Did you know that the WASD key mapping used in games was immortalized by games like Quake and Half-Life back in 1996? Originally Quake used the arrow keys for movement but for ergonomic reasons people would remap the arrow keys to the W, A, S, and D keys. Another factor is that there are so many keys in modern games that remapping them becomes a chore, so most people have learnt to just play with the key mapping as presented. But, is that the end of the story?
For reasons I'll discuss in a moment I have always remapped my keys to the following:
This configuration, which you could call ASDF mapping, has ergonomic, performance and practical reasons for perhaps being a better candidate for the standard key mapping in games.
Firstly it is based on the left home keys for a Qwerty keyboard which has already been proven to be the most ergonomic state for the left hand. This would also be instrumental in helping the young to transition to touch typing later since the left hand has already become conditioned to finding these keys.
Secondly it allows the player to roam, look and fire with only the right hand on the mouse. This is ideal for games with a large open terrain like Skyrim, since most of the time is spent walking between destinations this configuration frees up the left hand for doing other things.
Thirdly the keys don't seem to get entangled while using various combinations of actions. The left and right actions seem natural using the D and F keys as does the jumping and the backwards actions. From personal experience I find that the movements are easier and faster using this configuration but I haven't done any comparison tests on this.
Of course I am available to perform any empirical testing needed to validate the theory :)
Common sense tells you that the new configuration will help the young adapt to touch typing much faster, half the work is done and all they need do is learn the right hand positions. This could lead to a career as a professional typist, which is a nice bonus after getting little else from your average FPS games.
Another advantage to using ASDF binding is that the F key has a guide or ridge on it that helps you find your way back to the home keys. This is becoming increasingly important with so many keys being used in games like Arma 2.
Some keyboards are coming out with different colors for the WASD keys, so now would be a good time to discuss the merits of either configuration before future generations are subjected to another sub standard legacy such as the QWERTY layout itself.
Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
The following are quotes from the website at http://workawesome.com/productivity/dvorak-keyboard-layout/
Some 60 years after the adoption of the QWERTY keyboard layout, another keyboard designer came along. Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-inlaw Dr. William Dealey were dismayed with the poor design of the QWERTY keyboard layout. They had studied the QWERTY keyboard and compiled a list of its shortcomings. They noted that many letter combinations required awkward motions, were typed with the same finger, required jumping over the home row, and often left one hand idle while one did all the work for the combinations. In addition 30% of the typing was done on the lower row and 52% was done on the upper row, which means a whopping 82% of key strokes involved moving away from the home row and unnecessarily stressing the hands while slowing the typist down.
Although its only your fingers that do the extra reaching in QWERTY, the distance adds up. A study compared the distance traveled by the fingers of two typists in performing the same task. In Dvorak, the typists fingers traveled 1.5 km per day; In QWERTY, 30 km per day.
Dr. Dvorak created something great, but he died in vain.
“I’m tired of trying to do something worthwhile for the human race,” he said, realizing his failure to convince people to adopt his layout. “They simply don’t want to change!”
QWERTY has remained the default keyboard layout for over a century. It has outlived the purpose for which it was designed, yet its weaknesses still remain. By switching to Dvorak, you are joining a movement that empowers typists and honors the legacy of a great man.
And an interesting bit of evidence was posted to the following website
This academic paper was presented to a 1977 conference of the Printing Industry Research Association
by Lillian Malt.
On the first page she states
One piece of equipment which is universally recognised as being ill-fitted to human operation is the ubiquitous typewriter keyboard. The standard Sholes-designed keyboard with its QWERTY letter layout, must be one of the very few pieces of equipment which has entirely resisted improvements, which could and should have been made to complement our advancing technological ability. It has been said of the Sholes letter layout that it would probably have been chosen if the objective was to find the least efficient—in terms of learning time and speed achievable—and the most error producing character arrangement. This is not surprising when one considers that a team of people spent one year developing this layout so that it should provide the greatest inhibition to fast keying. This was no Machiavellian plot, but necessary because the mechanism of the early typewriters required slow operation.
Alan Baylis [anti-spam]email@example.com