3D, a number of high profile shooters have been revealed, including the recently released, Silver-rated Modern Combat: Sandstorm. The game was noted for its functional interface, though not without its own issues. ngmoco has also been wrestling with controls in its multiplayer-only shooter Eliminate, with good results.

When asked whether he has examined other first-person shooters developed for iPhone as a source of ideas for perfecting control design, Vasen was extremely positive. "Other first-person shooters can only help: the more the better. It only serves to validate that the device is great for gaming."

The success of a first-person shooter ultimately relies upon the community's acceptance, something which remains to be seen with regard to Duke Nukem 3D.

Vasen eagerly awaits Apple's approval of the update fixing the analogue controls, confident that it will quiet complaints.