Mastering QWOP with Makey Makey + Circuit Scribe

David HookSTEM Tools & Toys

the main character from the game QWOP, kneels on one knee

You may or may not have heard of the most unforgiving game to ever be created, QWOP. Using only four keys that control parts of the runner’s legs, the point of the game is to run literally any distance without falling on your shoulders, elbows or face. Trust me, even managing to travel in the right direction is a huge win within itself. There are videos online of people doing the impossible, but what if there’s a way to bypass hours of frustration and hack your way to QWOP glory? This is exactly what we attempted to do here at Circuit Scribe HQ. Using our conductive silver ink pens, connector modules and a Makey Makey we attempted to design a more intuitive input with “buttons” you push that are drawn on paper.

If you haven’t, go take a look at how we used Makey Makey and Circuit Scribe together to create our own interface to play digital bongos. Here we take the same approach to QWOP, but we also considered how we could make this difficult game a little less painful for Mr. QWOP. First things first though, there aren’t any keys natively mapped on the Makey Makey for Q,W,O or P so you’ll have to remap the Makey Makey using this tool. We decided to change WASD → QWOP.

There are various strategies floating around online, but we did notice a theme while looking. The most universally accepted technique is holding down W + O at the same time to start the forward momentum, and to then press Q + P,  then W + O, back and forth until you see some semblance of running. This technique is all about the timing. With this in mind, I decided to design my controls so Q + P was one button and W + O was another button, making it easier to run by simplifying the input by 50 percent. Basically, my circuits are drawn so that when you place your finger on the bottom of a foot you connect the ‘Earth’ to the Q + P input or the W + O input.

Circuit Scribe conductive ink buttons drawn in the shape of feet

Tim, on the other hand, decided to take a more visual approach. After doing some testing and finding out which keystroke corresponded to which upper or lower leg, Tim then drew a visual representation of each button as its unique leg equivalent. As you can see below, his buttons took on a life of their own!

Conductive silver ink drawn circuits in the shape on legs and feet

Val decided to get in on the fun too! She used a similar technique to Tim’s by using the conductive ink pen to draw a bigger representation of each letter’s input with the letters placed on the corresponding leg section.

Conductive silver ink buttons drawn in the shape in the letters Q, W, O, and P connected to a Makey Makey and a lapton

After it’s all said and done, I must say I think my method was the most useful! Simplifying the input to just two buttons made the game a lot more user-friendly. However, the versions with four buttons seemed to work the best for the person who designed it. Maybe the takeaway of this electronic circuit design project is that it’s not a question of who designed the best buttons, but that everyone has a different way of visualizing what’s best for them! How would you design your QWOP buttons?