Or, how the last trackball enthusiast learned to love the mouse.
November 15, 1997
by jason "loonyboi" bergman
Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen
(or, how the last trackball enthusiast learned to love the mouse)
When last we spoke on this here page, I was quite happy returning to my Logitech Trackman Marble after a strange experience with the SpaceOrb 360. Well, since then another controller has entered into my life, and it's not the one I was expecting.
Yes, I fell under the seductive spell of the mouse.
Gone are the days of the one-handed Quake game. Gone are the years that would go by before I really needed to clean out the trackball. Gone are the days of blowing myself up with the rocket launcher.
You see, I actually play pretty damn well if I say so myself. I'm not winning any tournaments anytime soon, but I'll certainly give you a run for your money.
So how did this happen? What in God's name could have caused me to relinquish the (obviously) superior input device in place of an archaic, puck shaped monstrosity?
Well, it was a gradual thing, actually. You see, I have grown to like the LAN party scene. You show up, woop some ass (or get your ass wooped, for that matter), and go home. Lots of fun. I rarely would bring my computer to these parties, so I'd be stuck playing on someone else's machine. And few, if any people at LAN parties have the stylin' Trackman Marble. So, I'd be confined to the mouse for the duration of the party.
It was the Fray that really did it for me. It wasn't that I did especially well or anything, but for the entire weekend I had to use a mouse. I started to use the keyboard + mouse combination, which I had seen other people using, but never really got into myself (frankly due to the fact that with the Trackman Marble I could actually play single handed allowing the other hand to change channels, or casually sip on a soft drink).
So basically here's what I came up with: W, A and (forward backward respectively) S, D (sidestep left, right) were my movement controls, space my jump, and naturally I had +mlook on. This is the standard Quake player's config, of course, I had never actually used it before.
Now, the first thing I noticed, was the ease with which I could move around corners. In particular, the stairs on DM4. Now, with the Trackman, sharp curves required me to whip the ball around, and then quickly move my thumb back over to its previous position, so I wasn't left staring in the wrong direction. No matter what though, for the duration of that turn, I was a sitting duck. With the keyboard + mouse config, I was able to make that turn by holding W + A and looking in the direction of any guys in the room. This was a totally new experience. Areas where I was previously screwed, I found myself kicking butt in.
But here was the strangest. I discovered (don't laugh, this was new to me) the circle strafe. Now I know that most people have been doing this since the olden days of Doom, but I'm a stubborn fool, okay? For those who aren't aware, the circle strafe is essentially moving in a circle, while maintaining your aim on a single target. The advantage to this is that you can keep firing, while avoiding fire yourself. True genius.
But that's not all I found! I soon learned the previously elusive rocket jump! And since I suddenly had not one, but two buttons free on my mouse, I bound them to aliases! I had never actually bothered to make any aliases, since, well...that would have required using the keyboard. But now, now, I added two useful aliases...I bound mouse2 to impulse 7 (the rocket launcher to the unaware) and mouse 3 I set to switch to the shotgun, fire once, and then switch back to the rocket launcher (impulse 2;wait;+attack;wait;-attack;wait;impulse 7).
But as much as I enjoyed these newfound discoveries, I was still a Trackman fan. I went home, and started up Quake to discover that I just couldn't quite play as well with the trackball. I tried my new config with the trackball, and while it worked better, it was still awkward at best. Rocket jumping was essentially impossible with the trackball, and I still had that damn problem with tight corners.
But still, I stayed with the 'ball.
It wasn't until I had to play a few more times with the mouse that I had to accept the fact that the trackball simply wasn't as perfect for Quake as I thought it had been. So I dusted off the ol' Microsoft Mouse, plugged it in, and went off to play on my LAN.
The results were drastic. Honestly, I saw an instant improvement. Now, naturally, being an LPB that has to factor in, but understand that I have managed to loose, and loose badly on a regular basis despite my ungodly ping. Suddenly, I was in the top few rankings. It should be a given, but I noticed my single player game improving as well. I ran through Zerstörer like there was no tomorrow.
|Actual unretouched screenshots|
But something was still wrong. Despite my newfound appreciation for the mouse, I had to accept the fact that it was still an incredibly lousy input device. While it may be the best choice for 3D games, it absolutely blows for precise graphics work. When you're worrying about moving single pixels, the Trackball is the clear winner.
My quest for the ultimate Quake device was at an end. I had tried the Assassin 3D, the SpaceOrb 360, the Wingman Extreme (yep, I tried that...odd experience) and even a gamepad or two in my quest. Each has their definite uses: the Assassin is a pretty good trackball, the SpOrb rocks Descent, the WE totally rules in X-Wing vs. Tie-Fighter, and the gamepads are necessary for any fighting or console-style game. When all is said and done, the mouse is the last word in Quake controllers.
Now I've heard the rants some people have made lately in defense of the joystick, or gamepad, or trackball or whatever. Let me just say this: just try the mouse. If it could grow on me, it could grow on anyone. No question. I hate the mouse. It's ugly, uncomfortable, and it requires actual movement of the wrist. And yet it provides the best gameplay for Quake.
If you need me, I'll be reading Blue's Doom Deathmatch Tactics (hey, he knew to use the mouse back in Wolfenstein, he's got to know something worthwhile).