For a long time, the two main control options for gaming on the PC were either the classic keyboard and mouse combination or a traditional twin stick controller setup. There are also special controls like a steering wheel for racing games or a flight stick for flight simulators, but there is now a new control scheme as part of the latest Steam Input Beta that offers additional features that can change the way we look at first person play shooters forever.
“Flick Stick” is an input scheme developed by Jibb Smart This revises traditional input mapping by splitting the vertical and horizontal targets. In conventional first-person controls with one controller, the left joystick controls movement and the right joystick controls vertical and horizontal aiming. For Flick Stick controls, the left stick continues to take over all movements, but the right stick is used only for horizontal aiming, and vertical aiming is assigned to the gyro controls. This allows you instant 360 degree horizontal target steering, which allows you to point the joystick in any direction, and you instantly turn in that direction. If you use the full stick for horizontal aiming, you can increase the speed and precision considerably, whereby the position of your stick can be mapped 1: 1 with the direction of your character. Gyro aiming is more than precise enough to handle vertical aiming.
It is a very vivid video that the creator of the Flick Stick control scheme published and shows the setup in action in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
This is an older video from the time when this control scheme was just made available as part of a standalone open source implementation. However, with this feature, now available as part of Steam Input, many more players will try. As the latest update from Valve says:
“An implementation of the Flick Stick from Jibb Smart has been added. To do this, tie the right joystick to the flick stick and the gyro to the mouse. “
The controllers that are compatible with Steam Input and offer gyro functions include the discontinued official Steam controller and the PS4 controller. Nintendo Switch controllers contain a gyro, but are currently not supported by Steam Input.
The nice thing about using the Steam Input API is that games that already support the API don’t need any updates to use this control scheme. We may see developers adapt their games to this type of input scheme in the future, but existing Steam Input games will theoretically already support this, although there are some problems to face as it is still in beta it’s done at prime time. Here is a full list of games that use the Steam Input API. Games that appear to be viable candidates for Flick Stick are things like Serious Sam, Prey, No Man’s Sky and, as shown in the video above, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Technically, it should work with any game on Steam that offers mouse support, but you’re more likely to have a smooth experience when using it with officially supported games.
Jibb Smart is very careful never to claim that this would make mouse and keyboard setup unnecessary. It doesn’t sound like he thinks this could magically replace what many players have spent all their lives doing. It sounds more like this is meant as an option to improve precision and speed when using a controller. For us this is a welcome addition and we are excited to see how this develops during the beta. This could potentially help reduce the tension in cross-platform multiplayer games, since shooters who need precision, mouse and keyboard are currently offering players a significant advantage. This could potentially fill part of the gap between the two dominant control systems and lead us to a level playing field. Part of the wealth of PC games is allowing a high level of customization so that users can choose which settings and configurations to use. This seems like a great way to expand these choices.
Is this something you will be reviewing? Here are Valve’s instructions on how to sign up for the client beta if you’d like to try this out.