WASD?! Watch your mouth!

Moving in 1994

TES: Arena was made back in day when the WASD key combination for movement wasn’t used much (if at all) and most movement keys defaulted to the “arrow keys”. In addition, the ability to remap the keys in a game was fairly rare too.

SIDENOTE: WASD = W – forward, A – backward, S – slide Left, D – slide right. In variations without mouse-look, “slide” is replaced with “turn”. This is pretty much the defacto standard today due to being able to control movement with the left hand and mouse with the right.

It’s been there all along

For the Arena Depixelization process, I have done a lot of “in-game” checking of textures. The controls always felt unnatural to me even when the game was popular, but I put up with it. Later when DosBox became a popular way to run old Dos games, it included an ability to “remap” the keyboard keys. So in theory, you could move the keys functions around (e.g. map the arrow keys to the WASD setup. The problem was that this mucked up the assignment of letters and makes typing words and text (such as naming spells and save games). I tried the new setup a couple of times but didn’t really “get” DosBox’s key mapping tool very well.

Left doesn’t equal Left

So earlier in May, I had enough and decided to really try and make something work. In a short period of time, I discovered that the key remapping tool in DosBox was actually pretty versatile and the method it used allowed me to employ a trick that would fix the “typing words” problem and still have an optimized control scheme.

Basically, after remapping all the keys, I assigned one key “L Alt”  as a master default key. This meant that anytime the Left Alt key was held down, ALL keys assignments reverted to normal behavior. For a game light on text input like Arena, this is a pretty elegant solution to the problem AND it works really well in the game and feels quite natural once you learn the key assignments.

I uploaded the files to the below two sites.



What’s this doing on an art blog

There was some graphic arts to this although hastily done and not quite as nice as I’d like it. I wanted to include a nice key template that laid all the keys out in an easy to understand and intuitive way. First, I scoured the internet for a decent picture of a keyboard (scoured = googled). After cleaning the image up a little, I added text box labels for every in-game key (including the few that I didn’t remap). Then I simply highlighted those keys with the paint bucket fill option and made all non-game keys a dull gray.

New control scheme
New control scheme

FUN FACT: There are several “new” keys that didn’t exist in the original game because the function only worked with a combination of keys before; such as there is now a long jump key as well as the regular jump (regular jump is really just hop in place), a world map key separate from the local map, a recast last spell key and slide left and right (which was only worked before by hold “.” and pressing a turn key)

All in all, it only took a few hours to get this done and now not only is it easier to test in game, but others can download this and use it for their game.

– Martin

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