Challenge Series 2009: Challenge 02

23rd September 2009

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Welcome to Challenge Number 02.

If you don’t know what the Challenge Series 2009 is all about, please read the Introduction.

Onto the second challenge.

The Challenge

I challenge you to change the keybinding for “use”.


Open the options menu of the mod or game you are playing and scroll down to the “use” item and double click the current key and press/click the new key or button. Alternatively you could use a neat little application called Steam Sauce which can set global key assignments, plus a few other things too. It’s incredibly useful if you play lots of mods and want to avoid setting the keybinding for each new mod you add..


Firstly, let me just tell you that I am not doing this simply to make life awkward for you. Of all the challenges this could be the one that causes you the most problems at the beginning.

The number of different key combinations is almost endless. What you use and what I use are probably very different. To the left is a thumbnail of my current assignments for you to wonder at. I say “wonder at” because you will probably think it’s crazy, and you may be right. My “problem” is that using WASD for movement keys seemed so strange to me that I had to try something else.

I bought but never really tried the Belkin Nostromo N50 SpeedPad (not what you might think) and keep saying I will try it properly next month, but never have. Are there any readers who do use it or something similar?

I have little doubt that you current keybindings feel really comfortable to you and the thought of changing is difficult, maybe even scary, especially if you play lots of MP games and mods.

The reason that I am challenging you is that it’s quite possible the change will make you a better players. By “forcing” you to change, you may completely reconsider all your keybindings and that may make life easier for you in the long term. Of course, it’s entirely possible that what you use now is the perfect combination and this challenge will make things worse. If that is the case, I apologize.

Start with your “use” key and consider changing some other keys too. Don’t forget your mouse may have 5 buttons, so consider using one of those. In fact, I am changing my “use” key to mouse button four and my “reload” key becomes the old “use” key. I am sure I will end up reloading lots of weapons instead of opening doors, at least for the first hour or so!


I think it would be interesting if we share our basic keybindings with each other and even experiment using somebody else’s selections.

I choose the “use” key because I felt that would have limited impact on your overall playing but be important enough to make things feel strange for you. I considered the “sprint” keybinding and am happy if you want to use this one as well or instead of the “use” keybinding.

I chose my key because it allowed me to keep moving and still press it when I am moving. If I didn’t run this website then I wouldn’t have to worry about taking the screenshots and that would free up one keybinding, that I could use for something important, probably even the “use” key.

I also angle the keyboard a little, do you do the same?

Lastly, if anybody wants to send me a photo of their hand on the keyboard please do so and I will add it to your comment. Please don’t upload it somewhere and link to it because your comment won’t appear due to the moderation restrictions.

Other possibilities

I did consider a range of options regarding this particular challenge; using you opposite hand for mouse and keyboard, changing the axis of the mouse, changing all the key assignments, but the “use” key seemed the right one to select.

There is another one regarding the input devices, but no more after that. The others are about how you play the game, not how you control the character.

Your Experiences

Don’t forget a major part of the challenge series is to share our experiences. Don’t let my questions limit you but here are some to get you started:

  • What made you originally select the key you had before this challenge?
  • Did you use the mouse for the “use” key?
  • Did you use the mouse keys for any new assignments?
  • Once the challenge is over will you continue playing without the new assignments?
My Keybindings

I planned to take a photograph of my hand position but I don’t have any batteries that work, so for now I will just list the major bindings:

Forward: R
Backwards: Space
Strafe Left: E
Strafe Right: T
Use: A
Duck: G
Reload: Y
Right Mouse: Jump
Left Mouse: Primary Fire
Middle Mouse: Secondary Fire
Wheel Up: Next Weapon
Wheel Down: Screenshot


  1. confused

    WOW, this is going to be interesting… Btw I just use the default, my hands are small so it feels comfortable the way it is. I tryed placeing my hand the way your controls are, and I was surprised at how natural that also felt! I think I’ll try your way and if I can’t get used to it I’ll just change the use on default.

    Btw now that the “no crosshairs” challenge is over, I’m sorry to say that I will be turning my crosshairs back on. Just for the sake of correct aiming and less loss of ammo you understand.

    1. confused

      After getting half-eaten by headcrabs and walking right into sparking electricity, I decided to revert back to default then swap “E” (use) with “F” (flashlight). Anyway, I’ll inform you later how this went.

      1. confused

        This is unrelated (and it will be my last triple post ๐Ÿ™‚ ) but I have tried the Belkin Nostromo N50 SpeedPad and it was very useful and easy but now I don’t recall where it is so I’m just using WASD.

