Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 40

Thread: Keyboard controls are a death sentence

  1. #1

    Default Keyboard controls are a death sentence

    Sorry if this has been discussed before, but I couldn't find a thread when I searched for it. A standard line I give developers is that keyboard controls can kill a casual download game. If a game comes in that has keyboard controls only, we almost never take it.

    Is this pretty much taken for granted by everyone here? Or is there anyone with a differing opinion?

  2. #2


    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    London, Ontario
    Posts
    1,165

    Default

    That's pretty much a given for casual games here, along with the use of the right mouse button.

    For hardcore action or strategy games obviously the rule doesn't apply.

    Strangely it doesn't seem to apply for Flash games either. I recently converted one of my downloadable games to Flash and in the process I dropped the keyboard controls in favour of the mouse exclusively. Now I'm getting e-mails from sponsors asking if I could put keyboard controls back in.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Redmond, WA
    Posts
    222

    Default

    I seem to recall someone saying that you should plan your game's interface assuming the player has a baby in her lap...
    --Charles Oines
    Irrational Designs

  4. #4


    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Saitama, Japan
    Posts
    1,183

    Default

    Agree completely, but I think casual games should have optional keyboard controls if it's the type of game that lends itself to the keyboard. For example, a platform game like Super Granny or Supercow. Don't make me suffer through trying to play a game like Snaky Jake without the keyboard.
    Sock Dash - online games portal | Game Socks - downloadable games portal | My Games

  5. #5

    Default

    I'm curious if anyone has anecdotes of their games doing well with a primarily keyboard control mechanic. How about word games?

  6. #6




    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Isle of Wight, UK
    Posts
    3,863

    Default

    nm, misread the question.
    Regards,
    Paul Johnson

    [Great BIG War Game: iOS | Android] [Great Little War Game: iOS | Android] [Fruit Blitz: iOS | Android] [Yachty Deluxe: iOS | Android]

  7. #7

    Default

    If you have a keyboard based game (like a platformer) at least have mouse based controls on the menu system! (so many people don't do that and it's annoying). For a 2D space shooter you should probably support keyboard AND mouse. Alien Shooter had both controls and rocked.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Pacific NW
    Posts
    499

    Default

    my game is going to be keyboard + mouse -- it's sort of central to the game, you aim with the mouse (ala abuse)... (or optionally using an xbox 360 gamepad).

    is this keyboard+mouse thingy going to ruin things for me? My game isn't a casual game though, so sorry if this seems like a partial thread hijack.

  9. #9

    Default

    Keyboard + mouse is fine for non-casual. I prefer aiming with a mouse and moving with keys anyway and I'm sure most core gamers do.

  10. #10

    Default

    What do people think about user defined keys? My view is that if you are going to use the keyboard as a primary input then you need to allow people to define their own keys. That's quite a lot of extra work for an indie title.

    I regret not having key input for some functions on Snaky Jake now. I had them originally then removed them because I didn't think it was casual enough. But in the end the game didn't do well in the casual space and didn't do well as an indie title either partly because of the controls I think. Oh well we live and learn. Go Ollie is doing OK at the moment though and it's basically SJ with a few tweaks (I think I added some basic keyboard support to it but can't remember)

    I'm intrigued as to why the right mouse button is so taboo? All mice have it, it's easy to use, doesn't stop someone playing the game one handed with a baby in their lap and all Microsoft applications support it as standard. And yet users seem really reticent to use it. I recently made an indie/casual game which uses the mouse wheel and that also got some negative feedback because, apparently, the average user can't use the mouse wheel. Yet again it's standard on virtually all mice and commonly used in MS applications. I think developers who ignore how users want to interact with their games do so at their peril but it intrigues me as to why players are so conservative on the PC in this regards. It doesn't seem to be the case so much on consoles where users are happy to experiment with different input systems.

    regards,

    Tony

  11. #11

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    140

    Default

    I can't answer for the right-click, but I've been in plenty of offices where the mice don't have scroll wheels, or the scroll wheels are gummed up and completely useless. So, if it's casual enough that an office user might play it, there's plenty of places I've seen that wouldn't be able to play it effectively.

  12. #12

    Default

    Keyboard only is probably not a good idea for true-blue casual games (I don't know for sure though, I don't make 'em).

    I will say that with the Wonderland games I actually met quite a bit of resistance from players when I first announced that the Wonderland Adventures titles would be mouse-controlled (that was until they realized that the game mechanics was quite different compared to the first 3 Wonderland games). Players really liked the keyboard-only controls of the original games, and I would agree with them - playing the first three games with a mouse would be awful.

