Finding the optimal amount of buttons for ARPGs in general

Howdy :slight_smile:

I have something on my mind for quite a LONG time now, thought about it ALOT, was talking to various people over the past few months but still have no “complete picture” of it set up in my mind what people overall think about this, oppinions vary widely :smiley:
so i just decided to start a small discussion here in my favorite board :slight_smile: → i would REALLY love to know what YOU people think what is the optimal amount of buttons to press while playing ARPGs,…
YES that is a SERIOUS question and i think a basic topic that should be adressed to max out the fun we can have.
the thing is, at least for me, while having played (nearly) all ARPGs that are out now, i always had the most fun with a “limited” set of skills to put more “weight” on them and to get a feeling of “uniqueness” for this build and the according class. also the “action-factor” of ARPGs with “less” skills to put to the hotbar seemed overall better in MY oppinion, so the big question for me is, DO we really need 2 bars in Grim Dawn to get a maximum good feeling while playing it?
Don’t get me wrong please :wink: I LOVE this game, it is my favorite, that’s why i spend my free time modding it for so long now!
Nonetheless, it triggered me SO often that there are “too much” slots that i can put a skill into, sure i don’t need to and can leave them empty and sure i also can simply ignore the second bar or even remove the hotkey for swapping, BUT that is not the point overall :smiley: Furthermore you are not even able to use 2 bars while playing with gamepad, for obvious reasons :smiley:
so, i was really thinking of a MAXIMUM of “only” 10 “action keys” to fill out for a OPTIMAL amount, also as an equilization for the gamepad side of the HUD, which should be equal in my oppinion for quick swapping and not to completly bork the build you might have on the keyboard/mouse side of the HUD :smiley: sure, you can have workarounds, BUT that is not the overall question that stands behind this :slight_smile:

So MY conclusion for this “small issue” would be to limit the hotbar globally and equalize the keyboard/mouse with the gamepad side to have 8 slots for skills and 2 for the potions on BOTH sides then, which should be absolutly fine for anyone who loves ARPGs i think,… i really would love to get an overall picture of oppinions here initially.
The act of doing what i have in mind should not be the hardest task, already checked the needed things to adjust and it really could be worth a test to have included at some point into ComboMod…
Sure, some others things beside the HUD itself also have to be taken into considerations, like overall skillbehaviours according to auras for example, but that also should not be the problem IF they are NOT dispellable on a classbasis, which already has been done in my modcompilation, so there is no need to REcast them…

I really think this could lead to an overall MORE actionpacked combat behaviour with bigger impact on your skills and it would most likely additionally declutter the screen a bit and give optimally even a bit better gameperformance in the end which could lead to a better gamefeeling for anyone :slight_smile:

Take a seat and tell me what YOU think, i am really curious :slight_smile:


In general if the game focuses on low/no cd skills you need less buttons. If you have many high cd skills you need all the buttons.

In general my builds tend to end up in the 6-8 button range. So 2 mouse 6 keyboard, that would include utility like movement and/or heal. The rest would be potions/cluster/utility skills such as mirror or nullification, tincturs. Toggles as ussual would go onto the swap bar, anywhere from 3 to 7 skills

From a unmodded GD point of view, below are my thoughts. For all I now your mod might have so much power creep that 2 button play is the norm.

If you want to limit the buttons on your mod you are looking at needing to solve at least the following:

  • remove the need of builds having 4+ toggled auras. If you do not do that a player would have to swap around the skills each start/death to activate their auras. So my 7 aura character would be looking at 35 button presses to get started playing.
  • some pet builds end up with the full 2 bars of skills and now you want them to fit their power in twice as few keys.

All in all without massive redesign/rebalance work the decision to reduce the number of buttons sounds like a good way to piss off everyone playing your mod.

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:wink: thank you very much for your insight Stan, highly appreciated!

yes that is something that was already on my mind aswell and for sure would need a massive rework of all classes, absolutly true, maybe not even that hard to do as i think but for sure the next point that you mentioned

this one certainly should be a huge amount of reworking all pets + classes + according items, and yes that one was not on my mind :wink:

overall just an idea, not wanted to startover immediatly, just curious of what people around thinking about it :slight_smile: possible? yes absolutly i would say, the mainquestion is, as you might also can think of, “is that really worth it?” and i can’t tell for sure, but i think overall it’s not, unfortunatly :smiley:

Cheers and great input as usual!

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It really depends on the game. It could go from 6 to 32, depending on how the game is set up.

Look at GW2/ESO: You have two weapon sets which you switch back and forth from in specific situations. Sometimes all you want to do is reapply a debuff and it’s as easy as pressing two buttons to get to it. This is great for controllers and for games where you only push the right buttons at the right time.

WOW: Tons of buttons, but they all have a very specific purpose and most of them are very rarely used. At the end of the day, it’s still 6-10 skills that you have bound to buttons for easy-use.

Diablo 3: Instead of having many different skills you can mod skills so that they can do very different things, resulting in much less buttons needed for builds. While this is certainly a cool thing to do sometimes (like Grim Dawn does with transmuters), if every single skill in the game works like this it’s not that great. But it’s still a valid way of reducing button presses.

