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Ship Control in SF RPG

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The game I am currently working on puts the player in the shoes of an enterprising ship captain sometime in the future, in some far off galaxy. Basically, it has a top-down view of the player''s ship, ala Subspace, Asteroids, EV: Override, etc. One of the primary concerns I have right now with my design is this: How should the player control his ship? I have heard a few people on this forum say that they like to use gamepads for this type of game. My original scheme simply used the keyboard keys to thrust and rotate the ship. However, I am seriously thinking about implementing a more mouse-based control scheme (i.e. the ship rotates to face the cursor, accelerates when left-button is clicked). I feel that this control scheme would better fit the overall feel of the game (which would probably require the moues). What do you guys think? What kind of control would you prefer? -Mike

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Here''s an idea. You could use the wasd (or other arrows) to control rotation and thrust. And give the player the option to mount normal weapons, or (for a much higher price) turret weapons. Then you could use the mouse to control the turret (i.e. click and the weapon fires in that direction). You might even have more than one turret using the right and left mouse buttons.

-D

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Having beaten Star Control II several times, as well as having had many nice games of two-player Star Control II Melee I tend to stick to keyboard-only games for that type of gameplay.

The mouse has only 3 good uses that I can immediately think of:
- Targeting
- Selecting
- Precision

You only seem concerned with the last one (turning the ship to a precise degree based on where the mouse is). I would suggest going with just the keyboard anyway. Or at worst, make the keyboard-only control an option. The mouse is really unnecessary in games like these, in my opinion.

[edited by - GameCreator on August 16, 2002 12:40:17 PM]

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Thanks for the replies so far! Actually, the three items GameCreator listed are some key reasons for me to want to use the mouse. In my game, I want to go for a star-trekish, command-your-own-starship kind of feel. The player would be the captain of anything from a small one-man shuttle to a huge star cruiser with hundreds of crewmen. Thus, I need to be able to allow the player to:

1) Easily target other ships for hailing, attacking, scanning, boarding, etc. This would best be done with mouse clicking, but I could see using the 'T' and 'Y' keys (for instance) to cycle through nearby targets (ala the X-Wing games).

2) Adjusting ship systems/settings in sidebars or dialog boxes: repairing damage systems, moving crew/energy around, etc. This, again, would be easiest with a mouse. However, this brings up another design problem I have: simplicity vs. complexity. I'll talk about this later.

3) Movement. Currently, the small ship in my game can only be piloted with the arrow keys. It is pretty precise, as the ship can rotate around to any angle (I'm using D3D). If I had the mouse as the main controller for movement, it might mesh better with the rest of the interface, which will probably use the mouse.

My biggest design problem is what I mentioned under 2): Simplicity vs. Complexity. Determining this would build the basis for the entire game. I am torn between making the whole game relatively simple, with ships being relatively simple and not much detail to worry about. On the other hand, tossing in lots of exciting details like fully-customizable ships, managing crew members, etc. would add a lot more complexity, and potentially a lot more fun.

For a simple game, I would probably go with the keyboard. But if I begin to add more detail, and more information/settings to work with, the mouse becomes much more important to the gameplay.

Using the mouse isn't so much a question of precision, but of preference. Different people are used to different controls. I like the idea that the AP described: using the arrow keys to move and the mouse to do targeting, shooting etc. I think a lot of people feel the same as GameCreator: they prefer the keyboard. Perhaps the best idea is to make the game flexible, and to allow the player to decide.

Now that I've ranted enough, I want to hear what some more people think. If you don't have a lot to say, simply post what kind of controls you would prefer:

Mouse only
Keyboard and mouse together
Keyboard only
Gamepad
others?

-Mike

[edited by - doctorsixstring on August 16, 2002 1:41:57 PM]

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I''d agree that using a mouse / keyboard combo is your best bet. FPS players are already used to using keyboard for moving and the mouse for shooting. The keys should be customizable and I would highly reccomend "wasd" being one of the default configurations.

With the keyboard / mouse combo, the player can still fly around while using the mouse to raise shields, manage powerplant output, etc. You might also want to consider using hotkeys as well for some of the more commonly used commands.

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if it´s a RPG i wouldn´t want to be bothered much with ship controls at all... maybe targetting and orders for the crew, but not arcade style fighting.

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If the player chooses to be a military commander, pirate, mercenary, etc., combat will be the basis of the game. As such, I want to be able to have a fast-paced, exciting combat system. This is not to say that battles will be purely arcadey and mindless. I want to incorporate tactical depth into each battle and avoid the "turn-in-circles-while-shooting" problem so common in these types of games.

When I call my game an RPG, I am in no way comparing it to Final Fantasy-style "RPGs". If anyone has ever played the classic shareware game "Solar Winds", they will already know a bit about the type of game I am shooting for (but much larger and with more depth). Another good reference could be the game "Pirates!": travelling around in your ship, managing your crew, cargo, etc. and basically doing whatever you want.

-Mike

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quote:
Original post by doctorsixstring
The player would be the captain of anything from a small one-man shuttle to a huge star cruiser with hundreds of crewmen.



Warms my heart to hear this! I'm working on something very similar. Alot of what you mention I'm aiming for as well. (You might search for "SF RPG" for a bunch of threads I posted, which has those words in the title.)

My scheme for control to rotate the camera with the mouse in order to look around the ship, and use a FPS style WASD key config (which can be changed, of course) to sideslip, accelerate, and decelerate. Right click swings the camera, left applies whatever function (hail, fire, mines) the player has selected.


quote:

My biggest design problem is what I mentioned under 2): Simplicity vs. Complexity.


