The Flare Path: Espouses Esperanto

By Tim Stone on June 14th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Imagine never having to study another simulation game keyguide. Imagine if the eject key in Phantom Ace wasn’t the quickstart engine key in Eurofighter Low Level. Imagine if SHIFT+B activated the handbrake in OMSI: London, the parking brake in F-111: Hour of the Aardvark, and the anchor in Man o’ War IV. Imagine if there was a Victorian pram gathering dust in your attic, a Victorian pram inhabited by a malevolent, smallpox-riddled Mr. Punch.

Actually, skip that last one. Just imagine that the makers of vehicle games suddenly discovered solidarity and stopped trying our patience with myriad similar-but-not-quite-similar-enough control schemes.

Most sim developers are sim monogamists. Their dedication to their work means they don’t get to gadfly around the genre like the rest of us, and, therefore, don’t realise how frustrating and potentially off-putting it can be to arrive at a new sim and find yet another idiosyncratic keyboard layout. The first few hours in any recreational relationship should be exciting… gentle… happy. In the world of simulation, more often than not, honeymoons and reunions begin awkwardly with fumbling, annoyance, and disorientation.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

If the designers of vehicular pursuits were prepared to pull together and provide the same standard keyboard layout as an option, then within a year or two, I reckon most of us would be so familiar with the new lingua franca – the Sim Esperanto – that we’d never need to consult a key list ever again.

Of course, devising a common control scheme and getting it widely adopted, would be a technical and political challenge. Opuses like Falcon 4.0: BMS and DCS World utilize hundreds of complex key commands and boast long-established and perfectly content user communities. I’m sure there’d be many who would argue that programmable flightsticks render default keyboard layouts irrelevant. I suspect for others, that initial wrestling match is part of the initiation process, the test that proves you’ve got what it takes to grapple with 8 radar modes and a 132-step cold-start procedure.

The folk that diligently print multi-page key list pdfs and program comprehensive HOTAS profiles before firing up any new sim, would have the least to gain from Sim Esperanto (weak working title). Happily, they’d have nothing to lose from it either. Only those that chose to dab the big green star (weak working logo) at the bottom of main menu screens would take to the air in Flying Tigers knowing that the ‘RESET TRIM’ and  ’JETTISON ALL MUNITIONS” keys were exactly the same as they were in Storm Over Suez; only those that chose the Esperanto option over the dev’s default scheme would trundle off in Tigerphobia confident that the ‘ALIGN HULL WITH TURRET DIRECTION’ and ‘LOAD H.E.’ keys were exactly the same as their equivalents in Mailed Fist: Caen ’44.

The sheaf of contradictory keyguides on my manual shelf suggests there’s no perfectly ergonomic or logical way to turn a typewriter into a P-51 panel or a DAF dashboard. Sim Esperanto in its finalised form inevitably wouldn’t suit everyone. It wouldn’t have to. More of a safety net than a silver bullet, a user could tailor it to fit their own hand habits. Its usefulness would stem from its familiarity and the clever way tweaking a profile in, say, Routemaster ’67 or Rigs of Rods would – if you wanted it to – simultaneously alter a profile in Paris-Dakar, SpinTires, Hearse Simulator 2014… all your other truck/bus sims. Over a gaming life, days of tedious options fiddling would be eliminated.

So who would be involved in the creation of this labour-saving, befuddlement-banishing boon? You, me, and him over there in the Panzer Elite t-shirt, obviously. And there’d be little point in proceeding without some signs of interest from sim devs and publishers (I’ll be seeking these signs over coming weeks). I picture individual keystroke assignments being communally thrashed-out in comments sections like the one below. Forum threads at busy simmer hubs like SimHQ, TrainSim.com, and FlightSim.com would also play a role. How can we maximise overlap between train, plane, helo, boat and bus/truck schemes? Is a universal key profile technically feasible? Should ‘H’ be used for horns or headlights? Should ‘B’ be used for braking, bomb dropping, or BrylCreem application… If Sim Esperanto is to become a reality, many important questions will need answering.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

When spiders, crabs or coals scuttle, the World shrugs. When sailors do it, it’s all over the evening news – sometimes it even makes it into wordsearches.

For naming all but one of the eleven self-sunk ships hidden in the kelpy depths of last week’s Foxer, JabbleWok and FuryLippedSquid get flair points made from Lionel Crabb’s lucky dive weights.

