This is a concept I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I think what SL could use is a custom keypad with all the main functions mapped right onto clearly marked and accessibly placed keys. I’ve done a basic mock-up of what this might look like, using the Fang Gamepad as a template. Click on the image for the full controller mock-up. Yes, I have mad Photoshop skilz, I know.
I could imagine a few useful applications of this:
- For folks you are trying to get to try SL, this might be a good "starter keyboard." I.e. something to get your girlfriend, husband, or mom to try it out.
- There might be an "SL Deluxe Pack" with the keypad, the Second Life Guidebook, and a one-year membership for $100.
- For celebrities who are just planning on rezzing into SL for a
one-shot gig, they might be more comfortable with a smaller, clearly
labeled controller rather than a full keyboard. The SL organizers
could even build in custom functions into the keypad, like hit "1" to
start up the Skype chat and "2" to begin playing your instrument.
- Gamers might want to add a console feel to their SL gaming by using a keypad that they can customize for maximum pwnage.
Chime up in the comments if you think this might be a marketable product. Hell, if World of Warcraft can have a custom keyboard, I don’t see why Second Life can’t.
8 thoughts on “What Second Life Needs: a Custom Keypad”
This is a fantastic idea. User interface is probably one of the biggest factors to rapid disinterest by newcomers. If there’s some way to make this a reality, people you can talk to to get the ball rolling, I say go for it.
On the other hand, I see one reason that WOW has a keypad and SL doesn’t, one that’s a big obstacle to any business enterprise of this type: numbers. Plain and simple. Size of market.
At the VERY least, we could lobby SL to include key-mapping options so that users can customize the keyboard they DO have to their preferences, rather than having to learn by trial and error what keys do what (shift + ctrl + f for friends list? Puh-lease). Maybe someone making a client out there with the open source code is working on that…
What a great idea!
Not a bad idea, but I think you’ve come up with a hardware solution to a design problem that could just as easily be solved by better client software. I prefer software solutions because they generally have a negligible ecological impact (unlike hardware).
People have been lobbying LL to include the ability to easily remap keys since I joined back in 2004 (at least). There is a text file that can be changed, but I don’t seem to be able to change it properly. A built-in editor, similar to those found in nearly every complex PC game on the planet, would alleviate having to tweak a config file directly. If we had this, I bet there’d be less interest in a custom piece of hardware.
Agreed that getting the client software right is key. I assume that by open sourcing it that we’ll see different versions out there for various applications. A client for shoppers, for gamers, for machinimators, etc.
But a good hardware interface might be just the ticket for some users: particularly complete newbs to 3D environments or someone who is going to come in once for a particular event and never do it again.
Perhaps just transparent plastic overlaps for standard keyboards would be enough.
I can imagine hosting a real life conference with a SL component, and having several desktops set up for people to try SL out. Having the keys more clearly mapped and labeled I think would help some people make the leap to try it.
Probably you’d want to look at something like “Zboard” which is a base keyboard that one buys game-specific keyboards for. I was at a LAN party last year and this dude had 5 keyboard attachments for 5 different games. I believe there’s a way to create your own physical keyboard layout with Zboard, though.
I am not crazy about Zboard because I think it creates a lot of material waste, but I think it’s a better solution than keyboard templates. Templates don’t work in a user-customizable environment.
Yeah, the gamepad I used as the basis for this mock-up is made by Zboard.
I think the target audience for custom gaming hardware is enthusiasts. It’s not worth getting something new and different unless you’re playing World of Warcraft a lot.
There’s also custom hardware for other tasks like image processing and art (like Wacom drawing tablets) and 3d geographical systems (like Logitech 3d Connexion), but these too are for frequent users, not for casual users. (I think the Connexion would be nice to use with SL too…)
The first time you try out Second Life, all you did is download the client, create an account, and log in. No commitment. I don’t think you can expect people to already have extra hardware or to go to a RL store to buy it the first time they try SL. So if you want people to get this hardware, it’s not going to be when someone’s completely new to the world. It’s either going to be intermediate or advanced users.
Rik, this is awesome. Absolutely brilliant.