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Controls on the PC for fighting

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I was on my way to work, practically falling asleep on the subway, when I started thinking about controls for PC games. Specifically for action games, rpgs, and whatever might have melee fighting. Usually games use a system where you use the mouse to change your direction, the keyboard for movement, and any number of keys or buttons for everything else. If you wanted to add more moves to the system, you need to assign more keys. Eventually you have a MechWarrior layout and have to remember any number of keys and be able to reach them all without getting lost. Sometimes you might find a game with some keys that are general. This is usually called an action key, or use key, and is basically a smart multipurpose key. You use it to open doors, push buttons, grab things, and interact with any number of objects in the world. Introduced in Black & White (I''m guessing here ) was the whole drawing of symbols to cast spells. It was a great idea because it was fresh, and freed up much of the keyboard which fit with that particular game. The problem that most people had with it, was the learning curve in using it (the difficulty in getting some spells to work). What if we combine these and other ideas into a system for fighting? You could use the keyboard for moving around (running, crawling, jumping, dodging). The mouse could be used for picking a target (which would be locked after you select it), and then for executing different attacks and manouvers in the Black&White style. You could store ''combos'' as macros on different buttons, and maybe a temporary combo executable through the mouse. Or maybe have all combos executed through the mouse too. Every move should be quickly executable, with the harder and slower moves in real life taking more time to ''draw'' with the mouse. Maybe there would be a logical ordering of how you draw out moves (ie. a low front kick would be drawn with the low prefix, and then front kick for either left or right leg). Sorry if my thoughts are jumbled, I just wanted to get opinions and suggestions. This is all just an experiment anyway. :D

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I don''t really have a definite idea, but what if you got rid of the mouse all together. I find that when I play fighting games (Oni comes to mind), when I have to manually select things with my mouse things actually move slower. When a game, such as a fighting game, is dependent of fast-paced action this kinda hinders the enjoyment.

What I was thinking was to use the basic, WASD for move like a FPS (foward, back, strafing) and then use the arrow keys for your actions. Zero on the NumPad could be use for another action if you need more buttons.

With this format you also have acess to the Space Bar (thumb) and the Q and E buttons. Also available is F, C, 1 on the NumPad, X, 3 (on the Number Row), and R. This way everything is easily accessible quickly while the game progresses.

I find that keyboard controls that represent controller effiency is the best way to go, not that I''ve actually made any games but I draw this conclusion from personal experience.

That''s just my input, maybe I''ll have something to add later. Do you have any type of game specifically your looking to implement this in. 2D Fighter, 3D Fighter, Action Game with lots of Martial Arts Action (kinda like Oni).

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No specific genre for this idea, it''s just an idea I''m tossing around. I understand that the mouse would probably be pretty slow compared to a controller, but not everybody has a controller.

The big reason I want to experiment with the mouse is that there are many techniques, and many places to aim them. Look at your standard punch. You can throw it to the face, a joint, the body, or the family jewels... how would you get that kind of control with keys?

And say that you have magic, martial arts, melee weapons, and ranged weapons. All of them can use the mouse to ''aim'' but in slightly different ways. Magic might use more complicated symbols, and have you remember them all. The martial arts might be a shorter version of the magic style, so that you can quickly get those moves out. Melee weapons might let you swing your weapon the way you ''swing'' the mouse. Finally, ranged weapons could be a standard FPS derivative.

I''m just thinking of ways to get more control in combat.

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Kohai: "I understand that the mouse would probably be pretty slow compared to a controller [...]"

Or to a keyboard. Once you know where the keys are (or if you restrict yourself to easy keys where you don''t have to move your hand), it''s much faster.

[slightly off topic]

Have you read "The Humane Interface", by (I think) Jeff Raskin? He gives some estimates for how long it takes to use a keyboard shortcut, as versus point''n''click.

I had a similar problem with Black&White. It''s one of the few (10% or so) games I haven''t bothered trying to play to completion. And with (not a game) Opera''s "mouse gestures". Easy to screw up. You don''t really want to accidentally cast fireball on that fire elemental! If you live with one hand always on the mouse, you could probably get used to it, but I try to do as much as possible with the keyboard -- faster and much more accurate.

Also consider how different some gestures are if you have a glidepoint, one of those joystick thingies (on some notebooks), or even a trackball. Things that are simple with one can be painful with another. If you''ve tried tracing glyphs, editing bitmaps, or using Visio with either a glidepoint or a joystick, you''ll find them lacking in resolution. On the other hand, glidepoints and trackballs are great for jumping to the other side of the screen in a hurry -- try playing Centipede and you''ll see the benefits over a mouse/joystick very quickly.

I''m actually glad games nowadays are (again) offering keyboard interfaces. There was a period in the mid-90''s when there were a bunch of games that were mouse *only* -- even those "please insert disk 267" prompts required a mouse click to close them. *shudder*

[/slightly off topic]

But, back to your idea... one of the problems is that if there are a number of different attacks, you need a way to differentiate them. One that works on a "standard" type of mouse (two buttons). Gestures are harsh because you might really be wanting to target something else. Forcing them to hold down a mouse button while dragging the gesture is possible, but if it''s a fast-paced game, could be a strain on memory.

Nicest might be if some sort of circular menu of attack options appeared (centered around the enemy) immediately upon "target locking". Move the mouse outside the circle, it resumes new target acquisition. But if you stay inside, click, and drag towards an option, that is selected. (I assume, here, that after the option is selected, the mouse snaps back into the center)

I do like keeping the keyboard for moving. But maybe it would be easier if the attack combos were a combination thing: say, hold down mouse button and press a direction on the keyboard. This means: mouse accuracy isn''t an issue; there are easily nine options to choose from; if you need more, there are ''modifier'' keys.

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