  2. Planetary

    Tab’s as good an alternative as any. Or alt. No one uses alt these days….

  3. I use my left hand for mouse so I can’t use WASD.
    mouse keys:
    Left Mouse: Primary Fire
    Right Mouse: Secondary Fire
    Wheel Up/Down: Next Weapon

    Right Hand:
    Arrows to move
    Delete to Reload
    R.Shift to Run
    R.Control to Crouch
    #0 on Keypad to Use
    Space key to Jump

    1. bobdog

      With that right-hand configuration, how the heck do you reach the space bar to jump? That’s some loooooooong fingers there! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. I got big hands or I use my mouse thumb. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I change all movement key bindings to arrows, forward slash to duck , R shift to run but keep space bar to jump.
    For “use” the back space key – nice and near, but not to near, my movement keys to go and hide when opening doors, or charge in.
    I always switch off screenshots after having taken hundreds when I thought I was saving!
    But have I done the challenge? Or did you mean that we alter a key binding we have already changed from the default?
    I’ll have a bash anyway with a map I have played.

    1. I guess this means you use your left hand for the mouse like I do?
      By the way I’m right handed. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. WOW, that’s unusual. Are there any other PP readers out there that use the mouse with there less dominant hand?

        In fact, I did consider swapping ahnds for one of the chalelneges, but I think I have found some much more interesting ones.

      2. No! I’m very right handed. Mouse in right hand. Most keys Left handed but I play with the keyboard over to the left so that the keys I use on the right of the keyboard are placed for my left hand to use.
        Works well for me and I’ve just finished SM on normal – that last Strider is a pussy. Waiting for the final, debugged, release before playing on hard.

    2. Old habits die hard.
      Failed and do not want to do it again!
      Picked “Countdown to destruction” because it’s easy.
      Changed LH mouse to move forward and enter for primary fire – this is what my much better half uses. I know, I do not understand it either. Probably a left over habit from Doom or Quake.
      Died lots, Did not make it to the rocket. Gave up. Bother!

  5. bobdog

    I have long used the “Quake” bindings, ever since they first came out; in fact, one of my main gripes about a game is when it does not allow me to rebind my keys just the way I like ’em. WASD always seemed too twisted for my fingers, and the four directional keys are too limiting.

    So my bindings are:
    Forward – right mouse
    Left – comma (left pinky)
    Right – period
    Back – right ALT
    Sprint – right SHIFT (left pointer finger)
    Jump – forward slash
    Duck – quotes
    Attack – left mouse
    Alt. Attack – right CTRL
    Weapon change – mouse scroll up/down
    Zoom – push scroll button
    Reload – mouse thumb button
    Grav Gun hotkey – mouse pinky button
    Light – L

    In other games, I’ll also bind I for Inventory, O for Objectives, and P for Player Stats.

    For USE, I have bound the SPACE, which I tap with my left pinky. I alternately use the ENTER button.

    The only problem I have with these settings, although they feel the most comfortable for my hands, is that I can’t type any messages in game without having to reset my finger placements. So for multiplayer games, I generally can’t respond quickly with written comments.

    1. bobdog

      I forgot — I do slide my keyboard about 4 inches to the left when I play with this setup. This gives my arms a more natural extension, rather than being cramped together near the mouse.

  6. Keep those keybindings coming. If I get time this weekend, all try and photo my hand in the different configurations for a quick visual guide.

  7. I can’t believe how weird bindings people use. I thought most people used regular WASD bindings. That’s pretty interesting.

    That’s how I play:

    WASD – Forward, strafe left, back, strafe right
    E – Use
    Q – Last Weapon
    Space – Jump
    R – Reload
    F – Flashlight
    L. Ctrl – Crouch
    Z – Zoom
    L. Shift – Sprint
    L. Alt – Walk
    M1 – Primary fire
    M2 – Secondary fire
    1,2,3… – Weapons
    F5 – Screenshot
    F6 – Quicksave
    F9 – Quickload

    I think these are perfect combinations.

    With these combinations you can’t strafe left and duck at the same time. Maybe not so important, but you can’t.

    @Black Dog:
    With these combinations you can’t even jump and duck. This makes it hard to jump high. Also reloading should take some time. In action it can be punishing.


    I guess you are not using classic QWERTY keyboard, right? Otherwise it looks impossible to play with these bindings.

    1. Reloading is no prob. jump and duck and move forward is a little hard to do. Guess I’ll change my key binding.
      Maybe. lol

    2. confused

      Yep looks perfect to me! ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. bobdog

      Yup, QWERTY, although my new keyboard is more rectangular than my old one, and I do sometimes hit the WINDOWS key when I’m trying to hit the ALT key — very embarrassing when I’m playing L4D and go AWOL….

