Silent Hill Homecoming:
Down is the new Up

 By Shamus Dec 2, 2008 55 comments

To the person in charge of the inputs in Silent Hill Homecoming:


Dear Sir,

You are a mountebank and an idiot. Whoever gave you command of a compiler did a grave disservice not just to your software product, but to the industry as a whole. I am referring, of course, to the blatant and willful omission of a feature to allow the user to invert the y-axis, so that pressing forward results in looking down, and contrary-wise, pulling back will result in looking up. This is a feature offered by every other such product you might care to name, including all of the previous works bearing the "Silent Hill" moniker. I have spent several hours in a state of constant agitation because I cannot comfortably make use of your softwares.

I can only conclude this was an act of calculated malice, the work of an eager and spiteful reprobate. The effort required to multiply the y-axis by negative one is childishly trivial compared to the effort required to overcome eighteen years of muscle memory, which is what it seems you're asking me to do in order to play your video amusement product.

And do not attempt to claim that this was merely an oversight. You clearly offer the option to invert said axis whilst aiming. Thus you are aware of the need for this feature. I can make the controls behave the way I desire during combat, but not during the course of the rest of the experience. I cannot fathom the intent - save malice - that led to this state of affairs. Why would I want to reverse the behavior of one, and not the other? The only thing worse than having the controls work backwards all the time is to have them work backwards only most of the time, and then have them switch once again when the I am under the duress and challenge of combat.

What truly appalls me is not the contempt you have for me, which is palpable enough, but the contempt you show for your own work. Have you no honor? No shame? No basic sense of propriety? You sir, are a villain.

Do not imagine this is the end of this matter. You have not tasted the fullness of my wrath. Indeed, but have not even sampled a tithe of it. Pray you do not encounter me in the flesh, for as surely as I have spent the last three hours spinning in place and staring at the ceiling in your video entertainment product, I will teach you to fear justice the way the wicked things beneath the earth fear the sun itself.

Indignantly,

Shamus Young


20201555 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. mark says:

    Wow. That was quite… something.

    I feel your pain though, I prefer inverse controls for 3rd person games, and non-inverse on FPS ones. One of my housemates is even worse though, he decideds PER GAME which to use, and then gets lost or stares at floors/ceilings upon switching to another game. It does make him hard to find in deathmatches, no splitscreen cheating…. ;P

  2. DaveMc says:

    This makes me want to start actual angry letters with lines like “You are a mountebank and an idiot.” Now you just need to get Keith Olbermann to read it into a camera, post it on YouTube, and . . . um, profit?

  3. Sesoron says:

    *dramatic slow clap*

    *wipes tear*

    I felt that one and I haven’t even played the game. To quote one Darth Vader, “That hits me where I live.”

  4. Mirage says:

    That was a very good letter but as someone who uses the normal up is up and down is down all I can do is laugh. Big omission though at least 1/4 of the people I play games with are inverted.

  5. Illiterate says:

    DaveMc — Shamus could also read it extremely fast into a microphone and animate himself reading it entirely with pictures of Vigo Mortenson making funny faces. Don’t think he lacks the stock of those.

    Shamus — I think what we’re looking at is a new frontier in the world of survival horror. As a player, you only experience pain and suffering through your avatar, the character in the game. In order for this to be a true Silent Hill, they have to actually drive you, the player, insane. They have to torture you personally, not just show your avatar being ripped limb from limb by naughty nurses.

    Silent Hill — Brainscan will come with a custom controller which will randomly deliver electric shocks, rumble uncomfortably, and even jab needles in your fingers through the controller buttons when dramatically accurate. You won’t just be mashing buttons to make your hero fight through the pain. You’ll be fighting through the pain yourself just to give the commands to your character for him to fight through the pain. Also they’ll send an armed guard to force you to play the game continuously once you’ve begun. If Travis doesn’t get meal and bathroom breaks, neither do you!

  6. Alrenous says:

    I love that style, and you, sir, are a master. Bravo. I really wish more people could still write like that. Myself, for one.

  7. Kovbasa says:

    I don’t know what’s worse – not allowing you to invert the y-axis, or pulling a stunt like what happened in Blue Dragon (I think it was BD, at least), where inverting the y-axis also inverted the left.

  8. ima420r says:

    Wonderfully written and a joy to read. I feel your pain!

  9. potemkin.hr says:

    @ima420r: yeah, that’s our Shamus :)

    Now that I read about the inverse controls, I surely won’t play the game.

