Control scheme issues

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TyMcCray
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Control scheme issues

Postby TyMcCray » Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:09 am

I was given instructions to help balance the game's enemies, but, with the grace of my comrades, I would like to discuss the fundamentals of the game's controls, as it will be easier to play if my suggestions are influential.

The current controls are unintuitive, which is blunt, but is how I feel. I can assume you're familiar with the controls if you've played the game.

The arrows keys are used for movement, which is fine if you need the entire keyboard for controls, but since it seems like everything is done through menus it feels like a waste. I would recommend using WASD for primary movement, with the arrows keys as a secondary option.

With the player's hand on WASD, it would make sense for sprint to be the run command, which would be intuitive for most gamers.

Of course this unbinds the menu keys. I recommend putting the menu key as space, with the "U I O J K L" buttons targeting specific sections of the menu according to order. The spacebar menu key would default to the first section of the menu, which is currently inventory.

Then the navigation keys would use either WASD or the arrow keys, with E used to confirm and Q used to deny. We may also use enter and backspace to do the same things, respectively.

I feel that given the current state of the game, this would be a greatly innovative and intuitive control scheme for the player. At the least, it feels to me the most intuitive scheme.
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Re: Control scheme issues

Postby Roots » Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:11 pm

Heh, going for the most controversial of issues right off the bat. :) The old team had a lot of debates and discussions about this on the forums in the past. The major issue we face is that this type of game is one you usually play on a console or with a gamepad, but not a keyboard. Unlike a FPS, for example, where WASD are well-known as the movement keys. So what may feel intuitive to you may not be intuitive to me, in this case. There really isn't an 'intuitive' control scheme for all of our keys.

Our solution for the unintuitive interface for this game was to put up a help screen when the user starts the game for the first time. This screen displays all of the commands, so before the user ever inputs any key, they can see what keys they should be using. I also have a desire to be able to bring up a "help screen" by pressing F1 at any point in the game that will bring up the controls again, this time with information dependent on the current mode of play (ie, if F1 pressed in map mode, the controls would say "Talk/Activate", "Party Menu", etc. where as during a battle the keys would say "Confirm", "Cancel", etc.


http://www.allacrost.org/wiki/index.php/Game_Controls
The different commands here are pretty much set in stone. I don't want us to add or remove any commands here (the idea for this number of commands came from the number of buttons on a SNES controller, since this game is meant to mimic SNES-era RPGs).

Having said that, I do rather like your suggestions. But is it more intuitive than the current setup? I'm not sure. I know that if I was dropped into this game with no knowledge or explanation, the UIOJKL keys are definitely not the first thing that I would expect. Many games use WASD, so we use those too (in addition to E and F), and many games also use arrow keys for movement, which is why we use those keys. ESC, spacebar, and enter are also common keys used by other games. I'm also uncertain if we support having a single command bound to two different keys. I think that we do not, except for some special cases like being able to access the quit menu through either ESC or Ctrl+Q.

It's entirely possibly to present the user with two different command schemes to choose from, and they can always redefine their own keys however they want. But we should really present them with a single default interface and inform them of the option to rebind their keys or choose a different pre-built schema. I think it's unlikely that most users would change from whatever default scheme we present them with. I do want the user to be able to keep their hands on the keyboard and not "hunt and peck" for different keys scattered around (ie "Enter" for confirm, "M" for menu, "A" for action, etc).


If you can present evidence with why your scheme is more intuitive than the existing one, I'd welcome the information. Saying "it feels more intuitive to me" isn't enough to merit such a drastic change in our default control schemes. We can keep this in mind though and address it later, once we have a more active community again and can solicit feedback on what they feel would be the more intuitive set of controls.
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Re: Control scheme issues

Postby TyMcCray » Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:29 pm

It was the first scheme I thought I would be controlling with. The first scheme I thought of is highly likely to be the first scheme that another gamer would have thought of. Now that their scheme has failed, they have to be bothered to learn the new controls, leaving a poor first impression. I closed the help screen on accident. I had to go into the options screen to learn the controls, and it was a bad time.

The less burden we place on the user, the better they enjoy. They play games for entertainment, and they expect to be entertained. The less they have to learn, the more they enjoy. It's why simple RPG's like Paper Mario and Pokemon gain so much weight - the learning curve is very small, regardless of the deep mechanics within.

I selected the keys carefully so that they would be similar to interfaces in almost every other game. With the exception of the UIOJKL block (which is completely optional with the space bar menu key), they will come naturally to whoever uses it.

I must also say that it takes one minute for a user to learn what each key does. If the control scheme is bad, then it will last with the user for the rest of the game.
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Re: Control scheme issues

Postby Roots » Fri Aug 07, 2015 7:37 am

TyMcCray wrote:It was the first scheme I thought I would be controlling with. The first scheme I thought of is highly likely to be the first scheme that another gamer would have thought of.


Why? The scheme we have now is the first scheme I would have thought of. Arrow keys are commonly used, as are the WASD keys.

TyMcCray wrote:Now that their scheme has failed, they have to be bothered to learn the new controls, leaving a poor first impression. I closed the help screen on accident. I had to go into the options screen to learn the controls, and it was a bad time.