      Basically, I’ve got two levels of keys that I can reach easily with my left hand, and because I have the forward key bound to my right mouse button, I’m able to duck, run, jump or go side-to-side easily. I do give my left pinky quite the workout though, as it is responsible for 7 bindings.

  8. Grey Acumen

    I already completed this challenge months ago. This was prompted from getting a new mouse that had the 2 extra buttons in a slightly different position than the mouse I was replacing. As a result, the other button was easier to press without moving my hand over my mouse a great deal, so I switched it from the reload key to the use key much like you did, with the other extra button handling reloading.
    I am going to send a picture of my hands while gaming, but it wont be just on the keyboard. My keybindings work like this:

    Mouse1/Mouse2=Primary Fire/Alt Fire
    ScrollU/ScrollD = Inv Next/Inv Prev
    Mouse3=Last Inv
    DualShock w/ USB ADAPTER:
    Left Analog = Move/Strafe
    L3(analog button)=Sprint(Walk in HL1)
    Dup=Zoom(Spray Logo in HL1)
    Ddown=GravGun(crowbar in HL1)
    Dleft=Command Squad(Switch Gina/Colette in HL:Decay)
    Select=Toggle Console (I can’t bind the Menu that is pulled up by pressing the escape key, but the menu is pulled up automatically when the console is toggled, so it can accomplish the same thing)
    R2(shoulder)= [reverse joystick] (HL2 and mods using the same engine have a bug that reverses the left/right on a joystick when using a vehicle. This button gets assigned a script that reverses the joystick. You just have to remember to hit it every time you enter or exit a vehicle in a HL2 game or mod. Games and mods using the Episode 1 or 2 engine do not have this bug)

    I’ve played all of my goldsource and source games and mods using these controls. I grew up as a console gamer, so I hate having extraneous buttons fouling my controls, or having to take my hand off my primary control in order to handle a secondary task, but I could always tell that a joystick was not a proper method for controlling your aim. So I had no trouble dropping that half of the controller for a Mouse.

    Even before I got the keybindings for my controller working right, I still had reload and use assigned to the mouse 4&5. This allowed me to use: e=flashlight, q=zoom(crowbar in HL1), x=gravgun, ctrl=command squad, shift=sprint(walk in HL1), alt=duck, and space= jump.

    Since I’ve essentially come in late to this 10 week challenge thing, and I’ve basically already done this challenge on my own, I’m going to use this week to do last week’s challenge.

    And since you mentioned the speedpad, I’m going to point out that even though I haven’t used it, the Logitech G13 gameboard looks a lot more appealing to me. It’s not perfect, but it would allow me the extra buttons for those games that expect you to use 500 different keybindings.

    1. Grey Acumen

      Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. For you lefty players out there, the gamepad configuration that I use can fairly easily be switched around so that you hold the gamepad in your right hand and the louse in your left, but you really need Mouse4&5 to support the lack of buttons on a gamepad vs a keyboard.

  9. AnonEntity

    Arrows to move. Since I started to play pc games mid “80s. Never looked back.
    Use: spacebar
    Duck: C
    Reload: R
    Right Mouse: Secondary Fire
    Left Mouse: Primary Fire
    Middle Mouse: used on RTCW to kick
    Mouse Wheels Previous\Next Weapon
    Throw weapon: Q (FarCry)
    Throw Granade: G
    Flashlight: F
    Binoculars: B
    Zoom: Z
    Basically identical bindings on all games…..

  10. My binding allows me to keep my left hand allways at the same place, except for tag, flashlight, save/load and screenshot.

    Arrows to move
    Rigth ctrl to jump
    Right shift to duck
    Enter to use
    KP_ins (0) to reload
    * to run or walk
    Left mouse to primary fire
    Right mouse to secondary fire
    Middle mouse to gravity gun (reload in HL1)
    Mouse wheel to next/previous weapon
    F6 to save
    F7 to load
    F to flashlight

    In HL2:
    รƒยน to zoom and $ to squad commands

    Keep to mind that I have an european keyboard.

    For this challenge I try to bind the use key at E and weel… I tagged many buttons due to proximity of T key and hint Enter several time with no results.

    Finally I think I will try to angle the keyboard.