I know the theme of this week’s puzzle. You don’t. Reverse that state of affairs by identifying the seven (eight, if you can miraculously decipher the blurry background map) elements in the collage above, deducing the link, then popping round to my house and lacing my morning espresso with 5cl of Brother Cadfael’s Extra-Strength Poppyjuice.

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64 Comments »

  1. Retro says:

    Mi ne kredas ke ĉi tio funkcios

  2. Uglycat says:

    My Dvorak keyboard says hello.

  3. Gap Gen says:

    I remember life before Half-Life, where WSAD didn’t exist and where every shooter had different controls, and it was a crapshoot as to whether you had mouse look. Also when people covered themselves entirely in denim and thought that beige was pretty cool.

    • nil says:

      I remember +mlook in autoexec.cfg, and thinking that the numpad was a fine place to put strafe keys (but A and Z were forward and back)

    • Scythe says:

      Man, I remember discovering mouselook. I played Jedi Knight using page up and page down to look up and down. I don’t remember how that was possible.

      I think Tim’s goals are admirable, but fear the summit is unattainable. This broth has too many cooks and they’re all Ramsay. Picking up a new sim and loading in a standardish key map sounds great, but I doubt the fractious and notoriously insular simming community would be able to muster sufficient unity to pull it off.

      “Landing gear down and landing gear toggle should CLEARLY be the same key.”
      “Impossible! The landing gear mechanism on the P-51D jams if the lever is raised during the lowering sequence! What if the player accidently taps it twice?”

      Et cetera.

      • DrScuttles says:

        Jedi Knight popped my mouselook cherry. And if I recall, it was inverted by default. Which makes sense. Bloody kids today making art pieces in Unity with non-inverted mouselook and no option to put it the right way round. Grumble grumble.

        • Lord Byte says:

          Hehehe same here, Jedi Knight was just impossible to play without it :) And the inversion was the reason even two years later I still had invert every game, until I finally sucked it up and learned it the other way around ;)

        • Reapy says:

          Yeah, to this day I have no clue why I prefer inverted. I guess the old flight sim explanation holds, it was the only experience previous to mouselook I had moving in 3d space, so went with that. I think one of the elder scrolls games was the first walking game that I used a mouse to look around occasionally in, but it was quake that popped my cherry.

          There I was, all crowded up on the right side of the keyboard, ready to utilize my epic doom 2 /duke 3d skills because I had bound my strafe left and right to , a super advanced technique. Page up and Page down were bound to look up and down, and in I went for some pwnage…with predictable results.

          Still I feel like inverted is a dieing breed, and honestly I will probably teach my kids with ‘normal’ since that is the default set up in most games and is sometimes excluded from indies. Though maybe I’ll have them go inverted, just to continue the lineage, and I won’t have to change the config every time I swap in to play.

      • baozi says:

        »This broth has too many cooks and they’re all Ramsay.«
        …I might want to steal this.

      • phuzz says:

        I spent up until sometime after HalfLife 2 came out, always re-mapping WASD to the cursor keys, until one day where I just thought ‘fuck it’ and learnt the standard way. It did mean I could use one edge of the num-pad and the right Shift/Ctrl/enter keys, along with Delete/End/Pg Down for all sorts of things (as I recall I used 0 on the numpad as reload), still, I don’t miss it now.
        I’m not sure when I was first initiated into the holy clan of mouselook, probably Quake.

        • mr.black says:

          I’m left-handed and since I didn’t go to wasd till now, probably I never will. What annoys me is the lack of common sense in developers who insist I must map every direction key to cursor keys individually. Oh really. I just remapped w to up. So pray tell, what could be the odds I’d left other three keys back on the default and not do the same blody thing with other three directions..

    • Echo_Hotel says:

      I remember my Unreal Tournament setup with “IJKL” and “;” “.” for weapon switching.
      It seemed logical at the time…

    • JiminyJickers says:

      The first game I played with wasd controls was Jedi Knight Dark Forces 2. That came out before Half Life. Have been using wasd since then and have never looked back.

    • Widthwood says:

      Before Halflife I remember Quake 2 LAN matches and my transition from keyboard-look and arrows to inverted mouse and ESDF. ESDF seemed much better, because I had more available keys for pinky, it was farther from unbindable caps lock, and I could switch up to 7 weapons without releasing forward key. And mouse was inverted because I got used to to it while playing Privateer.

