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In many action games with a third person view, joystick controls typically map the left joystick for player movement and the right joystick for camera movement (or more precisely camera's direction towards the character). With first-person games, mapping to mouse/keyboard is easy because the camera is directly influenced by the player's movement. The player has to be able to look at any direction to point where he should go. Here is where the mouse comes in to provide this movement.

But the challenge I see is having separate camera and player controls with this setup. With a mouse/keyboard setup, it seems like I have to settle with a compromise, because the mouse is usually the only source for analog-like movement, whereas modern game pads have two sources, as separate joysticks.

One control scheme I had in mind is using A and D to change the player's heading as he travels through the world, leaving W and S to move forward/backward and the mouse free to move the camera. This still has a disadvantage, because you lack some degree to control how fast to change heading with the keyboard, unless you momentarily punch at the keys instead of holding them.

Is it possible to map the mouse and keyboard controls more intuitively for independent third person player and camera control?

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2 Answers 2

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Typically I've seen the mouse used for both. Where a key on the keyboard or button on the mouse is held to change the modes. For example, the mouse without any other keys being held will control the player. Holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse controls the camera.

When the camera is not being directly controlled, it will follow the player in a typical hover/follow camera, common in other 3rd person games.

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You could translate the first-person style directly to keyboard/mouse for third person by simply moving the camera behind the pivot point. So where a first-person shooter has the camera at the same point as the pivot, the third-person would set it back (facing the pivot). With this setup the keyboard controls the character movement and the mouse always controls where they look. Several games do this already, namely: The Witcher and WH40K Space Marine, among others.

If having the characters heading permanently stuck to the camera control is not what you want you can use a system like that implemented in WoW. They use a free camera most of the time that you can force your character to align with using a keypress. You could switch that and have the free camera mode be triggered by a keypress, or even toggle it on and off.

A third compromise option would be aligning the character with the camera during character movement. This would allow players to look around as long as they are not moving their character, but keep the character/camera controls easy for them to work with as they do not need to worry about extra button presses. I think Darksiders uses a camera control scheme similar to that.

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