As some of you may already know, I've been on an Android application buying spree as of late. Google is running a promotion on several different books, songs, albums, movie rentals and a handful of games and apps for Android devices, all in honor of the launch of the Google Play Store (which is really just a rebranding of Android Market). In normal fashion, I managed to scoop up most of the games and applications that I didn't already own, while only spent a couple bucks to boot.
Anyway, when I normally purchase up new games through a digital deal, I'm in no hurry to play them. I wait for a while before downloading and installing them ... if I ever actually decide to. This time around, however, I couldn't wait to play them. There were several I've been on the fence about for a while, and I have a new tablet with a keyboard dock and USB port. I downloaded all of them (along with all of the old games I have bought and never actually played) and started playing them, one by one.
After seeing it demoed on a Transformer Prime at CES, I decided to start with Shadowgun because it looked relatively fun from what I could remember. And it is in a weird kind of way. The story is cheesy and typical, movement and game play are a bit simple in comparison to your typical console game. But it's fun to play, nonetheless – if you have a USB controller, that is.
Let's be honest, touchscreen controls for any real level of gaming is a joke. Sure, games like Angry Birds are fine with just a touchscreen. The controls are simple and easy to get a feel for without making the game any less of a challenge. But for anything that tries to mimic console gaming, like shooters and racing games, they're much more enjoyable with a physical controller.
This is where my game playing spree took a turn from relaxed fun to a bit of research (if you want to call it that). Instead of just trying the games out to see if they were worth the severely discounted price, it turned into a test to see which games had controller support.
I proceeded to download the extra 300MB for Need For Speed, 750MB for Asphalt 6 HD and so on and so forth for Backstab, GTA III, Dead Space, Heavy Gunner, etc. After a total of about an hour waiting on all of the downloads to finish, it took about five minutes to learn that none of them had (usable) controller support. Shadowgun was the only one optimized to work fully with a USB controller and even let you map the controls to different keys.
Grand Theft Auto III responded to button presses and even worked a little with the keyboard dock on the Prime. But there is no way (without some form of hackery) that you can map certain keys to do anything. With the keyboard, the C key would enter and exit vehicles, 7 was the emergency brake in the car and the rest was too spread out and inconsistent to remember, or to realistically use for any real enjoyment.
None of this is to say that I don't understand why the majority of these developers have completely written off controller support for the time being. Most of these games were developed specifically for smartphones, only adding tablet support after the fact. Not many people are going to use a PS3 or Xbox controller with their phone. And I don't imagine very many tablet users are trying to use USB controllers either ... yet. But it was one of the many features added in Honeycomb that has yet to be fully taken advantage of.
That is hardly the point, though. It's possible and should be something game developers should take advantage of. If I wanted, I could plug my Galaxy Nexus into my television via MHL (micro USB to HDMI) adapter and connect a PlayStation 3 controller via Bluetooth. Using that, I could have a decent amount of fun playing Shadowgun or some other game with controller support.
If they want to provide consumers with any serious level of mobile gaming and possibly set themselves apart from the hundreds (possibly thousands) of other developers out there making similar games, they should be willing to provide users with gamepad support. It would take a minimal amount of work and would increases the quality of the game tenfold. Most mobile racing games, for example, are terrible simply due to the controls. The majority are controlled by an on-screen brake and the device's accelerometer for turning. With only two or three controls, it's pretty simple to master and it's very annoying having to tilt your phone (and especially a 10-inch tablet) back and forth through a race. With a USB controller and a little code, you can make the game a lot more interesting and fun to play. The same goes for any first or third person shooters and pretty much anything else – besides Angry Birds and games of the like.
After going through roughly 50 games, it honestly surprised me how few actually have support for controllers. I did learn that you can download a couple games that are made specifically for the Xperia PLAY, seeing as it has a built-in controller. But every mobile game (that isn't a rip-off of some old flash game) should have controller support.
I can't be the only one who feels this way. Have any of you been disappointed after buying an Android game and learning that it won't work with a USB controller? Is there anyone who actually enjoys on-screen controls? Also, are there any games out there with USB controller support that you would recommend?