Rethinking Controls in The Ancient Gods Part One

DOOM Eternal Controls

As of this writing, I still have not finished The Ancient Gods Part One, the first DLC for DOOM Eternal, in Hurt Me Plenty difficulty—as normal as a DOOM game can be. I planned to record a let’s play series for my third YouTube channel (a harebrained idea I’ve not executed on yet). However, I was dying so many times, I nixed the idea and realized that I had to fix my gameplay first.

Upon further introspection, I realized that much of my difficulties in DOOM Eternal is due to delays in action and reaction. I’d stand still for a second and think of what I should do next, which is not how the game should be played. I then understood why I would momentarily freeze—I was figuring out what to press next, and then shift my hand to hit a key.

It meant my controls weren’t optimal. Certain things were too far away and I had to lift my left hand to reach them. As much as possible, I don’t want to leave WSAD since constant movement is imperative in this game. That’s when I knew I had to change my control layout, and I’d like to talk a bit about my process.

Difficulty in DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part One

The Ancient Gods Part One asks you if you liked Marauders in the base campaign. Whether your answer is yes or no, it then gives you at least twice the number of Marauders because it loves you and it cares for your spiritual well-being. Devil May Cry V Special Edition added Legendary Dark Knight mode for Dynasty Warriors level of enemy numbers, and this DLC does the same for DOOM Eternal.

It reminds me of Serious Sam with its unhinged insanity. Even in Hurt Me Plenty difficulty, I found it a challenge to stay alive. However, perhaps it’s due to not having done enough to optimize my gameplay, from enemy priorities, movement around levels, resource gathering, and controls.

After some digging around, I realized that my control layout had to change in order to keep up. I knew even before the game came out that I’ll likely keep playing DOOM Eternal for quite a while in order to master it. Maybe I’ll beat Ultra Nightmare someday. But for now, I’ll have to beat this DLC first.

The Need to Change My Controls

I’m not one to change my controls when I play a new game due to having been a regular in internet cafes. Back in the day, if you’re the type who’s picky and meticulous with controls, you’ll have to change them every time you sit down to play. That takes up a few minutes, which is a long time if you’re on the clock and looking to get some fun in after school before going home.

In my head, it wasn’t worth getting good unless I do so with default controls. I was never good anyway, but that mentality stuck with me even to this day. It’s something I had to slowly crawl out of. I eventually changed my controls in StarCraft II, but only with a few keys.

Perhaps I could do more if I changed more things to make gameplay a bit easier. I remember adding 20 APM to my usual 80-100 by simply grouping all my buildings in one hotkey.

But with DOOM Eternal, stubbornness results in dying over and over again. It feels like frustration softens stubbornness and gives way to practical thinking. I want to enjoy and finish the game, but I can’t do that by remaining the shop rat I once was. Besides, I haven’t stepped foot in an internet cafe for years, so why do I still cling to that mindset?

Once I decided to change my controls, I looked for ideas. Fortunately, I didn’t need to look far.

Under The Mayo

Under The Mayo is an up-and-coming YouTube channel run by a fighting game player who took to DOOM Eternal and treated its gameplay much like he would with fighting games. His videos tackle the game unlike most who think of it as like any other single-player shooter.

His focus on DOOM Eternal is such that he even made a podcast for it. While he does play and review other games, most of his videos are about DOOM Eternal. His opinions on a lot of games are quite interesting due to his exacting standards. For instance, his response to Devil May Cry V—a game that got universal praise—was mixed due to how he hated the camera.

Whenever I have a question or problem with the game, I go to UTM’s channel and see if he made a video on it. So far, he has proven to be a great resource for advanced DOOM Eternal gameplay that doesn’t involve speedrunning. Also, he doesn’t just give the usual advice, but actually finds new ways to play the game, and a lot of those findings work great for The Ancient Gods Part One.

It turns out that he had a video on his control layout as well. Since he does play the game a lot better than I do, I found his advice to be valuable.

According to the video, he has the following key bindings:

  • Q: Rocket Launcher
  • E: Ballista
  • Z: Heavy Cannon
  • X: Plasma Rifle
  • C: Super Shotgun
  • F: Glory Kill
  • 2: Chaingun
  • Ctrl: Flame Belch
  • Mouse 4: Combat Shotgun
  • Mouse 5: Equipment Launcher
  • DPI Switcher: Switch Equipment
  • Wheel Up: BFG
  • Wheel Down: Chainsaw
  • Everything else is default.

We do have a few similarities. I also have E for Ballista and F for Glory Kill, so we both do quick-switching and have carry-over from DOOM 2016. I had also put my Equipment Launcher on Mouse 5 since I found my previous binding of Middle Click to not be optimal.

We’re similar in how we both don’t use the weapon wheel and scrolling through weapons, so his idea of Wheel Down for Chainsaw is brilliant. I would’ve never thought of that in a million years. Like he said, it does indeed feel satisfying to roll the scroll wheel down to chainsaw a demon in half for ammo.

