I've seen some games on tablets lately and most of them don't seem native. They add a digital analoge stick or something to navigate, but they feel strange.

When a game uses mouse a lot this can be nicely substituted with a touch screen, but keys don't work so well (I also dislike screen-keyboards, they feel kinda off)

So is there a better way for tablet-controls than virtualize a keyboard/joypad?

-- EDIT --

In my case, it's about a top-down 2D game, something like Zelda. I thought about using a mouse based control, like in Diablo, which would work nicely on a PC, but with a touchscreen the user would have his hand in the way of sight all the time, which probably would kill the experience :\

The other approach was a mix of mouse an keyboard, walking with w-s-a-d and doing stuff to objects with the mouse.

2 Answers 2


I've liked how Lost Winds handles it on iOS, but obviously, it was built around the idea of touch screens.

As a gamer, I'm not a fan of digital analog sticks, I've died in games numerous times because of them.

I'd suggest looking at your key mechanics and figuring out a way to make directional movement tap based and other mechanics potentially swipe-based (Your devs will love you :D)

Edit: Also, knowing a bit more about mechanics of the game would get bigger answers on here with more interaction help.

Edit after your additional info: Hrmmm... Diablo/zelda style. Yeah tap-based controls would hamper any sort of combat situation (assuming there's combat... if there's not, tap-based controls are just fine :D).

I'd say your best bet will be an digital analog stick. My advice with that would be to give over the entire left half the screen to the user to use as an analog stick. So, wherever the user puts their thumb down, that's where the analog stick is. There are still annoyances, but nothing is worse than missing the stick and dying, so allowing the stick to "form" wherever the user puts their thumb down is the way I'd go.

  • Thank you, I added specific informations :) (and I am one of the devs lol)
    – K..
    Oct 24, 2012 at 9:48
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    Addressed in my edit above. Oct 24, 2012 at 13:30
  • form the stick where the thumb is put down... interesting approach :) are there any games outter there already doing this?
    – K..
    Oct 24, 2012 at 13:34
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    I've played a few like that, most recently, The Amazing Spiderman port does it that way (though they only give about a third of the screen to it, as clicking on the middle changes perspective). The spiderman port has its own issues, but that part at least works pretty well. Oct 24, 2012 at 13:38
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    @da_b0uncer Check out my similar question, which basically gave the same answer: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/25612/…
    – you786
    Oct 24, 2012 at 23:33

I know I'm pig-piling a little here, but in UX more perspectives are always good! Check out Heroes Call on an Android tablet. It uses the "follow the finger" mechanic, as well as gestures for different spells/attacks. It also has an "action drawer" which reminds me a lot of using the F-row keys in Diablo II and fits right in with the genre.

Another approach: maybe take advantage of the accelerometer. I can see this getting very annoying if done wrong, but I can see something as simple as a thumb-down-walk-forward/thumb-up-stop-walking mechanic combined with tilting to turn left and right working in the right circumstances.

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    I thought about suggesting the accelerometer (and your approach described is interesting, and I'd play that game to try it), but I'm convinced there IS no good way of using it :D Oct 24, 2012 at 14:17

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