Getting to know your mouse
There are a lot of ways to interact with the world of Azeroth. Bliz in their wisdom put in multiple ways of controlling and interacting with your character. Having various ways allows people to have different play styles. I will not spend any time being critical of people that only use the mouse and only use the keys and all that jazz. I will cut to the chase.
In our gaming we sometimes find we are not as good at something as we want to be. Mouse camera control is one of those things that many are not good at. So I want to lay out this post to give you some tips on getting better. Don’t worry. It will be pretty painless.
The final goal of all this is that you will be able to rapidly look in any direction without losing a sense of where you are looking and where you were looking before. This is not an easy thing. Some people are wired very differently on this.
Personally I am one of the ones that is very visual-spatial. This means I tend to think in terms of shapes and three dimensional positions. Not everyone is wired this way. Many people tend to be more auditory thinking and understanding things better that they hear. Others are more symbolic and process oriented, understanding inter-relational concepts independent of a physical framework. Everyone has some capacity to think in every different way of thinking (there are others as well). So even if someone TENDS to think a different way that does not mean they cannot not think in a different way. Even if they might not get AS good as someone more spatially oriented they might still get nearly as good. In fact they might even get better. Human potential is pretty impressive. It could mean they have to work at it more or it could just mean they need to approach the concepts and activities differently.
As I mentioned before WOW as a game is designed with a wide variety of play styles in mind. This means even if you never learn to play a way that you don’t like to play…. So what! But you can get better at ways you are not as good at. Or learn to adapt some elements of other methods into your game play.
As I mentioned I am very ‘visual’ in my thinking style. Consequently I really can’t give any advice on how to think more in terms of physical position and location. I just do it so I can’t really explain it. However I can lay out some ways to approach the concept and also some activities that can be done that will build up the skills for it.
These exercises and activities will help find your own way. As you do them you can come up with your own way of thinking about things and make situational awareness work for you. Remember, the goal is to see more and be AWARE of more. To reach this goal we will learn to be able to move differently. This will give us the ability to move in directions while looking in other directions. With practice you will be able to do this naturally and without confusion or ‘over thinking’.
There are there are 4 things you can do with a mouse in WOW. First of all, as you know you can click on stuff. This is mainly used for targeting things. You can also right click to talk to NPC and to loot things. (you can also turn on the click to move option but I will ignore that here)
The second thing you can do is turn your camera. This is down by clicking and holding your left mouse button. With the button held down you can move the mouse and the camera will move. Try this.
The third thing you can do is aim your character. This is done just like moving the camera except you use the right button instead of the left. Click and hold down the right button and move the mouse around Now while you are also turning the camera you are moving your character with it. There is something else to notice here. Your character IS facing where the mouse is pointing as long as you have that button held down. Even if it does not look like they are. The character on the screen might just turn their head at first but for game mechanic purposes they have already turned to face where your mouse is pointed.
The last main thing you can do with a mouse is click and hold both buttons at the same time. This makes your character start moving forward ad at the same time allows you to steer. This is great if your other hand is busy and you need to move. For example you can have one hand hammering spell buttons while you are still moving some where.
Now a player will usually prefer to move with the mouse and press spells with the keys, or to do the opposite, or to do just one or the other. But if you want to be better at WOW in general you will learn to do either, both or all of the above. No you don’t have to be GOOD at them but it is useful to know how. The more ways you are able to interact with the game the more options you will have to tweak your play style and improve.
STOP! Before you go any farther I want you to go into your mouse settings and slow them down. Slow them down until it is annoyingly slow and then bump it up just a SMALL amount. I will explain why later.
Practice 1: Smell the roses
First off you want to get good with the camera. This is easy. Do it by taking a look at stuff. The point is to look at things that your character is NOT pointed at. When you are flying on the gryphen, (bat, etc) take some time and use the ‘left click and hold’ to look around. Watch people on the ground. Pick something and control your camera to watch that object as it glides past you. Do this a lot. Do this all the time. Trust me this is useful.
Also take a look at stuff as you are riding. Hit your auto run (num-lock) aim your character at something far away and then use the mouse-look (left click and hold) to look around at the stuff you are passing. Look at your character from all angles. Try maneuvering a little with the keys while you have your camera at a funny angle. Yes this will be hard so don’t try it much. But do try it a little.
