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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

How do you move your MMO character, and are you doing it wrong?

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If you’ve spent time in Azeroth, Eorzea, or Tyria, you’ll be familiar with the traditional MMO control scheme. Aside from changing a few keybindings here and there, you probably move your character around in much the same way in each of those worlds. But what if you’re not doing it the way other people do? What if you’re making things harder for yourself? What if you’re doing it wrong?

It was only when I got to talking to a similarly invested MMO player friend and began discussing movement that I discovered that they move their character differently from the way I do. I know all about keyboard turning. I was guilty of the crime for the first year or so of my MMO career, but moving your character by holding down both mouse buttons?

Don’t be silly. 

You rebind the strafe keys to A and D, use W to move forward, and hold down right-click to keep your character faced in the same direction as the camera. Left-click is only employed during movement if you need to pan the camera around in a different direction from the one your character is facing. Yes, it may sound overly complicated and writing it down did almost make my brain explode. But I suspect it would be the same for you, especially if you’re working with years worth of muscle memory and actually have to think about what you do and why.

So how do you move your character? I asked the wider PCG staff for their go-to controls when running around in traditional MMOs.

Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: Now wait just a goddamn second, I switched to using both mouse buttons to move years ago because I thought that was the right way. I know for sure that what I was doing before that was definitely the wrong way. For my entire Guild Wars tenure and my first few years of Guild Wars 2 I moved around with the arrow keys. As in: with my right hand, while my left only did number row for skills and Tab for target changing, and I had no hand on my mouse at all. That was wrong.

The thing that finally convinced me to switch was one of the jumping puzzles in Guild Wars 2, the yearly clocktower challenge where you have to hop quickly across pieces of debris, ascending clockwise around the tower without getting caught by the rising fog. It required way faster turning agility than arrow keys could afford me so I had to learn to steer by mouse after being so pissed off I couldn’t complete it for probably the first three Halloweens. Now I can do the clocktower in my first try each year. You cannot beat the precision of mouse mobility. Don’t you dare tell me I’m wrong—I’ve been wrong before and repented already!

Robin Valentine, Senior Editor: I don’t play MMOs anymore, but I used to be huge into WoW, Guild Wars, and others, so I can confidently say: both mouse buttons is the only way to be. The thing about MMOs is, you spend so much time in them, often moving around not doing a whole lot—whether you’re just hanging out with guild mates, grinding out levels, or walking between towns because this character doesn’t have a mount yet. Using the mouse buttons to move makes that as effortless as possible, letting you steer your character around like a guided missile. If I’d used WASD throughout my MMO career I’d probably have arthritis in my left hand by now. 

When I was playing regularly, it definitely felt like how you controlled your character was a huge statement of identity. In WoW, the guild I was in was pretty prescriptive about stuff like that—if you weren’t controlling your character the right way, using the right mods, and playing the right build, you were a dangerous maverick and probably slowing everyone else down. So I suspect I picked it up from them, probably after being mocked for using WASD when I first started. Teenage raiders can be cruel… 

Phil Savage, UK Editor-in-Chief: OK, for real though, are you all just playing a big joke on me? You mean to say you’re out here driving your characters around with a mouse, and this somehow makes sense to you as a control scheme? I mean, sure I guess it works if you’re doing something basic like running between areas, but even then, surely auto-run does the job more efficiently. But in combat? In Guild Wars 2 jumping puzzles?! How is this a thing?

Sarah is correct here: the default keyboard tank controls most MMOs ship with are also bad and wrong. Just rebind A and D to strafe, like in literally any other third-person action game, and hold right-click on the mouse to adjust camera. “Ah, but Phil,” you might say, “with this setup you’re still near-permanently holding down one mouse-button. Does it make any difference to hold down two?” And sure, fine, but let me counter: how are you strafing? How are you exploring these vast, huge worlds lacking the ability to take a single step to your right? Why are you doing this? You could fix this nonsense at any time.

If you’re mouse driving, you already need to utilise A, D and S for any interaction that requires moving right, left or backwards. So just embrace using W to go forward. It’s the sensible choice.

Mollie Taylor, Features Producer: Phil, how can you have spent so much time playing MMOs and yet be so wrong? There’s only one correct way to move in an MMO: Bind autorun to your mouse and cart your character around with one hand while scrolling through your phone with the other. Don’t forget to occasionally glance up to make sure you’re not flying into a wall or accidentally cruising straight past your destination.

Of course, if I’m actually trying to raid then I will dedicate both hands to movement—I mainly play Final Fantasy 14 and will swear by legacy movement until I die. Backpedalling and slowly rotating my character like a rotisserie chicken in standard movement was doing me no favours, so I made the switch to quickly dash out of AOEs without having to swing my camera around first. 

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