Relearning To Walk: New Gaming Hardware

Note: I didn’t get paid for any of this or get freebie equipment.  QQ.  Photos are from the official product websites.

In the last few years, I’ve been gradually “going geek” and getting more and more sophisticated stuff to feed my gaming habit.  As I get more and more gaming crap on my desk at home, I have to accept that I don’t really have a “home office” that would be considered respectable.

All of my hardware purchases have been to solve a specific problem that I was having with the game… I’d say “wouldn’t it be nice if…” and sure enough there was an app, I mean item, for that.

Vent Push To Talk, I Am Out Of Fingers

Back in the day, I was primarily healing with mouse clicks and modifiers – and as such, both left and right hands were occupied while healing, and I was just OUT of fingers to talk on vent.  I’d have to pause what I was doing, and that’s never any good.  “Wouldn’t it be nice,” I thought, “if there were a foot pedal for that?”

At the time, wow had not come up with their foot pedal.  There was no mmo-dedicated vent pedal.  I did a google search and found the Stealth Switch II,1  based on Stealth Switch 1 that used a foot pedal to close all your windows when the boss comes by. Well that will work just fine.  I’ve been using it for over 2 years now.  The geeky thing is that I have to play barefoot or I botch my PTT.  Overall, though, it was pretty quick and easy to adjust to the change.

I Am Very Right Handed

Hotkeys are supposed to be triggered by the left hand while you use your mouse to do mouse things, especially as a healer to click targets.  But I simply sucked at timing ANYTHING with my left hand.  This is why on a Nintendo controller, the jump key is on the right hand side.  I ended up using modifiers + mouse.  I ran out of buttons on my 3-button mouse, so I bought a 5-button mouse.  When that got crowded, I got a Naga.

This took forever to learn, I’ll be honest.  I started out just using 2 of the side buttons in the same positions as those on my 5-button mouse (in the photo below, that would be 3 and 6) and gradually added hotkeys as I started feeling more comfortable.  I used the little “trainer” stickers for weeks.  When they fell off, I put on my own stickers, which were cut-out bits of fuzzy Dora the Explorer stickers (shh don’t tell).

I Am Literally Not Using My Left Hand, Except To Move Around

I was using my left hand to wasd, and that’s about it, because you never know when you have to move, gotta keep the fingers in the right place.  For those who are going to say “NOOB, don’t keyboard turn” I say – YOU try to move around with the mouse while you’re also selecting heal targets with said mouse.  So shut it.

Enter the Nostromo, my newest toy.  I can use my left thumb to move2 leaving the rest of my fingers free to do STUFF.  In this case, cooldowns.

It wasn’t as steep a learning curve as the naga.  It wouldn’t have been a learning curve at all if I had chosen not to use the thumbpad to move.  Training myself to thumb-move instead of W to go forward took about a week.  I hit dailies pretty hard to practice before the next raid, and I died a lot by effing up my buttons and targeting (or autorunning into a pack of mobs and forgetting how to stop).  Since the buttons are configurable (you can map to any key) I went through quite a few configurations (and deaths) before settling upon one that would not cramp my hand.

As for You…

There is no “right” gaming peripheral, and nobody needs them to be competitive.  But if you start noticing an inconvenience in your setup and saying “wouldn’t it be nice if” and you have some cash to spend, see if there’s an item to solve your specific problem.

BUT FIRST… do your research!  I cannot stress this enough.  For example, I have small hobbit hands.  The gaming pad that one of my (male) guildmates uses is WAY too big for me to comfortably use.  Read reviews, look at videos that describe the features, and see if it’s right for you.  Test out the peripheral at a store, if you can (Fry’s sometimes has the geekier things, whereas it’s unlikely you’ll find these at Best Buy).

