Here are our answers, plus some from our forum.
Christopher Livingston, Features Producer: I was recently reminded of an old Apple II game I used to play called Aztec. How do you kneel? K for kneeling? C for crouch? Nope. G! Explosives could have been E, but instead, it was P (for place explosives). And I’ll let the user manual explain how combat worked.
I guess a positive view is that it really made full use of the keyboard. On the downside, you really had to be a talented touch-typist to play.
Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: Chris, I keep rereading that control scheme document and laughing at a different line. Forget paying respects, I’m pressing F to “go into Fight mode” from now on. It’s unbeatable.
Christopher Livingston: It’s a typo in the manual. This adventurer has enough trouble walking and climbing stairs. Flying is definitely not an option.
Andy Chalk, NA News Lead: I really enjoyed Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Cyan’s 2003 puzzle-adventure, but holy cow the controls are brutal. In the default setup, you hold the left mouse button to walk or the left and right buttons to run; the middle button is for walking backward, and holding the right button enables mouselook—but only in a very limited field of view when in third-person mode.
Seriously, look at this hot nonsense:
It’s possible to remap most of the control keys for a more conventional WASD setup, but full-time mouselook isn’t an option: You still have to hold the right button to control your direction as you move forward. Interactivity isn’t possible in that mode, though, so if you want to push a button or flip a switch, you must release the button to bring up the cursor, which disables the directional control. Worst of all, though, is the sidestep, a painfully slow shuffle left or right—the sort of movement you’d expect from someone terrified of heights who’s being forced to inch along a shallow outcropping along the side of a cliff. It’s incredibly frustrating, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.
I’ll always have affection for Uru, but this old Gamespy review is spot on: “The [control] scheme is difficult to use and never becomes intuitive. You’ll probably find yourself running in place and missing jumps because the movement keys are uncomfortable. Far too much of the game is spent worrying over the controls instead of enjoying the puzzles and atmosphere. It’s easily the worst part of Uru, and it’s unclear why Cyan didn’t simply make the controls as easy to use as those in first- and third-person shooters.”
It’s a shame, really. Uru had a lot going on, but those controls sucked, and that’s what I remember most about it.
Jody Macgregor, Weekend/AU Editor: I remember the dark days before mouselook and strafing became standard, and the keys for left and right—whether A and D or the left and right arrow keys or whatever—would spin you in that direction instead. At least some games would let you rebind them, like Thief: The Dark Project, which had strafe left and right bound to Z and C by default. It also had W as run and S as walk, with X for backstep. I left those the way they were when I first played it because it was handy to be able to control your speed, and I hadn’t really adapted to WASD yet anyway.
As far as modern games go, FromSoftware really takes the cake. I assumed after the debacle of the Dark Souls PC port that things would have improved by Dark Souls 3, but it was still terrible with mouse and keyboard. Though thinking about it, even after I switched to the controller I couldn’t consistently pull off the kick.
Special mention to Cyberpunk 2077 for having both toggle crouch and skip dialogue bound to C, though. Oof.
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: Six years later, pressing C to crouch remains an act of depravity. As I wrote in 2016, “C is the male nipple of keyboard bindings, a remnant that’s for some reason survived decades of gaming evolution.” It’s not ergonomic, it’s awkward, and it’s illogical. An epoch ago, when we used the Ctrl key to fire our guns in FPSes, it was passably acceptable. Today it’s an act of antiquated, alphabetical arbitrariness. Do we map Jump to J? G for Grenade? (Yeah, that’s dumb too.) Rebind crouch and be reborn.
Nat Clayton, Features Producer: I don’t know that I have a severe response, but I WILL fight Evan over C for crouch. Regular crouch can remain, as ever, in its natural home—mouse button 4. Toggle crouch, at least.
Evan Lahti: Romero’s mullet, it’s worse than I thought. Are the youths binding different types of crouching to other keys? Each day we drift further from enlightenment.
From our forum
Withywarlock: In MMOs, it’s the keyboard turning/clicking.
In terms of game design, though, not being able to press up at the highest point of a menu to go straight to the bottom, and vice versa. It’s even worse on controllers where 1) you have to remember if it’s the thumbstick or directional pad that only works in menus, and 2) neither are better than a keyboard or mouse for menus.
Pifanjr: Not being able to rebind keys is the worst one, but not being able to use hotkeys is almost as bad. For example, total War: Warhammer 2 doesn’t have a hotkey to toggle guard mode or the fire-at-will stance. It’s not something you need to toggle often in a battle, but it would still be nice if I had the option to use the keyboard.
