Scott Hanselman

GuildWars and the ErgoDex DX1

May 22, '05 Comments [6] Posted in Reviews | CodeRush | Gaming
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Guildwarsergodex

Not only am I digging GuildWars more than any game since HL2 and Doom3, but I'm really enjoying it with the new ErgoDex DX1 (I mentioned this device last year).

The ErgoDex is, for lack of a better word, a Macro Pad. It's an 8x10 pad that most folks mistake for a Wacom Tablet when they pass by. However, it's got 25 loose (wireless) keys that adhere to its surface. They are kind of RFID-y and have unique numbers (i.e. they are addressable). It ships with keys 1 to 25 and you can buy 26-50 as an accessory. The keys have magic stickum underneath and twist off easily. If they get dirty you can wipe them and the stickum comes back.

Additionally, their user-interface for the recording of macros (single key, multi-key with or without timing and/or key concurrency) is fantastic. I've got lots of gamepads (don't we all) with all sorts of crap interfaces for macros and key bindings. This one just works. You can drag and drop or you can just click the ErgoDex key you want to assign, then the key or keys on the main keyboard it should emulate.

Ergodex2The other sweet thing about it is the ad-hoc macro recorder. There's a hardware button on the pad that starts and stops recording. You can throw temporary macros onto a key, type on the main keyboard, then finish. Subsequent presses on the ErgoDex key play back what you did with timings.

Like any good pad of any kind (mouse, stylus, etc), you can pop off the clear top and put a skin underneath it. Their software includes a shiny manager program that lets you create all sorts of underlays. I haven't had this much fun since I created home-made overlays for my Vectrex.

I've also used my ErgoDex at work along with CodeRush to have one button access to refactoring, class creation, quick navigation and a number of other VS.NET HotKeys.

Why have a pad like this you ask? There's a few simple reasons:

  • A keyboard is designed for prose, not hotkeys. The whole F1-F12 thing is a hack and we never get F1 anyway. Eleven lousy keys unless we want to hold down Ctrl-Alt-Shift?
  • I personally play one game at a time until I'm sick of it. The ErgoPad can change whenever I want it to, but this one will stay in this config until the next game I dig. There are a bunch of peripherals available like the failed Microsoft Strategic Commander. It failed for a reason. It was obtuse and only made sense for Age of Empires (and hardly then).

I like the idea of a totally custom controller/keypad for absolutely any reason I like. The ErgoDex also comes with Macro support for all the Microsoft Office apps and it even detects things you've got installed. It automatically set up profiles for FarCry and Doom 3.

I also like the idea of putting the keyboard elsewhere out of site and gaming with just this specialized pad (25 keys that are set up the way I want rather than 101 keys that are set up like a typewriter) and the mouse.

I hate being I/O bound by the hardware I interface to the computer with. I'd like to use pads, mice, voice and pens all at the same time.

Recommended for the serious gamer anyone serious about interfacing with their computer effectively.

UPDATE#1: There's a bootleg RSS Feed for the GuildWars.com site as they don't have one.

Now playing: Black Eyed Peas - Hey Mama

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005 5:04:09 PM UTC
Interesting.
What is the feedback on the keys like? Do they "give", or are they just touch sensitive?
Sunday, May 22, 2005 11:41:58 PM UTC
They totally press. They are VERY similar to actual keyboard keys. Take a look at the manager application (click on the graphic.) The highlighted key is pressed. That gives you an idea of the amount of "travel."
Scott Hanselman
Monday, May 23, 2005 4:15:59 AM UTC
> I've also used my ErgoDex at work along with CodeRush to have one button access to refactoring, class creation, quick navigation and a number of other VS.NET HotKeys

LOL, I saw the reviews of this thing at GameSpot and Tom's Hardware, and I was going to blog about it-- but I figured it was too specialized for gaming. I tried to sell the Logitech MX518 on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment as a "developer" feature with only limited success ;)

It is cool, though.
Monday, May 23, 2005 10:55:35 AM UTC
The Strategic Commander may have failed - I do not know what kind of profits MS made off of it. I do know that I love mine - and have never played AOE on it - and have never considered it obtuse. I would use it for work, but that would require taking my hands off the keyboard, which I abhore. I adore it for games where it REPLACES the keyboard though.
Justin Pitts
Monday, May 23, 2005 4:53:02 PM UTC
Looks very interesting, but at $150 a bit too pricey for my taste. Guess I'll have to keep playing GW the old-fashioned way for now.

What level are you btw (I'm only a lowly lvl8 W/Mo right now) and is there a .NET guild out there? :-)
Monday, October 03, 2005 4:57:11 PM UTC
another alternative is the Belkin nostromo speedpad n52
(replaces the left side of the keyboard)
Kev
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.