Saturday, October 18, 2008

WASD's little known alternative, QWAS

I was reading a review of a new Microsoft gaming keyboard today and I noticed that it has extra highlighting for the traditional WASD keyboard layout most commonly used by first-person shooters (FPSs).

This interests me because I don't use WASD; I use a variant that I have almost never seen anyone else describe, namely, QWAS, with W for forward, Q/S for strafe left/right, and A for reverse.

It was a long time in gestation. I started out playing Doom with just the keyboard, like most other people at the time, but then I read - I forget where and can't find the reference - about using the mouse for looking and the keyboard, specifically the Z and X keys, for strafing, with Space, Ctrl and mouse buttons used in some combination for Use, Fire, Forward, Run, etc. I didn't find this combination especially easy to use, though, so it wasn't long before I stumbled onto the QWAS hold I use today. I do, however, find it puzzling that so few other people use it.

The reason I don't use WASD is because I think the layout is awkward for the wrist when the keyboard is centrally positioned, ready for touch-typing:

Moreover, since, like most men, my ring finger is much longer than my index finger, WASD means my ring finger on the A key is in an uncomfortable cramp-prone position:

When this is compared with the QWAS layout, the advantage in comfort and ergonomics - for my hand shape and keyboard positioning, at least - is clear:

10 comments:

Lars Fosdal said...

I'm a WASD, since I need Q and E for leaning around corners. I've been using that for years and years now, so I would have a hard time switching.

Call of Duty 4 is good fun and a nice way to reset your brain at the end of the day.

Barry Kelly said...

Yes, I use Z and X for the same things in games where it matters - most notably, the Thief series. The amazing rubber neck on Garrett has never really been replicated in any other games, and I usually find the watered-down version too much of a compromise.

I enjoyed playing a couple of the earlier CoD iterations, but I got tired of their overemphasis on linear scripted experience. Creeping through the bushes in Far Cry / Crysis is more to my liking... :)

B said...

As a left handed mouse user, I still use arrow keys ;)

omgz0r said...

while qwas may feel more comfortable...
it is seriously flawed when it comes to modern gaming in compared to wsad

reason being: wsad gives u better positioning to access a multitude of keys...
shift for walk
ctrl for crouch
r for reload most importantly
q for quick switch
t and y for communication
f, g, c, v for lots more
and it goes on and on...


seriously jus try holding down ctrl wit ur pinky while maneuvering with qwas

Barry Kelly said...

omgzor - if you want more keys, it's easy to move over to WESD. However, in practice, QWAS is more than enough.

Typically, I use Ctrl for either walking or proning, if the game has either.

I use Shift for running, Alt for jumping, and Space for crouching.

I use Numpad Enter for reloading. I also typically use other Numpad keys for communication or weapon mode selection.

Z and X are for leaning.

C is for a torch, if there is any. V and B may be for other vision enhancements, if they are in the game.

E, R and T typically are used for some kind of tactical use, such as grenades and grenade type selection.

In fast twitch multiplayer games like Quake, UT etc. I've historically used the keys around QWAS as quick weapon selections.

The only key that QWAS really makes much harder to press is Ctrl, but I can press it easily enough with the base of my left pinky, the area between the first knuckle on the finger and the knuckle where it joins the palm.

Don't forget, also, as you can see in the third picture above, UK keyboards have an extra key beside the Left Shift key that US keyboards don't have.

fish said...

I have no idea how you stand that setup, each to their own I guess.
All I can say it that you must sit far too close to the keyboard, or have your arm at some odd angle judging by the picture to cause such a cock in the wrist like that.

Jariin said...

move your keyboard to the left.

Anonymous said...

Err... By what I saw, I don't know where you put your mouse with your keyboard so much to the right...

My hand is straight on WASD, and not comming from left doing a 30 Degrees turn (as the pic shows)...

When I play, my arms are in equal positions (similar to the position when riding a bike), usually I adjust the Keyboard and mouse for a better position for both hands...

I tryed QWAS, and unlike you like diferent things, it's not worth it...

Barry Kelly said...

I have my keyboard in typing position, i.e. centered on my body at the midpoint between F and J, the two keys with nubs on them for touch typing. That's the normal position for my keyboard, and I don't change it for games...

Anonymous said...

Try out ERFG, guys! I just switched after hearing about ESDF, and experimenting with new layouts. Tilt hand five to ten degrees clockwise from straight forward, use E for left strafe, R for forward, F for backward and G for right strafe. I rest my pinky on s for walk, and space for crouch (I play lots of CS). This way, you have six (!) keys comfortably in range of your pinky, one under your ring, and five next to your index, with the ergonomic feel of having your ring finger relaxed and ready for strafing! Help kill the WASD craze! I couldn't be happier with my setup!