Fully Analog Orbweaver | Razer Insider

Fully Analog Orbweaver

  • 6 October 2019
  • 1 reply

There have been a few very successful analog keyboards that have hit the market in recent years. I have two analog keyboards made by different manufacturers, but I don't even use them for gaming. I bought them mainly to support the companies making them, simply because I love analog. The main reasons I don't use them for gaming are because they lack a thumbstick, the keys aren't in a straight orientation, and they lack proper ergonomics for comfortably gaming for hours on end. Alas, I currently have a love/hate relationship with an Orbweaver.

I can't stand to use four keys for standard movement, let alone tapping four keys incessantly to try to achieve a specific velocity for driving vehicles, peeking around a corner, etc. The absolute worst is using standard keys to play a game where you fly ships in space. Tapping the keys you need to pitch, yaw, roll, strafe, and throttle up/down drives me crazy. And still, I settle for using an Orbweaver.

That is to say, an Orbweaver that I modded to replace the 8-way thumbstick with an analog joystick. It took me dozens of hours to learn how to solder (and where to solder), how to program a Teensy board to accept the inputs of the joystick, troubleshoot problems, and how to make all of that fit within my Orbweaver's 'thumb module' without it looking too horrendous. After all that I only get two axes of analog movement, but at least I have the satisfaction of being able to walk briskly at ~42.6 degrees if I choose to walk and talk with an NPC--rather than awkwardly doing the stop-and-go dance (two taps forward, one tap diagonal...screw it I'll just run ahead twenty feet and wait until they catch up).

Maybe you consider yourself to be someone who can stand to subject yourself to all that tapping, or maybe you've become accustomed to using four keys to move. All I know is that when I use my modded Orbweaver, my left hand never gets tired. The same cannot be said for my friends who use standard keyboards. I suspect this is because they are frantically tapping ten times as many keystrokes as me (just for movement), all while holding down or tapping other keys for sprinting, jumping, etc. Most of my friends who've used my analog keyboards for gaming were blown away.

I understand why Razer decided to go with an 8-way hat instead of a joystick--so that people who still use WASD for movement can have 8 mappable keys for other functions. However, engineering another model of Orbweaver with an analog joystick might be very profitable. They could use every hardware component except the thumb module of the standard Orbweavers, and code some firmware to accept the joystick inputs.

For one, they'd get instant sales from everyone like me who despise using WASD, and people who begrudgingly use the current 8-way hats that seem to be the standard for key pads. Also, they'd intrigue new PC users who came from consoles as well as current console users--judging by Microsoft's increasing interest in supporting mouse and keyboard peripherals on their current and next-gen consoles. For many people I know who still use a controller, the 8-way hat is a deal breaker. I've even heard of people switching to a controller in their left hand and a mouse with loads of buttons in their right hand whenever they do things like drive a vehicle. That's pretty absurd, but it's the best option for some people at the moment.

As far as I understand how Razer's current iteration of Optical Switches work, there is no potential for them to monitor how far down you've pressed a key other than "the key has been pressed below the actuation point". That is my understanding because on the graphic it shows the beam of light traveling horizontally. When the switch is pressed past the actuation point, the beam of light hits a sensor because it's no longer being blocked by the plunger.

When I first read an article about Razer's R&D into optical switches, I figured there'd be room to develop them to include analog functionality via a firmware update and swapping out the upper portion of the switches, but it seems with their current iteration that a new design would be required to implement analog functionality.

Keyboards were invented for typing, not gaming. Decades later gamers are still using standard mechanical keyboards that are also optimized for typing because "that's just the way it's always been." And so I petition Razer to engineer a fully analog Orbweaver.


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Check these vids and better postpone your dreams:

(start at 2:36)

The second video is non-technical but show the same effect.

(start at 4:09)