by Jon (Updated on 2015-10-20)

Looking for our article on Gamepads (External Controllers)?


  • Detecting the Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Mouse Position
  • Mouse over Actor
  • Mouse Cursor
  • Mobile Controls
  • Example: 4 Way Motion
  • Example: Text Input

Detecting the Keyboard

Detecting keyboard input works differently in Stencyl than it does in other systems. We use the notion of a an Control to make your keyboard controls flexible and easy to remap.

A Control is a name that you assign to an action in a game. For example, if we were designing a control scheme for a Mario game, it would look like this.

Actions Actual Buttons
Move Left D-Pad (Left)
Move Right D-Pad (Right)
Dash B
Jump A
Pause Start

Setting up Controls in Stencyl

The same idea applies to Stencyl, through a game’s Controls Page. To set Controls, click the Settings button, shown below, to open that dialog.


Next, click the Controls button to view the Controls pane. From there, you tell us the name of the Control and the button it maps to.

Controls Page

Now, when you check whether a key is pressed, released or down, instead of checking directly on a certain key (such as spacebar), you check the state of the Control.


Why can’t we just check the key directly?

  • What if you decide to change your control scheme? You’d have to change it everywhere.

  • What if you wanted to make your control scheme configurable? That would be a mess. With Controls, you just change what key the Control is mapped to.

Note: To reduce the amount of setup, all Stencyl games come pre-shipped with a default set of controls (arrow keys, action 1, action 2). You’re free to edit them or delete them.


Mouse Input is detected through 3 different states.

  • Pressed
  • Released
  • Down


Pressed and Released are one-off “events” - they fire once per that action, whereas “down” is a constant state that can be checked.

Mouse presses and releases can also be detected using the Click event (under Add Event > Input)

Mouse Position

You can also grab the (x,y) location of the mouse on screen or any recent presses/releases.


Mouse over Actor

Similarly, mouse input over an actor involves 4 different states.

  • Pressed on Actor
  • Released on Actor
  • Down on Actor
  • Over Actor

Over Actor is our term for hovering the mouse over the actor.


Mouse presses and releases involving an actor can also be detected using the On Actor event (under Add Event > Input)

Mouse Cursor

Sometimes, you want to hide the cursor or display a custom cursor. How do you do this?

To show or hide the cursor, use this block.


Exercise: How would you create a custom cursor? One method is to hide the cursor and create a dummy actor that continually follows the mouse but does not collide with anything.

Mobile Controls

To keep things simple for you, mouse input is equivalent to single-touch input. Read our Touch article for further details and examples on both single touch, multi touch and gestures.

Other mobile input topics are covered separately.

Example: 4 Way Motion

This example shows how to use the keyboard to implement a 4-way motion behavior. Up/Down/Left/Right are pre-defined controls that come with each game - they are not to be mixed up with the actual keys by the same name.


Note: This is just an exercise to get you familiar with the blocks. We already include a 4-way motion behavior with Stencyl if you need one.


  • One drawback of this simple approach is that you can walk diagonally. How would you fix this?
  • In this version, the player stops immediately after you lift the keys. Implement a version where the player slows down gradually.

Example: Text Input

Sometimes the player input is not limited to a specific set of keys. Instead, the player is expected to enter in text. For example...

  • You want the player to enter in a name for a high score entry.
  • A word game where the player has to enter letters.

To make this, you can use the when any key is pressed/released event for this kind of user input. Here is a brief example of a behavior that accepts user input and puts that into a text attribute.



  • The event is triggered when any key is pressed or released respectively.
  • The "character" block returns the character that has been generated by the event.
  • For example, if the player presses the A key, the character "a" is generated.
  • The example also takes modifier keys into account, so pressing A while holding the SHIFT key, generates the upper-case character "A".
  • Pressing enter submits the whole phrase while pressing backspace will remove the last character. We explain this part next.

Gotcha: Special Keys (ENTER, BACKSPACE)

Special keys such as ENTER and BACKSPACE do not map to characters. To check if these keys have been pressed, use the key code block instead. This block returns a unique number for each keyboard key.

It is best practice to compare the "key code" of the event with the "key code of [___]" block, rather than hardcoding the number directly. Like this.

Keycode Example

For reference, the full list of key codes can be looked up here.

Exercise: Spot the Bug

There is a subtle bug in our example code above. Can you spot it?

Hint: What happens if the text attribute has 0 characters?

Exercise: Create a Text Field for the player's name

  • When the player clicks on the text field, wait for user input.
  • Store the input in a text attribute.
  • Draw the text that the player has entered.
  • When the enter key is pressed, stop waiting for input.
  • Challenge - Draw a blinking cursor when the text field is focused.


  • Detect key events by creating abstract controls and checking the state those controls.
  • Controls let you change the control scheme for your game from one place.

Challenge: Button

Create a button that responds to Mouse controls but goes beyond just a one liner "when pressed, do something".

The button should work just like a regular button. Specifically, don’t register a button click unless the gesture was both started and completed on the button.

Note: Think of scenarios where simply detecting a release would be incorrect.

Challenge: Cutscenes

We include a block for simulating key presses and releases. It’s useful for creating on-screen buttons in mobile games that can act as if they were physical keyboard buttons.


It’s also useful for creating cutscenes - in-game sequences that the player does not control but watches, like a movie. Make a cutscene using this block.

Print Article Edit Article How to Edit an Article
Disclaimer: Use comments to provide feedback and point out issues with the article (typo, wrong info, etc.). If you're seeking help for your game, please ask a question on the forums. Thanks!


how to force move mouse pointer to desired location ????
0 5 months, 1 day ago
I'm new, how do you get the "set text" value?
0 1 year, 3 months ago
Hey guys, I'm new to Stencyl, and so far I think it's great! For future control implementation, I'm praying you will add MIDI support. I just want to make music games. Or just implement a way to allow Stencyl to detect input signals and then allow the user to define them as input controls.
1 1 year, 5 months ago
You're awesome!

0 1 year, 6 months ago
Thanks to captaincomic, we now have a section on text input.
1 1 year, 6 months ago
i cant find the settings tab

0 2 years, 1 week ago
0 2 years, 4 months ago
0 2 years, 8 months ago

Sign In to Comment