Mar 21, 2018

Combat

Does anyone out there have any good examples of top-down action/RPG games that have nice feeling combat? Preferably using pixel art and keyboard only. The combat in Nuclear Throne feels really nice, but like so many games out there, they use a combination of mouse and keyboard (keyboard to move, mouse to attack).

I'm trying to do the whole game with just keyboard (don't ask, it's just a requirement of mine).

Currently, I use WASD to move and SPACE/Enter to attack, but it just feels wrong and I can't place why. Maybe it's the best that it gets with keyboard only. Or maybe there is something little I'm doing wrong that actually matters a lot. It's why I'd like to play some example of games that do it well.

Also, something that runs on the Mac.

And I want a pony.

UPDATE: Still no pony. But, for the commenters that are telling me I should use arrow keys instead of WASD... arrow keys work as well as the num pad. Originally, only the arrow keys worked, but then every single person I sat down to play started using WASD, so I finally implemented it.

SteepSheep

Mar 21, 2018
How about one way heroics? Or crypt of the necrodancer? Both is keyboard only and really nice games. Oh, and half minute hero too

Wallace Nein

Mar 21, 2018
Just a thought but if it's keyboard only I prefer to move the character with the arrow keys.

WASD is good for 3D games cause you do part of the mouvement with the mouse but to move entirely with WASD feels too stiff.

Hope that can help a bit.

Have a nice day. 😀

Steve Jones

Mar 21, 2018
I enjoyed Mantra back in the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is0allavgYQ

Ron Gilbert

Mar 21, 2018
@Wallace Yeah, arrow keys work as well.

Crybrush Meekwood

Mar 21, 2018
What about God of Thunder? It was a pretty good action/puzzle game if I recall my childhood pc gaming correctly.

Javier Kohen

Mar 21, 2018
Do old fashioned console RPGs count? Zelda on the NES is quite popular and those gamepads aren't a far stretch from basic keyboard controls.

Joakim Hagdahl

Mar 21, 2018
There is a japanese action rpg series that originally did attacks on you bumping into enemies. I thought that was a clever and refreshing way to change things up and because of that it really played differently.

Ys - I think they ported it over to Steam.

Thomas

Mar 21, 2018
This might be too obvious but I'd say Binding of Isaac certainly qualifies. It's keyboard only, it's topdown and it's an action rogue like thing.

More broadly I'd also put secret of mana on the list because while it's not on PC (recent remake not withstanding) the controls would work just fine with keyboard only.

advfan

Mar 21, 2018
Seconding Ys.  I don't think it can be had for Mac, but there might be some emulated console versions with emulators that run on Mac.

dullahan

Mar 21, 2018
What about auto-attack when in proximity?

SL128

Mar 21, 2018
I haven't played either (and so it's possible they use mouse), but apparently Hyper Light Drifter and Titan Souls are good.

Piotr Kaminski

Mar 21, 2018
This is almost certainly _not_ what you're looking for, but Epistory is a top-down-ish action/RPG game that's exclusively keyboard-driven (you literally cannot use any other controller) and runs on a Mac.  No pony, though.

A fan

Mar 21, 2018
Ultima IV :)

Dominik

Mar 22, 2018
Since you don't have a rumble function for the keyboard the most important thing is to give good sound and screen feedback:  A miss results in a nice whooshing sound, a hit in a enemy-specific thud (like a crack sound for skeletons, a mushy sound for soft-skinned enemies). Combine this with a good visual feedback (enemy flashes, is thrown back a bit) and you will immensly improve the experience. For keys: The spacebar is pretty large and has therefore a clunky feel to it which probably doesn't align very will with a precise and more nimble weapon like a sword. I would use Left-Ctrl.

seguso

Mar 22, 2018
Remember the combat must work well in text form fisrt :)

Mr.Pinsky

Mar 22, 2018
I feel that the twin-stick shooter style used by e.g. Binding of Isaac works best. That means: WASD for movement and the arrow keys for directional attacks (attack up, right, down, left). So you can run straight but attack left, for example.

Pa

Mar 22, 2018
I dislike using the space key for trigger actions as well. I believe this is because it is positioned to be accessible with both thumbs but that doesn't make it the most accessible key period. I find it more comfortable for all control keys to be on similar height and further away from one another for different hands. So ASDW for the left hand and KL for the right or the numpad if you have one.

When it comes to recommendations, the best that comes to mind is Story of Thor/Beyond Oasis which you can probably try out on a Genesis emulator in the Mac after you bought it here
http://store.steampowered.com/app/211200/Beyond_Oasis/

Game Mac life is hard, I hear.