  10. pwiggi says:

    You, sir, are my new personal hero.

    Bravo.

  11. Rawling says:

    Nice to know I’m not the only freak out there who likes inverted y-axis.

    Unfortunately, I can never decide whether I want to invert the x-axis or not when playing a game from a third-person perspective.

    I briefly owned Halo 3, and started playing without going to the options to invert the y-axis. Lamenting my error, I decided games should figure out whether to invert the y-axis or not based on your reactions to some event occurring above or below you at the very start of the game. Imagine my delight when this is exactly what happened :-D

  12. Nixorbo says:

    Amen brother, amen.

    Though what bugs me even more than uninvertable Y-axis is the inverted X-axis so many platformers seem to be fans of. How pushing left to look right makes sense is something I will never understand.

  13. K says:

    I played ego-shooters for the longest time with y-inverted, for the simple reason that the first one I ever played was Descent, were it makes sense. I’ve gotten used to “normal” by now, which saves me going to the menu. Why? Because some games have the “sometimes you settings don’t count”-behaviour, and when you zoom in to snipe, suddenly, up is up again. It’s also very weird for games which have 3rd and 1st perspective. So now I play like everyone else.

  14. Zamalan says:

    Though what bugs me even more than uninvertable Y-axis is the inverted X-axis so many platformers seem to be fans of. How pushing left to look right makes sense is something I will never understand.

    Think of it as jamming a metal rod in the back of the characters head. the end is now your right thumbstick. pulling down makes your eyes look up, pulling left makes your eyes look right.

    Personally i use up=up, down=down. Unless in games where i need to fly, then down should be up, and left should be rolling counterclockwise, because that is how it works in a plane if you pull the stick.

  15. Shamus says:

    I began with Descent as well, and from that game I inherited both my Numpad-based movement AND inverted Y style.

    It’s been misery ever since.

    The latest insult: On Microsoft network games (whatever they call XBL for PC’s) they have Numpad Home set to “stop everything you’re doing and bring up that damn user screen”, and it cannot ever be remapped or turned off, no matter how much you don’t care about the blasted thing.

  16. [...] you have to write a letter of complaint, make this your model. You’d never have a problem getting good service if you concluded your letter like this: [...]

  17. Alex says:

    For years I was an inverted axis type of guy. Then, at some point in the last few years, for whatever reason, I decided to learn how to go un-inverted. Started with the FPS’s, then moved onto the 3rd-person affairs. Now, after a couple of minutes of adjusting, I can adequately perform either.

    But -demanding- this of the customer, from the get-go? That’s what we scholarly types refer to as a “pretty dick move”.

  18. Patrick the Irate says:

    No no no…. this needs to be read by the ultimate crochety old bastard.
    Andy Rooney.
    On 60 minutes.
    Live.
    While he’s wearing a paper hat.

  19. LintMan says:

    I used to a joystick to play in the early days of Wolfenstein 3D and the original Doom, so when I transitioned to mouse-look, the inverted-Y felt more natural to me, and I stuck with that for years. Eventually, though, even though I was long accustomed to it, it seemed that the difference between in-game inversion and outside-of-game direct movement was costing me a bit of in-game performance. I don’t think any of the really good players I knew when I played competitvely in some TFC leagues used inverted-Y axis. And it had gotten to be an annoyance in games where there were varied control schemes for different parts of the game (ie: turrets in KOTOR2) and with things like mouse-based interfaces in FPS’s. So I decided to re-train myself to not need the inverted-Y axis.

    To retrain, I replayed the small Half Life 2 Lost Coast expansion, which was new-ish at the time. It was painful at first, but playable fairly quickly, and by the end (maybe 3-4 hours of play), it felt pretty natural. When I next played an FPS, I had to make sure I didn’t backslide, but since then I’ve never looked back. It was well worth the effort to switch – it’s a relief to be free of the small “brainpower tax” that I think comes with using the inverted Y axis for non-flight-sim type games.

  20. Matt` says:

    I feel your pain though, I prefer inverse controls for 3rd person games, and non-inverse on FPS ones.”

    Same here, that’s just the way it seems natural to me, for much the reasons that this guy gave:

    Think of it as jamming a metal rod in the back of the characters head. the end is now your right thumbstick. pulling down makes your eyes look up, pulling left makes your eyes look right.

