Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MMO Keybinding

Young Lord Skаf.I’ve come to a realization that I’m a gamer after all. Took me twenty years to finally admit to it. But more often than not I’m playing something. Computer games are making my mind run amok. The more complex the game the more fun it is. I love the “theorycrafting” aspect of all gaming and MMOs will certainly have that — learning how things work, how to be more efficient.

Skаf's talent build.From all my close friends I probably spend more time with computer games than anyone else, save one guy. And that one guy who in my mind was a super-gamer all the time that I know him (close to 20 years now) has lately decided to “degamify”, therefore leaving me to playing all by myself. Come on, dude! Regamify! Yes, you.

Darth Skаf.Anyhow, long story short — after approximately a year long break I have reactivated SWTOR. Since the early days of WoW I’ve only been playing PvE — Player vs Environment. After I was left all alone in SWTOR I decided to try my hand at PvP — Player vs Player. And did I end up loving it or what? However I faced a big problem stemming from a fact that I’m a clicker — a person who keeps clicking on their abilities instead of using keybinds — keyboard.

Skаf.Clicking worked just fine in PvE, but at PvP everything is moving at a neckbreaking speed. At the same time I always gravitate towards melee characters. And by the time I would reach somebody and start executing my rotation by clicking my abilities that somebody would be long gone or I would be dead. So that didn’t work at all. My solution was to switch to a ranged class that had the longest reach in the game — Sniper.

Agent Glаz.I was often able to be on top of DPS charts with my clicking. Those numbers could’ve been better and my survivabilty would’ve been better if I wasn’t clicking, but it worked. However the thing with Sniper is that you’re playing like a stationary turret. You just sit there and shoot. PvP game objectives often don’t revolve about being top in DPS and being a turret you’re not bringing too much utility to your team.

PvP match scorecard.I created a new character that I wanted to try for a long time now — Sith Juggernaut. Juggernaut is a melee class that can perform a role of a tank, but has a potential to put out decent DPS and has a decent level of survivability. But in order to be effective the clicking had to stop. So after all these years I’ve made an effort to teach myself to use a keyboard starting from level 1 with my new character.

Final look.Now being at level 55 I feel extremely comfortable with keyboard. I play blind without having too look anywhere at the screen and I do ZERO clicking as far as abilities go. Mouse is used for moving and sometimes targeting, although in vast majority of cases I target with the keyboard as well.

Juggernaut has incredible mobility and control of the situation with multiple jumps and defensive cooldowns. I can confidently go pretty much against any character and dish out a serious beating. For a change I feel in complete control in most situation.

UI, Keyboard and Mouse Setup


The first step for me to get comfortable with the keyboard I’ve redesigned my UI. I layed out my action bars as the 4 rows of the keyboard. This way I can easily monitor when my cooldowns are up and my fingers learned where to go because the layout of spells is exactly the same as the layout of buttons on the keyboard.

First UI attempt. Too much clutter.Second step was to unlearn turning with a keyboard. This is easily achievable by unbinding some of the default settings. The standard setup is W, S to move forward and back; A, D to turn; Q, E to strafe. I got rid of binds for S, A, D. If you are not used to strafing much yet, I would remap Q and E to A and D. But my mnemonic memory was already hardwired to Q and E, so I let them be. In addition to that I shifted them all by one key to the right to free up another easily reachable row on the left side of my standard hand placement.

Keyboard. Diagram built via WASD Keyboards site.I also did bind Shift+W, Shift+E, Shift+R (my movement keys) to some abilities that are not used over and over again. My standard defensive and DPS (damage per second) rotations are bound to the rest of the keys around those movement keys.

User interface. Final version.My standard damage dealing rotation goes in a circle around the movement keys. D, 2 is bound to starting of a fight. And then S, F, G, T, 5, 4. Defensive CDs are on A, C, Y, 3. Situation control is on Z, X, V, H, Shift+W, Shift+R. Utility spells are on 1, Q, B, N. Everything is extremely easy to reach and I do not have large hands. And everything gets used.

As I said earlier mouse is used for turning, by holding down the right button. I also mapped several key important spells with short cooldown, lots of damage and a little bit more reach to side buttons on my mouse. 4 and 5 from the list above are those spells. And I mapped one additional defensive spell to the 3rd most comfortable buttons to hit. It’s nice to see somebody casting something massive on you and reflect it right back to their face with a click.

Skaf. Another angle.A couple of words on the mouse itself — after some consideration I have bought a gaming mouse. (Spoiler: I didn’t like it.) I was picking between Razer Naga (12 buttons on the side) and Razer Naga Hex (6 buttons) — having Razer BlackWidow keyboard that I do like very much after getting used to it. I went with the Hex edition because there is no way I was going to use 12 buttons on the mouse. And button placement felt too crowded. Even 6 seemed like an overkill.

Razer Naga Hex mouse.After trying Razer Naga Hex for a week I hated it. My hand hurts, buttons are still not very comfortable to hit, mouse is not well designed ergonomically and it had a wire. I went back to my trusty Logitech and I love it. Four well placed buttons and the hand is relaxed and well placed. Razer Naga Hex went back to the store. This rarely happens to me — returning something.

And that’s pretty much it. Hopefully this a little bit of a guide will be helpful to somebody like myself. It definitely will improve your PvP performance. And I am truly enjoying playing my character.

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