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Ben Heck builds WASD-replacement footpedals

Ben Heck builds WASD-replacement footpedals

Ben Heck's footpedals, built in response to a viewer request, are designed to replace the traditional WASD control scheme in PC gaming.

Noted hacker and maker Ben 'Heck' Heckendorn has published details of his latest creation under Element14's auspice: footpedals designed to 'replace' WASD gaming controls after their 32 year run.

The WASD control system, which uses the aforementioned letter keys in place of the traditional cursor keys, was first seen in the 1982 game Mazogs where it served to make up for the Sinclair ZX81's lack of sensible keyboard layout. It caught on in the era of first-person shooters when mouse-look became the norm, allowing the left hand to sit at a more comfortable distance from the mouse-controlling right - unless you're a sinister lefty, of course - while also providing easy reach to other keys that could be mapped to weapon changes, jumping, object usage or leaning.

WASD as a control layout has become so normalised that gaming keyboards typically come with replacement keycaps for those specific letters in eye-catching colours or with a deeply scooped design. Now, though, its days may be numbered - at least, if Ben Heck has his way.

Known for his innovative controller designs and homebrew laptops, including one based on a Commodore 64 and another on an Xbox 360, Heck is now the resident hacker at electronics giant Farnell/Element14 where he has created one possible successor to the WASD layout: footpedals.

A viewer of the Ben Heck Show, dissatisfied with the 'finger-twister' training required to excel at modern games, suggested the creation and Heck obliged. A pair of foot pedals provide mapping to four keys by responding to two levels of motion: a partial press activates one mode, while a heavier press activates the second. The result, Heck claims, is a natural-feeling control system. It allows for forward, backward and strafing motion without the need to lock the left hand to the WASD cluster, although Heck states that he sees it as being of more use mapped to other in-game functions.

The entire project has been created from scratch, using a 3D printer for the pedal parts and the popular Teensy microcontroller - chosen for the ease at which it can be turned into a joystick, keyboard or mouse Human Interface Device controller - for interfacing with the PC.

If you're curious how it was made, or how it works, Heck's video on the project is reproduced below.

25 Comments

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iggy 15th April 2014, 14:17 Quote
can i just get a strategic commander for my foot instead of buttons please?

this would then leave the other foot free for a fire button. or jump. possibly both.

http://netego.dk/wp-content/strategiccommander.jpg
Jimbob 15th April 2014, 15:46 Quote
I'm disabled so I use FragPedals so I can use my feet for keyboard shortcuts. They are not that well made and pretty expensive for what they are. They also take a lot of getting used to.
erratum1 15th April 2014, 16:18 Quote
Not sure my feet are as fast as my fingers...they feel slower.

wasd linked to brainwaves....thats what I need.
Yadda 15th April 2014, 16:26 Quote
I don't think those pedals are designed to replace WASD (in fact, Ben himself says that's not their purpose) but allocating other commands to them like he does in the video with Titanfall looks very useful.
Nexxo 15th April 2014, 16:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimbob
I'm disabled so I use FragPedals so I can use my feet for keyboard shortcuts. They are not that well made and pretty expensive for what they are. They also take a lot of getting used to.

Christ. I see what you mean. I smell a modding challenge!

EDIT: Ben Heck's design seems needlessly complicated.
Gareth Halfacree 15th April 2014, 16:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yadda
I don't think those pedals are designed to replace WASD...
You need to read that part with the knowledge that my tongue was very firmly in my cheek as I wrote it...
Yadda 15th April 2014, 17:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
You need to read that part with the knowledge that my tongue was very firmly in my cheek as I wrote it...

Fair enough, but you go on to say, "The result, Heck claims, is a natural-feeling control system that allows for forward, backward and strafing motion without the need to lock the left hand to the WASD cluster." :?

In the video he only uses them for forwards - backwards - l/strafe - r/strafe in early testing but says that's not what they're designed to do.
hyperion 15th April 2014, 17:09 Quote
Instead of partial/heavier press, I thought it would've been more natural to have a toe/heel press for each key, as well as pivoting your foot left and right for an extra two keys. Then you could map wasd to a single foot and map other movement keys to your other foot i.e jump, sprint, walk and crouch.
Gareth Halfacree 15th April 2014, 17:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yadda
He only uses them for frwards-back-l/strafe-r/strafe in testing but says that's not what they're designed to do.
But they *can* do that, and he demonstrates exactly that; yes, they can be mapped to any other four activities - but so could the WASD keys. If, y'know, you want to fight thirty years of muscle memory...

(Incidentally, I was alerted to the video by Farnell's PR agency, which sent it over with the title "Beyond WASD: Foot Pedals for PC Gaming," influencing the angle I took with the piece. That and my desire to show off that I KNOW WHERE WASD CAME FROM!)
Yadda 15th April 2014, 17:32 Quote
Sure, they *can* do that, but where does Heck claim it "..is a natural-feeling control system that allows for forward, backward and strafing motion without the need to lock the left hand to the WASD cluster"?