Practice 2: let your mind wander
Find something to fight. Make sure it is something that is unlikely to kill you. Attack it. While you are autoshotting or wanding, or melee swinging take a moment to pan your camera around. Look behind your character and see if there is something sneaking up on you. Pan the view around and find all the nearby critters. For a mental exercise determine if any of them are threats. Pick something to watch and aim your camera at that. You can let off the left mouse button and leave your camera aimed at that. Do this. Now finish the fight while keeping an eye on what you were pointed at.
Practice 3: How am I looking now?
Look at yourself with the camera from different angles. While fighting do this. Check out how cool you look from all angles while you are shooting/blasting/melting/freezing/stabbing/hacking and generally being mean to the inhabitants of Azeroth. Do this randomly for fun.
Practice 4: Getting jiggy with it
While fighting and moving your camera, move a little. Just a bit. A few steps forward or back.
Moving one way while looking another
To anyone that has not played a lot of first person shooters this might be a tough skill to work on. But fear not we can find ways to get better at it. Trust me! There are some easy ways to practice at get better.
Strafing is where a Messerschmitt swoops down and machine-guns… no wait…
It is the Q and E keys. As you probably know WASD is the standard movement keys. Many many many games use those for maneuvering. This key configuration goes way way way back. Probably ever since mice made AZ obsolete. So it is no surprise that WOW uses it. I know that many people use the arrow keys instead. Some use the arrows because they are left handed mousers. This does not prevent WASD. Move your keyboard 4 inches left and use WASD with your right hand.
There are two reasons the arrow keys are inferior to WASD. First they are far away from the number keys. It is very easy to reach the 1-5 keys and fire a few abilities/spells if your fingers are on WASD. The other reason is that the WASD keys are have Q and E. Q and E are the strafe keys. Strafe means your character moves right and left. No, they don’t TURN right and left. They just step to the side. It is very intuitive. Just a jump to the left or a step to the right (ack! Fishnet!)… where was I? Strafing right. Just like you can step to the side while still facing forward. The nice thing is your character does this at full speed just as if they were walking forward (not slow like walking backward). What does this all mean?
Strafing means you can move one way while facing another way without even touching the mouse. You stay constantly fixed at 90%looking to your left or right from your line of travel.
But why do we care? So what? Right?
Not so what! This means you can move off the fire without stopping shooting (or getting closer or farther from the boss) You get to keep doing DPS and stop frying.
Don’t worry. We don’t have to find fire to stand in to practice this one.
Practice 5: slip down the hall
Use strafe indoors. Anywhere you would normally turn, take two steps and then turn back just use the side step. Try to go out of your way to use it. The more you use it the more it will become second nature. So find excuses to use it.
Practice 6: Dodge the fence!
Another great use for strafe is while travelling down a long road. All those small bends and annoying fences, light posts, and trees get in your way. Don’t keep steering by turning your whole body. Just side step by using the strafe key.
No, don’t give me reasons why that is extra work and your way works fine. The point of this is to get BETTER. Fence dodging is a great way to practice a new skill. The goal here is to turn it into a new reflex you probably already have the WASD reflexes (same as the arrow ones). I mean you don’t stop and think when you decide to move forward. Your finger is ‘wired’ in your brain to hit ‘W’ (or up-arrow) when you think about moving forward. The goal of practicing strafing is to wire in some extra reflexes. Don’t make excuses, just try it. And keep trying it. Try running from Stormwind to Redridge or all the way across the Barrens with only minimal ‘turning’. By turning I mean use A and D or the ‘right-click and hold’ mouse steering as little as you possibly can.
Practice 7: Walk this way
Now try other ways of travelling. If you normally use the mouse to steer try spending some time using nothing but WASD+QE to steer. If you normally use just the keys. Try forcing yourself to only drive with the mouse for a while. Doing this while travelling is GREAT practice. Roads are very forgiving so you don’t have to die a lot. Plus with auto-run you will get where you are going in the same amount of time.
Did you do all that? Did you notice anything interesting about using strafe to dodge fences? When you hit the side step key while moving forward, where did you move?
That is right. You moved forward to your left or right at a 45 degree angle. Interesting? No? Try this concept. You can move straight ahead, straight back, straight left, straight right and forward and backward at 45 degree angles all with only 4 keys (not including turning here). Even if you never run backward at a 45 (using S+Q or S+E)… does that even work? Whoever does that? Forget that part. Focus on the combinations of W + Q and W + E.
