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Saturday
Nov152008

World of Warcraft Mouse (and multiboxer highlights)

This is the new World of Warcraft mouse developed by SteelSeries. I like idea of it a lot, and I would buy one instantly if it had Mac OS X support. Yeah I know you can use USB Overdrive to get things like this to work, but native drivers would be much better and they are supposedly coming out in a couple months.

I like mice with a lot of buttons. You, the person reading this who is about to post an annoying comment, do not like mice with a lot of buttons. But you, the other kind of reader who likes to submit my articles to social bookmarking sites--you know what I mean. In fact, when I look for a mouse, the number of buttons is the first thing I look at. If it doesn't have enough, I won't consider the mouse at all. Even Apple's Mighty Mouse--that lozenge-looking thing with apparently only one button--has 4 buttons: left, right, middle, and a 4th side button when you squeeze the sides.

But Seriously, How Many Buttons?

Does this World of Warcraft mouse have enough buttons though? It says it has 15, but let's look more closely. To me, it's only useful to count how many extra buttons it has. Left and right click do not count, you have to have those. Middle click also doesn't count, usually because it's too impractical to use it. Pressing that button interferes with the scroll wheel on many mice. I don't know how it is on this SteelSeries mouse, but middle mouse buttons are guilty until proven innocent.

It has two buttons that are below the scroll wheel, and those do count. The buttons to the left and right of the scroll wheel count also. That's 4 so far. Then the left and right sides of mouse each have 2 more buttons, bringing the total of extra buttons to 8. The left side of the mouse has a d-pad looking thing that adds 4 more, but I'm suspicious about that. I've found it mostly impractical to bind anything to this kind of d-pad. You know, not a real d-pad like on the SuperPad 8, but a tacked on one on the side of a computer mouse. I'm going to give this mouse a tentative score of 8 extra buttons, with the possibility of later counting those 4 d-pad buttons after I try it.

Costs a Lot, Has Cord

This mouse costs a lot. $99. Get over it. It has 8 extra buttons or so. It also has a cord that you have to plug into something, which is kind of strange because this isn't the year 1990. "But the best gaming mice need cords to be accurate enough!" Maybe so, but it's embarrassing that we've put men on the moon using computers that were only as powerful as today's calculators, but we can't figure out this cordless mice thing for gamers. I don't think I've used a corded mouse since Clinton was President of the US.

The SuperPad 8 has 8 buttons and a cord, and it was awesome.

Buttons in World of Warcraft

You still don't know why we need all these buttons, do you? Let's pretend we're going to use this thing with World of Warcraft, as intended. Have you played that game? It has a lot of spells. I'm not talking about fire, alt-fire, change weapons, and grenade like first-person shooter players are used to. (Insert your flame about how some FPS you play needs a lot of buttons, congratulations.) WoW has over 30 spells and abilities you have to keep track of. Sometimes way, way more than that depending on the situation and if you count non-combat abilities. So really 8 extra mouse buttons is hardly even enough.

Yeah you have a keyboard, but there's only so many keys you can reach. Your left hand's dexterity is taken up by moving on the WASD keys so it's awkward to reach away from those keys. Your right hand is on the mouse, so it can't reach keyboard buttons. Also, I like to keep a lot of the default mappings for non-combat stuff like C to see my character sheet, F for getting the target of my target, and so on. That leaves me with even fewer keyboard keys to map things too.

So what do the experts do? When it comes to needing to press a lot of buttons, there are few more expert than Xzin. He is master of all he surveys and a god amongst men. He used to play 5 characters at once, but that became too pedestrian so he switched to 10. He contemplated playing 40 at once, and when I dug very deep into his plans, I became fully convinced that he could, indeed, pull that off. The game got rid of 40 man raids though, so his plans became obsolete. Anyway, my point is that Xzin needs to press more buttons than you or I do. How does he do it?

When You Really Need Buttons

This is how he does it. Buffs and summoning water and other non-combat things on this X-keys strip.

All the real spells and abilities on this X-Keys Desktop Pro.

 

And here's a shot of his multi-box Shaman setup. He's got mages and warlocks too, I think.