      Been rebinding controls in every single fucking game ever since… (except for Drakan, that one had ESDF by deafult)

    • cptgone says:

      WASD is no fun on my AZERTY keyboard.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Ha yeah, I guess you have to remap in that case. I remember having to use an AZERTY keyboard that my computer thought was a QWERTY. Very confusing if your touch-typing failed you, or if you needed to hunt for punctuation.

  4. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Tut, I’m crap with aeroplanes but that badge looks a lot like the French Foreign Legion insignia.

    Edit: Bottom-right, an IL-2 Sturmovik?

  5. Zephro says:

    Bottom right looks like an IL-2

  6. Surlywombat says:

    An admirable goal and you have all my best wishes.

    It will be an astonishing achievement when complete. Especially if you consider devs and console makers can’t even get developers to use the same buttons for the same purposes when there are only 10 of them on a pad.

  7. Korvus Redmane says:

    Top left: Hawker Typhoon? Fairly sure its a Hawker aircraft

    Edit:Top right even….

  8. skink74 says:

    Bottom left looks a lot like a Messerschmitt Me410 “Hornet”

    • Smion says:

      The plane at the top is a TB-3 or, in its civillian version an ANT-6, so there’s probably some sort of small crawly theme going on!

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      I can’t see how Sturmovik or the Foreign Legion would fit with that.

      • Korvus Redmane says:

        Or the Hawker for that matter

        • skink74 says:

          It’s not a Hawker, the shape is all wrong especially the underside of the nose. As best I can make out it’s a Morane-Saulnier M.S.406.

          • Zephro says:

            Yep an MS 406 C I think. Curses I thought I got their first.

          • Zephro says:

            The French Foreign Legion is the beret badge for command, if that’s any use.

          • Korvus Redmane says:

            Ah that does look more likely, i had my suspicions about it, what with the underside not quite matching, and the canopy being too long, the Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 looks a lot more likely. Clearly need to bone up on french aircraft!

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        So, let us recap…

        A Tupolev TB-3

        A Morane-Saulnier M.S.406

        An IL-2 Sturmovik

        A Messerschmitt Me410 “Hornet”

        And a French Foreign Legion cap badge

        Hmmmm.

        • Midwinter says:

          The foreground map is the neighbourhood of College Point, in the New York borough of Queens. I’m fairly certain that the red area is Flushing Airport, closed in 1984.

        • Zephro says:

          It looks like college point in Queens. Which is on flushing bay. It’s Powell’s Cove at the top. That took a lot of googling.

          EDIT: OH FFS second again >.<

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            lol

            You clever bastards.

          • Zephro says:

            The other plane in black silhouette. It’s got a radial engine so I reckon it’s more likely to be American or Japanese…

          • Zephro says:

            As they all have abbreviations so far French Foreign Legion command seems to be abbreviated to COMLE.

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Yeah the plane does look Japanese, damned if I can find a match though. Or a link between even two of the things we’ve discovered apart from nationality.

          • Midwinter says:

            So at first I was thinking naval.. Battle of Flushing, USS Hornet, the character from Hunt for Red October..

            Then Zephro’s abbreviations comment got me thinking about illness.. TB, ME, MS, FLU (Flushing Airport), Legionnaires’ disease, and the IL-2 was the Hunchback.

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Or just IL, heh.

            It’s certainly a good theory!

          • Zephro says:

            Yeah I was thinking about illness with the abbreviations/acronyms thing. But could not work out how COMLE or College Point fitted in. Good work! :)

          • Zephro says:

            I had my fingers crossed some make of craft had the code H5N1 ¬_¬

          • Zephro says:

            Damn I found a make of Italian plane called CANSA but no match >.<

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Arf, I admire your twisted dedication, Zeph.

        • Elementlmage says:

          Except it’s not an Il-2, it’s a Yak-3… i.e. The greatest prop-fighter ever made, comrade! Or at the very least, it’s a Yak-1 derivative. They all look quite similar.

          Which makes this theme…the Free French Normandie-Niemen?

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Nah, that’s an IL-2, cockpit frame at the top gives it away.

        • inferno493 says:

          The plane in silhouette is a Rockwell S2R Thrush Commander.

          • inferno493 says:

            So we have Thrush, Legionnaires, MS, TB, ME ( Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome), FLU, IL (or hunchback / kyphosis?). Can’t make out that background map at all.

          • Smion says:

            I tried looking for maps of historic leper colonies but couldn’t really stomach the image search results enough to investigate further, so there might or might not be something to it.

          • Zephro says:

            It’s going to be a military map. About all I could make out were low hills, which indicates it’s a reconnaissance map rather than one with proper nouns.