Another example is Skyrim. I would have loved it if you could cast certain spells with just one button press, instead of having to equip them, cast them and unequip them. And I know you can use the numbered keys, but only 8 of them are available, which isn’t enough. I like using the bits for setting traps, but the hassle of switching back and forth doesn’t make it worth it.
Now that I think about it, I would love for games just to let me set macros.
Friends: The first that comes to mind is not being able to bind the enter key to something else. When I played Forza Horizon 5 and tried to snipe cars at the auction house, it was almost impossible to ambush cars fast enough because of how slow it took when using the enter key. So to combat this problem, I had to use Microsoft PowerToys to be able to remap the key. It is such an easy thing to fix; it makes you wonder why not just make it possible to do in-game.
ZedClampet: If through incompetence and a lack of rebind options, you make it so that I have to take my hand off the mouse, I will curse your ancestors.
DXCHASE: Not being able to rebind is my biggest sin. It’s like cutting out the most significant reason keyboards are better than a controller. I can’t rebind my G key for going through quests in Lost Ark. My G is starting to chip.
Mainer: Rebinding keys has never been a massive deal for me. I change a few here and there, especially If I’m using some mods that add some new gameplay mechanics with their critical controls. Sometimes those essential functions overlap what the game already uses, so some keys will need to be changed. I greatly appreciate it when a developer allows changing the bindings (or at least most of them).
As far as games with specific control schemes that bothered me, I know there’ve been a few, but the one that always sticks in my mind is the mouse controls for combat in the Witcher 1. Left-click to attack, timed left clicks to chain attacks, double left click on the ground (but not too far away!) for an evasive maneuver, right-click to dodge or duck, right-click to cast a sign. The cursor would also change depending upon where your cursor was and what you were supposed to be doing. Most of the time, I flopped around like a fish out of the water while getting stabbed in the face and clicking all over the screen.
One of the strangest control schemes I’ve come across was keeping track of the cursor changes, the types of clicks, and where to click. Thankfully, a lot changed between Witcher 1 and Witcher 3.
Cloth: Did you ever play Die by the Sword back in the ’90s, @mainer? You had to control a set of muscles in the arm to make your swing, if I remember right.
I don’t rebind keys much, but when I need to, I need to! Still, even though it doesn’t cause as much good harm, I think making the main menu not work with the mouse is the bigger sin. You’ve just gotten yourself ready to go, you’re all hyped up to play the game, and you immediately get let down because they couldn’t be bothered to make the mouse work there. I know it’s only a couple of minutes out of dozens of hours of gameplay, but the psychological effect is nasty.
JCgames: Having to press two keys to go in one direction! A game called “Oxen free” did this when you had to walk down diagonal paths. It was mind-numbing and nearly ruined the game. In a game that it could easily play with just mouse-clicking, you had to press multiple keys too often to move. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was completely unnecessary in a game where all you’re doing is trying to move across the screen. If I had to guess, the designers used a controller, and a keyboard+mouse was an afterthought.
I will give them a lot of credit, though; they updated the game to work with just a mouse which is fantastic. I know I made a post requesting it, and I’m guessing others did because they added it. It was one of those games that I loved and hated. I loved the story, the music, the theme, but the controls were a mess. How do you make a point 2D point and click with no click to move? It became a game that I trudged through with that bit of change, to an instant classic and a must replay!
So not enough mouse support is my biggest pet peeve game that could easily be played with just a mouse needing a Keyboard+mouse. If I can only get Concerned Ape to add Click to move in Stardew Valley, I would be happy.
WoodenSaucer: I think this applies for either K&M or controller. But when you play a game series, they always set up the key/button bindings the same way, and then they come out with a new game in the series where they change everything, and it’s not any better than it was. Then you have to relearn all of the controls, and it’s not even worth it.
Krud: This might also apply to controllers, but it’s especially egregious when you have an entire keyboard at your disposal, and that’s context-based controls. I wouldn’t say I like it when games decide the spacebar is both Jump and Hide Behind Cover, depending on how close you’re standing to something. It’s frustrating to think you’re about to protect yourself and hide, but instead, you leap straight up in the air as if to say, “Woohoo! Look at me!” (I think at least one of the Mass Effect games was guilty of this.) The reverse is also annoying when you’re trying to jump out, but instead, your character clings for dear life against a wall.
Edit: I just realized that I already mentioned this in the OP, my apologies. Seriously, though. We’ve got over a hundred buttons to choose from. There’s no need for them to double up. At the very least, please give us the option to enable or disable context-based buttons. Make it a toggle. It can’t be that hard, can it?