Xzin also has a setup such that one button press can be broadcast to all his characters (to make them Presence of Mind, instant Pyroblast, for example). Yes that is legal under World of Warcraft's terms of service (one of the few things that is! zing!). So no, he is not cheating. If something deep inside you tells you that really, it is cheating, then the thing that's deep inside you is using ancient monkey instincts for its reasoning and you are wrong. By the way, if you and your hot-shot team can't beat a guy playing 5 characters at once in a fair PvP setting, you should retire anyway.

Dual-Boxing.com, A Crucible of Humanity

You might make a stop over at dual-boxing.com to check out the many colorful personalities over there. Xzin, the mastermind entrepreneur. A guy named Prepared who is up to 40-boxing (that's controlling 40 characters at once). Sam Deathwalker, a rumored troglodyte-with-a-heart-of-gold who who everyone knows would 126-box the moment that anyone else 125-boxed. You can even check out this Blizzard forum battle, while the link lasts, between Mr. Prepared and a person named Frostkitten who harassed Prepared endlessly in-game, and on forum, going so far as to follow him around 5 hours a day. Frostkitten tries to get Blizzard to put a stop to Prepared's 40-boxing and gets owned in the end, just after hero Sam Deathwalker chimes in. But I digress.

Pressing Lots of Buttons

Back to all those buttons. So Xzin puts his right hand on the mouse, but where does he put his left hand? On the keyboard, so he can use WASD for movement? If so, it's impractical to reach over to that extra big array of keys. No, that wouldn't make sense. Some forum snooping (stalking?) of Xzin revealed that he rests his left hand directly on the big array of fancy keys. Interesting. That would give him maximum button-pushing ability, but how does he move?

Apparently he uses the mouse to move. I'm not sure exactly how, but I don't think it's with the click-to-move function. I know I'd rather play Bejeweled than use click-to-move in an MMO (a better use of time anyway?) and maybe Xzin feels the same way. I think he somehow actually binds movement keys to his mouse. Maybe that d-pad on the SteelSeries mouse above is good for something after all! Seriously though, that sounds really clunky to me. Xzin's method would allow him to have fewer mouse buttons, because his entire left hand's dexterity gets freed up to press all the keys he needs. But even with no spells at all bound to the mouse, the dexterity requirements for the right hand to control both character AND mouse movement seem too high, and pretty awkward. I think it's just more effective to move using WASD + mouse.

That said, if I had to control 5 or 10 characters, I would probably be willing to give up some amount of movement finesse in order to have better access to a ton of buttons. That could explain Xzin's choice.

Playing World of Warcraft

I recently started playing World of Warcraft again, an experiment of sorts. Join up if you like on Horde side of Kilrogg (US servers) if you're interested. You almost certainly aren't though. I'm talking low level, go through Wailing Caverns and Scarlet Monastery and so forth. PvP if we could, but we kind of can't because WoW offers no real good way to do that until you max out gear after a million hours of play. If you're really "good" at WoW, and you instantly bought the new expansion, that's kind of a minus for joining my experiment. You'll just complain. If you think MMOs are stupid, but you're really smart and good at games in general, this would be more for you. Rather than bombard me with messages, contact someone on this list, in-game: Nephre, Nerfina, ChaosDmentor, Claytus, or Xhad.

Also note that Street Fighter HD Remix is coming out soon, so this whole World of Warcraft experiment is a "casual" one. Casual as in a highly skilled collection of awesome players...with no time commitment required. Remember, "hardcore" mostly means "time-sinker" in an MMO.

Back to That Mouse

Even apart from World of Warcraft, I like using mice with lots of buttons. I also have 59 firefox tabs open right now, 30 safari tabs, Photoshop, MS Word, Apple Pages, textpad with 9 documents, an ftp program, and 11 folders open right now. I'm using 6 desktop "spaces" and two monitors. I wish I had 10 monitors. No, I wish my entire wall was a monitor. I also wish I had a mouse with more buttons. SteelSeries: please make some Mac OS X drivers, thanks.