Who cares right? I mean so what if we can run at all these angles… This is great stuff and I will tell you why. If you learn how to use Q and E and QW and WE then you will run circles around your targets!
Practice 8: Circles
No really. I mean actual literal circles. How? Simple, you use the right mouse button to look at the target. Go find something. Now look at it. Now press W. Keep the target in sight. Keep aiming your camera at it.
This is the path you should run. To do this you will have to use the key combinations shown. You will have to alternate between Q and Q+W. That is for moving ‘clockwise’. If you want to go around counter clockwise then use E and E+W. All the while you are using those keys you will be holding down the right mouse button and aiming your mouse at your target. Just pick any old tree or object in the game and run around it.
Notice how using one key combination makes you move slightly farther away from the target while still keeping it in your sights and the other key combination moves you slightly closer. And both of them keep you aimed at the target.
If this is awkward keep doing it for a while. Try going both directions.
Why does all this matter? What am I getting at? It is about situational awareness. How you ask? I am glad you asked. Situational awareness is the art of being able to see what you want to see when you want to see it despite anything else going on. The goal of all these key moves and mouse controls are to allow you to move your character where it needs to move, aim it at what it needs to aim at, and still be able to see other things. Either around you, or in front of you. Being able to keep your target in sight while moving around it allows you to keep doing DPS on it and also to SEE it. Seeing is the start of awareness. If the boss does something strange while you are faced the wrong way (move out of the fire) then you are disoriented when you look back. If your view is constantly snapping back and forth as you move then you lose valuable moments and you find the boss again or get your character faced back in the right direction.
Here are two ways to try using this concept.
Practice 9: Running while turning, keys only
Run past something using nothing but your arrow keys but keep that object in your view. For example run down the road past a tree while keeping the tree in your view and while ALSO trying to stay on the road. Do this using nothing but the arrow keys. Try not to stop moving while doing this. Hint, this will require pressing 2 and 3 keys a lot.
Yeah, pretty hard isn’t it? Don’t spend much time on that. But doing it once or twice might teach you ways of moving that you did not know where possible… why does that sound wrong?
Practice 10: Facing a target while moving in a straight line. Mouse and keys.
This is it, the holy grail of movement. But let’s take it slow. Here is what I want you to do. Run past something while keeping your character facing it. You do this by holding down the right mouse button and keeping your camera looking at the target. That part is just like ‘practice 1’ above. The difference is you have to use combinations of movement keys to keep moving.
Is this getting really hard? Don’t fear. Even someone ‘really good’ at using the keys and mouse at the same time might have some issues and a lot of clumsiness doing this.
That is all the practice for now. Next time I will talk about actual game playing activities you can do that will help you with this. But before I go let me talk about why I suggested the mouse speed thing.
To be ‘situationally aware’ your brain needs to be able to fit what it sees into a framework. You brain is AMAZINGLY good at this. So good that programmers are nowhere near able to make a robot understand the world around them compared to what a baby can. Or even an animal. The ability of living things to see stuff and piece it all together into a composite picture of the world is astounding. But sometimes it needs help. Your eyes need to see enough clues to know how everything fits. If you give your eyes and brain too few clues you get disorientation. That is your brain telling you it is having trouble merging together and fully understanding what it is seeing.
But what does this have to do with the mouse speed?
Simple. The mouse can pan your camera very fast. I mean really fast. So fast that the image on the screen does not ‘pan’ it simply jumps to a different view. Now your eyes and brain are seeing something that is not connected to what it was seeing the instant before. Look at your computer screen. Now close your eyes, turn half way around and open them again. This is what your WOW screen is showing you when you use a very high mouse speed and pan your camera. You brain is left to piece the first image and the second image together into a ‘picture’ of the world around you. How far around did you turn? Just from the images your brain does not know. It has to figure it out from all the tiny clues around the room. Well in an unfamiliar place this can mean you are instantly and totally lost. Even in a familiar place the small instant it takes your brain to piece those flashing images together into your ‘world picture’ can cause you a feeling of disorientation. If you get lost and confused just walking through up alliance inn and trying to get upstairs then there is a GOOD chance your mouse rate is far too high. I will go into this concept more when I do part two.