  9. nimzy says:

    I’m going to guess the solution is going to start with joy2key in some fashion.

  10. wodin says:

    Since the sad loss of the keyboard layout card you could put over your keyboard most modern sims are well beyond me..

  11. Zenicetus says:

    Nope, as a HOTAS user, I’m against the idea of Key Function Esperanto. I disagree that we wouldn’t be affected, just because we can program any function to a HOTAS key switch.

    First of all, as a practical matter, there just aren’t enough keys in the unshifted state to allow reserving generic functions for a wide variety of games. The “G” key is usually the default for cycling landing gear in flight sims, but it makes no sense to reserve “G” for landing gear in a submarine game where it would make more intuitive sense to activate the deck gun. There aren’t enough functions in common, once you get away from flight sims into the world of mechs, tanks, subs, and spacecraft.

    Developers of the more complicated tactical sims need the freedom to come up with whatever control scheme they think works best. As you point out, with HOTAS it’s already easy enough to map common functions. I have a switch on my Thrustmaster Warthog throttle that always deploys landing gear in any game with landing gear. It’s just not that hard to set up.

    But the main reason I think it’s a bad idea, is that I think it would give developers an incentive to dumb down their games. I think we’d see the more specialized functions buried deeper in Shift/Alt/Control shifted key layers, with the top layer using only generic Esperanto keys for “easy access for beginners.” As a HOTAS user I’d still have access to those keys through programming, but it would remove one whole keyboard layer that might be needed for more specialized functions. Even with HOTAS, I can’t fit everything I need for some games on the hands-on switches, so it’s good to have unshifted keys available on the top keyboard layer..

    • Tim Stone says:

      The dev’s choice of keys would remain the default. I pictured the ‘Sim Esperanto’ scheme as a one-click selectable option. Tick a prominent menu screen box, and, hey presto, you know where everything is.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Sure, as a one-click option it would be trivial to program. I still think it would color a developer’s thinking about how to set up the overall control scheme. It would be an incentive to combine functions in the underlying sim engine, in order to have something that could fit the Sim Esperanto layout.

        There’s an interesting question here about how sim controls are designed in the first place. Does a sim developer program controls from the “bottom up”…. i.e., “here’s how we want the sim engine to perform, so we’ll need this set of controls”? Or does the developer program from the top down, working from the kind of control scheme they want to present to the user, and therefore possibly limiting the depth of the sim?

        I’m just worrying that a Sim Esperanto “feature” would encourage the latter approach, to the detriment of the simulation. It wouldn’t have to be that way, of course. Every developer would have their own approach. But with the move away from joysticks and mouse + keyboard in favor of gamepad controls in recent years, I don’t think they need any further encouragement to dumb things down.

        • Tim Stone says:

          Choosing Esperanto wouldn’t mean choosing fewer/simplified controls. In a sim like Falcon 4.0 you’d still have a key list as long as your arm. The value is entirely in the standardisation. Learn the ‘Change HUD colour’, the ‘Next waypoint’ key or whatever, in F4.0 and you won’t have to learn it in any future sim.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Esperanto is, I fear, perhaps too apt a name for this. Noble, and doomed. Still, one can dream.

  12. zachforrest says:

    damn, another Foxer I can’t play

    I’ll just linger at the back of the group when they go and show the answers to Sir. If i don’t have some FP points in my jotter this term, mum’s going to go bananas.

  13. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    That guy in the Panzer Elite T-Shirt has got style and I do like this idea.

    Memorisation of controls is generally what puts me off sims these days – that entry point barrier, not the difficulty and authenticity (that’s what I love). It’s a shame, I used to sink too many hours into sims when I was younger and If I could devote all my time to a single sim now things would be a-ok, but limited time and too many games aren’t going to make that possible.

    Hell, I’d buy a custom controller to make everything easier if I could – something like Steel Battalion’s which mind if you is flaming glorious to use, light up buttons and all.

  14. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    If you know and we don’t, how can we reverse this state of affairs without applying concussive trauma to the skull of one Mr. Stone?

    *hefts hammer*

    • Ericston says:

      I suppose you’ve never had the pleasure to taste a good dose of Brother Cadfael’s Extra-Strength Poppyjuice? Or maybe you had, and forgot… forgot it all…

  15. cptgone says:

    i think this is a wonderful initiative – but then again, i learned Esperanto on my own initiative as a kid… and i never, ever got to use it :lol: