How to optimize keyboard & mouse driving in BeamNG.drive

Updated: May 10, 2021

Some games are not meant to be played with keyboard and mouse. Car simulators, for one. The main reason is, you can't realistically portray the steering feedback or the pedal action with a binary on/off input, which is what happens when you use the keyboard. Your best choice is a steering wheel. But what if you simply don't have the hardware?

Recently, I encountered the problem of heavy car response and constant wheel locks in BeamNG.drive, a super-fun soft physics car simulator, making my attempts at reasonable driving to fail quickly and miserably. Now, I do have a G27, but I wasn't in the mood of setting up, so I thought, is there a way to actually make the keyboard usable? The answer is, yes, kind of.

Teaser

Filters

BeamNG.drive be a nerdy game, so it may (not) come to you as a surprise that configuring the driving control also takes a bit of non-linear mental action. So let's start with the keyboard steering, and then we will also quickly cover the mouse steering.

Let's assume that you have A/Left and D/Right assigned as your steering controls. By default, this will results in laggy, almost non-responsive behavior even at mild speeds. You technically end up with a full wheel lock within milliseconds, which simply isn't realistic.

What you want to do is dampen the steering response - proportionally to speed - the concept first introduced in Citroen SM, and since made the standard in all modern cars. You want less steering response as your speed builds up. To that end, click on A or D buttons in the control interface. This will open a sub-menu, where you can assign a filter. By default, the game use Automatic. Click the drop-down and change to Direct. Apply.

Bindings

Then, click on the Filters tab next to Bindings, and you'll see four different filters listed. Checkbox Direct to make it active, and then create the necessary response curve. There is no one universal setting here. It will differ from car to car and driving mode to driving mode, e.g.: high-speed road versus load-speed offroad and such. But I did find for most conditions, a linear drop in response from 15-250 km/h gives good results.

Filters

Now, you can do the same for the throttle and brake. They also respond binary-like, and that's not something you want. You can also apply the same filter logic. I must admit I do not know how the application of "steering" filters applies, but I assume it affects the assigned keys in the same way. What I do know is that it works, and helps prevent wheel spin and wheel lock when accelerating and decelerating, respectively.

Realistically, you'd want MORE braking power at speed, so you can reduce your speed efficiently, but because of the binary nature of the keys, the filter reduces the application of both throttle and brake. Anyway, there's definitely an element of trial and error, but the important thing is, you get immediate results.

Mouse steering

Another option to consider - mouse driving. This leaves you have some of that analogue feel when steering, but again, you probably want a filter to get the best results. On top of that, you can also adjust the linearity curve of the mouse. I found values > 1 to offer a more refined control. Not ideal, but better than the totally undrivable defaults. Now, the big problem is that you can't really use mouse buttons for throttle and brake, RMB in particular, so you end up driving in two planes, one hand on the mouse, one on the keyboard, which can feel a bit odd, but again, worth trying.

Mouse steering

Conclusion

There we go. BeamNG.drive is a brilliant game, so it would be shame to miss on its lovely destructive magic just because you don't have dedicated hardware to steer and pedal. The use of filters can definitely help improve the key response and reduce the violent on/off default behavior.

You should experiment with different filters and speed curves, as well as try to sort out the mouse steering, with different lock angles, lock types and the linearity values. In fact, you might want to look up real online reference for proper sports cars to see if you can use those. Anyway, off I go to do some more silly driving and destroy stuff, 'cause that's what relaxes the brain after a long day of IT buzzwords. Take care.

Cheers.

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