On ESDF, Old Dogs, New Tricks

Cynwulf_-_av_-_bunker_defense_-_lol

One of my goals in my Mists bucket list is to learn to use an ESDF keybind. It’s a little odd. There’s a story behind this goal, and … I don’t know how it ends. See, I’m not trying to move from WASD to ESDF (which is honestly a difficult move for many people.) That shift over one key can have a big impact on your playstyle and muscle memory.

No, I’m moving from a system where I steered entirely with my mouse to using some of the keyboard to steer, freeing up more of the Naga mouse buttons for casting. This somewhat unconventional system has worked for me for a while – over a year – but there are some drawbacks which I hope ESDF will help address.

And to date, it’s been a disaster.

THE PRICE OF COMPLEXITY

Cynwise_-_demo_ui_starting_point_-_mid_december_2011

I used to play WoW exclusively on a 13″ MacBook. I detailed how that influenced my keybinding in some detail on CBM over two years ago – and while things evolved and changed over time, the basic philosophy of pinky on Tab, move with mouse, and rebind the entire keyboard stayed the same. I got better moving with the mouse, binding my strafe keys to it, getting a Naga, binding autorun to the center button, things like that.

The biggest advantage is the huge number of keybinds I can squeeze out of the laptop. The picture above is a recent shot (mid-December 2011), and is actually a somewhat stripped out PvE keybinding. The PvP binds were more full:

Cynwise_-_lillis_-_pilgrims_peril_-_uc_-_i_brought_a_fork

It was complicated, and a little overwhelming, but I could get to everything. And there are like 80 keybinds without even thinking too hard about it!

The problem came when I started healing again, and suddenly I’m supposed to be mousing over things to heal them.

And moving.

Huh. Okay, that is a bit of a challenge.

I actually figured out how to do this, with a combination of Click-to-Move and Autorun that worked out pretty well. But all the while, my keybinds and bartender setup got more and more complicated, and further from the standard. No problem, right? I have backups, lots of backups, it doesn’t matter that my bars have only a superficial relationship to the original mapping, right?

*sigh*

IT ALL FALLS APART

Got a new computer. Yay!

It’s hooked up to a huge screen. Yay!

Wow, look at all that screen space! I bet I could actually … see my screen, not have to viewport it just to be able to see my feet under my casting bars. The possibilities!

Maybe, just maybe, I could try out some of those fancy UI packages that people always rave about. You know, ElvUI or TukUI or … anything, really. I have a new computer, so it shouldn’t affect my other UI settings, right? I have backups and screenshots and the like.

I’ll just try it out on one character. Sure, ElvUI kinda screwed up my previous UI, but that was because it was on the same computer. I’m sure I’ll be able to revert.

Ok, huh, a couple of setup steps… looks nice, looks cool… the bindings are gone, but that makes sense, Bartender has its own settings. They’ll come back. This is kinda neat.

Huh, my abilities are all in odd order, must be something with the bars. I can fix that later.

*plays around with it for a while, switches to a different toon*

Wait. Where are my keybinds?

*different toon*

Why are the bars all messed up? I mean, not only keybinds but actions are gone? Buttons are messed up?

*switches back to toon with ElvUI running*

Keybinds are gone, bars are messed up here, too.

Ok, don’t panic. I have backups.

*exits WoW, uninstalls ElvUI/TukUI, restores WTF/Addon folders, logs back in*

Oh god.

They’re gone. They’re all gone.

*goes to laptop, logs in*

Same here. Keybinds are stored on the server. Whatever ElvUI did to the binds must have wiped out all the bartender settings, too.

*opens macro pane*

Dude, where are my macros?

Cynwulf_-_parachute_failure_-_lol_facepalm

DESPAIR AND DESTRUCTION AND THE ALLURE OF PEER PRESSURE

Well, fuck.

I still don’t know how it all happened. I went from installing ElvUI and going, okay, looks nice, but doesn’t scale well down to 13″ (which is why I rejected it originally), let’s try something else, to losing the heart of my custom UI across all characters.

I could have rebuilt it. I could have rebound the buttons and gone through each character, recreating their macros and trying to match up what I had done before.

But I thought, you know what? Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is a chance to start fresh, to throw it all out, eliminate the cruft and get something that can work on both computers. I can figure out how to sync them, I’m sure I can pick something simple that uses the default bars. Maybe I can finish up that keybind post by revisiting my own binds. After all, most really good PvP players seem to get by just a few addons, not major reconfiguration of the bars.