Ikeman

Mar 22, 2018
Nothing beats the ARROW keys for movement. Well except if you are left-handed ;)
Maybe using Num Keypad to combine arrow keys with additional functions if your game is complex enough. But for the sake of simplicity I would use arrow keys. As I remember my gaming in old DOS days this was the default setup for most of the games and probably for a good reason too.

Nop

Mar 22, 2018
Maybe the system older 2d FPS games like Doom works better. Rotate with keys and strafe key for sideways movement. Can't think of 2D examples but there should be some games like that.

Headwuend

Mar 22, 2018
I don't have a concrete example but maybe you could play a few old console RPGs (e.g. A Link to the Past) in emulators and experiment with key bindings.

Anaël Seghezzi

Mar 22, 2018
I find Hammerwatch interesting (and it's on mac / linux too :))
They use a combinaison of WASD and arrow keys and strangely it works.

Azrapse

Mar 22, 2018
A Redefine Keys option on the main menu works wonders, mr Gilbert.
Also, one of the best series of cRPGs ever, the Gold Box series, used top down, pixel graphics, keyboard controller tactical combat and it was awesome.

Big Red Button

Mar 22, 2018
For what it's worth: I liked the controls from GTA 1 & 2 back when they were released.

Francisco

Mar 22, 2018
I want to post one more vote for arrow keys. That's what they are for ;-) The numpad idea is a second best for me, especially as Ikeman mentioned if you want to use 5, 7, 9 for actions

Matthew Pass

Mar 22, 2018
Completely agree with some of the other comments - arrow keys for a keyboard-only game like this, which opens up the entire QWERTY keys with the left hand for any other actions.

Although, having said that, I'm very used to EverQuest II using WASD and 'F' for the 'generic action key.'

Peter B

Mar 22, 2018
I played through a few Final Fantasy games using the num pad. (Enter, or 0 under the thumb was a good attack option. 5 can be remapped as a down arrow if you want the usual WASD block). I've since used this set up for a lot of 16bit style games and it's much more comfortable than the usual arrow keys.

MIK0

Mar 22, 2018
I also think Ys I & II from Falcom was a good example of simple combat with only arrow that still require some skill. In that you had to bump into enemies preferibly at the right angle or slinghtly shifted so that you won't get hit in the process. This gives the feel of a fast combat. The game is available on both GOG and Steam, but only for windows.
I also think that arrow keys are more natural if you don't use the mouse than WASD, expecially if you need other keys for attack or options, but that shouldn't be an issue, the user should be able to change between those configuration (mostly if left/right handed).

Ryan

Mar 22, 2018
Not too down, but Broforce (while way better with a controller) has fast and frenetic shooting/platforming that's surprisingly enjoyable on a keyboard....

No other game that complicated surprised me with how well it played with just a keyboard in recent memory.

Alan

Mar 22, 2018
I would agree Binding of Issac has pretty much the best control feel you can get with keyboard only

Whup

Mar 22, 2018
The original Prince of Persia managed to pull of really tense, fun sword fighting with only a few keys.  You could advance, retreat block and strike from memory.

Starkiller

Mar 23, 2018
In the old days of 8 Bit computing on my english Sinclair ZX Spectrum the most common key combination was:
Q- Up
A - Down
O - Left
P - Right
M- Attack
Space - 2nd Attack/Map/Invetory or whatever

This works great until today - and even on PCs or Macs

Maybe you should try this :D

Andrea "Rum Rogers" Serreli

Mar 23, 2018
The Mario & Luigi series by AlphaDream has a really nice combat mode, you should check it out!

Nom

Mar 23, 2018
Legacy of Goku 2 and Buu's fury had good combat as I recall. They were on GBA but I played them mostly on an emulator and it still played fine. Of course Fallout 1 and 2 had really fun combat as well but they were turn-based.

Hamakei

Mar 23, 2018
Anodyne

Fuz

Mar 23, 2018
I usually use arrow keys for movement and Z X C for attack/jump/actions oin keyboard only games.

I can't think of any top/down action rpg that felt really good, toh.

Fuz

Mar 23, 2018
Also, don't forget to add a rebind option.

Sushi

Mar 24, 2018
In my and most peoples memory, the most playable JRPG games were console games, so I'd drew my inspiration and lessons from those. Landstalker on the sega genesis involves a lot of fighting and felt very decent. I'd also look at the mother of dungeon hack'n'slash games : Gauntlet.
Of course on the 8 bit and 16 bit consoles,  controls were with a D-pad (left) and 2,3 or 4 buttons (right). On case of Gauntlet a single button joystick was enough.
+1 for remapping (international keyboards 'WASD' becomes 'ZQSD' otherwise)
+1 for using arrow keys for movement. I think WASD only gained success  to free up a hand to control the mouse. But for keyboard only, I want to use my main hand (right) mainly. So assuming that moving around is what you do for 90% of the time versus fighting for 30% of the time...
If you plan to implement other actions like jump, run, special attack,... shift, ctrl and alt all the way. Space is too clunky, and might be better resevered for dialogue text.
Oh, yeah and obviously, "P" for pony.

