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JacketBrown

What is the most annoying thing about 2D Touch Platformer controls?

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Dear Mobile Gamers,
I am currently developing a 2D shooter platformer for iOS/Android and I really want to get the controls right. I know there are a lot of problems regarding touch input, such as precision, fingers on the screen, etc.
Therefore, I would like to get some feedback from you guys as to what are the most annoying things about common touch 2D platformer controls implementations, so I could try to minimize or eliminate them on my game.
Thank you!
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In general, the lack of precision that people complain about is down to the loss of any tactile feedback like a physical button provides. There's not a lot you can do about that in software. I assume you're trying to emulate something similar to a gamepad layout.

 

Some things that can help are:

  • Adapt to the player's grip and finger size. Let players scale the virtual dpad and button hit areas to what's natural for them, and allow for the virtual dpad to slide around -- especially for an analog style pad.
  • Audio queues -- play a little click as if a physical button had been pressed. The audible queue doesn't have the physical feedback, but user studies have shown that adding an audible queue significantly improves the experience of touch controls.

 

Also, don't be so tied to emulating physical controls! You have essentially complete freedom to do whatever radical thing you like. If you can only move left or right, for instance, just have left and right arrows, rather than a full dpad. If you have one primary button, consider making it bigger than the others (a'la the gamecube controller). Heck, change the dpad and buttons in a context-dependent way (just be consistent and predictable). Consider whether you can offer some interactions by touch, rather than virtual buttons -- for example, maybe in your shooter all you have is a dpad and fire button, and you throw grenades by swiping in the center of the screen, or interact with characters and items by standing near them and pressing them on-screen. Of course, that all goes to the design of your game, and those things themselves can be design elements -- so they may or may not fit. Just don't be afraid to get creative.

Edited by Ravyne
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Actually I heard a good advice about how not putting controls on screen but just letting the user know where to tap to accomplish a certain action and the human brain does the adjusting for him on how to control with fingers most efficiently.

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You don't need to draw controls all the time, and they certainly don't need to be opaque, but they do probably need to be drawn to entrain the user where they are, unless they are very large (like, say, the entire left or right edge of the screen).

 

Myself, I would tend to not draw the control (or draw them very faintly) when its clear that the user is actively engaged with them and then draw them more boldly if I notice that their fingers are drifting or they haven't been engaging the screen for a bit (maybe they looked up from their game to talk to some one),

 

Also, with limited screen real-estate, sometimes buttons are a good place for certain UI elements -- for example, don't have an A and B button, and then separate UI telling you that A is your sword and B is your shield -- just put the sword and shield on those buttons. The user can lift their fingers if they've forgotten what's equiped.

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for example, don't have an A and B button, and then separate UI telling you that A is your sword and B is your shield -- just put the sword and shield on those buttons. The user can lift their fingers if they've forgotten what's equiped.

 

Some new games just flash a message "tap left for sword" "tap right for shield" and opt out of UI elements all together.

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The last(and only) thing I made for touch screen is Rock Raider(on the Google Play Store).  It is a simple Asteroid clone that is controlled via dual-sticks.  The left stick controls movement, and the right stick controls shooting(which also rotates the ship to point).  The catch to the way I did it is that instead of having a pair of sticks in the corners, I made it where the stick follows wherever the finger is at.  The whole left side of the screen works for the left stick, and likewise for the right. So you touch the lower left area of the screen, the left stick forms there, and stays there detecting where that finger went, creating movement.  Then you lift the finger and put it anywhere else on the left side, maybe the upper left, though could literally be anywhere on the left side you wanted.  The stick then forms there.  The same thing happens on the right side of the screen.

 

The reason I did this is because in a top-down game like this, where the ship warps to the other side(as opposed to a camera simply following the avatar all around), you might want to see a given section of the screen since enemies can be all around.  If your finger is stuck in a certain spot, you can't see.  In fact, i think the biggest problem with mobile games, unless they are designed with this in mind which doesn't happen with ports from PC, is that the fingers tend to get in the way of the action.  This is also the reason why most successful touchscreen mobile games tend to be more of the simplistic puzzle types with less action, or at the least the finger is somehow able to be out of the way, either by player choice(like in my game) or because the camera simply forces the action away from the control areas.

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Some new games just flash a message "tap left for sword" "tap right for shield" and opt out of UI elements all together.

 

Perfectly valid too, depends on the game of course. But certainly the theme throughout this thread is to question the assumptions you might have about controls or UI -- touch games are effectively a new sub-medium of games, very different from even a mouse-cursor. I daresay that touch control is still young and it hasn't all been figured out yet, so don't be afraid to rock the boat or experiment.

 

On top of just that -- most touch devices have a wealth of other sensors -- accelerometers, magnetometers, cameras and microphones. There's so much stuff to exploit and combine. You just need to figure out how to orchestrate it all in a way that makes sense.

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