Lineage II: There were classes (like archers) where using any skill would be a DPS loss. You literally just targetted something and pressed auto-attack and kiting. This was only the case when full-buffed. Speaking of buffs, buffer classes had one trillion buttons, which is why the game made a macro system. It wasn’t fantastic, but it did it’s job: you could cast all of your buffs in sequence at the press of a single button if you so wanted to. People usually had specialized macros.

Sacred 2: An interesting macro system (I think it was called Combos?) where you chained skills together. Absolutely fantastic way to handle situations where you always cast the same skills in sequence all the time anyway.

Dragon Age 1: Had a fantastic option where you could tell the game to autocast things. It was quite basic but very powerful in the right situations, allowing you to take off some buttons that you would always use in the same way anyway. For example, you could set your characters AI to drink a HP pot when HP>50% or to cast a defensive self-buff when HP>75% (Grim Dawn just does this automatically for you).

In the end I think it’s more of a question of “what are these skills trying to achieve?” rather than “how many buttons is it optimal for a class to have?”. I see no point in bloating skill bars with tons of skills that ultimately could just be passives / merged if there is never any reason to use them in more ways than one. Example: you will always cast all defensive buffs on anyone in Lineage II, regardless of target class, your mana levels (it’s irrelevant), etc. You lose nothing if you just macro them. Other buffs, like Beserker, reduced defenses in order to increase crit rate and attackspeed if I remember correctly and you definitely wouldn’t want to cast this on casters, so this was a legit skill to have separate (or as part of a different macro).

Grim Dawn does a good job with skill numbers in the case of direct damage / DoT builds but there’s a lot of piano builds that at least for me just aren’t fun. I groan every time I have to reapply all my 6 buffs and summon my 5 pets every game session, and then set pets to aggressive because that’s by far the best anyway. It’s just pointless. And don’t get me started on having to rebuff in combat if you get dispelled…

Pets I can understand having to resummon if they die and I think Hellhound is a fantastic pet because you can choose to blow it up. That’s a button that feels good to have and use! Guardians of Empyrion on the other hand…

A bit off-topic, but I also want to discuss how passives and masteries work. There are some skills that basically just add some more numbers to a skill but are for some reason different passives later in the tree. While I can understand wanting to progress further in the tree for better skills, it’s quite baffling to me that sometimes a skill is just terrible without the next passive or transmuter. I see absolutely no reason to have Blackwater Cocktail simply be as the transmuter makes it by default, since there is no reason to ever spam cocktails. EVERYONE uses the transmuter. It should have just been baked into the initial skill.

Honestly this whole mastery thing isn’t that great, and I think a system like PoEs (similar to devotions) would be much better for skills as well than our current mastery bar. Games like wow just gave the mastery bonuses on level up and that’s fine, I can’t think of a single situation where you choose to pump the mastery bar of a class simply because you want the points (and you won’t pick any skills for any new tier you reach). If there is no choice, all we have is bloat. Grim Dawn levelling is in general quite weird because the only real benefit is being able to access better item drops. The attribute points you get are something, but a very small part of what “levelling up” usually means in other games.

8 buttons is the gold standard in my opinion. You have 4 buttons on the mouse (right and left click, wheel down and up) and then you need 4 buttons on the keyboard. That makes combat feel engaging and varied enough, without overloading you with the number of buttons you need to press.

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I try never to use more than 2! :smile: LMB and RMB, that’s it for me. Maybe a 3rd on a hotkey, but I try to avoid that.

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i think it “depends”, but the important gold key is; freedom
ie not arbitrarily limiting player and builds into only having 5?/few buttons like some games do, but also not forcing you into having 12/“many”
this is what GD does extremely well i think, because you can make many builds as piano as you desire, or some builds you can trim down a decent bit if desired

having an “optimal” amount of buttons is sorta “dangerous” territory to start delve into, because if we then settle on ex 8/“the middleground”, it still presents an arbitrary limitation, which means it will/can effect some players that like to play Mozart in their games - and aint nothing wrong with wanting to break your keyboard clicking all the skillz

The answer is 4 buttons for the hand at the keyboard and two buttons for the mouse. Why? Because digital science. :slight_smile: More does feel clunky and less is… well, summoner-playstyle. Which I prefer tbh.



(asd) f
shift, ctrl, alt, space bar

… that’s like 9 at minimum before even using thumb/pinky for situational stuff on the shift-space front

Who plays with qwer :smiley:
Play Summoner. Or retal Warlord. 1234 is all you need. :wink:

me :slight_smile:

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For me this question has a slightly variable answer though with buffs now being an always on it makes things a lot easier.

For me I don’t like having more than 5 active key to use at any time but that isn’t limited only to skills. 1 potion, 1 movement skill and then up to 3 combat related skills however in general a single combat skill should be all that is used for 90% of the game with the other 2 being a sort of temporary buff/debuff and/or an abillity with a long cool down but very high damage output to use on boss fights. So mostly you only spam 1 button and the other 4 are very ocasional uses.

Now the reason why I specified active keys is because in a summoner build, summoning shouldn’t be considered an active skill. They should be a fire and forget kinda thing however in GD that isn’t the case with how easily the pets die, especially to area damaging effects and thus need constant resummoning. It is an area that most ARPGs haven’t really advanced in though Chronicon actually did and it’s a pitty no other developers took in the lessons of it because it has the most fantastic summoning system that was ever designed.