I realize this is a very bold statement. I believe, however, it is as clearly as I can possibly state it. The latent “keyboard turners”, are I am sure, offended, but there are times you have to be blunt. It still seems astonishing the sheer number of players that use the inefficient method of turning with the keyboard alone. This is an issue touted amongst the PVP circles, but in truth it is effecting your raid as well.
The act of rotating your character with the keyboard is physically slower than methods you can employ to turn with a mouse. When you combine this with the fact that many fights in Warcraft require split second movement and decision making, this choice of turning means your reaction speed is greatly slowed. Players who habitually move with the keyboard often have issues running out of area effect spells, staying out of the frontal cone of bosses, and can take as many as 2 extra ticks from environmental damage. Standing in the “fire” for more than one tick means death for most classes. So quite literally keyboard turning might be killing your raid.
What caused the cultural divide?
The World of Warcraft engine was rather unique at the time of it’s release. It combined the fast reaction time of a first person shooter, with the core of a role-playing game, creating a new paradigm appealing to proponents of both genres. For players who cut their teeth on FPS games like Doom or Quake, the concept of using a mouse to turn is so ingrained that it is unimaginable to use any other method.
However the large bulk of WoW players came from the older MMO genre. These titles were for mostly designed around the concept of using the keyboard to turn. Prior to Warcraft none of the MMO genre titles required fast paced reactionary movements, so this construct worked fine. As players have moved from other titles to WoW, they have carried with them their game play habits and the game engine has done an amazing job of accommodating different play styles. However in the case of keyboard turning it has simply reinforced bad habits.
How can I change my ways?
I’ve heard from the PVP circles that the single greatest thing you can do to improve your success is to abandon using the keyboard to turn. This might be overstated but I believe that the transition is one that can benefit any player. Using the keys to turn often means you are working harder than players for a less successful result. There is an excellent guide to mouse movement on Allakhazams, but I will cover some of the finer points below.
Above is a basic diagram of the default key binds WoW uses for mouse movement. The W and S keys are used to control Forwards and Backwards movement of your character. However soon you will have picked up several tricks that make using the “Back key” in almost all situations obsolete. So for optimal motion your left hand should be centered over the Q W E keys, with your middle finger resting on the W key, considering which will be depressed when you are in motion. Your mouse should be held in a way that it is comfortable for your right mouse button to be depressed at almost all times.
Holding the right mouse button while moving the mouse allows you to spin your character easily in an arc by pushing out or pulling in on the lower half of the mouse turning it sideways on your mousing surface. The effectiveness of this can be increased by employing the Q or E keys to “Strafe”. Strafing is the act of moving your character to either side, and when combined with mouse movement allows you to rotate your character in a much more subtle manner. After awhile it becomes instinctual but this is after lots of practice.
Advanced tips and tricks
Using strafing in combination with with mouse movement allows you to do a number of “special” maneuvers that can be valuable in certain situations.
The Circle Strafe
The “Circle Strafe” is a maneuver that allows you to orbit a single point in space. This is extremely useful when you need to quickly circle a mob. Normally this is used by melee or PVPers in order to land attacks on the backside of an opponent, which negates certain defense mechanics. However as a tank I often use this tactic in order to spin certain mobs like Maexxna that I wish to place in a certain way. This tactic is achieved by sliding the base of your mouse in the opposite direction you are strafing giving your movement a nice wide arc. One of the best ways to practice this is to target a player and spin around them in a public area. If done correctly you should be able to easily “orbit” them with minimal effort.
The Instant Turn
The next trick uses two features of the game that I have not covered: camera movement and moving forward with only the mouse. If you hold down the left mouse button while sliding your mouse to the left or right you are able to rotate the camera around your character model. As a tank I use this functionality during almost every fight, since I need to keep aware of my surroundings and the positioning of the individual mobs. The next feature of the movement system is the fact that if you press down both mouse buttons at the same time, it causes you to move in the direction the camera is facing. When you combine the two of these together, you can rotate the camera in any direction and simply by pressing the right mouse button while the left is held down you turn instantly in that direction. This is especially useful on fights like Loken and Murmur that require the player to run out of a point blank blast effect. Using this trick to instantly run away from a mob allows you to shave a good 2 seconds off of the process and allows you to move out of these effects with plenty of time to spare.
The Jump Spin
Using this trick properly allows you to quickly shift the position of your player while continuing motion in a forward direction. This functions through a quirk in the WoW movement engine which allows you to rotate your character model completely while jumping. This maneuver is performed while moving in a specific direction, most often while moving forward with the W key. While moving forward you press your jump key, which is by default bound to the spacebar. As your character model leaves the ground you slide your mouse to the left or right while holding down the right mouse button. This will cause your player model to spin freely while in the air. As you land, you will be facing in the direction that your model now is. Hunters who are extremely quick about it, can jump, rotate, fire an instant shot, rotate back, and land without ever losing forward momentum. Personally as a tank I use this trick often to run through a mob without ever exposing my backside to harmful attacks.
Pulling it all together
Shifting from keyboard turning to mouse movement will not cure all problems. These tricks will not replace good situational awareness, but they will buy you much needed time to react to changes in the various fights of the game. A player who simply does not pay attention will still “die in the fire” each and every time. However a player with good reaction times and a high degree of movement skills will be able to move in and out of fights more freely. For casters this means more time to land your attacks. For melee players this can often mean the difference between life or death.
You should realize going into a major shift like this that it is not going to come immediately or easily. However changing your movement style will make you a more efficient player. One of the best means to practice this is by playing First Person shooters in your downtime. A great free to play shooter is Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. It runs on the Quake3 engine but offers all of the basic constructs of game play driven by mouse movement and it is playable on both the PC and Mac platforms. Another great resource is the positioning and movement video provided by Ciderhelm at Tankspot.