A good player needs a well thought out interface…..

TL:DR version: I discuss focus frame, the peripherals I use and a keybind layout that helps me stay with my group and be a more active part of it. If you learn anything from this, my alt tank or dps will be happy to group with you!

When starting my Imperial Agent as a healer, I really missed mouse over macro’s and/or addons. Without them I have set something up that works equally fine for PVE and PVP, so I thought I would share it here.

I use the Focus Target unit frame. This frame is currently bugged for me, but is still very helpful. It is enabled in the ‘Enable Focus Target’ in the General Section of Controls within Preferences and allows you to have two targets.

Unfortunately the bug causes the unit frame to disappear from view quite frequently, however it still keeps the last focus target. Only reloading the UI seems to restore it when it goes.

You use this frame in conjunction with a modifier key, defaulted to ‘end’ key. End + hotkey will cast that ability on your focus target. Please fix the intermittent disappearing frame bug soon Bioware, and I’ll be happy to edit this out of my blog!!

With the Focus Frame, I try to have a friendly and an enemy targeted at the same time so I can heal, dot, CC and use all my time effectively. You cannot spam heals at any level, so this allows me to fill my cooldowns and use my resource free dps ability (or CC/DOT etc) to speed up our enemies demise in between healer duties. This makes a more active and fun game play experience, as well as speeding up the run. I like contributing to the DPS as well!

For keyboard and mouse, I use a Razer Naga and a Razer Nostromo game pad.

Out of the two, the Naga is the only essential. The brilliant thumb accessed number pad, used with modifiers Shift and Alt gives easy access to 36 key presses. It takes a few hours to train the muscle memory for new Naga users, but once learned, you’ll not want another mouse to play hotbar style games.

The Naga also has two useful buttons to the left of the left click button, I have mapped them to control two of my companion’s abilities (mapped to keys Control +1 etc). With these extra buttons, I can access Companion abilities quickly using my left mouse click finger and I use it for companion charge/leaps and taunts. Very handy!!

Make sure you unbind your disable music keybinds from Miscellaneous in the Keybindings interface, as you will turn it off using modifiers and the movement keys in the heat of battle!!

I use the Nostromo gamepad because I like to remap to default keys as much as I can, and I like the ergonomics. It is not essential as you can set up keybinds using SWTOR’s standard interface, so you do not need to do the same as I do. You could bind a very similar pattern using any keyboard.

If you use the Nostromo, one major warning I need to mention is the d-pad needs to be disabled, switch off the d-pad buttons, as it has an unfortunate ‘feature’ causing your character to be stuck moving in one direction, at best annoying, at worst leading to a ‘leeroy’ incident!! This fault is a great shame because it spoils an otherwise useful tool but it is avoidable at the loss of 4/8 buttons.

I set up the Nostromo as below. The only other real difference from another keyboard is that the Nostromo has an extra the scroll wheel and I like to use it to switch hotbars, the round thumb button on Nostromo I use to assign Focus Target, all these functions can be key bound on any keyboard through the SWTOR interface.

Tab

F1

w

End

CC

Focus Target

Tool bar 1

Alt

a

s

d

CC

Tool bar 3

Shift

F2

F3

F3

Tool bar 4

Tab = Target Nearest Enemy, you can also set this to Target Nearest Friendly if you group pvp a lot, then you can focus target enemies and switch your toolbars to an offensive primary bar.

F1 to F4 targets self and party member, in Flashpoints or to a less extent Warzones, you do not need to click unit frames saving time taken by screen clicks. I do miss mouseover macro’s, but this is a good alternative.

The ‘End’ buttons is the default key that allows you to cast abilities on your focus target. This means you have two targets.

I personally use my Focus Target primarily for a friendly group member (usually the Tank), or my companion depending on the circumstances. The thumb nostromo button makes switching focus target on the fly a lot easier. Sometimes I put my main character as focus target (usually in PVP 1v1 situations).

