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WoW Rookie: Leaner, meaner character controls

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How do you control your character? If you move with the W-A-S-D keys and stab at spell and ability icons on-screen with your mouse, you're missing out on a whole world of options that can streamline your game. Simply by setting up your character controls a little differently, you can make your game play easier and more efficient. WoW Rookie pulls together a whole host of options to mull over.

One of the first points to consider: How do you move your character? If you read a bit of WoW and gaming sites around the 'net, you've probably seen the phrase "mouthbreathing keyboard turner" bandied about. You're a keyboard turner if you use keys (usually W-A-S-D) on the keyboard to turn and move your character. Your character can turn (and get behind and around things and other players) much, much faster if you whip around with the mouse rather than slowly pivoting in place with your keyboard. So why's that such a big issue?

The bias toward mouse-turning stems from first-person shooter (FPS) games, where rapid character movement equals survival. The same holds true for serious PvP in World of Warcraft, although rapid turning becomes less of an issue in PvE content. While almost virtually all successful WoW PvPers rely on mouse turning, others do fine with a combination of mouse and keyboard or even the keyboard alone.

Still, the more complex the content you're doing, the faster and more efficiently you'll need to move your character. Mouse turning facilitates that, and it frees up your other hand to smack hotkeys and macros (ways to make your spells and abilities work more quickly and easily – we'll talk about both in a minute). Switching from keyboard turning to mouse turning is a big adjustment. If you decide to give it a whirl, give it plenty of time to sink in and be prepared to be a little klutzy for a while! No matter how much mouse turning you end up adding to your mix, you'll undoubtedly streamline your game play.

To click, or not to click
In a similar vein, you'll need to decide if you prefer to activate spells and abilities by clicking with the mouse or hitting keys on the keyboard. Most experienced players advocate using the keyboard rather than the mouse. As with movement and turning, you can come up with a mix that works well for you – but be sure to give both methods a fair trial.

Here are some ideas to improve both mousing and keyboarding:
A third option for activating spells and abilities is click-casting. Click-casting allows you to cast spells or abilities directly on targets with a click of the mouse. Click-casting is commonly used by healers, because it eliminates the step of targeting a player who needs a heal (before then casting the actual heal). Instead, the healer simply moves his mouse over the health bar of the player needing a heal and clicks the appropriate mouse or mouse/keyboard combination for the heal he wishes to apply – no targeting step necessary.

Make the most of your keyboard
While the keyboard probably isn't the best choice for moving your character, it's a fantastic tool for targeting players and mobs and for activating skills and abilities. It's quicker and easier to poke an assigned key for an action you repeat frequently (targeting a group member for a heal, or casting a particular spell) than to move your mouse back and forth to the right spots on your screen. (Ever heard other players joking about Rogues and their 1-1-1-1-1-2 routine? They're referring to the class' common method of using the number keys to activate frequently used abilities -- for example, the ol' Sinister Strike and Eviscerate sequence -- leaving the mouse free for movement, targeting and less frequently used abilities.)

You've probably noticed numbers on the spell/ability icons on your action bar at the bottom of your screen. Those numbers will activate whatever is in that slot. You can change those settings in the interface menu (hit Escape, Key Bindings).

Your keyboard holds a rich array of pre-set movement, targeting and basic action bindings – things that are set to work by pressing a single key – that are already pre-set. You can open bags, your quest log, target the nearest enemy or cycle through nearby mobs and more, all by pressing a single key. If you prefer to set different keys for specific actions, you can do that, too (Escape, Key Bindings).

Make the most of your action bars
You've undoubtedly figured out that you can add and remove spells and abilities to your action bars. What you might not realize is that you can put quest items, trinkets, mounts and other useable items there, too. Drag the item from your equipped character slot or inventory.

Run out of space on your bars? Turn on additional action bars at the bottom or sides of your screen. Hit Escape, Interface, Action Bars.

Make the most of macros
You can streamline things even more by developing macros, which allow you to perform specific actions or series of actions with the press of a single key. Macros also allow you to do things that don't have pre-set keys, from actions as simple as /dance to as complex as chaining spells together.

WoW Insider already has a great series of articles to guide you through the basics of making and using macros.
WoW Rookie feeds you the basics to get you off to a good start in the World of Warcraft, from tips on character creation to tactics to keep your account safe.

Filed under: Tips, How-tos, Features, WoW Rookie

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