This article first appeared in PC Gamers Magazine Issue 361, September 2021. Every month we launch exclusive features to explore the world of PC gaming-from behind-the-scenes previews to incredible community stories to fascinating interviews and more.
Boomerang X is an arena shooting game and should not be run on a gamepad. You can throw a mysterious bladed boomerang as if it were an extension of your body, drag its wide arc through multiple enemies, recall it at any time, and even magnetize yourself to its current location. This is a game where you can’t stop moving. You successfully danced in the air, waved your camera, and leaped over to poke six slime monsters from the opposite side of the map. Mouse aiming is almost necessary.
Even if I have decades of experience using a trustworthy mouse and keyboard, I find it very demanding. Therefore, in order to bring Boomerang X to as many people as possible, Dang’s team! Turned to an emerging, experimental gamepad control scheme, as a means to keep the action as pure as possible, without aiming assistance or strange joystick acceleration to eliminate wind. Boomerang X is the first commercial game to use Flick Stick. Flick Stick is a gyroscope-based solution that makes the dual simulation method feel obsolete.
Flick Stick pushes gyroscope control beyond its more common implementation. Maybe you have already played Splatoon on Nintendo Switch. One of the control schemes maps the vertical target to the tilt of the controller, while the horizontal target and movement work on the joystick as usual. Flick Stick does not use the right joystick to push the camera left or right according to the direction input, but smoothly captures the camera to the angle relative to the current direction.
For example, if you are facing forward and there are enemies behind you, if you press the joystick directly back, the camera will be fast 180, just like controlling a top-down arcade shooting game. Then the vertical aiming is mapped to the gyroscope, which allows the player to consider X and Y aiming independently, which is more intuitive than pushing a direction on the joystick, compressing the two variables into a paste input, relying on the camera to accelerate guessing and aiming assistance Carry out your intentions.
Sam Suite is one of the co-leaders of Boomerang X. He cleverly described Flick Stick, “Rather than looking around with the right joystick, it’s better to look around nearby, as if your neck is in your hand.”
The creator of Flick Stick is the developer of JibbSmart, who wrote the Gyro Control Bible on their website and publicly shared the code used to build the solution there. They showed in detail the spirit, implementation and accuracy of Flick Stick, working relatively easily in the CS:GO game, using the mouse to aim at the same reflection and accuracy game whiplash aiming mark designed for the first requirement. It is a proof of concept in itself, but the excellent implementation of Boomerang X may draw more people’s attention to the benefits of Flick Stick.
In fast-paced shooting games like Boomerang X, enemies constantly invade or emit dark energy waves from all directions. Flick Stick effectively balances the competitive environment of gamepad and mouse aiming control methods. For developers, the widespread adoption of Flick Stick means that design distortions are much lower-this gives them leeway to make games, provided that everyone will use a fast and accurate way of moving and aiming for the game.
But all this assumes a perfect world. Flick Stick requires a gyroscope sensor to work, and the Xbox controller is the only gamepad that major game console manufacturers don’t have built-in. There is also a huge cultural barrier: FPS gamepad control method has been dual simulation for decades, this will not be overnight, or forever, may be withdrawn. For a long time, shooters have been designing around the shortcomings of dual-simulation control, and leaving dual-simulation behind forever is likely to require a major shift from the comfort zone of large markings and generous automatic aiming.
It is not easy for large studios to make changes. First, more grassroots are needed. “Using conventional control schemes creates a lot of inertia. We can do whatever we want, so we just do it,” Sam said. “But if you are talking about Rockstar, it will be difficult to sell.”
Although the corridors are packed with decades of old habits, Flick Stick has the potential to become the standard control method used with mice and analog aiming, and it is likely to start with independent developers. On the one hand, it is very easy to implement. It was also perfect on arrival. Damn it! They didn’t apply Flick Stick to Boomerang X until late in development, when they were assembling the Nintendo Switch version of the game and only needed some adjustments to start working.
Most importantly, Flick Stick is very easy to learn, even if a bit clumsy. The biggest sticking point comes from learning to “pause” the gyroscope. Since you don’t want the player to actually rotate the controller into a circle, Flick Stick’s solution specifically sets a button to stop the gyroscope, so the player can move the controller back to the default and comfortable position before performing another series of actions . Suite told me to think of it as picking up the mouse and resetting it to the center of your mat. It was strange, but I quickly forgot that I was doing it.
Ben Caulkins is another co-leader of Boomerang X. He is not sure about the future of Flick Stick, but thinks it is a viable standard accessibility option. “When we include the colorblind mode, it is not something I can appreciate. But there are many people who appreciate it, and I look at Flick Stick in the same way.”
Suite is slightly better on Flick Stick, but don’t expect a major gamepad control revolution to happen tomorrow. “It’s like a Dvorak keyboard,” he said. “I hope everyone suddenly buys a Dvorak keyboard. But yes, I don’t know if this will happen.”