At least twice in the video he says that's what they're NOT designed to do.
Gareth Halfacree 15th April 2014, 17:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yadda
Sure, they *can* do that, but where does Heck claim it "..is a natural-feeling control system that allows for forward, backward and strafing motion without the need to lock the left hand to the WASD cluster"?
Perhaps that sentence is badly-phrased: Heck is claiming that it "is a natural-feeling control system." I'm then pointing out that it can be used - as he does in the video - to control motion without needing to lock the hand to the WASD cluster, which ties it in to the tongue-in-cheek "we'll all be gaming with our feet this time next Wednesday" theme of the article.

Here, I'll go and edit it for you, make it two separate sentences.

EDIT: "The result, Heck claims, is a natural-feeling control system. It allows for forward, backward and strafing motion without the need to lock the left hand to the WASD cluster, although Heck states that he sees it as being of more use mapped to other in-game functions."

Better?
Yadda 15th April 2014, 17:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Perhaps that sentence is badly-phrased: Heck is claiming that it "is a natural-feeling control system." I'm then pointing out that it can be used - as he does in the video - to control motion without needing to lock the hand to the WASD cluster, which ties it in to the tongue-in-cheek "we'll all be gaming with our feet this time next Wednesday" theme of the article.

Here, I'll go and edit it for you, make it two separate sentences.

EDIT: "The result, Heck claims, is a natural-feeling control system. It allows for forward, backward and strafing motion without the need to lock the left hand to the WASD cluster, although Heck states that he sees it as being of more use mapped to other in-game functions."

Better?

I think so, thanks Gareth.
Gareth Halfacree 15th April 2014, 17:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yadda
I think so, thanks Gareth.
No worries - thanks for helping me make the piece read more clearly!
Cheapskate 15th April 2014, 17:40 Quote
As a member of the arrow key using master race, I'm offended at the slant of your article.
Personally I'd rather have a footpad to mash function keys. That would be a lot easier than fumbling for a medkit when both hands are occupied and the situation is dicey.
Gareth Halfacree 15th April 2014, 17:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheapskate
As a member of the arrow key using master race, I'm offended at the slant of your article.
Arrow keys? Unclean! UNCLEAN! (Unless you're a lefty, in which case understandable! UNDERSTANDABLE!)
Cheapskate 15th April 2014, 18:46 Quote
You just hate us because our superior keyboard positioning.
Guinevere 15th April 2014, 18:56 Quote
Never know that Mazogs was the first WASD game. Loved that game. Live was so full of simples back then.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNWcN-yGrP4

</OldGwen>
Gareth Halfacree 15th April 2014, 19:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinevere
Never know that Mazogs was the first WASD game. Loved that game. Live was so full of simples back then.
I still play it:

http://gareth.halfacree.co.uk/pubimages/mazogs.jpg
Yadda 15th April 2014, 19:33 Quote
Looking at the key config screen in that Mazogs video, isn't it "W, A, D and X or W, S, H and J"? :p
Gareth Halfacree 15th April 2014, 19:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yadda
Looking at the key config screen in that Mazogs video, isn't it "W, A, D and X or W, S, H and J"? :p
Not on my copy it ain't: look at my fingers in the above picture. WASD all the way.
KayinBlack 15th April 2014, 23:50 Quote
I'd like a set for my new wheelchair desk. I still have up and down of my right foot, just can't pick it up easily (problems are higher in the leg.) What I want is a set that can mimic back and forth motion.
Yadda 16th April 2014, 00:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Not on my copy it ain't: look at my fingers in the above picture. WASD all the way.

I see what's happened. Your copy is probably the same but the reason "WASD" works is a happy accident: by using W, A & D from the "WADX" control config option, and instead of using the X as intended, you're using S which is from the alternative WSHJ control config. Voila! :)
Gareth Halfacree 16th April 2014, 09:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yadda
I see what's happened. Your copy is probably the same but the reason "WASD" works is a happy accident: by using W, A & D from the "WADX" control config option, and instead of using the X as intended, you're using S which is from the alternative WSHJ control config. Voila! :)
Hah! Makes sense - so although Mazogs was the first to feature WASD, it wasn't supposed to feature WASD. D'you know, I think there's an interview in this - might try to track down the author, see how he feels about inventing the number-one PC game control layout by accident!
Yadda 16th April 2014, 12:21 Quote
That's a good idea. It would be interesting to hear how he feels having possibly created the conditions for players to adopt WASD, completely by accident. It's like finding an evolutionary missing link.
bawjaws 16th April 2014, 13:15 Quote
Everyone knows that the best key config for 8-bit computing was QAOPM. Don't even get me started on QWPL, however!
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