Whats the usual way to control a player in a top down game? We have to look in the direction of the mouse cause the player hold a torch.

My first try was:

  • to to make it absolute like W move to screen top, A left, D right, S bottom... But it feels a kind of strange.
  • second try was to make it relative to the player. So W is always straight forward, A and D is moving sideway and S is backwards. But i heard of my tester thats very hard.

So whats the better / right way for the movement in a top down game in that you can move in a another direction as you look?


1 Answer 1


I think the decision boils down to how important it is to let the player travel in noncardinal directions, versus how much patience you require of your players. The first option (let's call it absolute directions) is a lot easier than the second option (let's call it relative directions).

Most games that have what you describe - top-down, aim in the mouse's direction - have opted the absolute scheme: Crimsonland and Teleglitch to name just two. The control is very easy to pick up but you may notice that not having look direction match up with the move directions is a bit unnatural. In Crimsonland's case, it didn't matter because the game takes place in an open field. Teleglitch is a bit more clever; it rotated the map as you moved to different rooms so that most of the times rooms extend in cardinal directions. If you do take this approach, I'd suggest the following:

  • Use plenty of open spaces, or
  • Lay out rooms/corridoors in cardinal directions i.e. East-West, North-South

There aren't many games that use the relative scheme with mouse-look; actually I know of none that have been released. I've once made a game that used this scheme, and yes my testing has also shown it's hard to get used to.

I remember a few games in the 90's that used a similar scheme though, except instead of aiming with a mouse, you steered using keys/buttons. The Strike series was a notable example. My experience with this was that it's difficult to get used to, again. The main problem is that if you are travelling South, left and right are flipped.

If you do take this approach, I'd definitely suggest easing the player into it. Try a series of levels that make more involved uses of this control scheme:

  1. Start with Northerly directions only, i.e. the player is only moving up the screen
  2. Gradually add in East/West directions
  3. Finally, add a few Southerly directions

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