If you missed it before go check: Situational Awareness and You Part 1
I said at the end of part 1 that I would talk more about the issue of high mouse speed. It is not the speed itself that is the issue.
You brain uses a vast number of clues to piece together the world around you. If you turn your head your brain has many things to work with in order to fit the view your eyes see before and after the head turn into one picture of the world around you. Your brain has inputs from your neck: muscles tension, skin stretch, twisting of the vertebra. Your brain also gets the inputs from your inner ear sensing motion and acceleration. Your ears also hear the ambient sounds change as the sources of those sounds ‘move’ around you. Even the air movement on your cheeks and in your hair is fed into your brain. All these things and others help your mind understand what it sees and fit the images it sees together with the images it saw a moment before or minutes before.
In a game world you have FAR fewer inputs to work with. Everything I described above and more is gone. You have very few things to work with to help your brain process where you are looking and what you are seeing. If you look rapidly around at action happening all around you your brain needs to blend all that into an ever changing picture of what is going on.
Your brain on WOW
The things that don’t change between in game and real word processing in your head are the image recognition side of things. Well some of it. You lose the depth perception clues. But you do have the normal image processing your brain is capable of.
You DO add a new input. In place of the sensor input from your neck turning you have the input of your mouse hand moving. But is that enough? Can you close your eyes, and move the mouse with a right or left click and know instantly how far your character turned? Without opening your eyes? Can you spin exactly 180 degrees around and in one try without over shooting? Many players can. A very many players can’t. With your eyes closed you only have the input of your hand moving on the table. That is not a lot to go on.
What else do you have? Well the screen of course. But two things are working against you. Frame rate and mouse speed. Anywhere from 10 times per second to upwards of 60 times per second the image on your screen is updating. Imagine your character is turning. Each moment as you turn the screen updates. Each update looks different than the last. If you are turning very slow most of the screen is showing the same thing as before. If you are turning left on the left side of your screen new material keeps appearing each moment and everything moves right. If you are turning fast much more of the screen is updated with new material. If you turn extremely fast nothing or almost nothing is the same as before. If you turn your character completely around between on screen update and the next (easy to do with a mouse twitch) then there is NOTHING on your screen that looks the same as before (not counting your character itself).
When you are turning slower your brain has all the stuff that did not change to give you instant input as to which way you turned and how far. If that tree on the screen moved half way across it then you know something useful about how far you turned. If you turn so fast that the tree simply vanishes then you lose that input. In that case your brain has to start from stretch and figure out where you are looking. Fortunately the human brain is an amazing creation and can figure it out very fast. But why force it to do extra work? If a lot is going on around you then your brain needs all the clues you can get.
Slow that mouse down!
A good rule of thumb is that you want to be able to turn 180 degrees with one mouse move. So do this. Set your hand on the mouse. Using the right click turn move your mouse as far as you can to the left or right. Only move it as far as you can without shifting your grip. How far did you turn? If you turned completely around twice then things are probably set way to fast. Tweak your speed and try again. Keep doing it. Only you can decide how fast is fast enough or too fast. Here are some suggested guidelines.
You should be able to turn 180 and face the opposite direction in one smooth move without shifting your grip or lifting up your grip.
If you have to grip very tight and try several times when you are navigating a tight room (like a human inn) then your speed is too high.
If you have to lift up your mouse to steer a tight corner then it is far too slow.
Try slowing things down until they are way too slow and then slowly creep it up until things seem smooth and steady but still reasonably fast.
Do NOT just leave mouse speed alone. It matters to situational awareness so you should mess with it and give thought to it. Find what speed is right for you.
The goal is that you can move the screen rapidly and have a reasonably good idea of how far you moved, even if you can’t see the screen. The goal is to be able to see the screen pan as you turn
Get your frame rate up
For all the reasons I was just talking about for mouse speed you need a good frame rate. Get in to your video settings and turn things down. When it comes to getting your disoriented frame rate does as much as mouse speed or more. Turn some video settings down until your frame rate is high. You can set almost everything to minimum and still play with no problems. Just don’t set the particles to the bottom or you will not be able to see the fire you are standing in.
More mouse tricks:
Strafing with the arrow keys: You can use right click and used A or D or to do the exact same thing as the Q and E keys. Try it! Maybe it will fit your play style better than Q and E. Or maybe you will want to do like me and use it situationally.
More practice activities
Go play in the Argent Tournament. It might be hard and annoying at first but the rewards are good, cash is solid and the skill up if your movement is great.
Buzz things on your flying mount. Don’t fly over the trees. Use keys and mouse steering to weave between them. This is great practice and does not slow your travel time much. No trees? Just flow low and try to skim the ground without actually landing on it.
