For the longest time, the two main control options for games on PC have been either the classic keyboard and mouse combo, or a traditional twin-stick controller setup. There’s also dedicated controllers like a steering wheel for racing games, or a flight stick for flight simulators, but there’s a new control scheme now available as part of the latest Steam Input beta that offers additional functionality that may change the way we play first-person shooters forever.
“Flick Stick” is an input scheme developed by Jibb Smart that rethinks the traditional input mapping, by splitting up vertical and horizontal aiming. In traditional first-person controls with a controller, the left stick handles movement, and the right stick controls vertical and horizontal aiming. With Flick Stick controls, the left stick still handles all movement, but the right stick is used solely for horizontal aiming, and vertical aiming is assigned to gyro controls. This grants you immediate 360-degree horizontal aiming control, where you can point the stick in any direction, and you immediately turn to face that direction. Using the full stick for horizontal aiming can give you greatly increased speed and precision, where the position of your stick can map 1:1 with your character’s direction. Gyro aiming is more than precise enough to handle vertical aiming.
He’s a highly illustrative video the creator of the Flick Stick control scheme released showing the setup in action in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
This is an older video, from when this control scheme was just made available as part of a standalone open-source implementation, but with this functionality now available as part of Steam Input, it’s about to get a lot more players giving it a try. As the latest update from Valve says:
“Added an implementation of Jibb Smart’s Flick Stick. To use bind the right joystick to Flick Stick and the Gyro to Mouse.”
Controllers that are compatible with Steam Input and offer gyro functionality include the now discontinued official Steam controller and the PS4 controller. Nintendo Switch controllers do include a gyro, but they aren’t currently supported by Steam Input.
What’s great about this using the Steam Input API, is that games that already support the API don’t need any kind of update to use this control scheme. We may see developers tailor their games around this kind of input scheme in the future, but existing Steam Input games will in theory already support this, although since it’s still in beta there may be a few issues to iron out before it’s ready for prime time. There’s a full list of games that use the Steam Input API over here. Games that would seem like viable candidates to try with Flick Stick would be things like the Serious Sam games, Prey, No Man's Sky, and as shown in the above video, 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 to never claim that this would make mouse and keyboard setups obsolete, it doesn’t sound like he’s thinking that this could magically replace what many players have spent their whole lives using. It sounds more like this is intended as an option to improve precision and speed when using a controller. For us, it’s a welcome addition, and we’re keen to see how this develops during the beta. Potentially this could help alleviate some of the tension present in cross-platform multiplayer games, as right now in shooters that require precision, mouse, and keyboard offer players a significant advantage. This potentially could close some of the gap between the two dominant control schemes, and brings us closers to a level playing field. Part of the richness of PC gaming is allowing for high levels of customization, so users can decide for themselves exactly what settings and configurations they want to use, and this looks like a great way to expand that range of choices.
Is this something you’ll be checking out? Here are Valve’s instructions for how to opt into their client beta, should you wish to give this a try.