The Right Mouse Question

On February 7, 2014, in King Machine, by bateleur

Two MiceInternet, I have a question for you: is it OK to implement "look around" in a 3D game by having the player drag with the right mouse button held down?

Now to be clear, I'm not asking whether this works as a control scheme. I already know it works. But it might still not be OK. Let me explain why…

I'm a great believer in playtesting. An important principle of good playtesting is that if a playtester raises something as a problem, then there is a problem. King Machine has been in development for a long time now and been through many control schemes, but one thing playtesters have quite often asked at the start of their very first play is "Why isn't mouse look always on?". So I explain that it's not always on because you need a mouse cursor. Why? For manipulating objects. For interacting with menus. "Why not lock the mouse cursor to the centre of the screen and get rid of the menus?" is usually the followup question. Well, if the bot turns at a reasonable speed that makes the cursor move uncomfortably fast for object manipulation. Also, some object actions look weird with the camera moving about. Also, the menus are a good way to control… blah, blah, blah…

But here's the thing: no matter what my reasons are for the design they won't stop every single new player potentially feeling the same way, which is a problem.

"New player"? Well yes, because here's the thing: after a player has been playing for a while, the problem goes away. How long this takes varies with (I suspect) how accustomed they are to FPS controls. The control scheme works pretty well using right mouse.

So here's why I'm posting this: I'm getting towards the later stages of development now and I really need to stop changing the controls and focus on finishing the levels and suchlike. Also, it's really hard to write the help system when the controls keep changing! The question is, what should I do with mouse look?

* Change it so that mouse look is always on. Effectively sacrificing quality of control for accessibility (and possibly ease of use in some cases).
* Leave it unchanged, trusting players to settle into the controls rather than giving up 30 seconds in.
* Have both schemes available, with a toggle in the options somewhere (which still leaves the question of which should be default).
* Some other solution, such as having mouse look toggle on/off with a key.

Votes and opinions encouraged! Of course, the natural response to that is "I'd have to play it and see how it feels". Reasonable… but actually wrong. The thing is, even by reading this post you already know too much! Most players won't have read this post and won't be thinking about the same issues at all as they play for the first time. And of course, as with anything, nobody reads the instructions!

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5 Responses to “The Right Mouse Question”

  1. Paladin says:

    Asking people who haven't played he game also has a flaw: they will tend to carry on they habits from genres they're played and defining their usual control scheme as the most comfortable one. (e.g. MMO players will be happier with drag-&-drop, FPS players with the camera always following their aim.)

    Proposed method – Since you're designing a 3D puzzle game, genre that will mostly appeal to at least half-intelligent beings, I suppose proposing the option for both isn't a problem. Then pick the most accessible one per default and, very early in the game (aka "before people are fed up"), put an unavoidable help point that tells litteraly "If the camera control isn't satisfying, you can modify it in the options menu."

    My vote: "Both available"

  2. David Given says:

    King Machine is an over-the-shoulder game, isn't it? If so I'd probably be expecting some variation of the standard over-the-shoulder smart camera.

    The best implementation I've ever seen of this was in Zelda: Ocarina of Time, on the N64. When your character was walking, the camera would slowly swing round so that it was behind the character, so you could always see where you were going, but it was more subtle than it seemed; moving small distances didn't trigger this, so moving around on small platforms didn't move the camera at all. If you were close to a vertical drop, the camera would automatically swing up so you could see over the edge. The N64 controller didn't have any camera controls on it (except for the terrible 'first person look' mode), so there was just a single button which when pressed moved the camera so you were looking forwards.

    The end result was that most of the time you didn't notice the camera at all. It was always looking at what you wanted to look at.

    Of course, OoT was a console game and this is a PC game, so obviously KM will need different controls, but I'd still consider that the ideal kind of camera controls should be unnecessary.

    (It's interesting to note that the more recent Zelda games didn't achieve the same level of autocamera perfection that OoT did — there was always something very slightly annoying about it, that was very difficult to put my thumb on. And there are some obviously good ideas that turn out not to be in real life. One of the boss fights in Super Mario Galaxy always placed the camera so you were looking from your character at the boss. Good in theory, but it meant when you were running away, you were running straight at the camera and couldn't see where you were going…)

  3. bateleur says:

    @David – I agree completely with what you say there, but unfortunately "look" here is less about camera per-se and more about facing. There is no way to turn your bot other than by using "look". (There used to be, but players complained, so I changed it!)

  4. David Given says:

    Thinking about it some more, don't you have precisely the same UI requirements as World of Warcraft? That is, an over-the-shoulder figure you move around on a landscape, plus the need to interact with objects in the landscape with the mouse.

    WoW's approach of moving your character with WASD and either using the autocamera or right-click-drag always seeemed very natural to me.

    Also, it's important to remember that if you think something should work some way, but all your playtesters say otherwise, it is quite likely that everyone is wrong but you…

  5. bateleur says:

    Indeed so… but what's actually going on is that playtesters don't agree with one another. (Or, to be more precise, are giving me different feedback.)

    The difference with WoW is that A and D turn the character in WoW whereas in King Machine they move you sideways. (That wasn't always the case, but again was changed in response to feedback.)

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