Maybe I should try doing it the way everyone else does. Maybe there’s a reason I should be using WASD that I don’t know about. Everyone else does it, it lets them use their mouse to click on things, I wouldn’t have to autorun everywhere.

Maybe not WASD. Didn’t Christian Moore have a post on ESDF? Oh yeah, that looks a little better, let’s try that. It’s not universal like WASD, but it’s got some clear advanatages, let me try that out.

*tinkers*

So, ESDF is now bound on all my characters. Right in the middle of my prime keybind space are movement keys. I’ve shifted my hand to a different position, unbound strafe from my Naga, rebound all sorts of action keys to it…

…and I kinda suck with it.

I’ve been playing with ESDF for about a week now, and there’s no real good way to put it. I suck. I flounder and mishit abiliites. I’m slower with casting off the Naga than the keyboard. Not finding the button – pushing and then spaming it. I switch to mouse driving, then remember I’m supposed to use E to go forward.

The UI layout is also confusing, because the buttons aren’t laid out in a visual way. So I’m like, wait, where is that ability? It’s on that bar, what is that key combo? Shift-3, REALLY?

So I’m kinda at a low point here with this new keybind experiment. I’m struggling to find a clear and compelling reason to stick with it, aside from “this will take time and a lot of practice.”

Like, just because something is popular and The Usual Suspect, does it mean it’s the best option? Is this like driving a car, where you want to have controls be standard across all models and types? Am I doing ESDF just to fit in? Or do I really believe it’s going to turn out to be better?

I don’t know. I don’t see compelling evidence yet that it’s going to be that much better than mouse-driving.

But maybe that’s because I haven’t really given it a good solid try. That’s what worries me. Maybe it’s just a matter of not putting in the effort, and that a week isn’t enough. Maybe it’s 2, or 4, or 6 weeks until it’s comfortable.

Maybe. I dunno.

I hope it’s worth it.

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8 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Field Notes

8 responses to “On ESDF, Old Dogs, New Tricks

  1. dakotarick

    I would think that after a week that you would know one way or the other if it’s going to work for you. Perfecting it and working out the bugs may take longer. Ultimately you need to do what works for you and not what you think is supposed to work for you.I have this combination of keyboard/mouse binds and a specific type of layout I use that would probably get me shunned from the WoW community but it works for me. A coworker that plays will look at my screen and say “I don’t know how you can play that way but good for you”.The Dalaran facepalm has made my day. Thanks!

  2. Redbeard

    Oh.Crap.Good luck, Cyn. I think you’ll need it.(Oh, and that facepalm pic is priceless!)

  3. Psynister

    All that for…what, 3 extra keys that are close to your default position? Hold on, I think I need to borrow your facepalm pic for a second.I control movement with WASD, my mouse, auto-run via wheel click, and click-to-move. Ambidextrous movement is a good thing. Your UI doesn’t have to be extensive in order to be good.

  4. Cynwise of Stormwind

    By changing my resting keys from 123(4) to ASEF I think I’ve gained a little more finger reach space, but not a lot. Then I probably lost most of it to movement keys. :( The mental leap to moving with the keyboard is proving really troublesome. I keep thinking I *need* to do it to be a better healer, but … I dunno. Click to move actually worked really well. GO HERE heal heal heal heal heal heal GO HERE heal heal heal heal. Get rooted? auto run. Maybe this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  5. ItsLilpeanut

    The great thing about teaching dogs new tricks is… we’re not dogs. This is so doable, Cyn, (but only if you really want it). It takes 21 days of continuously doing something in order for it to be a habit. So just keep at it. Write down some of your keybinds over and over if it will help. But maybe revisit why you’re doing this in the first place. I mean, did you suck at WASD and the way you had your UI before?I’m also trying to create a new habit of looking people in the eye when saying “Thank you” or “You’re welcome.” Especially to cashiers. I didn’t realize how challenging it would be, but at least I’m catching myself every time I slip.Keep us posted :)

  6. Cameron

    Hang in there! I know the pain of TOTALLY redoing your keybindings, and getting use to a new movement scheme is especially tough – but you’ll get it! If it’s sink or swim and you can already tread water, you’re going to end up swimming.