Fidgety Fingers

I knew right off the bat that starting a new game comes with a steep learning curve: the base game mechanics, how to make lotsa make-believe money, what sort of activities to do, and so on. Little did I realize that it actually involves something far more fundamental.

Namely, the basic keyboard/mouse control scheme.

I’ve never needed to remap my keyboard to play Star Trek Online; the basic A-left/D-right turning works like a charm, especially in space combat, and I’m very used to clicking icons with my mouse to activate everything else. Even though I know keybinds can enhance DPS, I don’t like how you need to fill out your trays – it’s very confusing and not-at-all intuitive, so I go without keybinds.

I did the same on Rift too, and it worked, surely it’ll work on Guild Wars 2, right? Well, WRONG. In Guild Wars 2, movement is very important, and the default keyboard setup doesn’t allow me to move very well. In a sense, I always had the same problem on Rift, but I partially mitigated the issue with macros — and on Rift macros are part of the game, a very, very handy tool at that.

So what’s the problem here on GW2? Have a look at this:


Looks pretty typical, right? See anything weird? Well take a closer look.

  1. My left thumb is resting on the Space bar, and my fingers are on D, S, A and Shift keys. That’s what I am used to in Rift and in STO. With the standard WASD movement scheme, by default I am turning left and right with A & D, just like in STO. The main problem here is turning in GW2 is slooooow. If I need to turn to face an enemy behind me (especially in PvP), I’ll be long dead before I see him.
  2. With my right hand on the mouse, the Healing, Utility and Elite skills on keys 6-0 are extremely far away from the reach of either of my hands. I can’t reach them in the heat of battle, and what good is a healing ability that I can’t find in a hurry?
  3. I don’t have very good manual dexterity, so if my hand is resting on Space-D-S-A-Shift keys, reaching up to F1-F4 for Professional skills is a literal stretch for me. I will have to effectively take my entire left hand off its default position to press function keys, which presents a pretty big challenge.
  4. There are no keys for Dodging, which is a critically important ability in GW2 combat. Instead, by default it’s a directional double-tap, something I thought I was okay with, but it does have an annoying tendency to trigger by accident.
  5. What about mouse-clicking on icons, like I do on STO? It’s workable, but not very efficient because I’m also using the mouse to turn the camera.

A quick Google search reveals that this is an ongoing discussion topic among GW2 players,  there are a large variety of preferences out there, and most importantly, there is no right answer. When it comes right down to it? Every player needs a custom setup that they are comfortable with. But the key concept remains constant: you want everything within reasonably easy reach of your fingers, not sprawled out like the default setting. Put abilities that are rarely used or have long CD further away, and key abilities like Dodge and Heal on dedicated keys.

As an example, this is what I’ve set up in the last couple of days; it’s still a work-in-progress and I’m trying to get accustomed to it.


  • As you can see the active keys are a lot more compact to the left.
  • I’ve completely unbound the Turn Left/Right keys, since I am now turning with the mouse.
  • In lieu of Turning keys, Strafing lets me circle or kite attack. This one seems to be very common and widespread among players, and with good reason.
  • Dodge now has its dedicated, easily accessible key.
  • Professional Skills are tied to the bottom row of Z-X-C-V. Now they are still a bit awkward to use because I’m curling my fingers down to press them, and it’s quite easy to hit the wrong key (at least, for someone like me who’s new to this setup), but at least they are now within reach. The F1-F4 keys are no longer used.
  • Despite the new setup, moving and attacking at the same time is still proving to be a challenge. The number keys are just a midge beyond comfortable reach; I am one of those players who usually keep their lazy hand flat on the table, so in order to reach the number keys I have to lift my hand up…. very different than what I’m used to, and potential recipe for carpal tunnel. Also if I am strafing left with the A key, I can’t reach the 1 key for Weapon skill 1, which is the default spammable attack, but fortunately I can autoattack with that. But if I am strafing right with the D key, there is no way I can use Weapon Skills 4 & 5, so I can only use those when I’m strafing left. It’s still awkward, and I wish there is a better solution, but if there is it’s eluding me right now.
  • I may swap Weapon Skill keys with the Utility Skill keys, since QER are easier to access and Weapon Skills are more important. The problem is there are five Weapon Skills for three keys… where are the last two gonna go? One possible solution is unbind Move Backward key (since it’s slow and not actually critical), remap Move Forward to S, and use QERTF for the five Weapon Skills, also moving Interact to G. Hmm. Might work, might not. Will have to see.

This whole exercise isn’t trivial, cuz it’s going against deeply-ingrained reflexes and retraining my hands’ muscle memory. I got used to the movement part fairly quickly, now it’s more of a matter of letting my fingers stretch a bit further.


8 thoughts on “Fidgety Fingers

  1. Yikes… I’ve been incredibly burnt out on both STO and SWTOR lately and was considering giving this game a try, but this looks downright user-hostile. With my big hands it wouldn’t be as much of a literal stretch, but still… I’ve had carpal tunnel issues before (from bike riding, not gaming), and this looks like it might aggravate it again. :/


    1. Well you could still give it a try, since it is free to play. I should clarify that up to this point I have leveled all my toons with the standard keyboard layout, and in PvE play it’s entirely adequate to click skill icons; the reason I am now looking at remapping the kb is my main gal just hit max level, so I want to start training myself in preparation of WvW and PvP.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally did! I have been hammering at this game everyday since Christmas, and even though I just hit max level a couple of days ago, I’ve only explored about 40% of the world… none of which are the high level areas.

        If you decide to give it a try, lemme know and we can team up. GW2 has dynamic level adjustments so my effective level is adjusted if I’m in a lower level zone, which means teaming up pretty easy between toons of various levels.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I used an older version of this when I played:

    The one I used was called a Nostromo, cost me $20 at walmart, but it was years ago and it looks like they’re much more expensive now. Logitech makes a good one too. They’re programmable, you can even set them for doubletap off a single keypress. Been helpful in many different games really.

    Customizing keyboard controls is kind of a chore. I avoid games that require it now. I’ve become quite a lazy gamer.


    1. If I could get that for $20, I would totes jump on it… even if it’s an older model. Alas, I think these things cost far more these days. That said I did upgrade to a Logitech G602 gaming mouse, which I just managed to set up properly tonight with Logitech Gaming Software. I am already making further changes to the writeup from this morning!


  3. (In response to your response to me) You’re awesome. 🙂 And thank you; if I do give GW2 a try I’ll definitely team up with you. I know I’ll need your help learning it. lol


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