  1. Apparently it’s now obsolete, and there’s a Stealth Switch 3!
  2. I actually popped off the thumbstick (which is a feature, not me just breaking my toy) and use what was underneath – a plain old D-pad like on the old-school Nintendo controllers

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    Relearning To Walk: New Gaming Hardware — 12 Comments

    1. Have a look at my two articles on the subject. I now have a Logitech G13, after my G11/G15 stopped working. I am still undecided about the G13, since the row 3, then one with 5 keys is mostly unused. The lowest row is reachable with the thumb. The top two rows can be reached with the other four fingers, but row 3 creates cramps.

      Push to talk for me is usually the left ctrl key, which causes trouble if you use ctrl combos to much, which I don’t.

      And your naga scares the heck out of me. I have trouble using buttons 4+5 on your average Microsoft mouse. Don’t add more.

      • I found the G13 too big for my tiny hobbit hands, unfortunately. I tried it out at Fry’s.

        The naga takes a LOT to get used to. However, they now have a naga with 6 side buttons instead of 12. http://www.razerzone.com/hex This is probably the one I would get if I were transitioning from a normal 5-button now. But having played with the naga for a year now, I can’t downsize from 12 keys, that ship has sailed.

    2. I rock a G15 keyboard and a DeathAdder mouse … I tried using a bulky, multi-button MMO mouse from Steel Series and it was an unmitigated disaster. Now I just keybind all my stuff and kick it sans crazy number pad thingie.

      • I love the G15. Since my desktop is down right now I can’t use it, so I’ve never seen it with SWTOR, but some of the random things that pop up on the LCD screen are really nice. When I used to play LOTRO a lot, my LCD screen always showed me my health, MP, mood (which is actually pretty important in LOTRO)and the exact part of the map I was on. That was always nice cause they aren’t always labeled so well on the in game map, but the LCD screen kept it up in real time. I’m like the least sophisticated gamer ever, I literally click everything and WASD move, so I send a lot of time looking at my action bars/lower half of the screen, and since the G15 LCD screen is right there, it means I could keep my eyes in one area to see all the info I needed and more.

    3. I keyboard turn too because while I am not as extremely right handed as you appear to be, my most important skills almost always go on the mouse and using those while trying to move with the mouse is difficult.

      I just recently got a Naga myself for my birthday and haven’t had much chance to try it out but I am excited!

      • My biggest advice about the naga is don’t put too many things on it at once, or create redundancies (so you can go back to the old system in a pinch). Also you might find that your fingers can reach some keys better than others, which will make your skills probably go in a different order (for example, I rest my thumb on 5 because it’s in the middle). It is too bad that we don’t have the ability (yet) to lay out our hotkeys in a GRID pattern, because that really helps to visualize that 1 is above 4, etc.

        • The tip of my thumb is about the size of 4 or 5 of those buttons. I don’t know how anyone can use that thing without just fat fingering the bejesus out of it. I know I would.

          • The tip of my thumb is almost exactly the size of one of the buttons so it’s perfect for me! I have tiny hands though.

    4. Hey, I manage to mouse turn while using the mouse to select heal targets and casting on my naga! >> I used to mouse turn while mouseover healing too, back in the day. I make it work as follows: judicious use of autorun, much practice, occasional derps. But WASD is so far beyond foreign to me, it wasn’t worth learning, and I play soooo much better this way.

    5. First off, i have to say that reading your blog as well as Snark side, Screaming Monkey’s and others got me into SWTOR, so thank you.

      Second, I have the same problem as you do but for the opposite reason. I am extremely left handed (I have my mouse on the left of my keyboard) and end up keyboar moving using the arrow buttons on my keyboard (so have no idea what “strafing” even looks like lol) Seeing the Nostromo on your site was like a shaft of light shining down on me. I am running straight from work to a local electronics store to try it (and the Logitech G13 for my Gorilla sized mits) and actually have more than 5 buttons on my dominant hand to bind things to. I am so looking forward to seeing what I can do with keybinds now since I never used theem in WoW because I hate using the keyboard for anything with my right hand.

      • Woot, glad this helped you. The nostromo is meant to be used by the left hand (as you see)… but the G-whatever, as I understand it, is pretty symmetrical and mostly ambidextrous, except for the joystick is on the right side for the left thumb.