    When you’re in first person mode, its like having a rod projecting out of the top of your head. Pushing forward pushes your head forward and tilts your line of sight down. Pushing back tilts your head back and you look upwards. The horizontal axis being left = left and right = right would technically need the rod to project out of the front of your face (to turn your head instead of tilting it side to side) but they’re fairly similar to my mind.

    Conversely when it’s 3rd person it feels more like being in control of the floating camera behind the character, moving on a sphere equidistant from their head. Pressing up moves you up the side of sphere, so in line with their head you look at the ground, and the opposite for down. The difference is that now pressing the stick sideways also inverts, because you’re going around the sides of the sphere.

  21. Kris says:

    Maybe its just the “you are a villian”, but the cadence of the last few paragraphs reminds me of Shakespeare.

    Truly awesome letter(although I did have to look up Mountebank in the dictionary).

    EDIT: I also prefer to invert the Y axis.

  22. Jeff says:

    Eh, given a few minutes of wandering around, I can use either. It’s only an issue if you switch between games a lot – and if it changes in-game, as described. That’s just annoying.

  23. Eric says:

    In Soviet Union, game inverts you.

  24. vdeogmer says:

    It was disgusting to me when Final Fantasy 12 didn’t allow inversion of its camera. Yes, it’s a great game, and it’s amazing for you to be able to adjust the camera view in a Final Fantasy game, but after spending so much time standing in corners spinning in circles whilst looking at the ceiling, I question the fact that the developers are indeed human.

  25. Eric says:

    I would say it was a good game, not great.

  26. Nathanael Phillip Cole says:

    Very simple: play without the invert. Oh no!

  27. RR says:

    It’s a similar situation with the recent PC version of Dead Space. Some of the keys are hard-mapped and can’t be customized. What the hell? Being able to remap keys is a staple of PC gaming. How could EA balls-up something so simple and trivial to implement properly?

    Also, the mouse sensitivity needs to be set to maximum for precise enough control. And there’s no in-game menu option to disable any joystick/gamepad you have. You’re expected to unplug it. And EA assumes that if you have a gamepad, it will automatically be a 360 controller. With no option to remap the buttons, either. Every gamepad profiler software I tried, wasn’t able to override the button mappings.

    Is EA intentionally trying to cause PC gamers as much misery as possible? Horrible DRM isn’t enough? A shame, because otherwise I enjoyed Dead Space quite a lot. (And though I bought the game, no I did not put with the DRM. I installed the *ahem* “DRM-free” version.)

    Apparently it’s the same with Fallout 3? That, again, some of the keys can’t be remapped?

  28. radio_babylon says:

    @nixorbo: “Though what bugs me even more than uninvertable Y-axis is the inverted X-axis so many platformers seem to be fans of. How pushing left to look right makes sense is something I will never understand.”

    simple. here’s a diagram to help explain it:

    ^ * – where you want to look
    |
    |
    @ – avatar
    |
    |
    # – camera

    considering the camera moves in a circle centered on your avatar, which way does the camera need to move in order to bring the desired object into view of the sightline of the camera?

    youre manipulating the CAMERA, not your avatar’s head.

  29. JMcNeely says:

    I played inverted with arrow keys for a long time. Then, after playing on my friend’s computer multiple times I decided to learn how to play un-inverted with WASD so I wouldn’t have to change his keymaps every time I played. It snapped in pretty quickly but I was only 16 or 17 at the time. I do still use inverted camera for 3rd person though. And I must admit that I never had a problem with the FFXII camera…

  30. Rich says:

    Yep. First thing I do after I create a new character in CoX. Invert axis.

    And then remap the left / right and strafe keys. Whose bright idea was it to make ‘Q’ and ‘E’ left and right?

  31. krellen says:

    Nixorbo @#12:
    Though what bugs me even more than uninvertable Y-axis is the inverted X-axis so many platformers seem to be fans of. How pushing left to look right makes sense is something I will never understand.

    Instead of thinking of the direction control as moving your head/view, this makes sense if you think of the control as moving the background. You look “right” if the background moves left.

    I can’t use this, but I at least understand it. :D

  32. A similar issue renders the entire Halo series unplayable for me. The Metroid Prime games are no problem. Goldeneye and Perfect Dark were no problem on the N64. But Halo, 2, & 3 are all impossibly annoying.