Using a friendly ‘focus target’ means you need to put your heal or friendly abilities on your primary hotkey bar, so they are accessed with ’1′ to ‘+’. Using an enemy focus target means you use your offensive abilities. You do not want to need an other modifier like alt or shift for your focus target, so this is an important consideration.

The two CC buttons are for crowd control ability, it is useful having two in easy reach positions, and this applies to both PVP and PVE. A healer using clever CC is a better healer in any situation!

I map 24 buttons using two toolbars through SWTOR’s Keybindings to shift + [1 to +] and Alt + [1 to +]. So having Alt and Shift in pinky range coupled to the Naga is how I get easy access to 36 abilities.

How you layout these abilities on the hotkeys is up to you.

Hope this helps!


Last night I made a Sith Inquisitor after having a lot of fun with my Trooper Vanguard on the previous nights.

The reason I started the SI was I couldn’t get to my Trooper’s server (Hidden Beks), I didn’t fancy a 25 minute wait with over 300 in the queue.  So I rolled on an RP server to have a look at the Sith starter area (I had avoided it in beta).  I usually prefer levelling in a group, but needs must… and last night was fun!  I managed all the heroic questsby joining pick up groups, made a few new ‘friends’, and had a nice time.

At ‘silly’ o’clock I was looking at a shiny level 11 female Assassin called dredd, stealthed in Dromund Kaas with 3 datacrons under her belt.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story telling, going Dark Side for all the marked decisions, there was plenty of scope for Light side and it did a clever job of making you look like you made the right choice.  I had to drag myself to bed.

I am really looking forward to the next instalment tonight if I can keep my eyes open (or get on to the server!!).  I am working again today so only had a few hours sleep, pretty much like every night since the 13th!!  Looking forward to my holiday next week.

While this blog is going to try to stay ‘spoiler free’ zone, I’m going to try to be suitably vague about the quest that leads you to Khem Vhal, but it needs a mention.  It was one of the questing highlight from all my years of MMO gaming.  All I am going to say is I had a lot of fun with Overload, Robot guards and ledges….

Now Im going to need to convince my step son that he really wants toplay an Imperial Agent over his Trooper/Smuggler combo, and that he wants to do this on the RP server my SI is on!!!


Yesterday was a bit of a roller coaster, as I waited on the email telling me I was in an early access group for the Star Wars: The Old Republic release. I spent most of the day following #SWTOR on twitter. I’m loving how Bioware are managing the community, kudos to Rockjaw and the team!

My first ‘issuette’ was getting away from work early enough. I have a 40 minute journey home on the dreaded South West Trains, and they have been patchy in terms of reliability this year! My holidays are already booked for next week’s official release through to Christmas, so the 13th December start date caught me a little on the hop. I would have preferred to have been off yesterday, I was like an expectant father, my mind somewhere else! As it turned out I could have done a full shift and not missed any game time!

My next concern related to when I loaded my pre-order code. I bought a collector’s edition from Game UK, and they were initially a bit slow to get their pre-order web page up so my order was confirmed on 27th July. So I was concerned I would miss day 1.

My step son made it into wave 2 (on a 23rd July pre-order), so for a while I was reduced to watching him play over his shoulder, trying not to look too envious!

I got in on Phase 4 (whoop whoop!!), and made a trooper character (I’d planned a Sith Inquisitor right down to name/craft skills/spec etc!!). My step son ‘Dolmont’ had waited at level 7 as it is too much more fun levelling as a group (the chat meta game is better played in groups), and with his help it didn’t take me too long to catch up with him.

We ended our first live SWTOR day in our Advanced class roles, at level 11 as Dolmont the Commando healer, and Heidi the Vanguard Tank after a fun run through the Esseles Flashpoint. Awesome experience, a 10 out of 10 for Bioware!

I did not see a single mention of ‘that other MMO’ yesterday in any of the chat channels in game!!! That is a personal first for any MMO release I’ve been involved with since the ‘other’ MMO swept all before it! A good sign!

As well as that, I didn’t expect to see the level of role-play from other players on a normal PVE server. I saw a lot of RP in beta, but I wasn’t sure if this would carry over to the live game, it does! This pretty much confirms that giving your character a voice is a game changer!

Finally, introducing players in waves on day 1 looks like a resounding success. Smoothest MMO release ever!

I can’t wait to play after work and learn more about my Trooper.


SWTOR beta

10Dec11

Over the last few weekends I’ve had the pleasure of playing in SWTOR’s beta. Even during the stress test my experience has been very positive.

I am really looking forward to finally getting to play The Old Republic, and taking delivery of the collector’s edition. As an Alt player I can think of no more perfect game. One where story and questing get the spotlight they deserve, and one where my character has a voice.

I will be starting a Sith Inquisitor on the 13th, going down the Tanking Assassin path. In beta I played a Jedi Sage as a healer, and really enjoyed the combat/flashpoints war zones but rising above everything was the story.

I spent all of level 1-10 grouped with a Jedi Knight, and enjoyed following that story as a spectator, so I guess these two will probably end up my later alts. My Sith will be trying to do the same with an Imperial Agent.

If anyone reads this… and you have not yet started SWTOR, then I really hope you do and you are as excited as I am.


Fallout 3

06Jul09

This weekends gaming took on a slight twist…

I had dug out Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic and Obsidian’s sequel KOTOR2 and had every intention of playing these games through over the next few weeks, going Sith. It was maybe a little early to get into the spirit of SWTOR because Steam threw me a curve ball. One of my WOW guildmates tipped me off that Fallout 3 for going for £13.49 on Steam… an Independence day offer waaay too good to miss, so I bought it and… well it blew me away.

Playing RPG’s of this quality makes going back to MMO’s quite difficult! The multiplayers have some way to catch up.

I had played Bethesdas ‘Oblivion’ and knew it would be a ‘looker’ and it did not disappoint. In many ways it is a lot smoother than Oblivion.  Fallout’s game world not only looks great, it feels suitably threatening and seems wide open. There are only a few corridors to go down here!! I suppose it may overwhelm some players by the freedom on offer.

It could also be a multiplayer shooter’s heaven as well because of the scenery and cover, and after being pinned down by a well placed sniper I could only imagine the possibilities of playing here with other players.  The view distances and visuals are awesome, their engine is on a par with Source in my humble opinion.  Even my wife watched me play for a while, she hates the cartoony graphics of WoW and this looks and plays a lot more like a cinematic experience.

The NPC’s feel solid and have their own distinct personalities and their better lip-syncing in conversations really makes KOTOR look its age.  RPG’s are supposed to be all about the story… but this one is a quality shooter with RPG bells, whistles and all sorts of other paraphernalia as well!! The lock picking/hacking mini games are good fun but I wish I had more bobby pins or played a lot more ‘Mastermind’ back in the day!!

The writing is pretty much RPG standard, and that’s a good thing. Guessing the ‘tone of voice’ for your chosen alignment will not give you a head ache!! Maybe I’m still a little early in the game for a good moral dilemma because it has been simple so far!! There is one particular NPC I’d love to put a bullet through, Moira Brown at the Crater Supplies shop is sooo annoyingly girly, I knew someone like her and her cheery child-like manner used to grate on my nerves!! As I’m playing as a good alignment it’s not an option, besides she’s useful and maybe shooting her may be a little OTT! If I play it again as a baddy… she’s the first to get a bullet!!!

The first few hours really felt like a roller coaster, I’m now level 4 and I think I’m going to be playing a lot in this world. The levelling feels very ‘under the bonnet’ until the stats screen pops up and exploring the world way more of a motivation than getting to level X.

Getting XP sometimes can cause heart failure, as an example I was sneaking into a minefield as my XP ‘ker-ching’ for finding the place sounded, nearly sending me through my roof!!

I’m also avoiding guides because it is more fun wandering around and stumbling on the game world, although I did have a ‘nosy on the net’ to see where ‘Dog Meat’ is!!

All in all, if someone could convert this to a massively multiplayer environment then I think I would be happy there, it would be awesome to share some of these quests with friends! If you could get this level of graphical detail and the excellent quest styles into an MMO environment then that would be just amazing!!


Thinking about my earlier post , I mentioned a counter culture associated to Swoop Racing. 

This got me thinking….. one of my biggest disappointment with other MMO’s is the anonymous method of trading out there at the moment.  Trade channels end up pretty much as spam channels and Auction houses are a whole meta game in themself and are almost automated by advanced mods.  You can only see ‘who is selling what’ by their name so there is little personality in the sale. 

My take on crafting and selling your wares would be a whole lot more ambitious!  Don’t get me wrong, Auction houses are pretty much a standard requirement these days, but no one else seems to have tried anything different.  I hoped, when I first heard about the Darkmoon faire that Blizzard would realise something interesting, but it never really went far enough for me.  Sure, it gave interesting things you could buy and collect for on NPC stalls, and is still fun, but I wanted a spot on that market!  I wanted to see players hawking their wares at the Darkmoon faire!!

Now lets go back to the idea of a illicit race, and have it held infrequently in various locations around the Galaxy… it is an illegal one so it could not be broadcast to everyone because of this very fact.  It would be neutral as well! 

You’d have to know the right NPC to ask about it, or have the right reputation with the right faction so that they might tip you off about where it was!  One where you may even find it by accident.  Lets not put this on a calender either, so it would be rumours and whispers.  People could turn up at one and find that it had already been raided by some mechanism in the game and broken up before it started.  A few disappointments, or a manic run to stop you being caught for going there would add to its mystique.

The Swoop race could have another race associated to it… a race to stake your claim for a good market spot around the track, if you hadn’t been caught going to a broken up race!  Now these market spots would not be cheap, so only the most ambitious dedicated crafters could set out their stalls there…  You could even pick up some spare parts if your racer crashed, or have crafting divided to the point where crafters need parts from each other.

If the rewards for the races were generous enough financially you would have people with cash in their pockets and people competing for that cash!  The race could become a secret illegal mecca for advanced crafters, and the spots on the market could be built up stalls, similar to how the housing system is set up in Age of Conan and you would have to visit the stall to see what was there.


Swoop racing

01Jul09

One of the highlights of the Phantom Menace has to be the pod-race. Anakin Skywalker built his own podracer with some help from his new Jedi Friends, and he was a pretty good droid maker as well. Both these things would make a wonderful addition to an MMO crafting tool set. Imagine the deep joy of being able to manufacture your own C3PO, or build a racer to compete against other players! Or imagine being able to go into business manufacturing customisable racers for people without this skill. There are shades of EvE Online in this, a large percentage of that game revolves around resources and crafting.

One word of warning though… don’t mention podraces to SWTOR fans as you may encounter nerd rage!! It wasn’t invented in the ‘Old Republic’ timeline!!

Taking this further, could you imagine a new take on PVP, where instead of trying to kill your opponent, you are pitting your skills against them in a race where not only are your flying skills tested, but your engineering ones as well? The race could have the right blend of skill and luck! What a tournament that could make! Imagine infamous in game riders, and infamous in game builders!! If the race were illegal you could build a whole counter culture around it!

You could spend time hunting down and trying out new components, smuggling parts across blockades. Parts could get damaged and need replaced, so a trip across the galaxy may be needed to source the materials!

Now I believe there are a few people from SOE working on SWTOR and this is another thing that adds to my anticipation for this new MMO. If they could do anything like the wonderful crafting system included in Star Wars Galaxies then that is another thing that will get my subscription cemented beyond the first 6 months.




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