Do You Re-Map?

You know how it feels.

You’ve hit enter to bring up the cursor in the chat window, but somehow you didn’t hit the key hard enough of it didn’t take for some reason.  You don’t notice however.  Instead you start typing in your message.

And your first sign that something is wrong is the sudden appearance of a variety of different windows in your field of view.  They open, close, change focus, move tabs, and generally put on a little dance while your brain figures out that you’re not typing into the chat window at all.

So you know that sensation, right?

I have a friend who re-maps his keys so radically that touching the keyboard in WoW brings up that very sensation.  Nothing does what I expect.  I want to just move and windows open and close all over.  The keyboard is, essentially, unusable by anybody but him.

Now his history in games is a little different than mine.  He picked up at Diablo, then went to Diablo II, and then straight into EverQuest where he became a raider, was in a big guild, ran multiple accounts with a couple of level cap characters on each.

But he never had any interest in first person shooters.  He played a little StarCraft with us, but that wasn’t his thing either.

No, his primary influence was EverQuest.  And he didn’t like the keyboard layout in EverQuest that much, so he created his own layout.  This layout is perfectly logical to him, but he has so far be unable to explain its logic to anybody else.  It only makes sense in the context of being him.

And when he jumped from EverQuest to World of Warcraft, his keyboard layout came with him.

Now I am about the farthest one can be from him when it comes to re-mapping keys and still actually do some re-mapping.

I move the key for the quest log to “L,” because that is where most games I play put it in any case.

Most developers agree, the quest log should be mapped to "L"

For a while, when EverQuest II was my main game, I would re-map the quest log to “J” because that was how SOE did it.  However, now when I play EQ2, I map the quest journal there to “L.”

And, if I have to, I will edit the WASD key functions to make sure that they behave the way I expect.  There seems to be a surprising lack of agreement on which keys should be used to strafe and which should be used to turn.

Other than that, I tend to leave everything as it is.

This, of course makes my system as unusable to him as his is to me.  And it leads to some pretty futile, opinion-laden discussions about which is the better system.

With those two points of view in mind, I thought I would open up the year with a poll.

21 thoughts on “Do You Re-Map?

  1. Carlosjuero

    I am more like you, I only remap a few keys if there is a disconnect with the way things normally go (i.e. strafe/turn being on ‘odd’ button combinations). Some games I remap keys for ease of use if they are too far apart for my taste (DDO, I remapped ‘Use Item/Interact’ to F so that when I am in ‘mouse aim’ mode I don’t have to double click to interact with doors/chests).

    Most games can be left at default, though I do tend to remap turn/strafe keys since none of them want to be standard (I also usually have to invert the mouse on games to get to where it feels right. Just wish I could invert the scroll wheel in EVE – its counter-intuitive to me to scroll up to zoom in and down to zoom out.)


  2. jim

    I only remap a few to make my n52te work right. But I try to keep every thing standard. The biggest thing I see is making the right mouse button free look. That is about all I use to move around with.


  3. Shivoa

    Normally I try to keep consistency reasonably high (L quests, B all bags, m Map, etc) but will rebind based around the starting block of a RDFG movement system (WASD shifted to give more left pinky key choices and better access to the number keys so essential in the EQ/WoW style combat – an upgrade significant enough I use it for all PC FPS nowadays even when I’m not desperate for extra keys). I think I gave up kb turning around the Duke3D/Quake1 era (moving to arrow keys) so will always be more at home with right mouse turning in an MMO and now consider E/T (my Q/E) as lean buttons or a grenade/use pair rather than a space for a secondary turning control.

    Of course, games can make this much easier or harder if they try (special keys you simply aren’t allowed to rebind being the worst but other things like giving on-screen tutorials/instructions without looking up the new binds to tell you what to press also hamper a rebound kb) and moving between schemes can take so much time to learn efficiently that once you’ve found something that works you’ll probably never go back unless the game really fights you.


  4. Armagon

    Oooh, right.
    The friend that got me hooked with wow had some weird keybindings.

    r = autorun for example (instead of reply)

    Now, after more than 3 years, I’m stuck with that :P

    I also remap A and S to strafe left/right, can’t work with turning and V to various tasks depending on character, as well as binding C to something more useful than “view character”

    Apart from that, I think I kept most keybindsm just added like 20 or 30 ;)


  5. dorgol

    I’ve remapped a decent chunk of the keyboard for WoW. Mostly to keep more combat abilities near the left hand – Z, X, C, F, R, and Function Keys are the primariy items.

    One day I’ll remap WASD to Forward, L Strafe, Backwards, R Strafe. I haven’t used the keyboard for turning in years, but I still keep those keys bound.


  6. Beladan Girithlin

    Like Jim, I only remap as much as necessary to make my n52te work optimally. I got that thing for playing Fallout3 and have never looked back.


  7. mbp

    As a graduate of FPS games I like all my key functions to be within easy reach of either WASD or to be bound to the auxiliary buttons of my mouse. Thankfully most games pay some respect to WASD so this usually doesn’t involve too much remapping.

    The one key layout I cannot play with is movement bound to the arrow keys. This just doesn’t work for a right handed mouse user.


  8. mbp

    Arghh .. sorry for double post but I meant to add that my main dilemma is deciding which keys to bind to my side mouse buttons. I usually manage to fit auto-run and select next target in there somewhere.