It's a thousand times harder, but I'd vote for complexity because its ultimately (to me) more satisfying. If you go with complexity, I think coming up with a good paradigm for controls and gameplay elements which is uniform and logical makes sense. Rather than having a bunch of different functions that all have different systems the player has to remember (and different menus or keys) I think it's better to have modes whose settings can be accessed and tweaked; and to have maybe multi-function buttons / cursors / UI elements that are context sensitive in terms of what's going on in the game. It potentially cuts back on information overload.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

[edited by - Wavinator on August 20, 2002 7:14:40 PM]

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I was hoping you would stop by this thread sometime, Wavinator . In the last few weeks, I have read just about every SF RPG thread you posted (why do you think I added it to my title ?) I must say, I have gotten a lot of ideas from them.

quote:

My scheme for control to rotate the camera with the mouse in order to look around the ship...



Do you mean that the camera can be temporatily moved away from the ship, to see other nearby (but offscreen objects)? So far, my plan has been to use the WASD keys to apply fore/aft/port/starboard thrust, and to use the mouse cursor to control the ship's facing. Additionally, the ship will always remain at the center of the player's screen (but I plan to have zoom in/out controls to allow the player to see more of his/her surroundings).

Well anyways, I had better get back to designing my as yet untitled uber-game. Thanks for all the input so far, everyone!

By the way, how is your game going Wav?

-Mike

p.s. If you guys haven't ever played the old Epic shareware title "Solar Winds", I suggest you check it out. The first episode is a free download, and it is one game that has had a big influence on my design (although not as much as the threads on this forum).

[edited by - doctorsixstring on August 20, 2002 11:32:31 PM]

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quote:
Original post by doctorsixstring
In the last few weeks, I have read just about every SF RPG thread you posted (why do you think I added it to my title ?) I must say, I have gotten a lot of ideas from them.



Haha! I get it now! Feel free to borrow or steal liberally, there ain''t enough SF RPGs out there!!

quote:

Do you mean that the camera can be temporatily moved away from the ship, to see other nearby (but offscreen objects)? So far, my plan has been to use the WASD keys to apply fore/aft/port/starboard thrust, and to use the mouse cursor to control the ship''s facing.



After playing Orion Pirates I had to go with a 3rd person view-- it just looks too cool, so I''m swiping alot of their interface paradigms and adding some arcade gameplay. The mouse both spins the camera around and aims the ship. This may not exactly work, but I think I can get some nice turret gameplay if it does (shoot in one direction, move in another, for example). If the player clicks on an entity, whatever is set on the left mouse button is triggered. If the player clicks on empty space near their ship, the ship toward the point clicked.

Moving the camera off ship might be a cool way to do long range scanners, tho''...

quote:

Additionally, the ship will always remain at the center of the player''s screen (but I plan to have zoom in/out controls to allow the player to see more of his/her surroundings).



I think this is a great idea. Have you ever heard of an arcade shoot-em up called Swarm? It''s a very nicely done (and cheaply had) top down game most notable for how they do mouse control. There''s no sideslip, and they control acceleration with the mouse as well, which takes some getting used to (the farther you slide the pointer from the ship, the faster the ship goes). It may be worth checking out for an easy $10 bucks if you can find it.

quote:

Well anyways, I had better get back to designing my as yet untitled uber-game.


I hear the title is the hardest part!

quote:

By the way, how is your game going Wav?


Well, it''s taking forever, but I''ve finally learned how to do 3D texturing and modelling and made over 100 ships, space stations, ground vehicles, etc. I''m learning about LOD for terrain, and still pounding away on a (mostly finished) game design. I''ve been a bit slowed by having to look for work, but it''s still been very fun.

quote:

p.s. If you guys haven''t ever played the old Epic shareware title "Solar Winds", I suggest you check it out.


Totally agreed! I LOVED this game-- though I got stuck after getting the FTL drive and never got to see the end. Have you ever played the Starflights or Sentinel Worlds?

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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okay, you said it''s a top down view yeah?

in which case, i don''t think that the mouse is the way to go for steering... at least not if you want to make turning speed at least slightly realistic... if you use the mouse the ship can turn on the spot but if you use the keys you can control the speed at which the ship turns... the same sort of thing goes for an "in-cockpit" view i reckon, though i think a more analogue control is needed in most situations...

joypads/joysticks with analogue control (such as the ps2 has) are the way to go for navigating the ship...

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quote:
Original post by paulus_maximus
i don't think that the mouse is the way to go for steering... at least not if you want to make turning speed at least slightly realistic... if you use the mouse the ship can turn on the spot but if you use the keys you can control the speed at which the ship turns... the same sort of thing goes for an "in-cockpit" view i reckon, though i think a more analogue control is needed in most situations...



Hmmm... I never thought of this. Maybe I will use the W & A keys for forward/reverse thrust, the A & D keys for left and right rotation, and the mouse for targetting and meddling with the interface. Of course, I would like to add gamepad/joystick support someday, as well. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be possible to use a gamepad and a mouse at the same time, so this may present an interesting problem to overcome.

quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Haha! I get it now! Feel free to borrow or steal liberally, there ain't enough SF RPGs out there!!



I was actually a little worried about ending up with a copy of your game, Wav! I definetly agree with you, though. We can't ever have enough SF RPGs. As for my project, I'm going to stick with pure top-down for now. I'm saving the 3D third-person view for the sequel.

-Mike

[edited by - doctorsixstring on August 21, 2002 9:40:55 AM]

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