    My point has always been to design the games with the best controls to make the game as playable as possible, not try to force an arbitrary control scheme (e.g. mouse) on a game.

    (And on the flipside, when I first released Intensity XS (in 2001) a lot of reviewers threw up their arms saying "ohmygod, a shmup with mouse control, how could you?!?!?". It fit the game best, and that's why it was there. Now, almost every PC shmup has mouse control.)

    So what am I saying? Limiting a control scheme automatically limits the types of games you can have. Saying "no keyboard" will either disqualify some types of games altogether, or force designers to come up with less ideal mouse control options. Of course, most games on portals now come from a mouse control perspective (hidden object, match 3, etc)... so a keyboard only game would definitely stand out (and likely sell less). It's a chicken and egg thing.
    Midnight Synergy - Home of the Wonderland Game Series
    Latest release: Wonderland Adventures Mysteries of Fire Island

  13. #13

    Default

    There is definitely a steeper learning curve for using a keyboard in any given game. The player must either press all of the keys to see what they all do or go through a list of commands or a tutorial in order to learn the game. With Mouse games, everything is on the screen, and the mouse is very intuitive with respect to its use as well as its user feedback. I think of examples like World of Goo (this game ends up being my example for everything awesome), where you're just dropped into the first level with a quite responsive and compelling cursor, and you feel compelled to click on the goo balls because they respond when you hover over them. Within a few minutes, you have the basic feel of the game without ever having someone directly tell you how to play, mostly because it's just so much more intuitive, especially thanks to its effective use of the mouse.

    Of course, you can't make "every game anyone would ever want to play" using just a mouse. Sometimes a keyboard or other input device is simply a better fit for your game, and it's better to just use that instead of making a clunky mouse interface that won't feel right.

    As an aside, does anyone remember way back when people made keyboard interfaces for simulation games so complicated that they came with keyboard overlays that you could put on your keyboard to tell you what each key did? I think that's the kind of thing that's better as a mouse interface with buttons on the screen.

  14. #14

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by charliedog View Post
    I regret not having key input for some functions on Snaky Jake now. I had them originally then removed them because I didn't think it was casual enough. But in the end the game didn't do well in the casual space and didn't do well as an indie title either partly because of the controls I think. Oh well we live and learn. Go Ollie is doing OK at the moment though and it's basically SJ with a few tweaks (I think I added some basic keyboard support to it but can't remember)
    There's no reason you can't release an update that puts that functionality back in. Just because a game is released doesn't mean it is done. I'm frequently releasing updates to my games with new features. Customers really appreciate it, because it keeps the game fresh and interesting and they perceive a lot of value for their money (which does wonders for repeat sales when your next game comes out). And it keeps bumping the game to the top of the new/update lists on various sites where people can see/find it.

    Quote Originally Posted by charliedog View Post
    I'm intrigued as to why the right mouse button is so taboo?
    I don't get that either. I use the right-click in Fashion Cents Deluxe, and customers don't have a problem with it. The only players I can think of who might have a problem with it are Mac users who are using the one-button Apple Mighty Mouse. But the right-click is easily simulated with Ctrl-leftclick (unless you have a baby in your lap). And besides, some Mac users do use standard USB mice - I actually use a Microsoft mouse on my Mac.

  15. #15

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey Alien View Post
    If you have a keyboard based game (like a platformer) at least have mouse based controls on the menu system! (so many people don't do that and it's annoying). For a 2D space shooter you should probably support keyboard AND mouse. Alien Shooter had both controls and rocked.
    definitely. I've watched people testing my games struggle through a simple menu just because of an up/down/enter/esc control (instead of a mouse control). It seemed intuitive at the time, but it turns out I was wrong.

  16. #16

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by CousinGilgamesh View Post
    As an aside, does anyone remember way back when people made keyboard interfaces for simulation games so complicated that they came with keyboard overlays that you could put on your keyboard to tell you what each key did? I think that's the kind of thing that's better as a mouse interface with buttons on the screen.
    Not if you're doing a flight simulator with 50 different commands. You don't have room on the screen for 50 buttons, unless you take away the view and give them nothing but a dashboard. Or you make the buttons so small that the player really has to concentrate to be sure to click the right button. Also with a keyboard, you can have 10 fingers on 10 different keys and react very quickly to anything you need to do - with 50 buttons and only one mouse pointer, you could only issue one command at a time. That wouldn't make for a very responsive flight simulator. I just don't see how anything other than a keyboard would work for something like that. The keyboard definitely has its place. While it isn't an ideal user interface, it can be useful.