Alwin Garside

Mar 24, 2018
I remember I enjoyed playing The Chaos Engine a lot on PC with Keyboard.

Hilger

Mar 24, 2018
How about arrow keys for movement and 'WASD' for attack direction ('Q' & 'E' for Special attacks or actions)

Chris

Mar 24, 2018
DROD is amazing. Nothing else like it for top down keyboard combat. Not sure how it would translate to real time but it might be cool to try out something like that.

Mechner

Mar 24, 2018
I think the Hotline Miami combat feels great, using WASD and mouse control.

It's on mac, check it out, it is quite fast paced though, which may be contrary to what you are looking for

Jabberdau

Mar 25, 2018
Not a topdown game, but Moonstone used keyboard only for combat and movement. I think it worked something like this:  move with arrowkeys. If you hold down an action key at the same time you make a directional attack instead, so ctrl +
UP = would be a slow but powerfull long reach overhead sword swing,
DOWN = short reach dodge
UP + LEFT/RIGHT = in direction of opponent = upwards forward thrust
UP + LEFT/RIGHT = away from opponent = throw knife
DOWN + LEFT/RIGHT = in direction of opponent = forwards thrust
DOWN + LEFT/RIGHT = in opposite direction of opponent  = block/downwards attack

Though what made it really great was the sound design.

Mark

Mar 25, 2018
How about the combat style in joust were you don't press to attack at all and it's just based on movement :)

maxfaraday

Mar 25, 2018
Starkiller already said it, but QAOP + Space is the best way imo; that was used in Speedball 2 and it's so much better than arrows or wasd, you should try it.

Alessander

Mar 25, 2018
I second Epistory, I liked it a lot. Maybe you can find some insights on "typing games".  Epistory is shallow, but showed a big potential. IMHO, the action/adventure genre goes quite well with typing games. Ron, please make a classic action/adventure typing game.

Another typing game is this: https://vim-adventures.com/
Perhaps you can find something interesting there. Possibly maybe, probably not.

joe

Mar 27, 2018
@starkiller spectrum keys are good. I have used them also. Just to reiterate:
up: Q
down: A
left: O
right: P
attack 1: M
attack 2 : SPACE

Meghann

Mar 27, 2018
Hi Ron. It's been a while since I've played these and I can't remember precise control schemes, beyond knowing I enjoyed them - and that these maybe slightly out of the box, if that's helpful. But Moonhunters. http://www.moonhuntersgame.com/ Magicka. http://store.steampowered.com/app/42910/Magicka/  Armed with Wings Rearmed. (Platformer but such nice combat.) http://www.armedwithwings.com/ Bastion and Transistor. https://www.supergiantgames.com/ Cat Quest. https://thegentlebros.com/catquest/ Definitely Crawl if you like Nuclear Throne. http://www.powerhoof.com/crawl/ Downwell? (Another platformer, but using the Downward motion to effect in combat. Like how Magicka's combat is all built around elements - which influenced control scheme etc.) http://downwellgame.com/ Hastag Dungeon. http://www.hashtagdungeon.com/ Undertale? https://undertale.com/ Like, the mini game style, but hilarious contexts when you're dating the skeleton or whatever? I did a quick sweep down my Steam library, but I reckon I can think of better examples. I reckon the best aRPG combat isn't so much some optimal system, more the systems that are uniquely tied to context. Meghann

Meghann

Mar 27, 2018
PS. Most of those use mouse in their control scheme and I did read the post, but I personally find great examples of context inspiring. Also. If you're trying to eliminate mouse, have you considered looking into accessibility options for games? The designer of the game I'm currently working with just made a one-handed control scheme. I also have talked with gamers who play aRPGs with mouse controllers and such. I'm positive there would be wisdom there. (So, yeah. Sorry for not properly answering your questions. But I brought some out of the box ideas.)

Meghann

Mar 27, 2018
* God. Sorry. ^ *mouth controllers, not mouse. Like, playing The Witcher with their tongue. Talking to people who play with different control schemes is endlessly fascinating.

Jon

Mar 27, 2018
On the arrow keys versus WASD thing, just remember that many laptops have silly little arrow keys, maybe in an unusual shape, but have normally sized and placed WASD keys.

