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Dungeon control part 2

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The quest of creating my “gauntlet inspired” Dungeon game continues (see what I did there? planting marketing seeds!)

I’ve been toying with various control schemes, and actually found myself using a dual-stick approach.. which is something I HATE in mobile games.  It works great with physical controllers but on a small display it really, really, REALLY doesn’t.

So I cried out for some help and idea’s on twitter and got a great little tip:

The Judge Dredd game basically replaces the second stick with an auto-aim solution. So you tap the shoot button and the guy auto locks to the closest enemy or shoots in the direction you are running.

And that brings us to the second public test of my Dungeon prototype!  I personally like how this plays, I still have to tweak and improve the aim-lock but it plays pretty good so far.

Basically I need to get these controls set in stone before I continue designing the game around it. Knowing the limitations, or possibilities, of the controls is key when you start creating the intelligence of the monsters and all the stuff like energy, upgrades, etc.

So give the new prototype a try on your Android device and let me know in the comments or on twitter: @orangepascal

Prototype instructions:  Touch anywhere on screen to get the movement controller, use the bottom right for shooting, and press in the top-right corner to reload a new random dungeon (invisible button area)

Dungeon prototype APK

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  • Paulo Tavares

    Hm. I have to say I’m not sure about it. While it keeps the controls simple, I find that some things at the moment are not clear as to how they’d end up in the final game.

    For instance, at the moment, it feels like we can just keep our finger at the trigger the entire time, since the game will do the aiming for us. I’m personally not really a big fan of auto-aim.

    On the other hand, since it doesn’t auto-aim to the skeletons (i.e. the places where the ghosts come out from), it just highlights how odd it is to then align your character to shoot there, especially since it only aims in 8 directions. Why not allow the aim to be 360º as well, aligned with the movement, when there’s no auto-aim? Unless you’re planning on having auto-aim adjusted to also hit the skeletons, but then what will prevent the player from blowing up the skeletons before ghosts even come out of it?

    Also, having the auto-aim always aim to the closest enemy can give some weird side-effects when the player is surrounded – also known as “disco-dancing-dungeon-guy” – whereby the character will constantly alternate the side towards where he’s shooting.

    I’ll give it a few more tries, but I’m not very sure about it yet.

    How about trying a version without auto-aim? I think that the main reason why it’s not just a one-joystick + one fire button game at the moment is because you can’t easily retreat while aiming to the enemies, am I correct?

    Maybe we could solve that problem differently. Just on top of my head, what if the player is always shooting whenever there’s an enemy in sight, and you get to aim with the left stick, and the “button”, instead of being a shot button, is actually just a “lock shooting direction” button?

    …then again, there might be a reason why nobody has ever done this kind of control scheme, or if they have, it isn’t that common. :)

    My 2 cents.

    Keep up the great work!

  • orangepascal

    that’s why I mentioned the “getting controls fun and easy to use first, and then build the gameplay around it”.

    Auto-fire would obviously need a solution of running out of ammo, automatically adding pickup-items for more ammo! No auto-fire means tapping a lot (I learned from Neoteria that a vocal majority does not like that) but also no need to pickup ammo.

    The spawnspots should be auto-aimed, that just something that I’m still working on (right now you only aim at them when you are near enough for them to wake up and spawn things). It works like in Gauntlet, the spawnpoints [will] take a lot more hits to destroy, but if you don’t destroy them you’ll always have spawns coming at you.

    The disco-thing could be fixed by staying locked to the last enemy you had in your sights until it’s dead.. but having some disco going on could be funny ;)

    And you can retreat, just run away from the enemies.. you still shoot at them until you are far enough to not have your auto-aim target them.

  • Stefan Bachmann

    I think the control-scheme actually works surprisingly well once you get used to it. Though it took me a minute or two to “get it”. So I think good instructions are important here :)

    What I dislike is that currently it’s not completely transparent how auto-aim works and when it works. At times it feels a bit “magic”. How about a visual cue? Something to indicate that auto-aim has locked.


  • umibozu85

    Leave the dual sticks as an option, add this closest auto aim as well, and include a third option: the emulation of wasd+mouse where the stick is your wasd and if the input isn’t in the stick, use the coords to shoot towards. I don’t know if that might work, I haven’t played around with onscreen controls but it would allow for running away while shooting backwards and strafing, which is usually a necessity for weaker ranged characters. I say keep them all in since a melee tank might appreciate dual sticks and people always like options. Instead of limited ammo, you might try infinite ammo with the restriction of stamina, then you could add weak/fast strong/slow attacks. Just a thought.

  • As I said on Twitter, we happen to be making games with the same inspiration (“like the idea of Roguelikes, but want more action, and hey, wasn’t Gauntlet great?!”) so I’ve been exploring the control options too.

    In my case, I have a little more baggage because the game is presented as an arena shooter a la Geometry Wars, so there is some level of player expectation, but I also knew I would need at least another action button (dropping bombs) instead of just firing. I happen to think virtual sticks are just fine – until you need to take your firing thumb off and press a tiny little virtual button. So initially I avoided the dual sticks, and went with two buttons on the firing side – but I wasn’t happy with it. I really feel that touch games should avoid having buttons if at all possible, there’s just too much room for error.

    I tried autofiring, but in the end it just wasn’t satisfying, and I knew it would lead to some design restrictions (I want to have items/enemies that the player should NOT shoot). To me, dual sticks just seem to feel right on touch, and I have them set up as “auto origin” where they work wherever you first place your thumb. But what about my bomb button? Having to “let go” of the firing stick, tap a button, then get back to the stick is just ugly. So my solution was simple – double-tapping the stick area. It seems to work really well in practice, so much so that I think I can get another button action out of double-tapping the movement stick if I so need it. The best part is that you really don’t need to display any virtual control graphics.

    I suppose as my levels get more populated it might become unwieldy, but at this stage I’m very happy with the feel.

  • orangepascal

    Think that’s where I work slightly different, I have the clear idea of what “type” of game I aim in making without any of the details set in stone. I do the controls first and keep them to the minimum and as simple as possible.

    Once I have the controls perfect and feeling good, I let the controls dictate the game.

    So indeed I had items that would vanish if you shot them 2 or 3 times (like Gauntlet) but that doesn’t seem to work because the controls are not pixel-perfect and you would shoot items by accident too often. So I’ll change the gameplay a bit based on what’s possible and plays good.

    • Sounds good! I actually bet we work more similarly than you think; I usually start with how I want the game to “feel” before any details, so I’m pretty vague. I usually use other games as a frame of reference, so right now I’d say I have Geometry Wars + Spelunky + Gauntlet :)

      • orangepascal

        yeah that sounds indeed a lot like how I do it (and often also how I describe the type of music I need to Gavin)