I realised something recently that may be a result of my specific gaming history: of the many hours as a teenager, student and then early career 20-something playing endless hours of various 90s shooter, action RPG and similar first-person PC games. In such games the default mode has always been ‘WASD’ movement – using a block of standard keys for directional character movement (usually with Q and E for strafing). I’ve been playing recently, by coincidence, a number of games that do not use this movement stalwart and I find it irritatingly impractical…
Lost Ark for instance has “click to move”, something I’ve seen in a number of imported MMORPGs, but usually as an optional alternative to a more direct control scheme. In Lost Ark abilities are tied to the WASD block – I’ve not played enough sessions to overrule my muscle memory on the control scheme so I often start randomly firing guns while moving around town or the wilderness because I just want to press ‘W’ to move my character forward.
I suppose with isometric games WASD does make less sense given that it’s less immediately apparent which exact way your character is facing. It’s been a long time since I played through Diablo 3 or Path of Exile though, so the movement scheme is one aspect of Lost Ark that is jarring. It’s not like WASD is always absent from such games however, husband and I are playing through the gothic isometric adventure Arkham Horror (Mother’s Embrace) and movement of your character is almost exclusively through the WASD keys. It works perfectly well in the context of the game and provides the precision needed for a turn-based combat system where movement and range-limited actions need somewhat careful positioning.
I’m also playing a good amount of Jedi: Fallen Order on Playstation 4. I doubt I will ever feel at home with a dual analogue stick controller – it just feels like finger gymnastics to coordinate moving and changing perspective at the same time – despite the irony that I am 100% fluent at using a keyboard and mouse to do the very same actions. Pressing forward the left stick to run forward whilst also pressing that same stick down to run seems like an awkward combination to me and I often loose speed half-way towards my destination / the enemy. Holding down shift (or a similar modifier key) with W never bothers me in the slightest.
Not much of a conclusion to the post to make, it’s just something I’ve struggled a bit with of late. I compare the experiences above with a recent dip back into Warframe with a friend and, despite not playing the game since circa 2018, I felt like a duck returning to the water with the controls.
As someone who came to mmorpgs via EverQuest, it was years before I used WASD. The default movement keys in EQ were the arrow keys and that’s what I always used. I used to have my keyboard at an extreme angle because of it. It was probably not until I played WoW that I moved to WASD and it took me a while to get used to it although I prefer it now.
As for click to move, I really like it. There are quite a few imported 3D mmorpgs that use it and i tend to use it there in preference to WASD. It’s much more laid-back because you can lounge back in your chair and play one-handed. I also like the systems where you just hold down LMB and your character follows the pointer. That’s the most laid-back of all. You can do it in Lost Ark, I think, although it’s been so long since I played I’m not absolutely sure, now.
It’s a recurring ritual for both my wife and myself that every time we start playing Diablo 3 again it’s an hour or two of “ugh, click to move”, then it works – and a few days later when it’s back to MMOs it’s “how do I WASD”. But then again, it seems to work, just directly switching is bad. On the other hand I’ve had major problems with Lost Ark when I tried it, so maybe click-to-move + 1,2,3,4 is fine, but click-to-move + Q,W,E,R is bad 😛