Daniel

Mar 28, 2018
I remember an early action RPG "Times of Lore" as doing it well. It had cursor keys for movement, enter for fighting, and space for menu. They had a 'gliding' movement where the character would keep moving in the current direction until another key was pressed, which IMHO made if feel quite 'fast'. (You could turn this off in the options.)

It's old enough that you can download it on archive. org. They have a version for Apple (IIe), and also a WASM-compiled emulator version that works in modern browsers: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Times_of_Lore_1988

On my machine, the in-browser version works, but the timing seems a bit off, so it's not as smooth as I remember it. That, or I remember it better than it actually was.

Jordy Rodriguez

Mar 29, 2018
Hello sir !
Don't forget azerty keyboards, ZQSD for movment :)

Reppa

Mar 29, 2018
Y's 1 and 2 on gog !!!

Alex Garcia

Mar 29, 2018
Thinking about game controls ala Super Smash TV: control character with wasd and attack/fire in directions with arrow keys.

Otherwise the binding of Isaac is one of the best game from those past few years control wise in that kind of games.

Isstanar

Mar 30, 2018
Late to seeing this post but I remember the earlier ascii versions of DooomRL having a really nice feel to it's keyboard combat and I'm pretty sure it used WASD as well.

Kisai

Mar 30, 2018
WASD vs Arrow keys is like asking "Left handed butter knife or Right handed butter knife?" The knife can be used in either hand, but some people will complain about the fine details being on the wrong side.

For any game that has a 2D perspective, the Arrow keys are the most obvious choice to use, and use ZXC for commands. For games that have a 3D perspective, WASD is the most obvious choice, and WASD requires the mouse to "camera/aim/fire"

In MMORPG's that use WASD, usally all the commands are activated using the number key row, and the 4 keys directly above the WASD are used for commands that you would stop moving to use (eg block/parry/cast) while the right-hand has to be the actual fire button, and that would have to be the space-bar if not used for jumping.

Alternatively, you can also do WASD + number pad, as laptops without a full number pad will remap those keys to the right hand side of the keyboard, OR, you can use DEL/END/PGDN (which also map to the number pad)

Though if you want to hit everything the best option is simply to let players change the key bindings, or put it in as a kind of quiz at the beginning. "Which key moves you forward" "Which key do you fire with"  and go from there.

Lukas

Mar 30, 2018
The problem with top-down action RPG attacks is not your keyboard layout, it's the actual gameplay of the attack.

- Allow diagonal movement, so you can circle around enemies
- With d-pad/wasd + attack button, movement direction and attack direction are the same, so you can't have a narrow "stab" attack, your main attack needs to cover at least 90°, preferably more (see, for example, Zelda's attack, where Link swipes the word across, instead of stabbing)
- Attacks need to push enemies away pretty strongly, since, when you're attacking an enemy, you're almost by necessity walking towards that enemy
- Since movement direction and attack direction are the same, it's difficult to handle enemies attacking from multiple sides, so you need to offer a secondary attack that pushes enemies away in all directions (e.g. Zelda's charge attack)

Ferdi

Apr 02, 2018
How about using WSAD for movement and arrows keys for fighting actions. This allows more combat freedom and it could be combined with other keys for special moves.

Alex

Apr 05, 2018
Have you try Slayin by FDG?  It is on the AppStore/PlayStore. This game is side view, but I think you can try and make it top view.  The first hero doesn't use an attack button.  The wizard (second hero) turns into a tornado.  There are 6 heroes to try.

Sumez

Apr 15, 2018
Every good example I can think of was designed with a gamepad in mind. I just don't think using a keyboard specifically  without using the mouse as well, makes sense in any way. A computer keyboard wasn't created for video games, but with the tools we have at our disposal, we can make them work.

But if that works for you, the most obvious classic examples are of course games like Zelda: A Link to the Past, played with a keyboard. It doesn't work as well as it does when playing with a gamepad, but I'm ready to say that's just because using only a keyboard will always be inherently inferior to a pad.

Siddesh

Apr 20, 2018
Minicraft... Type https://playminicraft.com

Rodo1982

Apr 29, 2018
Simple. Right shift to attack. Try it.     Smooth.

Shazed

May 26, 2018
Have you thought about making kind of like the diablo series with having different combat abilities on 1, 2,... but using the numpad for it?

Peter

May 29, 2018
Hey Ron, remember Archon? That had really nice head to head combat and used pretty well the limitation of the keyboard (4 directions + diagonals)

Markus

Jun 29, 2018
I'd say Legend of Zelda for Snes is the best 2D Combat top down simplistic game I've ever played.

David

Sep 21, 2018
I enjoyed the punisher game
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