Molding and shaping Terraria's world with twin sticks

Molding and shaping Terraria's world with twin thumbsticks

Terraria, the PC creation conceived by the small staff at developer Re-Logic, will finally make its way to the digital storefronts of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Developed by Engine Software and published 505 Games, the console version of Terraria features fresh content, including a new big bad dubbed Ocram as well as additional enemies, weapons, pets and inventory items, and is scheduled to arrive at "the end of February or early March," according to 505 Games community manager Logan Rosenstein.

The console version's biggest addition, however, is the ability to play Terraria with a controller. It's initially hard to picture playing Terraria without the combination of a mouse and keyboard. The basic movement controls are simple enough, but inventory management, mining, and construction are all governed by a pointer-based interface that is best left for a mouse to handle. The gamepad controls developed for the port aim to offer the best of both worlds.

"The biggest challenge [the dev team faced] was the controls," Rosenstein said of the porting process. "The PC version is so heavily reliant on the keyboard and mouse, so the dev team spent a lot of time and a lot of effort working on the controls. They did several different layouts and several different practice runs."%Gallery-178191%

The basics are intuitive for players familiar with side-scrolling games. Movement maps to the left analog stick. A (on an Xbox 360 controller) jumps and Y opens your backpack/crafting interface. Right trigger uses whichever item you have equipped and left/right bumpers cycle through the inventory hotbar at the top of the screen.

There's no setting to force-pause the game when you open your backpack like there is on PC, but an assignable D-pad offers quick access to a limited selection of items. Best used for consumables, D-pad-mapped items replace whatever item you have highlighted in your hotbar for a limited time, disappearing whenever you switch over to another item.

The biggest tweaks apply to the mining and construction interface. There are two modes that you can flip between by clicking the right analog stick: Auto and Manual. If, for example, you're standing near a copper vein surrounded by dirt, Auto mode will prioritize mining the mineral first as long as it's within range.

Click on the right stick and a small set of crosshairs appears, indicating that Manual mode is active. You'll use this to chip away at specific blocks or place items just the way you want them.

"Basically, you're [going to use] the different types of modes based on what you feel like you need for that specific situation," Rosenstein explained. "So if you're digging you can use our Auto mode, which isn't in the PC version. The controls are pretty standard; with that Auto mode and the Manual mode as well, you can still do the fine and gross control."

These control tweaks also don't lose sight of the changes wrought by mid- and late-game features, such as the grappling hook or Angel Wings. The grapple automatically maps to left trigger once you craft it, with the direction of your throw dictated by the right stick. Angel Wings, Rocket Boots, and other jump-oriented tools simply require you to keep the jump button held down.

The problem, of course, is that some of the later game enemies and bosses you encounter are best tackled in the skies. With jump mapped to A and ranged weapon aiming assigned to the right stick, it becomes very difficult to fly and shoot at the same time. Thankfully, a checkbox menu option allows you to quickly re-map jump to the left trigger while the grapple shifts over to L3.

The port development team appears to have put a lot of thought into delivering the same level of functionality and flexibility that PC players have come to associate with Terraria. After just a few minutes of hands-on time, cruising through and manipulating the game's 2D came naturally.

Some of Terraria's new content – such as Ocram – is specifically featured in the late-game, but that's not true for everything. There's no specific path that the team followed, Rosenstein explained. They simply listened to and watched what the fans were doing.

"We saw a game that PC gamers loved and there was a whole audience that didn't get to experience it. We wanted to bring it to them [but] with the new content we also wanted to expand and reward the people who were playing in the long game," he said.

"Thankfully the community for Terraria is very vocal. Everyone says what they want. The PC community also had a lot of modders. In a sense there were people who were already testing stuff that we were thinking of."

"So [for example] a new boss, that seems like a very natural thing to add to the game. With pets, there was a UK boxed version that came with a pet rabbit. We said, 'well why stop at one?' So we put multiple pets in. Then we thought it would be fun if we put in pets that fought for you, so [we did]."

Molding and shaping Terraria's world with twin thumbsticks

The challenge now is getting people to understand that Terraria is not so easily defined as a "2D Minecraft." There are points of comparison between them, but the two games are fundamentally very different. "Minecraft is a 3D crafting and construction game with RPG elements," Rosenstein said. "Terraria is a 2D side-scrolling exploration RPG with crafting and construction elements."

The hope is that an all-new tutorial mode – also set to be released as the game's free demo – introduces players to the unique appeal of Re-Logic's creation. The demo aims to introduce players to resource gathering and how to build living spaces the game deems acceptable.

Against all odds, Terraria seems to work as a console game; however, we'll all find out in a handful of weeks if impressions based on an hour's worth of fiddling hold true over the 20+ hours required to see everything the game offers.

[Ed. Note: This preview originally stated that 505 Games was the developer of Terraria's console port, the actual developer is Engine Software. 505 Games will publish. The error has been corrected in the above preview.]

Adam Rosenberg is a writer and dudebro academic based out of Brooklyn, NY. He's a full-time freelancer who has contributed to a wide range of outlets, including G4, Rolling Stone, MTV, and Digital Trends. You can follow his and his dog's exploits on Twitter at @Geminibros.