--Sirlin

Reader Comments (39)

But even with no spells at all bound to the mouse, the dexterity requirements for the right hand to control both character AND mouse movement seem too high, and pretty awkward.

If I'm understanding you correctly, what would he even need the mouse pointer for anyway? If his movement is completely from the mouse, and the spells from the keyboard, what else is there?

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShadrin

I know many, many people who use the mouse exclusively to move in WoW, you don't need any special key bindings or anything. This could wrong... but I believe default is pressing and holding the middle mouse button causes your character to walk forward, and then sliding the mouse left and right (possibly while hold the right-mouse button... I forget), causes your character to rotate on screen. And that's all you need...

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterClaytus

In World of Warcraft, holding the LEFT mouse button down while moving the mouse around lets you move the camera to look around the world WIHTOUT affecting your character. So if you did this while running, for example, it would not affect your trajectory and enemies would not even know you're doing this.

If you hold the RIGHT mouse button while moving the mouse around, then it moves the camera AND your character. So if you are running forward and you want to run in a slightly different direction, the right mouse button helps you do so. Or you can use it to turn around very quickly (because mouse movement is fast).

All of that has to do with rotation, though. The WASD keys are the default to actually move (translate) your character. You could use a button such as the middle mouse (sounds really terrible...) for your move forward key. You would still lack a move backward, strafe right, and strafe left key. You could play without those, but then you also could play the game at 5 frames per second. It would just be a really bad idea to do so, especially in PvP, where precise control is important.

But as I said in the original post, if the situation is an extreme one like what Xzin has to deal with, I guess I understand losing the strafe left, strafe right, and move back buttons (ouch!!!) so that he can have a setup freeing up his left hand for abilities only.

November 17, 2008 | Registered CommenterSirlin

Holding left and right click lets you run forward too.

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPoisonDagger

[i]Also note that Street Fighter HD Remix is coming out [b]soon[/b][/i]
D:

On topic, however, I don't play any MMO's, or any other Mouse-heavy PC games Besides TF2 (and L4D tomorrow!)

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVulcan

If I still played WoW, I'd probably seriously consider picking one of those up. I can absolutely see the use for it in a game like WoW, , even though I tend to hate that many buttons on a mouse any other time. As it is, I've been done with WoW for a long, long time now, so unless another game comes along and grabs my attention with similar need for multitudes of buttons, I can't see any use for it, for me.

SSF2THDR is coming soon, eh? Can't wait! Been looking forward to that for a while now. Super Turbo has always been a game I admired but never really learned (I only started playing seriously with Alpha 2, and later Third Strike), so I'm looking forward to the opportunity.

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDan Harris

I'm using the Logitech MX1000 almost just for the fact that it has a crapload of buttons. 7 "extra buttons" in total. It makes me the baddest kid on the block. Especially in CoD4 and various Strategy games since I don't even need a keyboard... almost.

November 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSTCAB

I mean, yeah, you have 30 spells to keep track of, but how many do you really use?

I know when I'm tanking on my paladin, I use roughly 4 in combat, maybe 6 or 7 total.

My shadow priest's dps rotation used to be 5, now it's only 4 with mind flay refreshing shadow word pain. I don't know about pvp, that would probably be like 8 or so for my priest from what pvp I've done, but even then, the mouse I have works fine.

Obviously for people that require more buttons yeah this is great, but if you're only using one character then I don't really know about it.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCWheezy

CWheezy, I used to have a copy and paste answer for that exact question, but I don't have it anymore unfortunately. The answer is "I really meant 30+, literally, and I was not kidding or exaggerating" when I played a warlock in battlegrounds. Let me just list a few buttons: bandage, healthstone, potion, will of the forsaken, pvp trinket, horse. That's 6 right there before I even listed a single warlock ability. How about that ability where you can instantly summon a pet? I hope you're not fumbling around mouse clicking to pick the actual pet. It's good to have a button for that, then a button for every pet. I bet I could get to 20 without even getting to a single ability that deals damage!

So yeah, it takes a lot of buttons. As a rogue, I needed only a fraction of the buttons as I needed as a warlock though.