Drive vehicles in battle grounds. Those things work differently for movement so try them out.
Ride around like those bored people in Dalaran. Only don’t do it there you are laggy. But ridding around town and like a drunk moron is actually really good hand mouse coordination practice and steering practice. Zig-zag, jump, dodge around people.
Looking is not seeing and seeing is not knowing
The everything I wrote in part 1 and above is focused on helping you look all around you at any time and to be able to fit what you see into a coherent picture. That helps you see what is around but next you have to know and understand what you are seeing. Being actually AWARE takes more.
Stay one step ahead
Knowing what is going to happen next is a critical part of awareness. Mainly it helps you sift through what you are seeing and spot the things that are important. You can see 8 packs around you but what is important to look at? You can’t know everything about everything but you can be picking out what are the next two groups you are going to fight and already thinking about what comes next.
Whether you are playing solo, healing, tanking, or DPSing in 5 mans or raids, anytime, anywhere, you can be thinking about what comes next and getting ready for it. Is the tanking going to go left or right? Maybe you can’t be sure, but if you know he is going to do ONE of those you can position yourself so that you react to either. And you can be ready for either. Almost nothing a tank does should take you by surprise. No really. There aren’t that many things a tank CAN do so it is not that hard to be ready for almost anything. If you assume the tank is NOT going to do something then you are already setting yourself up for a chance of failure. Rather you should position yourself and be ready for all the likely options and have a backup plan for the unlikely ones.
Predict what will happen with your best guess but don’t fixate on your theories. You should at any time have a vague idea of what comes next. But you should not have an iron clad prediction of it. If you get too invested in your expectations you are put off balance when they don’t come true. If you are absolutely sure the tank is going to pull that group on the left and you get set up for that and only that then you can caught unaware when he goes the other way. Don’t do that. Set yourself up to be able to react to several likely options. This is particularly key advice for a healer. Did you stop to far back and then get surprised when the tank ran around a corner? That was your mistake. There was not real reason to stop back there except that you assumed something about what the tank was going to do. Then you lost line of sight when he ran in the room. Oops. Should have been farther forward from the get-go.
That statement ‘react quickly’ is a ‘what’ but not a ‘how’. The how is this: When things change throw out the old and change with them. Don’t stop and go ‘ohcropohcrapohcrap’. Instead simply forget everything you had planned and assumed and start over. Don’t try to resist that changing situation. Don’t try to force it to be what you wanted. Just toss the plan out the window and go. This applies to more than healers. This applies to everyone at all times. All the time I see DPS fail to react when the situation changes. Maybe some adds come and the tank shifts to engage those and there is that lone warrior over in the corner fighting that one guy. He tunnel-visioned right into that one target and will be aware of nothing until that one is dead. Or a tank that ignores the adds on the healer. Or the tank reacts to the adds but tries to fit them into the pull he had already made.
When the situation changes it is changed permanently. Don’t cling to the plan if what happened was not in the plan.
Expect the worst case
Or at the very least expect the most likely things. If you are fighting a group that fears EXPECT to get feared into one of the nearest packs. It is going to happen so you should already have an idea what you are going to do about it. After the fear goes off is not the time to hunt around for your Feign Death button or your Barkskin.
If you know there are other packs around EXPECT one to pat into you from behind. It is going to happen so have a plan for that. All the time when I am tanking I have my camera already turned around and I am looking right at that group behind us. So when the hunter back there fails to notice them and gets agro I am already ready for that. This goes for everything that is annoyingly inconvenient.
All those things that people do all the time that piss you off? EXPECT them, plan for them and react to them fluidly. Don’t spend time going ‘argue they did it again’. Just deal with it. This is a key part of being aware. And it is one of the easiest things to do. If you have a peeve about something then you know about it. And you also know that it is likely to happen. It would not be a peeve if it did not happen to you fairly often. So don’t act surprised when it happens again.
Tanks, see that 6.2k geared guy over there? Yeah, he is GOING to pull off you at some point. Probably all the freaking time. Don’t act shocked, roll with it. Expect it. Factor it into your plan. Use some taunt triage. You don’t have to fight the guy for agro if he can take a few hits. So work him pulling off you into your plan instead of fighting against it.
This goes for everyone. DPS, do you have a plan for when the adds jump you? For when the tank suddenly dies from a big hit? For if the healer DCs? You should and you should expect to need those plans at any time.
More to come
This is getting big so I will carve off some for part 3 and maybe even more. Next time I plan to talk about being more aware of what your party is doing and then maybe I will get into user interface issues and considerations.