  9. Blue Kae

    I don’t remap keys very often. The only one I consistently change is the autorun key which developers always like to map to the scroll lock. One I use that key often so I don’t want to move my hand too much to press it, and two I hate having the scroll lock light coming on and off. So the first (and sometimes only) key I map is autorun to one of my side mouse buttons.


  10. Dril

    I always played my FPS games on the console, so the concept and execution of keyboard moving, is, to me at least, slow and cumbersome. I move with my mouse all the time (auto-run and steer mostly) and use the following keys for abilities:

    I also heal using hover targeting, and while people have tried (unsuccessfully) to tell me that mouse moving is simply not usable with hover healing, I find it exceptionally easy and fluid. Besides, it gives SO much more control.


  11. Rieger

    I always have a problem with these games. Quake. Yes, the first Quake. My buddies and I would play it over a small LAN and you had to use a keyboard & mouse movement scheme or the elevation changes in the game would kill you. It was a big change from the other games we had played where the mouse would never be used at all. Because we always had more bodies than computers we had to agree on a control scheme that everybody would use. So your fingers sit on the home row (yes, remember that from typing class?) ASDF. So A was slide left, F slide right, S was ahead and F was back.

    So now every game I go to play I have to remap the movement controls at the very least, but also the controls around the WSAD set usually have to be slightly modified to work with my different movement controls. I tried WSAD for about 10 seconds and gave up. Why does my ring finger always have to be one row up from where it should be? Damn stubborn old folks. :)


  12. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @ Rieger – For me, WASD goes back to the original Lode Runner on the Apple ][. Once I tried it, I saw the immediate superiority over what seemed to be the standard up to that point, the diamond shape of keys WASZ. The fact that the arrow keys on your keyboard are likely also in the same inverted T format as the WASD says something about the ubiquity of that layout for directional keys.

    On the other hand, being a touch typist, WASD messes me up at times, something I have complained about before. I can have my fingers on the keyboard in position to play a game or to type, but not both.


  13. SynCaine

    For most games I tend to leave as many things as standard as possible (I’ve found that certain games expect you to do this, and plan gameplay around them). The only game that I have heavily remapped is DarkFall, mainly to be able to use the mouse as often as possible for different abilities. It’s the only game I have multiple abilities bound to the various mouse buttons (Razor Imperator, great mouse) with the use of Alt and L-Ctrl keys. Most games you don’t NEED to really be quick, so I don’t tend to bother, and today most MMO games have at least similar layouts.


  14. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Rieger’s comment is interesting. I have a similar problem, but it’s because I’m a touch typist; I took typing classes in school (on IBM Selectric machines, even), and so I like my hands on the “home row”. So, I often remap the movement keys to ESDF instead of WASD. I use S and F for strafe, and like W and R for turning. That often means remapping a whole lot of keys if the developer clustered them around the WASD setup. Usually I remap “reply” to ‘t’ since I use ‘r’ for turning. This setup frees up a column of keys (QAZ) for additional commands. I usually remap ‘a’ to “nearest enemy” instead of the tab key, for example. (Tab is for voice chat, usually.)

    I also like to remap keys to some defaults I’ve used over the years. It’s hard to switch back to other games, sometimes, when keys aren’t where you expect. I have ‘c’ set to the crafting panel on LotRO. When I went back to WoW for a week, I kept hitting ‘c’ (bound to the sit action) when I wanted to open crafting. Rather confusing!

    Anyway, when we introduce key binding to M59, we set up both WASD and ESDF default key layouts. :)


  15. We Fly Spitfires

    I almost never change the default keyboard layout (or UI). I usually adapt pretty quickly to different games and don’t have an issue picking them up after a few hours. Plus, most of the games I play tend to stick to common set ups.

    Was it VG that let you select your keyboard setup based on other games like WoW or EQ2? Pretty good idea.


  16. Reatu Krentor

    I modify a significant portion of controls usually. I use ESDF like Brian in FPS(L4D braaaains!). It leaves me with QAZ for my pinky to do stuff. And if I have to type my left hand is in the right position.


  17. Sören

    I must count as a heavy remapper. Background: I use a corner table with the keyboard on the left part and the mouse on the right (monitor in the corner). So I traditionally mapped WoW-action bars on the numerical key pad and movement onto arrow keys. Gives a very compact key design for my left hand ;)

    Later I got a keyboard with some extra keys which got mapped with actions used not so often. Even later I bought a G13 mini keyboard. There I could reuse most of my old numeric key pad layout and had a handy mini joystick for movement in reach of the left hand thumb.

    What I cant do with that is a function to trigger with the mouse ;)

    I do not say “This thing must be on key X” but rather “This has to be in reach of that finger”. And, all that does not protect you against relearning the layout when you switch classes (maybe DPS vs. healer): “Why the hell is the f*#!%g vanish key not working…”


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  19. Wumpus

    I usually remap a whole bunch of keys for one simple reason: I’m left-handed.

    (By the same token, the surest way to get me to return a game in a rage is to not make the keys remappable…..)


  20. Logan

    ESDF for the win!

    more buttons for your pinky to use, and you don’t have to slide your hand constantly if you need to type… can’t see any downside to it really.


  21. Bob

    Much like Brian and Logan, I remap my movement keys to ESDF, as the F key has the notch (home key) and can easily be found in the dark. A few tweaks here and there, also… but that’s the major re-mapping.


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