I am developing a third person hack n slash style game which features a variety of melee and projectile weapons as well as unarmed combat. The player will be able to dual wield any combination of the above weapons eg. a sword and a pistol, or a knife and a bare fist. I'm trying to work out the gamepad controls based on the game mechanics, but I've come to a dilemma regarding the movesets.

Originally I had the left and right triggers mapped as the left and right hand attacks. However, some of the attack moves that I have planned involve the player taking a step forward. Meaning they may have started in orthodox stance (left foot forward) but will end up in southpaw (right foot forward). For some weapons like firearms the stance makes no difference, since the attacks will be the same from either. But for some melee weapons and especially for unarmed combat this is a significant difference. For example, from orthodox stance the left trigger should logically do a jab attack from the front hand, while the right trigger should do a straight punch attack from the back hand. If the player now does a lunging attack in which they take a step forward, they end up with their other foot infront, meaning that now the left trigger cannot do a jab but must perform a straight punch since the left hand is no longer in front.

![enter image description here

So the question is how to resolve this without having a controls system that confuses the player. There are a few options I have considered after studying other games, but I am looking to see if a better alternatives exists.

1) Seen in Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls, Tekken:

Use 2 attack buttons but have the player always stay in a single stance. This way they the left and right limbs will always perform the same move. The downside of this is that attacks which would normally leave the player in another stance have to either be avoided or the animation has to include the player returning to their original stance. While this solves the problem it can look unrealistic.

2) Seen in DOA, VF:

Use only 1 attack button, instead of one for each limb. This will mean that the stance of the player is irrelevant since a single button will play the correct attack animation of either the left limb or right limb depending on the stance. While this is more realistic it makes it difficult to have dual wielding weapons with only one button controlling both. For example, consider if a pistol and sword are being dual wielded, the left trigger may swing the sword while the right trigger may fire the pistol; but if both weapons are mapped to only the right trigger what attack should happen? The sword, the pistol, both? Here lies the problem.

3) Seen in MK:

Use 2 attack buttons which refer to the front or back limb, not the left or right limb. This method allows for the player to switch stances, since for example the left trigger may refer to the front hand irrespective of which stance the player is in. In a side scrolling game this may not be a problem, but in a third person game where the camera is behind the player, I am concerned that this type of controls will be confusing. Especially since the convention (correct me if I'm wrong) for dual wielding seems to be that the left and right triggers control the left and right weapons/limbs.

So are these the only options, or is there a better way of mapping the controls for this use case?

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is mostly a matter of taste, personally I think I'd prefer a button per weapon-type so right-trigger remains the sword, It does tie into the feel of the rest of the game however, which means it is really hard to describe in words. If you have the option do so, my suggestion would be to try and develop each option you think of and see what feels best while playing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Niels
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 11:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ So you're suggesting that right trigger would always control the right hand attack irrespective of stance? \$\endgroup\$
    – FrontEnd
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 13:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I feel that that would be more intuitive for me, based purely on gut-feeling and without having played your game or experienced the rest of your controls. My advice is to test the different methods and see what works best for you and/or your testers. If you are unable to decide you might even consider allowing the end-user to select from the different options \$\endgroup\$
    – Niels
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


Honestly, of the control schemes you outlined, the current one (ie, the problem you are trying to solve) sounds the most natural and intuitive to me.

As long as you give the player a simple method for changing stance (preferably a single button, easy to access way), then getting off the attack you want shouldn't be a problem.

This could be coupled with a "switch and fire" move, where hitting the switch stance and a fire button simultaneously will perform both actions, allowing the player to smoothly transition between moves.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I may have not been clear enough, I added a second diagram above. The switching will most likely be automatic (not user controlled). For example in diagram 2, see how the player starts in orthodox stance but after pressing Right Trigger to do a sword thrust attack, the attack animation auto switches them into southpaw stance. My question is, after completing this move, if the player uses Right Trigger again what should happen? Should the character do 1) a short sword thrust with the right hand (without stepping forward), or 2) step forward and do the same sword thrust with their left hand? \$\endgroup\$
    – FrontEnd
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 9:42

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