Methods of control have not changed a great deal. The mouse is ancient… My first gamepad experience hails back to the very early 80’s and an Atari 2600. When I think about voice control I always hear “Good Morning! Dave.” in my head. The first time I played around with voice recognition a very long time ago I did rename my PC to HAL. But using keyboard and/or mice over long periods can damage yourself, it is better to take action before you have symptoms than have to curtail you enjoyment later…
I’ve previously mentioned (many times) that I have due to work damaged my lower arms, this I did due to a whole range of sports I have taught or been involved in. Not limited to but including Canoeing, Kayaking, White Water Rafting, Wind Surfing, Sailing, Climbing, Archery etc. All these sports have put strain on my arms and I would not change my involvement in them one bit. But I have been PC gaming since ’93 using keyboard and mice to play MMO’s, FPS’s, RTS and RPG’s. When I buy mice I look for one than can be used lefty as well as righty. It was not until mid 2000’s when I became a console gamer as well. Then on top of all the sport and gaming you pile on work which no matter what you seem to do involves working on a PC at some point. Writing operating procedures, risk assessments, writing up staff reviews, generally creating a paper trail etc. All of this use has caused long-term use of a mouse to be uncomfortable/painful. To mitigate this I use a mouse generally left-handed which is just a skill you can learn. I might have an advantage over some people as I’m used to bi-lateral transfer of skills. I can demonstrate skills both handed for example Archery or Fencing where a visual learner really needs to see a stance demonstrated with the correct hand/foot leading.
There are limitations to my transferring the mouse to my other hand, I take a skills hit on playing FPS left-handed and have not been able to compensate. My motor control is more than enough with my left hand to play RTS and RPG’s but the twitch control for an FPS is just missing. Which has stopped me playing Mechwarrior online as I noticed the average damage I could cause with my favourite mech drop. Some people might find it blasphemous that I like playing games on my PC with a game pad/controller. For example Skyrim, I would not be able to play for the amount of time I’ve poured into this game if I could not use my XB 360 controller. It actually now feels very strange if I even try to use a M/Kb combo. I would not try to play a PvP game on PC with a gamepad, it would put me at a distinct disadvantage. But there have been co-op shooters where using a gamepad did not put me at a disadvantage for example I used to love Firefall with its co-op game play running, jet packing and shooting. But alas the game died and was eventually sold to a Chinese company. When you play on Console you will notice ‘auto-aim’ where will track a target for a second allowing you to get a shot off. But this can be damn annoying if the auto-aim decides to lock onto a something you are not wanting to shoot and you miss what you where aiming at and what auto-aim wanted you to shoot. This auto-aim is needed on console due to the lack of resolution available via a small joystick. But auto-aim on a PC game will get you banned for ‘Hax.’
My old 360 pad, used for my PC gaming.
The 360 pad is just a little smaller than the XB1 pad which I find a little more comfortable to use. But often I use my XB1 to listen to Pod Casts on YouTube while I’m gaming so I need 2 pads.
Being able to play Elite:Dangerous on the PC via my controller has been really useful, I would have not been able to put the number of hours into the game that I have. I have recently bought a HOTAS (There will be a blog post about this I assure you!) and now play with an amazing joystick thottle combo, that helps me with my immersion. As I’ve used both pad and stick I can say that both control methods are useable and enjoyable. The control method for E:D on the XB1 is glorious gives so much control with the limited number of buttons on the pad. On PC we are really spoilt with how we can control the PC and games.
Thinking about 2 different control methods VoiceAttack allowing to control you PC via speech and the Roccat power grid been able to control via tablet/mobile. In Beta for E:D I really enjoyed using the power grid for such tasks as landing gear and cargo scoop, having a touch screen display made me think about Star Trek TNG bridge officer stations. Power grid has the advantage of being free from Roccat, you download the app onto both your PC and Android/apple device, there are numerous control schemes uploaded by the community. But it is easy to go beyond this and customise the controls and completely re-write for your own needs. But this control is not limited to E:D it can be used for any game/program if a game has a hotkey for something it can be programmed onto the power grid, reducing the small movement to access a menu with the mouse.
Many people who play E:D and Star Citizen use Voice attack to help automate their ship control, it can really increase immersion (“Good morning, Dave.”) Who would begrudge anybody telling their ship to engage jumpdrive and have it reply “It will take a moment to get the coordinates from the nav computer!” People use Voice attack even if they have a HOTAS that can simulate over 150 buttons. I used it when using the joypad to streamline my play, I could activate a system ping with a simple command. It’s not that it is hard to do but it sure was fun being lazy. Voice attack is not free it costs $10, but you can download a limited version as a trial, which I did, I very quickly realised that I enjoyed using it and the cost was very reasonable. Once you have VoiceAttack you can program it yourself with the commands you want it to perform or buy a pre-made profile from HCS voice packs that give your ship a voice that answers your commands with some very well know actors. Want to turn your ship into an AI with the booming voice of Brian Blessed, or maybe the sombre tones of a timelord, or maybe a double fist punch to the face captain of a certain famous starship allowing you to boldly go…
I am hoping to enjoy gaming for another 20 years, I want to use all the resources at my disposal for this. Many people wont take any action on the health aspect of gaming untill its to late. The options are out there and is better to think about how damage to your wrists and hands by gaming/PC work could affect your enjoyment far down the line. As a sports coach I spent a lot of money on safety kit for example £250 on a helmet, £150 on a buoyancy aid(PFD), £550 on a dry-suit. PC gaming is expensive to get into and keep up to date, but a small investment in thought by using a mouse in your off-hand for general use and/or using other command methods to activate services or press buttons/mimic mouse movement could help you enjoy your gaming for longer.
See you on the other side…