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I am creating a music-based app for one of the courses I teach at a high school, so it's not for sale in the app store, it's only for my students to use. I decided to make it keyboard only partially because I didn't want to have to create a whole bunch of buttons and then link them to code. What's a good way to indicate on the screen what certain keys do? For example, the escape key will exit the user from the settings menu scene, it is also used to bring up a list of options in-game. Is there a slick way to explain what certain keys do without having some sort of legend on screen in the various scenes? Screens = scenes (I'm using SpriteKit for OS X). Remember, using the mouse is not at all an option.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are some keys that players will usually discover just fine without instruction (WASD, arrow keys, 'p' for pause, that kind of thing) but for others, you're going to have to transmit that information somehow. If you can't do it through the screen, how about audio? What would a good answer look like? Why is an on-screen tutorial bad? \$\endgroup\$ – Anko Aug 24 '15 at 22:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, you're completely right, users will discover certain keys. Hmm...an on-screen tutorial is not a bad idea. I can make it available for the very first time they enter each section of the game that way it's non-intrusive in the long run. I think an audio based solution might be cheesy, but once again, I don't think I've ever seen a game employ that sort of solution so I have no basis for my thoughts, just an unfounded opinion. The goal is to make the on boarding process seamless and "out of the way". \$\endgroup\$ – 02fentym Aug 24 '15 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might want to look into how other games have done “implied tutorials”. For example, Megaman X's first level is famous for it. The Sequelitis episode about it is an entertaining and useful analysis, if you don't mind some swearing. \$\endgroup\$ – Anko Aug 24 '15 at 23:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a cool video. It gives me a couple ideas. \$\endgroup\$ – 02fentym Aug 25 '15 at 7:59
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You can add an "implied tutorial" like @Anko suggests, that's a good idea for games where the player will find many type of difficulties within the campaign.

For a simple game, where you always have the same mechanics and those are really simple (for example, a fight game, or an infinite runner) you may use a "help" label (for example, "Press 'H' for Help", always shown on a discrete way either on the game scene (top right corner, for example) or in the "start" scene. When the user presses this "H", it will show an image with all the other possible keys.

I think the second option fits you better (and it is really easier to develop).

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