Mouse only controls for casual games?

Discussion in 'Development & Distribution' started by James C. Smith, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. James C. Smith

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    Mouse only controls for casual games?

    This is in response to a question about making a casual platform game but I though I would spin it off into a whole separate topic. I am sure isn’t the first time we discussed this topic, but I see a lot of people confused and frustrated by the “mouse only†controls idea and some people go overboard cramming all kind of strange things into mouse controls to satisfy a goal they don’t understand.

    I am not sure I am correctly interpreting your “left/right relative moves†statement but I am guessing that there would be no mouse cursor and you would make the character walk at a constant rate to the left when the mouse is moved to the left. But I could be wrong and all of the fallowing would be irrelevant.

    I think the main reason people talk about using mouse only controls for casual games is to make the controls as intuitive as possible. That is the real goal. Make the controls simple and intuitive. It is possible to completely miss that goal and still use the mouse only. Whenever possible you should use a mouse cursor. Usually casual games have a cursor and the player clicks on objects to interact with them. The main exception would be if the player avatar is the mouse cursor. In games like Platapus, Feeding Frenzy, and any breakout game, the player character moves nearly in sync with the mouse and there is no need for a cursor. I can’t image you accomplishing this with “left/right relative moves†in a platform game with a walking and jumping character. It seems like the character would be connected to the mouse only very loosely and it may not be that intuitive at all. You may want to consider showing a mouse cursor and having the character walk towards it or maybe even walk to the point of a click.

    Either that, or just make the bold move to use the keyboard! My point is, use whatever controls and simple and intuitive. Forcing yourself to use the mouse does not necessarily result is intuitive controls.

    Here are the options as I see them for casual games in order of preference from best to worst
    1. Intuitive mouse controls (best options)
    2. Intuitive keyboard controls (not a bad options but will take extra pop-up message to make sure the player knows to press the keys
    3. Nonstandard use of the mouse. Control that seem forced into a mouse system (bad option)
    4. Using the mouse and keyboard at the same time (such as run with keys and shoot with mouse. This words great for Crimsonland but is not very accusable to the casual player)
    5. Complicated keyboard controls with many keys to remember (good for a some types of hard core game but bad for a casual game)

    Good keyboard controls are better than bad mouse controls even for a casual game. Don’t make bad controls just to satisfy the “mouse only†design goal of casual games.
     
  2. Hamumu

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    PLEASE if your game plays with keyboard, let the menus work with keyboard too. And more importantly, make dialogs that pop up during play alos work with keyboard! I hate it when games make me keep swapping.
     
  3. clilian

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    Well, I have uploaded a small test (Java 1.5 applet) illustrating mouse input...

    I'm not impressed by the results... but may be someone could comment on enhancing this. I'm open to all suggestions.

    Lilian

    edited : changed the link to allow more tests
     
    #3 clilian, Aug 31, 2005
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2005
  4. soniCron

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    Actually, I'm surprised how well it works. Unfortunately, you could never have a windowed or browser version of the game, but for fullscreen, it's a good start. Of course, I'm not interacting with anything, so my opinion (and everyone elses') will be heavily biased.
     
  5. clilian

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    Well, I still can grab the mouse and force it to stay in the center of the applet (but that would require a signed/trusted applet). Or create a "really big applet" and ask politely for a maximized browser window.

    Lilian
     
  6. Ricardo C

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    How about having a free floating cursor that only controls the character when within a certain distance? Say you click the player to "grab" the character, then if you move it x amount of pixels ahead, the character will walk. Further out, it will jog, still further out, it will run up to its predetermined limit. Jumping could be activated with a mouse click, while the direction and of the jump would still be controlled by the mouse movement.
     
  7. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

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    look at the snowy games from alawar or iggle pop from sprout

    imo if the mouse input is done right it's much more fun and immersive then keyboard controls could ever be.
     
  8. Martoon

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    Amen to that! That is a pet peeve of mine in so many games. It seems to especially plague a lot of otherwise very cool Flash games. They make you take your hand off the keyboard to proceed to the next level, dismiss dialogs, or start a new game.
     
  9. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I would say that if you use keyboard, no matter how simple and intuitive you make the keyboard controls, you will end up cutting out a certain percentage of the buying population. Some people just wont play any games that use keyboard controls. For them it's an immediate quit and move on to the next demo. I've seen this with various customers and players. Im not really sure how big that population is though but Im quite sure there's some truth to the notion that a game "must" use mouse controls. (in the sense that yes you are cutting out some of your potential as soon as you make the decision to use keys... I just dont know how much.. it may be a very small population in the end.)

    I think you'd be worse off trying to force mouse control only into a game that just isn't designed for it though. Pacman with mouse only doesnt strike me as a very good design. Mouse only pacman would probably sell worse than keyboard pacman.
     
  10. Mike Boeh

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    To me, Iggle Pop is a perfect example of forcing mouse control in a keyboard game. IMO it really detracts from an otherwise excellent game. A game I made, Best Friends, is another example. I may have been better making it keyboard only...
     
  11. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

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    dunno about that. I think best friends was fine with mouse control, same with Hamsterball.
     
  12. soniCron

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    Hamsterball was way better with the mouse. (Actually, it was best with both the mouse and the keyboard.) Of course, Hamsterball is a very physical game, so the natural analog control of a mouse felt much better and offered much finer control than keys ever could.
     
  13. Mike Boeh

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    Turtle Odyssey is #3 at Real this week... And it's keyboard-only :)
     
  14. clilian

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    I've update the applet with some platforms to jump on !

    Ricardo, I'll try your suggestion asap.

    I'll also try the other games to see how they manage mouse interaction...

    Any feedback on the applet is still welcome (now there's something to do with it :) ).

    the applet


    Lilian

    (edited : typo)
     
    #14 clilian, Sep 1, 2005
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2005
  15. Bmc

    Bmc New Member

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    the controls demonstrated in that applet aren't very good. Go and play Wik, and also any Snowy game. Wik, to see how a player could jump on a platform, and Snowy to see how it to make em walk... basically you get a vector from the characters locations, depending on the distance and angle you character could walk, jump, run etc.

    mouse control will limit you but limits drive you to be more creative
     
  16. Rory

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    Jumpman

    thanks for the applet lilian. Although try as a i might, i couldn't make it onto the highest platforms. :)

    But i think it does show that the mouse is a decent controller for platformers. The movement of your character / rectangle feels a lot more fluid when using the mouse to control it as opposed to using the arrow keys. With this in mind, the combination of digital controls and the traditional flat, horizontal platforms as seen in Mario games may not be completely suitable to a mouse based approach.

    ...

    Rory
     
  17. HappyCat

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    I actually thought Cillian's example nearly worked great. Only things that bugged me was the way the mouse froze when you clicked to jump, and the mouse occasionally jumped around seemingly at random when I was jumping (edit: of course these might actually be the same problem). If the mouse was free to move (left and right) at all times I think it'd work quite well.

    Wik works well because of the tounge idea - it's not really something you could transfer to any other concept.
     
  18. clilian

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    Should work now, I wasn't using the full set of mouse events.

    Lilian
     
  19. HappyCat

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    I think that works really well. I'd happily play a game like that :)
     
  20. sparkyboy

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    That is exactly how I felt about Iggle Pop. Having to use the bleedin' mouse when I was ITCHING to use the keyboard!
    Even if you provide the option within your game to use keyboard or mouse, seems evident to me, for the casual player anyhow, to be TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!!!!!

    To my mind, it's gonna take someone like POPCAP to show these players that the mouse is not the BE ALL AND END ALL!!!


    All the best


    Mark.
     

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