November 18, 2008 | Registered CommenterSirlin

WoW has a crapton of abilities you need to keep track of, no doubt about that. It became a bit easier in 3.0 with the downranking nerf (which leads to other problems), but there is still a LOT of abilities to keep track of, even at level 19 you'll fill up all your action bars to keep track of cooldowns etc.

I haven't tried that mouse, nor am I too sold on it, but I do have the Ikari Laser (which I understand the wow mouse is built on) and it is an absolutely amazing mouse. Incredibly accurate, fast and responsive, it is good to play with after 5-8 hours straight the few times I do that. Oh and yes, I'm using it on osx. I can't say I find too big a use of the "change CPI setting on the fly" button too useful in WoW but in Illustrator it's like might and day.

Steelseries makes really good gaming mice (except when the chord crap out …)

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommentersloppyJoe

(Insert your flame about how some FPS you play needs a lot of buttons, congratulations.)

'K, here it comes:

I have the entire left side of my keyboard bound for TF2, an fps that doesn't actually need that many buttons if you ask me. (Possibly a side-effect of the console port? The design decision to give everyone gun 1, gun 2, and melee? Dunno.)

I have esdf bound to movement (esdf is better than wasd--i've even heard of people using rdfg for similar reasons, but it messes up my typing and my fingers aren't long enough to get that much benefit out of it). Left mouse is primary fire (or switch to last gun and fire if melee), right mouse is secondary fire (or a custom bind for some classes), wheelup is primary weapon, wheeldown is secondary weapon, middle click (wheel click) is melee weapon and attack. (I use a basic Microsoft optical mouse, which sadly has very few buttons but it is cheap and indestructible--i bought the one i currently have years and years ago and have been waiting for it to break so i can go buy a nicer one...)

Anyway, other keys i have bound for all classes: zxcvt (3 voice menus + preset voice binds), tab, escape, m, u, "`", ",", ".", control (which i have mapped to where most people's caps lock keys are), enter, and space.

Then you get into custom class keys, which would be too much to list here but suffice it to say i also use qwafghb, alt, 12345, and so on for various things depending on classes. "Simpler" classes only use a few, whereas more complex classes use most of those. For a while i even had individual spy disguises bound, but because of how the spy disguise scripts operate those were kind of icky. Obviously i'm not counting "game keys" like f1-10 and stuff. If i got really serious with TF2 i'd have an even more voluminous set of bindings, but for the time being this is "good enough" for me to not feel held back by my keys.

Admittedly, this does all fit on a keyboard--WoW beats any FPS. Well, maybe not "mech" FPSes. That giant bonus key pad thing looks pretty interesting...

Anyway!

Serious comment time!

I actually think requiring a million keys is unfortunate. Maybe you have to because the game is complex, or for some sort of "atmosphere"--ie, mech games where they aim for verisimilitude--but it still has some pretty obvious drawbacks. Take the 2d Sonic the Hedgehog games, for instance--only one button (plus d-pad... well, and pause) but still very nice.

Blizzard's key configs have always annoyed me--although i only play their RTS games, so maybe WoW has a perfectly reasonable configuration given the constraints of the game. They used to treat changing the key bindings as "cheating" in the RTSes, despite the fact that the default ones were completely unacceptable! At some point in WC3 they gave up and just included a way to do it in a patch, though, so things have improved.

Regarding movement with mouse-only: i know some fps players bind mouse2 to either jump or +move (move forward), but i have always avoided that. My thumb isn't doing anything anyway, and you don't really save any keys by moving +move as far as i've been able to determine. That's not a very extreme use case, however. I'm sure Xzin has some clever approach, though. He almost certainly knows better than the rest of us how to manage lots and lots of keys. (Any multiboxers in the audience?)

Serious question: How advanced is WoW's bind scripting support? For instance, if i was really going to do a clever TF2 config i wouldn't use more buttons than i currently do (more or less--i'm running out of easily accessible ones and every millisecond counts) but i would, instead, use more advanced scripting techniques. For instance, instead of having a bind for each spy disguise (18 in total--9 for each color of disguise) i would have a bind for each class and then a bind for colors, or even a combination of button presses. For instance, the way i have my engy set up (i think--it's been a while since i did engy) i press 1-4 to build (sg, dispenser, tele in, tele out) and then hold alt plus 1-4 to destroy. So 1 = build sg, alt+1 = destroy sg. It seems to me that would be a better solution, if possible, than having a key for every individual option. Then again, i may be underestimating the number of options available in WoW!

