Sunday, November 22, 2009

On gaming on n900 and the newly found lack of arrow keys

Everybody who has seen the n900 with english/generic keyboard thinks all keyboards will have arrow keys. Well, they don't. And this sucks big time for any gaming applications, as they cannot assume that keyboard has specific direction keys that would actually work. In most of the keyboards, there are only left and right keys. While up and down are behind fn+left/right.

Only thing we can really do to fix this 'great kb layout design' is in my opinion:
Forget that we ever even had the arrow keys and start using the usual WASD combo for the default direction controls. And to balance the AB,XY buttons, we should probably use the I,O,K,L buttons. All of these buttons are the same in all kb layouts that I know. This is a pretty balanced layout, but again, not so easy to discover. Grr.. I hate the kb layout mistake that we made. Sane solution would have been to move the extra letters behind fn key.

Otoh, I have finnish kb on the device, but I have switched to english layout so that I can have a sane d keys on the device. But it feels confusing.

On a whole different note, I just read an interesing articles on DUI, the UI frameworks of Harmattan written by Zchydem:

Part one:
Part two:

I'm eagerly waiting for part three.

We are also preparing for a small update for the N900 owners to come really soon, which is going to keep me busy next week in preparation of it. Let's see when we can deliver it to you guys. After we have released that, I'll start blogging a bit more on what is up for the end of the year update and what is brewing for the other near future updates.


  1. Is this small update ver 1.1 that we who live in Sweden is waiting for? Nokia Sweden will not release N900 until ver 1.1 i released and 3:s sim-cards work in the phone.

  2. I have been thinking about this for a while: What about making a generic joystick driver that uses accelerometers for directional control, and "shake" for the default "button1"?

    This would be much nicer - even if the device had arrow keys it would suck to use them, as the ergonomics for gaming using them are really bad. Holding the device like a gameboy and just tilting it around would be much more natural..

  3. I have used games on the iPod Touch that use tilt controls and disagee, its not the solution. It gets too tiring trying to follow what is going on as you tilt the screen around, plus reaction times go right down the toilet and viewing angles can be a real problem if you tilt a bit too much.

    My personal wish is that someone would put a DS style D-Pad on the LEFT of the keyboard, but obviously that is mute doe any existing device.

    WASD is most likely what I will use personally (I hate using arrows in my right hand anyway especially for console emulators where the console had the D-Pad on the left). Is there not a way to detect your region and ALWAYS use the keys where WASD would normally be on an English layout?

  4. Coming from N97, I actually think giving us proper accented keys was a great move. On the N97 the temptation to just go from ä to a and forget about grammar and stuff was proving too big, now I can enjoy writing texts and emails again. I had an E90 prior to N97 and lack of direct "scands" in the latter was very disturbing.

    I think gaming-wise all you need is configurability in the game. Some presets based on detected (can it be?) keyboard layout as well as configurabilty. Personally I wouldn't mind emulating the English arrows in games since there would be no need for accented characters there and in games one rarely looks at the keys anyway.

  5. On a slightly related note, I posted my somewhat extensive first impressions on the N900 here:

  6. I actually prefer to have directional controls on the left side (e.g. wasd) and buttons on the right, as this matches a typical gamepad setup. It is not ideal of course, especially as the alignment of the buttons makes diagonal movements tricky. But at least for things like RPGs and other less frantic games, it should be quite good enough.

  7. Wow... Just seeing your blog here, and loving it. Must be awesome to work on the N900 team. you folks did a great job on getting the basics down and providing a good amount of flashy looks as well.

    One quick question is there documentation on how to write plugins for the IM/Conv system? I know enough from working with Pidgin that you should be able to lift their libaries to build a plugin for your IM system, but can't find anything documenting how to do that. Is Hildon just not open? Is there an NDA for it? Just curious. Lack of AIM/Yahoo in IM/Conv support is killing me. :P

  8. @woody: There is AIM / yahoo and MSN support already for the IM. Just check in the extras-devel.

  9. @Thomas, yes, the famous 1.1 update will also fix most of the issues in SIM cards using SIM Application Toolkit. I would assume this has also been the issue in 3 Sweden.