  11. Ade

    Yea, noticed that Phillip’s combination makes impossible to strafe left and duck at the same time and I think that is important, if you wanna make a quick exit through a small hole, but still fire at the enemy.. Also, the angle thing is very normal, some keyboards come that way, angled for each hand, so it’s understandable to angle a straight keyboard, I do that, too ๐Ÿ˜›
    I also have the basic key bindings, because some of them are standard in so many games, and even though lately I’ve been true to hl, I’ve gotten used to these.. Tried a few weeks ago to bind jump to scroll, man, that was hard! The point was that you could have 6-8 chances to jump per a whole scroll, rather than tapping the space key, but it was sooo weird.. But I AM gonna change sumthin: the weapons. No more 5 5 5 for slams, 2 2 for magnum followed by click, will place all of them on their own key and.. see how that fails, ahem, goes :S
    And nobody should feel weird, I’ve seen a LOT of combos that just made no sense to me, but if the player is used to them or became a better player by changing them that way, then.. fine by me ๐Ÿ˜›
    I think basically you need to: able to move (but advanced means more than 4 directions: shift+fwd+left/right+space, immediately followed by crouch) and fire (or reload or change weapon) at the same time, or 2.charge (use key) and move a bit and fire at the same time, but this one isn’t common, not too many chargers are placed in fight areas. Anyone got any more rules? ๐Ÿ˜›

    1. bobdog

      I think as long as your hands are comfortable and you can reach all the appropriate keys without having to move your hand and reset it, it’s all good!

  12. Jordan

    Sense I ussaly play Smod tactical alot I changed it to tab, and it was alot easyier, expeccialy picking up grenades and throwing em back ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. Planetary

    I use Valve’s default for everything.
    Except in TF2, I have voice bound to mouse3 (mousewheel clicking) instead of V, so I can talk while aiming/shooting and alt is scripted to be a panic button. (Spin around fast and attack when held down)

    Since I’m on a laptop, with no numpad, options for any fancy configs are much more limited anyway.

  14. SteveUK

    The Call of Duty series of games uses F for USE, so using that isn’t too much to ask…

    1. Depends on your personal preferences.

  15. Grey Acumen has kindly sent images of his keybindings. Here they are:

    Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3 Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3 Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3
    1. Grey Acumen

      Thanks, Phil. Now when I tell someone I use a Mouse and Controller for FPS, I can just show them this when their inevitable response is “You FPS with whaaaa?!?”

      1. Ol" Scratch

        Dude… you are going to blow your tendons right out of your wrists with RSI doing that… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

        I can’t see how you can be effective putting down the controller to hit the keyboard keys, then pick it up again… unless you have three hands… :-O

        1. Grey Acumen

          I don’t use the keyboard when I use the gamepad.

          This comment has been edited because it broke the comment rules – Phillip

  16. Ade

    Hmm, feels like something’s missing from the second pic. Also, aren’t 5 button mice heavier than the 3 button ones?
    But it gave me an idea, my bf can’t use crouch much because it’s not in the corner, the laptop has Fn (function number) and then crouch, so to reach that with the pinky means having a crooked hand ;)) maybe Alt could work ๐Ÿ˜€
    Ok, I changed all my weapons binding to be closer to the movement ones, though the xbow is on x, right under the move backward button, hopefully it won’t cause too much damage in-game, other than that, I got used to them pretty quickly (to my surprise!): 1 to 5 are the same first weapons, 6=slam, 7=rpg, x=xbow, c=357, v=ar2 and b=stunstick, I think. Also, switched the flashlight (now g) with g gun (now f) cus sometimes I was accidentally flashin for no reason.. Now I turn the flashlight on very often, but should solve in a week or so ๐Ÿ˜€
    And I’m gonna keep all these bindings, the results were almost the same in some cases in MP, cus my aim is the same and my movement suffered only a bit. Damn I’m good :))
    Thx PP for this challenge, didn’t have the courage to try these out til now!

    1. Grey Acumen

      The pic with the keyboard shows the only part of the keyboard I use. If you notice, it covers the exact same keybindings that the first pic of the controller covers (Except for the joystick reversal script, which isn’t needed for the keyboard) This keeps me from needing to switch any controls on the mouse if I change from using a controller to a keyboard.
      I have very strong muscle memory, which isn’t a problem adjusting between controller and keyboard, since my hand is in a very different position for each. The mouse would be a bigger problem since my hand is in the same position on it whether I’m using the controller or keyboard. The setup you see allows me pretty much ZERO adaptation time needed when switching between controller and keyboard.
      The reason why I use alt is because I can just roll my thumb between the spacebar and the alt key. If I left ctrl as crouch, I would have to curl my pinky in far enough that I’d be hitting the crouch key with the back of my pinky fingernail. I can’t see how anyone would find that comfortable.
      As for 5 button being heavier that 3 button, why would that be the case? It’s not like those two extra button are made of lead or anything. If it is heavier, it’s because the company decided to make it heavier. Mine is actually a microsoft mouse that I ordered from newegg. it’s actually a lot lighter than some of the other mice, but it’s still got enough weight that it doesn’t feel like I’m going to break it just by squeezing it.