If you're really "good" at WoW, and you instantly bought the new expansion, that's kind of a minus for joining my experiment.

Hey! Not only did i not instantly buy the expansion i don't even have normal WoW! How's that for qualified? :)

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWinter

Very angry about this, Sirlin. Almost uncharacteristically so. Don’t want to risk making you even more angry but is this because are you expecting an influx of traffic as soon HD Remix touches down?


...don't hurt me.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDean Bacon

When I played lock, I had something like. 1-6, Q E R T F G H § middle mouse, mouse3 and mouse4, and shift and ctrl of the above. I guess you don't need that many as warrior, though. Strafing is done with rightmouse and A+D. I would also recommend unbinding S, at it helps you remove bad habits.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFwmeh

Something I forgot, F1-F4 to target party members. I didn't use the that much, though.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFwmeh

Well, I guess it is class dependent, and again on whether you pvp or PvE.

I would rather pvp though, but all my friends do is PvE, so that kinda sucks.

I'm hoping in the future blizzard will come out with a raid encounter that is actually a challenge to do, and makes you think as a player. I didn't play WoW for a year, and hen I came back, I was still better then a ton of people at raid fights I had never done before, because of only having to remember one thing in any given fight.

Although, this probably wont happen, due to the many people can barely remember one bosses' skills.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCWheezy

I go with ESDF (with W and R for strafing) instead of WASD. My main bar in WoW is xzaq2345tgvc (raps around my movement keys). That's all 12 buttons for my main bar. Secondary bar is Shift+(same as main bar). Third bar is Ctrl. Fourth is Alt. Fifth is Shift+Alt (pinky shift plus thumb alt, but can't jump while hitting these). The sixth bar is on screen with things I rarely use in combat, but like to conveniently click. I re-mapped option menus to the right side of my keyboard. My fingers can reach b, h, and y easily so they get mapped to bags, quests (assist in raids, pvp), and character pane.

If I could afford a new mouse I'd try out using the mouse d-pad as a replacement for movement. I've never had problems with middle clicking. In fact I middle click to focus (mouseover macro bound to it, requires an addon Clique I think). Middle click defaults to running forward, but holding both left and right mouse isn't hard. I'll mouse move when I'm playing one handed (like when eating).

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMusedFable

CWheezy: I don't know how much raiding experience you've had recently but I think that most people can agree that pre-nerf Sunwell was a difficult instance. So difficult, in fact, that Blizzard has openly stated multiple times that the raids in the expansion will not be nearly as difficult. I think this is somewhat of a shame because I enjoyed the encounters in there, but the name of the game is "accessibility to all" in regards to content in the expansion.

I don't really see any huge benefits in binding things like your bandages and mounts though. You can only mount out of combat, and bandage when you are relatively safe, so this should give you plenty of time to cilck them if you put them in an accessible location on your bars. Also, the vast majority of warlocks would only ever use 2 different pets in PvP, and only 1 if you are demonology (pre-3.0, don't know much about their new builds now). Eliminating your turn right/left keys (and using strafing only) would also free up 2 closeby keys to bind.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterskizz

Sirlin, I've got to say that your use of condescension in this article made this probably your best article in a while.

"The thing that's deep inside you is using ancient monkey instincts for its reasoning and you are wrong" had me laughing.

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterspudlyff8fan

Wow, I typed that out incorrectly.

"Sirlin, I've got to say that your use of condescension in this article made this, probably, the single best thing you've written in a good while."

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterspudlyff8fan

Winter: In WoW, the default setup leaves some things to be desired once you level any class past lvl 10 or so, but the combination of Dominoes and some light knowledge of the macro scripting language makes it possible to do everything you describe assuming I'm understanding all of it (I have never played TF2)

November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChad Miller
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