Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Button Philosophizing

I decided to take the bait and run with it. BBB was hoping to inspire folks to share how they arrange their buttons, and I feel inclined to bite.  I think I talked about this a little bit on here a long time ago, so it's prime time for a revisiting of the topic.  There is a very simple philosophy that I use in constructing my UI, and it's not related to any sort of manufacturing technique (though electronic assembly lines are pretty dang cool to watch in action, and a PITA to design a flow for).

First of all, we need to start with the presumptions.  The Bear is a clicker.  I'm not.  I try to use my mouse as little as possible for activating abilities.  There reason is really two-fold.  One, I don't have a whole fel ton of alts.  Two, my cursor tends to disappear on me, so I spend valuable time trying to figure out where in the Light the thing is.  So, for me, I just find button presses to be generally faster than clicking.  I am not a button turner though.  My mouse is used extensively for positioning (two finger running ftw), which is probably why I can never be sure where the cursor is.  In any case, the fact that I'm a "button guy" is important because it definitely affects my layout.  Clicking lends itself to different strategies than button pressing. 

In addition, I have one of those gaming keyboards.  It has a special gaming area on the left side with two accessible rows of numbers, arrows that represent "wasd" and several other assignable buttons.  I didn't always have this, so my original set up colors a bit of my current set up in terms of what I could reach easily before I had the double row of the gaming keyboard.  Really, it has just made more skills accessible, my main abilities were never a problem thanks to macros.

So, what is my strategy then?  Simply, I try to put the same types of spells on the same buttons for my main and all my alts.  When I first started as a baby lock, my shadowbolt found a home on my number 2 key.  Thus, my main nuke for every class finds it's way to 2.  1 is where I generally like to macro in my trinkets (on my 'lock I trinket with Corruption/Curse applications), so I pick an appropriate spell that is probably not a nuke, but is used often enough to keep my trinkets popped.  3 and 4 gets my secondary spells (for a 'lock that's UA and Haunt).  5 tends to be my finishing moves (Drain Soul for a 'lock).  6 happens to be my "oh shit" button (soulshatter) since it's not as easy to accidentally push it.

That exhaust the first row (or the single hand).  Moving up to the second row, I switch to "AoE" mode.  7, 8, and 9 are all reserved for AoE spells.  RoF and SoC happen to be 8 and 9 right now, 7 is shadowflame.  9, 0, and "-" are my buff buttons.  For my 'lock, that means my Life Tap/Fel Armor macro is on 0.  9 and - switch depending on the fight.  So for AoE trash and such, I shift up to row two.

Since I rely a lot on muscle memory to keep me sharp, I find this setup works well when translating to my alts.  For my DK, from left to it goes BS, diseases, OB, FS for 1-4.  My "oh shit" alternates based on whether I'm tanking or not, so the taunt tends to be on 6, with my cooldown buttons like Lichborne and such on 5.  For DPS, five gets HB and 6 is an armor increasing cooldown.  8 and 9 get blood boil and pestilence for AoE goodness (and HB is already being used in normal rotation).   0 is my Horn of Winter.

It's not a perfect mapping, but I find the muscle memory works out well for me.  If I goof and hit "0" out of reflex as a fight starts (like I would on my 'lock to pre-cast life tap buff), then on my DK I've just hit my Horn of Winter.  When I panic as a 'lock I hit my aggro drop, as a DK, I hit my armor cooldown.  It's pretty simple.  Then highly situational stuff gets put on the UI directly above the abilities they're closest too.  So special nukes would be in the 1-4 range (just above and only clickable), with buffs trending to the later part of the bar.  Middle tends to be "oh shit" and cooldown buttons, with some AoE mixed in.

We'll see how well this strategy translates to the druid healer I plan to roll for Cataclysm.  Maybe I'll find myself clicking more as a healer.  I definitely click more as a tank than I do as a DPS.  It's just what the playstyle demands.

The bottom line here is that I try to make the most of reflexes and muscle memory.  I try to put similar buttons in familiar places so that when my brain goes out the window, I'm not pressing the completely wrong things.  I was actually able to transfer this theory somewhat to Aion too with a good deal of success.  I had to remap a few buttons since the hotkeys for like the character screen were a bit different, but ability-wise it worked well.