That also frees up C for something else. Having weapons I use less often in ZXC is great since I have to lift my hand to hit the number keys. I used to have only Super Shotgun and Ballista outside of the number keys, which was short-sighted of me.

Having Ctrl for Flame Belch is also smart. One of the things I did badly was remembering to Flame Belch since I had it in R. It also played into me hitting R on reflex due to playing other shooters, which has R for Reload. I’ve been playing a bit of Valorant, so my muscle memory tends to take over. I shouldn’t be reloading after every single enemy anyway.

I may even have an advantage on UTM in respect to hitting Ctrl for Flame Belch. He mentioned that he hits Ctrl with his pinkie, which is in itself not optimal. I learned from playing StarCraft II that it’s a lot easier to hit it with your palm—just below the pinkie, what palm readers like to call Mount Mercury.

Not only is it easier for games, but for productivity as well. I never have to lift by left hand to press hotkey combinations that include Ctrl. This has since bled into my writing and multimedia work, and it’s little improvements like this that make my work more enjoyable.

My Modified Controls and Methodology

The layout I’m working with now is mostly based on UTM’s layout, but with a few modifications. I don’t feel that comfortable with his layout, even with long-enough practice, due to my existing habits and muscle memory. I was able to get more comfortable with each change.

Quick-Switching

First off, I put Super Shotgun back in Q since I got too used to quick-switching between SS and Ballista. I’m not as comfortable with quick-switching to Rocket Launcher due to how slow rockets travel. I put RL to C and I’ll just have to remind myself to use it more against big enemies.

SSB quick-switching is the one thing that significantly elevated my gameplay in DOOM Eternal, turning Ultra-Violence difficulty from almost impossible to manageable. That also made fighting Marauders from difficult and tedious to easy and enjoyable, so I definitely want to keep that.

Other Weapons and Equipment

I then put Combat Shotgun to 1 since it’s left empty in UTM’s layout and I was already used to pressing it for CS anyway. I find pressing Mouse 5 to be difficult for my hand size and fingertip grip style, and pressing Mouse 4 took me years to get used to.

But since I’m used to clicking that side button now, I can keep the Equipment Launcher on Mouse 4 since that’s better than using Middle Click, which makes me have to stop shooting in order to do so.

Meanwhile, I kept Switch Equipment to Tab since I felt it was easier to keep it in reach of my left hand. I have the Dossier at Num Enter since I actually use that key a lot in my daily computing (which is why I still refuse to get a tenkeyless keyboard).

I regularly hit Num Enter with my right thumb instead of having to shift my left hand to hit Enter, and I even prefer that to double-clicking.

Dealing with My Right Hand

When it comes to computers, my left hand is more dexterous than my right—I type with all the fingers on my left hand, but only three of my right. That just built up from 22+ years of tinkering with computers, which had me using my left hand for just about everything when it comes to computers.

There may also be some nerve damage in my right arm due to shoulder injuries and having sprained and broken my right hand in the past from doing martial arts. That’s a big reason why my mouse control isn’t very good and my aim is quite shoddy. Aim trainers have helped a bit, but I’ll have to do them for longer and more consistently to see if that can help make my right hand better in FPS.

My right ring and little fingers don’t do that much. Typing with them feels awkward, which is why I’m still limited to 70 words per minute at best in touch-typing. I’ve attempted many times to train those fingers to type more, but I find myself committing a lot more errors when I try to use them.

It’s likely to remain an ongoing problem for me, but at least they’re not that problematic when it comes to mouse control. I suspect my current mouse control problems, which are minor, to be due to my current setup with my chair not having adjustable armrests that I can raise higher.

I’m thinking of buying add-on cushions to make them higher so I can rest my elbows more comfortably. I used to have lingering impingement in my right shoulder, to the point that my right pectoral lost feeling. Having armrests actually resolved that issue, along with doing exercises with resistance bands to rehab and strengthen my shoulders.

However, I do suspect that having my right elbow static due to necessity is the reason for most of my mouse control issues. With a more limited range of movement with the mouse, my aim is completely dependent on my fingers. Unfortunately, they’re not that dexterous to begin with.

I’m sure there are plenty of pro FPS players out there who use fingertip grip as well, but I’ll have to practice more consistently with aim trainers and such to see if I can improve on what I have. However, my mouse grip is the one thing I’m most resistant in changing due to my condition.

Conclusion

These changes have profoundly improved my gameplay once I got used to them. The one thing I still have to get used to is hitting X for Plasma Rifle—I still have it as 3 in my head. Since the Plasma Rifle with the Microwave mod is crucial for killing one of the enemy types in The Ancient Gods Part One, I’ve died a few times while spamming 3.

Other than that little problem, I’m liking this new layout. This is a long-ass blog post on just key bindings for a computer game, but I found the process of optimizing my controls to be a reminder that sometimes, you can make little adjustments in whatever you do to create big improvements. But most of the time, we’re not mindful enough to notice and make those little changes.

Got Feedback?

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