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.
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.