    I’ve tried all of the controller settings that come with the Halo games, and all of them feel like at least half the buttons are “wrong” and I end up staring at the ground or ceiling/sky a lot and using the wrong weapon. The Halo games need proper keybinding, not a small selection of preset “styles”. Or let me use a Gamecube controller. :P

    On a related note, I was a huge fan of Quake and the earlier id/Raven FPS games. When I first played Half Life, I forsook mouselook for the classic Doom/Quake keyboard controls. A decade and a couple years of playing modern FPSs later, I can’t play Quake or Hexen 2 anymore because there’s no mouselook support. Doom isn’t so bad because it’s not true-3D, but Hexen 2 is painful.

  33. Kevin says:

    The sound you just heard was that of my wallet snapping shut.

  34. Nilus says:

    Glad to see there are so many inverted y people. My friends all think I am nuts because I always have to invert the controls. But my first game was a flight simulator so up goes down and down goes up always seemed natural to me. I also argue, when talking about console games, that if you think of the control stick as the top of someones head. Pushing forward would push there head down and pulling back would pull there head up.

    It just seems so natural to me and it boggles my mind that others play the other way.

  35. Who to read this aloud?
    My first choice would be Peter O’Toole. Second, perhaps Ian McKellen.

  36. guy says:

    I personally didn’t actually know what you were talking about and wondered if you were joking at first, but i think i get it. Strategy games have somewhat similar issues because Blizzard and EA/Westwood can’t agree what the function of each mouse button is.

  37. Marmot says:

    Ok, I know that invert X/Y axis option exists in almost every game, but I never actually thought anyone ever used it. Which seems all the more reason to include it if you want your product to be widely accepted, actually… I feel your pain.

    My own inversion doesn’t depend on that option, though. I jump with R-CTRL and crouch with R-SHIFT, unlike 99% of people that I know.

  38. Illiterate says:

    @Guy,

    Jebus.. I have a large collection of CnC games given to me last christmas. I still haven’t played through them. I’m hardwired to build things the way they do in *craft games (which oddly includes age of *)

    The differences in the interface is what makes playing them so daunting. I would like to learn it at some point.

  39. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    Oddly enough, even though I started out with Descent and then moved on to space simulators, after I tried out the non-inverted control scheme in Deus Ex I’ve never looked back. Inverted for me only makes sense for zero gravity games or flying a plane, and anymore it seems bizarre and unnatural.

    Actually, come to think of it that’s one of the annoying aspects of certain of my games being console ports (PC-only here): They start out with the Y-axis inverted, so I have to go into the options and ‘invert’ the Y-axis to get it back to normal.

    So while I can understand why people might want to set things that way given their history, if you’re using a mouse then that makes as much sense as inverting the Y-axis in your operating system. It’s not like everyone doesn’t intuitively know how to move a pointer around and ‘aim’ at things after all. Gamepads and joystick interfaces….well there I can sort of see the point, but it makes zero sense to be using a mouse and configure it so you have to point in the opposite direction of where you actually want to look.

  40. Miral says:

    This mention of a survival horror game reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to bring up: it’s mea culpa time.

    I was one of the people who recommended ObsCure to you a long while back, and I was a little puzzled when you finally played it and discovered all the problems in it, since that just didn’t fit my memory at all — while some of it sounded familiar, the whole thing just sounded worse than the experience I remembered.

    It turns out that my brain had somehow gotten ObsCure mixed up with Still Life (in its defence, I did play them sequentially). That’s the one I had meant to be recommending. (Though IIRC it’s not really survival horror, it’s more horror-themed adventure game.)

    So, um, yeah. Try Still Life, if you haven’t already ;)

    … and, back on topic: that’s sad. I’m never entirely sure which scheme I prefer (usually I can adapt to whatever the game uses by default, but sometimes I do have to change it before it feels comfortable), but lacking the option is just mean.

  41. Justin says:

    Maybe they were hoping you had a gamepad that has an “invert Y” switch on it. I had one once, and it was awesome in the cases that my buddies play inverted and I don’t. It probably saved hours of switching to the controls menu every time we played a hotseat game. Bad control options are FAIL though, fancy gamepad or no.

  42. MrValdez says:

    You should check out how Valve handled this complaint:

    http://worldofstuart.excellentcontent.com/valve/left4life.htm

  43. SeanR says:

    Hey, long time reader, first time poster. That’s how I start this, right?

