Run/dash buttons in games

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  • Note: this isn't about HOW to make a running/dashing feature in Construct 2. Rather, it asks if one OUGHT to do this in game design.

    One of the biggest dilemmas I've wrestled with in game design is whether to include a run button in a sidescroller which, if held, increases your horizontal speed in either direction. We've seen run buttons in countless games, from Super Mario Bros. to Super Metroid. But how important are they really? Consider that so often, we keep the button held near-constantly. It can get pretty tiring. At the same time, disabling a run button may make the player feel too detached and not in control enough. If you've ever played Kirby Air Ride, which made you accelerate by default, you've likely experienced what I'm saying.

    The game I'm designing includes a jump button, shoot button, and the directional arrows for movement/bullet aiming. It also includes a run button, but I've found that actively needing to run, jump, and shoot with three separate buttons can not only feel uncomfortable, but be a bit overwhelming to the player. Other games have included a "walk" feature such as Chrono Trigger: you can run by default, but slow to a walk with the button held. Games like the Mario series map fireballs to the run button, but this can often lead to a lot of unnecessary firing.

    So... I'm curious:

    1. Do you believe run buttons are good in games?

    2. What kind of keyboard configuration that included both a run, shoot, and jump feature would feel more natural?

    Thanks! I'm interested not only in pooling ideas related to my own game, but also starting a discussion on an interesting component of game design to be sure.

  • I've been debating this very thing in one of my prototypes. At first the button was a simple directional dash that the player could only control the initial direction of, but I found it to be a bit difficult to make the character move exactly as a wanted. I then modified it so that all it did was increase the speed and the player could change directions at any time and it controlled much better, but then there was no reason not to use it and it would have resulted in players always holding it down as you mentioned. Still not sure what to do about it. :/

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  • I had a similar problem with a classic vertical space shooter. The ship is always in motion, but I felt the need for both, accelerating and decelerating provided to the gamer for a better control experience. On the other hand this somehow interfered with the main design of building up tension by a constantly forward moving scenery.

    I ended up with making the control expensive (in my case it uses a lot of rare energy). This way I experienced a new strategic element, as the player can't use it all the time and often has to decide wether to save a decelerate for critical situations or use acceleration for easier parts to rush through, for example.

    I really think offering such buttons at an expense is the best compromise when you don't want or can't go without them.

    EDIT: Regarding your second question, here's an interesting aspect: As a left-handed man I wished games would not rely on fixed keyboard configurations. You can't imagine how unnatural it feels when my left hand has to move to the right side to control the character with the arrow keys, while my right hand crosses to the left to, for example, select a weapon with the control key. <img src="smileys/smiley19.gif" border="0" align="middle" /> Please consider a totally free user based key configuration!

  • Juggling three buttons for a simple game is a chore. For games like Contra, it's best to have the character automatically run so I can focus on shooting. For games like Mario Bros., a run button is good for focusing on jumping. Some shoot-em-ups need a speed-up button, but not all.

  • Depends on the game. Mario and Super Metroid benefit greatly from a run button (keep in mind in SM you don't have to hold it down; Samus retains her speed)

    For Zero Mission or Fusion however, it's totally pointless...but they made it that way.

    As for the button layout just use ZXC or ASD and include keymapping.

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