It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, but I wanted to pop in to say something that I’ve brought up in other locales: There is no such thing as the sanctity of game design.

There is nothing that is not subject to reevaluation or change. No design (or designer) is  infallible. While it’s neither feasible nor possible to simply change anything and everything, it’s important to be willing to take that sacred cow out back and butcher it for the good of the game.

In other news, I took a combat design position working at Star Trek Online for Cryptic Studios a few months ago. The weather down here is unbearable and I miss the rain, but everything else is cool. Maybe I’ll dig up some of the half-written posts I have laying around with substantial content, but don’t I fear laziness will win the day.

Controls: WASD deserves to die

Earlier I mentioned that I’m indebted to Gothic 2. That’s because the newbie experience was so awful that it drove me to Gamefaqs, where I found this Survival Guide by alterEgo. In the guide, the author expressed his distaste for WASD and explained how he used ESDF instead. Reading his explanation made perfect sense, and I felt obtuse for never thinking about it before. Look at the keyboard. Where are your fingers? My left hand rests on A, W/S, E and R/F. There’s a little notch on the F key for identification. Placing my fingers on ESDF requires almost no adjustment whatsoever. Now, if I moved my fingers over to WASD, I’m putting a crink in my wrist. My arm is no longer straight and it’s not as comfortable to hit the keys.

I had wrist pain for years when I played PC games, and I coudn’t play WASD games well because I had to play cautiously. I severely restricted my playtime because I was looking at long-term injuries, and I avoided quite a few games. Then I switched to ESDF and it went away almost immediately. That’s huge, and it’s hard for me to understate my enthusiasm for anything that is not WASD. It makes me wonder how many other people have the same problem, because WASD is unnatural and jams up the wrist. RTS games are still an RSI risk, but that’s generally from requiring constant mouse movement and an absurd number of mouseclicks (even with hotkeys).

I’m still waiting to find a game that offers an ESDF control set, even if it isn’t the default, but I’m not keeping my hopes up. WASD is deeply ingrained in games, and it’ll be hard to get rid of even if it shouldn’t exist. Where else does this happen in our industry? What simple controls adjustments could we make to improve the general ease of gameplay and quality of life?