    I think a very interesting thing that you, Shamus, or perhaps the polite people who frequent this site could do is create a list of “basic amenities” for any video game. I do not reverse any sort of axis when I play games, but I have a friend who does. It drives him crazy when he can’t change things like that.

    If any of you missed David Wong’s Gamers Manifesto, I suggest you read it. It’s pretty amusing and makes some good points. (Strong language warning)

    http://www.cracked.com/article_15748_gamers-manifesto.html

    Yes, I realize it’s on Cracked.com. But David Wong used to run Pointless Waste of Time, which has since been folded into Cracked. He’s got a knack for comedy, and I like some of his points. No more save points, for instance. Sometimes I have to get to work soon and I don’t want to lose half an hour of game play.

    And I don’t know, is that bad form? To make a first post hawking an internet article? I don’t really know internet etiquette, sorry if I’ve messed up or something. I think a list of some sort of minimum expectations from the gaming community would be interesting, is all. Thanks.

  44. naa says:

    It’s a ploy to get the leech king role in the wow movie.

  45. Viktor says:

    I think the easiest explanation for why inversion of Y “feels” right and inversion of X doesn’t for some people is that they’re used to a mouse. When you push forwards it moves towards the top of the screen, when you pull back it moves down, and when you go left/right it goes left/right.

  46. Josh says:

    I don’t remember the first game I played that used the modern “normal” Y-axis configuration, but I was surprised that A) the controls were now reversed and B) that my way was considered “inverted”. Up until a certain time, pushing forward meant looking down and pulling back meant looking up, in every game I had played.

    I’m a pretty flexible gamer, and I can get used to nearly any control scheme… but not this. If I have to push forward to look up, I will not play this game, full stop. No way, no how. If I were a playtester, I’d say “put me on coffee-making duty until they manage to get this configuration option in the game, thanks.”

  47. Simplex says:

    RR: “It’s a similar situation with the recent PC version of Dead Space EA assumes that if you have a gamepad, it will automatically be a 360 controller. With no option to remap the buttons, either.”

    That is not entirely true, although the implementation of rempapping the buttons is stupid as hell and did not work for me, but people on forums reported success.
    You have to manually edit a joypad.txt file located in My Documents/EA/Dead Space, a file which looks something like this

    Pad.RightDPad.Left = Button.4
    Pad.RightDPad.Down =Button.3
    Pad.RightDPad.Right = Button.2
    Pad.RightDPad.Up = Button.1
    Pad.Trigger.LeftTop = Button.7
    Pad.Trigger.LeftBottom = Button.5
    Pad.Trigger.RightTop = Button.8
    Pad.Trigger.RightBottom = Button.6
    Pad.Start = Button.10
    Pad.Back = Button.9
    Pad.LeftStick.Click = Button.11
    Pad.RightStick.Click = Button.16
    Pad.LeftStick.X = X-Axis
    Pad.LeftStick.Y = Y-Axis.Inverted
    Pad.RightStick.X = Z-Axis
    Pad.RightStick.Y = Z-Rotation

    I tried that but did not work for me. Not to mention 99% of average use will have absolutely no idea how to do it.

  48. Zachariel says:

    Or you could simply use some tool like joy to key. I use it to map unmappable games to my pad.

    http://www.electracode.com/4/joy2key/JoyToKey%20English%20Version.htm

    Ugly page, ugly interface, great programm.

    To Topic: Well, aside from some annoyances, I’m glad to play the PC version of SHH. The gamepad controls suffer from the same issues the console does, but fortunately the default mappings for mouse and keyboard let you play the game with 3rd-person-shooter controls, which works just fine. Not exactly Silent Hill feeling, but whatever…

  49. RR says:

    @Zachariel:
    Or you could simply use some tool like joy to key. I use it to map unmappable games to my pad.

    As I stated in my previous comment, I already tried several gamepad profilers. None of them worked.

    But I didn’t find any info about what to add to the joypad.txt file. Thanks for that, Simplex. I’ll have to give that a try.

    Still, I shouldn’t have to go to a forum and dick around by creating configuration files, in order to remap gamepad buttons. It should be possible to remap the buttons from within the Dead Space game option menus. It’s just lazy porting on the part of EA. And they still haven’t released a patch to address anyone’s complaints.

  50. UtopiaV1 says:

    Man I love Decent, 1 & 2 were freakin’ sweet…

  51. henrebotha says:

    “video amusement product”

    hahaha, oh wow.

  52. You have made some good points there. I checked on the net for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

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