I’ve been back to playing World of Warcraft on a regular basis since my last post in February. Sadly, I really haven’t been inspired by anything in-game to make a post about. Today while the servers are down for maintenance, I finally had an idea come to mind. What is it that every gamer has to have in order to play games, aside from the computer of course? Peripherals! Since I’ve been asked so many times what kind of setup I use when playing games, I figured it would be as good a topic as any to write about. So, read through the jump to find out exactly what devices I use and how I have them configured for use with World of Warcraft.
Utility and Practicality
These are the two things I look for when buying new peripherals for gaming. Does it serve a purpose and is it easy to use? There are other things, like form factor, size, and, of course, price that determine what I buy, but most important are those two items. There’s no sense buying a device that has 58 buttons when you’ll only need 20. So each of the devices I use serve a specific purpose, replacing the standard mouse and keyboard setup with something more fluid, streamlined, and likely speedier in-game. Let’s get started:
Keyboard: Logitech G15
Now, the first thing you’ll notice on my list is that I like Logitech. I have Logitech mice, keyboards, speakers, webcams and game controllers. Logitech makes a damn good product, offers fantastic customer support, and provides killer gaming software with their hardware. I’ve been using the same first-gen G15 keyboard for years now. Would I swear by it; perhaps not, but the only reason for that is because I hardly ever touch it when gaming except for guild and party chat or punching in the random /command. However, if you are a keyboard jockey, the G15 or G19 is your ticket. If you rarely look at the keyboard or just don’t need the LCD, you can save a few bucks with a G105 or G110. Either way, you get a quality keyboard and excellent software for programming those extremely handy “G-keys.” I use the G-keys for Fraps record and screen grabs. For a wireless solution, go with the Logitech Alto – I use it with my Playstation 3 and my media center laptop.
Mouse: Logitech G700
I’m very picky about my mice. No, picky is an understatement. I’m straight up a mouse snob. For the last six years, I have been addicted to the shape and weight of the Logitech Revolution MX mouse. The free-spinning alloy mouse wheel was an incredible revolution in mouse technology, and this baby had two of them. With the SetPoint programming software (and the UberOptions third-party extension) made the mouse great for gaming. Sadly, it was retired sometime in 2008 and can now only be purchased in the keyboard/mouse combo MX5500. Enter the G700.
Today I live and die by the G700. In fact, the version I have is from Japan, where Logitech is known as Logicool. With 11 programmable buttons, it puts almost your entire hotbar on your mouse, if you so choose. In my gaming, I keep my oft-used situational abilities on my mouse. My hunter, for example, binds Cheetah, Freezing Trap, mount up, Feign Death, Mend Pet, and a few other abilities, along with my Ventrilo/Mumble key all to my mouse. Basically, my mouse serves as my rapid response tool, housing all my combat reaction abilities that need to be set off as fast as possible when needed. The G700 offers plenty of buttons without a bulky housing like the Razer Naga, plus it switches from wireless to wired on the fly with a single USB cable (that doubles as the battery charger). The G700 is a tool I absolutely swear by.
Gamepad: Belkin Nostromo N52TE
If you were to ask me what device I simply cannot live without, I would without hesitation or reservation reply with “Nostromo.” Back in 2001, Belkin dropped a little device on the market that changed the way I game and I haven’t since looked back. For over a decade, every PC game I’ve played I used the Nostromo. To say I can’t game without it would be a sore understatement. Since 2001 and the Nostromo N50 Speed Pad, I’ve used every iteration since – the N52 and the N52TE “Tournament Edition.” There is one caveat about this device, however, which I will get to in a few minutes.
Today, I use the N52TE. 17 buttons, a mouse wheel, and a directional pad – all programmable to single keystrokes or user-defined macros. Three keymaps definable that can be switched on the fly. Application detection. On-board memory (the TE part, so you can take the device with you to LAN parties or conventions and not need software on the host computer). And back-lit to boot. The Nostromo brings so much to your game that you simply aren’t playing your best without it.
For World of Warcraft, my primary Nostromo keys are bound to hotbar one actions. The directional pad is programmed for movement. Between the Nostromo and my mouse, movement and combat are completely removed from the keyboard. My mouse wheel tabs through targets, my “upper” thumb button is jump, while the “lower” thumb button toggles auto-attack. This setup has served me through about a dozen MMOGs, starting back with EQ1 all the way through to SWTOR.
I’ve used the macro feature to program a “keep alive” button (meaning it jumps every few minutes to keep me from disconnecting due to AFK). Back in Vanguard, I programmed it to fully automate foraging on my ranger while I was away. It can be programmed to pretty much anything you can punch in on a keyboard, using key presses and pauses.
When playing a shooter game, I stand by my use of an Xbox 360 controller; for me, it just works better. I use the Pinnacle Game Profiler to configure the controller. I don’t use the Logitech controller only because I haven’t been able to justify the price. I had in the past used my Nostromo for shooters, but once I tried out the Xbox 360 controller I was sold. I actually experimented with the controller in SWTOR; it worked surprisingly well. Now if only the game had been good…
I’ve got lots of other peripherals that are less important but still come in useful at times. Since I have children, I can’t sit at my computer with headphones on for Mumble. To solve this problem, I have a medium quality dual-input microphone that sits on my monitor. Mumble comes through my speakers and the quality of the mic mutes most of the game sounds. To that end, why so many people seem to swear by turning of game sounds is beyond me. I have a Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium external device for sound, connected to mid-quality 2.1 Logitech speakers.
To top it all off, I have two Samsung 24″ LCD monitors. I of course run WoW on both monitors using the dual screen setup I’ve blogged about before. Aside from the glitches in Throne of Tides and Uldum, playing dual screen is incredible; in fact, going back to a single screen on any game, let alone WoW, is downright frustrating.
That One Small Caveat
I mentioned that I’ve used every generation of the Nostromo since the N50. However, when the N52TE was launched, Belkin partnered with Razer. Just about every gamer who used both the N52 and the N52TE was horrified when they got their hands on the Razer-designed software for the N52TE. Razer simply blew it on the software. I wasn’t really surprised. Razer has some high perch in the gaming world as “the best” peripheral designers. In my experience, Razer has been nothing but crap. Poorly crafted hardware combined with software worse than ATI’s video drivers. My caveat is this: I will never, ever, ever buy a Razer product – except the Nostromo. I told you, I can’t live without it. My N52TE is getting old and ugly and there’s just no way I could play without it. If that means throwing money at Razer for the next Nostromo, I’ll just have to live with it.
Live by the Mouse, Die by the Arrow
There you have it, my list of the peripherals that make my gaming life easy. If you can afford to add just one device to your setup, get a Nostromo. Razer or not, it is the best damn gaming device I have ever owned. Once you get used to it, you simply cannot play without it.
Do you have something you use to play games with that you just can’t live without? Share it here in the comments!