I know Fuu is a clicker.  I've watched her play and I'm not sure there is a strategy to her bar layout.  If there is one, I'll try to convince her to post it.  That is, if it's more interesting than /roll 10, put Hand of Insert Holy Thing Here, put Judgement of That there.  Ugh, Pally spells.  They're all basically the same name, amirite?
A More Recent Screenshot of My UI.
My Keyboard de Choice
 (Update: Here's the link to one of my old posts about my UI, complete with a screenshot.  I'm in my demonology spec in the pic, so things are mixed up slightly, but it should give you a good idea of what I'm working with.) 

(Update of the Update: I added a newer screenshot, in aff'lock mode no less.  My #1 starts at the corruption puking mouth and goes all the way over to my howl of terror.  There is a vertical bar to the left of everything that is my CC and 'lock portal macros.  Also my wand.   You know, situational, clickable stuff.  I have some fire spells on the top right now (in case stuff's immune to shadow), as well as various buttons for pets, bandages, food, etc.  I drag pretty much whatever onto that bar.  The spells you don't see (such as curses) are macro'ed onto appropriate buttons to be used by holding shift, control, or alt as the case may be.  I'm a big one for putting a lot on one key, especially since one of my "special" keys is control, making it easy to hit and essentially doubling my pleasure and fun.  Below that is a stock photo of my Merc Stealth gaming keyboard  Note the assignable gaming section clearly on the left.  I love it!  Most of the time I can drink the beer in my right hand while corrupting away with my left.)


  1. screenshot? I always like to see a visual of the UI. Layout of buttons, compared to cool down timers, and such. I too am a button masher. (I think clicking is a druid thing as my druid tank as told me he is too.)

    My UI hasn't changed much from this:

  2. @ Elkagorasa

    yeah, perhaps we could do some UI posts. I just got a question on my Hunter UI (which is ghetto & not very well thought out) but my Tank's UI is crazy!

  3. I think a screenshot is a good idea, too. I'd love to see your UI... and a photo of your desktop with that neat keyboard. :)

    It's funny, everyone does things differently, and they all work... but somehow, people get drawn into ideas about how one thing is better than another. I think the proof is in the actual PvP or PvE success rate.

    Like, I'm a clicker... but what I mean by that may not be what others assume. I move my character in all turns, including jump 360 degree+ spins in Bear form, entirely with my mouse. HOWEVER, there are times when I am either stationary or running forwards, or strafing right or left, and at those times I can freely use my mouse to click all those little buttons.

    I call it clicking... because I click activation buttons. But I've seen people sneer at me for being a button turner, and I'm like, I don't know what the heck you're talking about... Do button turners flip their entire bear butt around in spin kick circles when bored? What?

    In the end, though, I don't think HOW we do what we do matters nearly as much as the final results of our method. If we're comfortable with our style and we get the job done with panache, then we're all good to go!

  4. When I was a full throttle lock I had almost everything mapped to the numerical pad since I found this to be the easiest way to maximize my output. Sure I had to move a few macros around based upon the fight but that wasn't a large issue unless I forgot (where is that /tar Volatile Ooze macro??!?!?!? damn!). The mouse was purely movement with a few mouseover macros.

    I've recently morphed into a Holy priest and I have found the Almighty comes in the form of Razer Naga mouse. Sweet sweet bliss. My right hand/mouse hand does almost everything now with while my left hand relegated to tea sipping or cold-pizza munching :)

  5. I'm very similar, except I use the 1-6 then shift+1-6. Those make up the bulk of my button pressing. Somehow though my big cooldown abilities ( wings on a pally, tanking cooldowns, etc) end up on the 7-0 buttons. Those are activated by my right hand. That does mean that I have to take my hand off the mouse, but I can button turn if absolutely needed, plus its only for a split second. Also it seems to extra bit of "specialness" to those buttons. If i'm taking my hand off the house to pop my wings, you better believe I'm hitting HARDER!


  6. Thanks for the response guys. By popular demand, I threw up a newer UI pic and a pic of my keyboard. I haven't really changed my setup in ages, and have talked before about my addons and macros (check out those tags under potent potables if you're interested). If anyone has any specific questions, I have no problem cooking up a post about it too.

  7. @Fuu, good idea. I'll post something later this week, with a link back here. After playing in the Beta though, I am finding the lack of any add-ons liberating, so I am learning to play without.

    @Fulgaris, may I suggest using a macro for the demonic circle duo? I am using one currently that I push SHIFT (button) to create portal, and simply the button to use portal. I love it, cuz it's less screen-estate and I don't accidental plop down another portal mid-fight.

  8. Yeah, I've thought about that, but I only ever click to use mine so I've never had a problem with accidental plopping. Still, it's a good idea.