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  18. cubedude89

    “”it’s quite possible the change will make you a better player””

    This could be the answer to why I really suck at games!

    I just use default settings.

    1. Could be, although you may suck with any keybinding!

    2. confused

      Hey, don’t blame your inability to play computer-games on the default key binding! Btw my basic analysis of this challenge is as follows: Since I switched “E” with “F” I ended up lighting things up a lot, so I never really got used to it. It wasn’t too game altering but got kinda frustrated when it recurred again and again! Onto the next challenge!

  19. Ol" Scratch

    Okay, I’m sorry, I just cannot do this. I tend to look for the most effective ergonomic solution possible with the given tools, so I tend to minimize as much key bindings that would take my left hand away from the WASD, so I can find it fast when I need it.

    My list:

    WASD, as usual
    Q-quick switch
    E- use
    1 to 0-weapons
    P-pause (or the pause key)
    C-swim up
    V-swim down
    KPminus-recall squad
    KPplus-send squad

    Simple and easy to find without looking. I put the quicksave/load where I can quicksave without looking (tho I think I’m going to swap them, it’ll be easier to find F1 without looking). Pretty ergonomic too. I also have weapon swap bound to the scroll ring, and something to mousekeys 3&4, but I don’t remember what they are–I use a Kensington Expert Mouse, 4 button with the scroll ring around the ball; my prior one was the Expert Mouse Pro, that just rocks at playing games.

    As for the challenge: nah, not for me. I’m not going to try to get used to something just because, I have a tough enough time with playing new (or different) games as it is, or swapping back and forth from one to another, especially if the controls are significantly different, and they won’t let me change them to match the HL2 bindings I use.

    1. Ol" Scratch

      oh, and I enable quickswitch without the silly pics, so I can just smack the corresponding button ’til I get what I want.

    2. I think we all look for the most effective solution but sometimes there are different solutions to the same problem and of course personal preferences. The point was just to get palyer to question their bindings in the hope that maybe some have made some bad chocies (me, for example).

  20. Here’s a question for all of you.

    Which actions are the most important for you to be able to do when moving forward?

    For me it’s sprint and use.

  21. tomato _dave

    Maybe I’m just as crazy, but couldn’t any more use your key mapping than fly unaided to the moon! Here’s what I do for the main “action” keys : made the most sense for me when I started HL1:
    Forward, Back, Left, and Right movement : arrow keys, just because its sensible
    Primary Fire: , because it’s the biggest and easiest to hit. I secondary Fire from the Left Mouse.
    Strafe Left: x
    Strafe Right: c
    crouch: z (a is jump)
    This way I can strafe back and forth using two fingers, and fire almost simultaneously with my left thumb. Killed a lot of folks diving back and forth around corners this way!
    Then with the Use key mapped to , I can whack it with the little finger as I get to doors, etc.
    Works well for me, and I would be quite dead, I think, if I were to try anything else at this point.

    1. tomato _dave

      Sorry: I used some weird chars in my answer, and some info was left off. I map ‘space” to fire and Left Ctrl to “Use’

    2. I didn’t want or expect anybody to use my settings. I just added them because seeing what other people use is quite interesting.

  22. T'krau

    My first posting here in a long time…

    Somewhere up there at the top of the page, Phil asked if anyone uses a Nostromo – I have an N52 that I SWEAR by! Serously, this thing rocks!

    Anyway, over the years I’ve developed a standard keybinding layout for the Nostromo/mouse – standard in that I try to bind functions from different titles to the same key(s) on the Nostromo and my mouse. The idea being that I only have to rearrange the keybindings once, and I don’t (usually) have to think about which key to hit to do something when switching titles. Some of the bindings are already pretty default to begin with, others I’ve assigned myself.

    WASD – movement
    space – jump
    R – reload
    L ctrl – crouch
    F – flashlight (if available)
    L Caplock – sprint, run, etc.
    E – use
    X – zoom (if available)

    L mouse – primary fire
    Middle (wheel) – weapons swap
    R mouse – alt. fire (if available)

    Works well for me, but I’ve been using this pattern for a number of years. About now, I doubt that I could be comfortable using a “normal” keyboard without a LOT of retraining.

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