  17. #17

  18. #18

    Default

    good grief! that's a lot of buttons.

  19. #19

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Redmond, WA
    Posts
    222

    Default

    There was this beautiful monstrosity too.
    --Charles Oines
    Irrational Designs

  20. #20

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Seattle, United States
    Posts
    1,219

    Default

    Keyboard controls are acceptable if your game doesn't require precision or quick reactions. Otherwise, it's very easy to run into cheap keyboards which don't work when certain button combos are pushed.

    Being an FPS fanatic, at some point I just broke down and bought a Nostromo. I consider it one of my favorite pieces of hardware. It's essentially a dedicated ergonomic keypad that doesn't care how many buttons you push at once, and even has a d-pad on it.

    But most people... Well, just assume they have a cheap keyboard that is designed for lame business types - and use the mouse instead.

    I've actually simplified the design of two non-BF game concepts in progress because of these limitations, and I feel it works well. The fewer buttons there are, the better.
    The problem with climbing up on your cross is that some jerk with a hammer and a bucket of nails is bound to walk by. Eventually.

  21. #21

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GolfHacker View Post
    Not if you're doing a flight simulator with 50 different commands. You don't have room on the screen for 50 buttons, unless you take away the view and give them nothing but a dashboard. Or you make the buttons so small that the player really has to concentrate to be sure to click the right button. Also with a keyboard, you can have 10 fingers on 10 different keys and react very quickly to anything you need to do - with 50 buttons and only one mouse pointer, you could only issue one command at a time. That wouldn't make for a very responsive flight simulator. I just don't see how anything other than a keyboard would work for something like that. The keyboard definitely has its place. While it isn't an ideal user interface, it can be useful.
    Yeah, I see what you mean.

  22. #22

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ratboy View Post
    There was this beautiful monstrosity too.
    Your link doesn't work. I think there is a permissions problem.

  23. #23

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Acord View Post
    it's very easy to run into cheap keyboards which don't work when certain button combos are pushed.
    That's true. My artist had a tough time playing Rick Rocket because he couldn't turn and shoot at the same time. The problem seemed isolated to him, but I don't know for sure if it was his keyboard or not.

    One other issue I'd like to point out: I did have a mouse die on me once while I was in a game. I was very thankful that I could use the keyboard to get out of the game cleanly without having to power off my computer and lose my progress. So I definitely think that every game should support the keyboard, if only to hook up the ESC key so users can get out of it.

  24. #24

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Redmond, WA
    Posts
    222

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GolfHacker View Post
    Your link doesn't work. I think there is a permissions problem.
    Well, poop. Try this one, then.
    --Charles Oines
    Irrational Designs

  25. #25

    Default

    Niiiiiiiice....

  26. #26


    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Warsaw, Poland
    Posts
    2,734

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Acord View Post
    KBeing an FPS fanatic, at some point I just broke down and bought a Nostromo. I consider it one of my favorite pieces of hardware. It's essentially a dedicated ergonomic keypad that doesn't care how many buttons you push at once, and even has a d-pad on it.
    It lacks 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0 keys which i use regularly (ok the first few actually because 6-8-9-0 are far from my left hand) to change weapons :-P.

  27. #27

    Default

    Seems to me we ought to be easing casual gamers into keyboard usage. Even if it's just optional at this point, put it in, point it out with a quick hint or two during gameplay.

    It will be very difficult for casual games to ever achieve much depth in time-critical and especially action-based genres with only one button at the player's disposal.

    By the way, regarding problems with keyboards not registering multiple simultaneous key presses: Try using the shift and control keys. Even on cheap keyboards, they should be designed to work in conjunction with any other key.

  28. #28

    Default

    I just broke down and bought a Nostromo
    It rocks, I assign the most commonly used weapons to the D-pad. Years ago I used to find some key combos that failed on FPS games, like turning crouching and strafing at the same time or whatever.

  29. #29

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by OremLK View Post
    Seems to me we ought to be easing casual gamers into keyboard usage. Even if it's just optional at this point, put it in, point it out with a quick hint or two during gameplay.
    Yeah I agree, I hope that happens as we move forward...

  30. #30

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    140

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey Alien View Post
    It rocks, I assign the most commonly used weapons to the D-pad. Years ago I used to find some key combos that failed on FPS games, like turning crouching and strafing at the same time or whatever.
    I own a Nostromo as well, and can't imagine playing on the PC without it.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •