Outgrowing the interface

When something is created, it’s not always possible to know the exact path its development will take.  I’ve written programs that changed wildly from the first iteration to the last.  A client will say “I need” and the program is bent/warped/sliced/blended to give the client what they need.  After a number of generations of these changes it’s no longer the same program.  It’s always better, but never the same.

This is what Blizzard ran into when the wrote the original interface for World of Warcraft.  The original was one bar of spells (the number keys) with movement keys and panel keys occupying the majority of the remainder of the keyboard.  For the start, it was good and everyone smiled.  Now it’s wholly inadequate and interface addons are a must.

One day I did trapping with a friend running the same spec.  In comparing notes, our dps was dramatically different.  We determined it was the difference in our interfaces.  She was running the Blizz UI against my conglomeration of addons.  Her toon was doing about half the dps of mine.  Yup, time to change the interface.

So here, in all it’s rambly make-it-up-as-I-go-along fashion, are my thoughts on what works and why.

In the Blizz layout you are using the least accessible keys and you have to press a key to change to a different set of available spells.  It’s the awkward row of keys, switching (and remembering what’s on each bar) that kills dps. If you’re trying to use the same hand to shift between spell bars, move your toon AND shoot . . . yeah, that’s not such a great plan.  Blizz, what were you thinking?  Yeah yeah.  It’s the path development thing.

I’m not saying you need to do things the way I do . . . not at all.  I have square hands with short fingers, the genetic luck of the draw.  (My sister, bless her heart, got the long elegant fingers.) How you organize your spells is going to entirely depend on not only your play style but your keyboard’s layout.  (I do my best gaming dps on a Kinesis Freestyle2 keyboard and with few exceptions only use the left half.  The right half is pushed away until I need to type in chat.  As a result I’ve changed a lot of my keybinds but that’s a topic for another day.)  So, here it is, my Bartender (green shading) and Buttonforge (unshaded vertical bars) layout.

Bar layout

Bar layout

Bars 7, 8 and 9 are the ones that swap when I change stance and they swap out the ASDF keybound row. My number keys are used for not-frequently-used spells or spells with long cooldowns.

Keyboard assigns

Keyboard assigns

Here’s a closer look at the keyboard emulation portion of the setup.  Notice I use the tilde key and the capslock key.  All the more frequently used spells are on the unshifted letter keys.  Shifted keys are less frequently used but still viable to use in combat.  Cntrl modified keys are very infrequently used and just as easily clicked with the mouse.

To make all this work it’s necessary to shift all character movement to the mouse.  I’ve got an eleven button Anker 5000 (discontinued model).  The only character movement missing is the walk/run transition.  This is my second Anker 5000.  I love this mouse.  The button layout is logical and easy to use.  When it finally dies I’ll buy another Anker product with as many buttons as is currently available.

One final thought on spell organization . . . if you run multiple classes put the same sort of spell in the same place so you can easily switch toons without a lot of fumbling.  I have multiple level 100 toons.  My dps toons are not that well equipped (~700) and they are always in the top 10, usually the top five.

So if your dps is lacking and you feel like an also ran in any party, raid or dungeon, consider looking at tweaking your interface.

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