You have to learn controls for every new game. You can't anticipate what a player is going to initially "guess" what the controls are, which is why we have the help screen on boot. Most players probably won't even know how many input commands the game has and what they do. I think the solution we need is "lets make sure the user can't close the help screen on accident" rather than "let's assume all players will have the same guess as to what the input commands are".

TyMcCray wrote:I selected the keys carefully so that they would be similar to interfaces in almost every other game. With the exception of the UIOJKL block (which is completely optional with the space bar menu key), they will come naturally to whoever uses it.


You realize that the UIOJKL block is the majority of the commands, right? The confirm and cancel commands are likely going to be the two most often used inputs after the arrow keys, and both are located in this clock. And in my experience those keys are seldomly used in PC games. So if I was a new player who skipped that help screen and had to guess at what the controls were, I would probably figure out the movement with WASD quickly, but I'd take a while to figure out which key corresponded to "confirm" to access the options menu and find the control scheme listed there.



I'm still unconvinced that this control scheme you're proposing is more intuitive or natural to a player who is new to the game and is completely unaware of the command inputs. We can argue back and forth about "what is more intuitive", but I don't think that is going to get us very far as there will always be players that feel that the control scheme is not intuitive, and most players won't even know how many command keys there are to begin with. I feel the more important thing to address here is not to argue about what keys should map to what inputs, but rather answering the question "How do we make sure that a new player has quick, easy, and known access to the control scheme?". Based on your initial experience playing for the first time, I suggest we do the following:

  • 1. Only allow the control help screen that appears when a player boots the game for the first time to go away if the user presses the F1 key (which they are very unlikely to do by accident)
  • 2. Have the control help screen always come up when the user presses F1 for whatever mode they are in. The user must have already pressed F1 once already, so if they ignored the screen the first time they should at least know that pressing F1 does something
  • 3. On the boot screen, if a user presses an unmapped key (for example, "Z" or "0"), bring up the control help menu. That way if a player comes back to the game after a while and forgets the control scheme, or a second user on the same computer wants to play the game for the first time, they have no problem at all getting to the control screen

How does this sound to you? I really like this, especially #3. I think adding these three changes will 100% eliminate any initial confusion or frustration for new players that don't know the controls. I also think that this is something we should make a high priority and not put off for later (I'm talking either the development release coming out next month, or the official release coming out toward the end of the year).


And if you really want to collect evidence that the control scheme you proposed is more intuitive, why not tap communities like GameDev.net forums or reddit gamedev? Show them the game, the current control set, and your proposed improved set and ask them which they think is "better". If you can get a clear, unbiased majority to agree with you that your control scheme is superior to the current one, I'll be happy to make the changes.
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Re: Control scheme issues

Postby Roots » Fri Aug 07, 2015 5:54 pm

I opened two tasks in our issue tracker to implement the enhancements I discussed in my last post.
  • https://bitbucket.org/allacrost/allacrost/issues/9/improve-command-help-screen-in-boot-mode
  • https://bitbucket.org/allacrost/allacrost/issues/10/add-mode-context-depedent-help-screen

These are great tasks for a new programmer to handle because it's relatively easy and gives them good exposure to different parts of the code, so I will point the next person that asks for some work to do to handle this.
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Re: Control scheme issues

Postby TyMcCray » Fri Aug 07, 2015 6:58 pm

I'm not sure if you're considering the needs of the user. I haven't seen a full-fledged PC game of any genre use the arrow keys in many years. They almost universally use WASD in combination with buttons located near that control scheme, even for indy games.

I'm not saying things because they sound nice. I don't need a poll to know what the standards are in gaming. I made a survey on four relevant subreddits, and after six hours got zero responses. You can view TVtrope's guide on Stock Control Settings (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... olSettings) to see what gamers have come to expect - and indeed, this page was written by gamers. You can also see that RPG's have inconsistent control schemes for the PC. Why would we bother players further with yet another inconsistent scheme when we can follow one that would come more naturally?

If you design your controls correctly, the user doesn't need a help menu or a tutorial on how to move. You place the burden on the user, who would be much happier figuring it out for themselves. Video games are about making the player feel like they accomplish something on their own without the game's help, and to babysit the player on how to control the character is an insult to their intelligence. Gaming isn't about what we, the developers, want - it's about what the user wants.
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Re: Control scheme issues

Postby nemesis » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:41 am

Just only a short comment from my side.

In all games that I have played in my life, I always preferred using the arrow keys instead of WASD. In my opinion the actual key layout is absolute fine.

I not sure right now if the possibility already exists (it has been a long while since I started Allacrost) but we can simply add a menu where the player is able the select the keys to use. This should be of only minor programming work but should finish any discussion about the controls.
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Re: Control scheme issues

Postby Roots » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:59 pm

I feel the arrow keys are easier to use as well. Yes, we do have support in the game that allow the user to bind the commands to different keys and save those bindings in their user preferences file. The earlier discussion was regarding whether we want the default controls changed or not.

And I think the points brought up in having it too easy for a user to dismiss the initial command help menu screen without knowing the commands nor knowing how to bring it back up were valid. I created two issues to eliminate this issue on our bitbucket page:

https://bitbucket.org/allacrost/allacro ... -boot-mode
https://bitbucket.org/allacrost/allacro ... elp-screen
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