Gear Check: Razer Lycosa, DeathAdder, Destructor
One of the things I've always liked about World of Warcraft is the fact that it is a relatively low maintenance PC game - it doesn't require the most hardcore hardware and expensive doodads in order to still provide an enjoyable gaming experience. I remember when I first started playing WoW, in May of 2005, I was playing on a salvaged Hewlett-Packard desktop with barely a month left of life in it, reveling in the much-loved experience of on-board video and way less than a gig of RAM.
I played through a ton of content on this machine, eventually upgrading my RAM so I wouldn't always die in
. I played on this machine thru Burning Crusade and all the way into Black Temple until the PC would finally have no more, and began greeting me with a
Blue Screen of Death
every raid. It was then I swore I would have no more of this foolishness, and I built the beloved PC I have today. It's gone through a few hardware upgrades, a new video card here, a new sound card there.
One thing I hadn't ever really put much thought into upgrading was its peripherals - the keyboard and mouse.
Using a different keyboard and mouse can completely change your gaming experience. True, the contribution and benefit of having a "gaming" mouse or keyboard may not be nearly as noticeable in World of Warcraft as it is in say, Counter-Strike: Source, but there are significant improvements that can be seen in both PVE and PVP content. I've always been a hardcore raider, so my first instinct was to go with the pressure and purchase a
Logitech G11 Gaming Keyboard
. I've recommended the keyboard countless times - it's a solid piece of hardware. It's built well, offers the great features of the
without the LCD screen (which, due to desk limitations, would never have gotten used anyway) and features next to a bajillion programmable macro keys that you can assign to do your bidding (Ok, 18 keys with 3 different modes for a total of 54 macros per game). But after using my G11 for over a year I learned something about myself - I wasn't using those macro keys. They were off to the side, taking up space, being in their own little world. I spoke with other G11/G15 users about their macro keys. Quite a few told me they used them for raid markers. One person had different ranks of the spell mapped to them (this, of course, being before the lovely downranking nerf Blizzard granted us). I realized that I couldn't really find a use for these keys that, to me, were actually inconvenient to use. I don't use my pinky as much, I guess. Because of these macro keys that, admittedly, I wasn't using, the keyboard was also enormous which rendered my available mousing surface almost nonexistant. I decided it was time to move on.
Out With The Old, In With The New
The decision to switch from my G11 keyboard was hard, but I found a worthy replacement - a
Razer Lycosa Gaming Keyboard
. The phrase "gaming keyboard" is kinda overly glorified - especially in the case of World of Warcraft which many people would consider to requiring little more than you would need in an Internet chat room. But that isn't always the case - there are a lot of perks about having excellent peripherals to aide in PVE and PVP content, and the Lycosa definitely does not fall short in providing for these scenarios. One thing I noticed immediately upon switching keyboard is the difference in layout. The bulky G-keys panel is gone, which means I actually have room on my keyboard tray for the mouse (and I can move it, too)! Instead of G-keys, the Lycosa uses a nicely designed programmable macro interface which allows you to assign any key on the keyboard to do any task. You can create up to 10 profiles for programs of custom recorded macros, and switch between profiles at any time. This way, instead of having to rely on the inconvenient G-key layout, you can remap any key to do whatever you'd like. In the case of World of Warcraft, this isn't too big of a deal since most of the alpha keys are already assigned to in-game commands and you can technically fight around with the in-game keybindings menu as much as you'd like. This does make things quite a bit easier in other games, where a seemingly simple task as mapping a set of keystrokes to a single key would require editing .cfg files and generally being more of a pain than it should be.
My absolute favourite feature about this keyboard is the keyboard itself - rather than having the typical, raised keyset found on basically any domestic keyboard, the Lycosa instead features a keypad similar to that of a laptop. These mostly flat, slightly-raised keys do require a bit of getting used to but once you've become accustomed to them I can't see how anyone would prefer anything else. They're insanely comfortable to type with and switching from key to key on the fly (in the heat of battle!) is quick, painless and easy. I barely have to take my hands up from the keyboard and never again does a finger "slip" or miss hitting an important key. This is also thanks to the non-slip, rubberized finish on the keys - quite a change from the normal plastic keys. It felt weird, at first, but I got used to them after barely a few hours of gameplay. They're kind of a pain to clean off, though, so I wouldn't advise cookies and milk at the desk (yes, I've already had this incident). I used a tiny, "laptop-style" keyboard for quite some time (a tiny Viewsonic ViewMate model, sans numpad) for both work and play, so getting back into the hang of things was rather easy - though I can totally see how some players may have a difficult time adjusting. I had forgotten how comfortable the keys were to use, and this keyboard offers no exceptions - smooth, comfortable gameplay in my preferred MMOs and FPS. Oh, it also looks awesome - a smooth, sleek design with a black gloss finish, and an cool blue backlight. The backlight can be toggled via a touch-sensitive panel at the top right of the keyboard, which also houses media controls that can be set to function with any major media player (mine's set to iTunes)! The keyboard offers three settings - full backlight, no backlight, and "WASD cluster" lighting which brightly lights only the WASD keys (I suppose for fragging in the dark?). I stick to the domestic, full backlight as that's what I was used to from before and it just looks downright cool. The keyboard also features a USB port and a headphone/microphone jack but I wasn't able to use that without hearing an interference hum so I stuck with my sound card's inputs - interference is a pain to troubleshoot.
Completing The Set
A good keyboard is nothing without a good mouse, and my beloved Logitech MX518 had seen better days. The "on the fly" sensitivity adjustment had always been a little wonky (even when allegedly turned off) and the mouse's traction was giving up on me after only a few years. This is where Razer's
comes in - a sexy, sexy mouse. World of Warcraft doesn't really require nearly as much attention to precision and detail as a FPS so most of the DeathAdder's features go pretty unnoticed by the average gamer. That being said, I didn't notice them really so much in a FPS but I'm also not even close to being a hardcore gamer. The sensitivity behaved fairly better than my MX518 though I'd definitely have to take some time working with in-game adjustment - I had to lower my in-game sensitivity in Steam by like 7 points and I still sometimes "lose control" of the mouse. The keys are much more sensitive, as well, and I've found myself accidenltly clicking a key when I don't want to. The mouse
awesome, with a glowing blue backlight to the scrollwheel and an illuminating Razer logo on the body of the mouse - it's definitely got it's stage presence down. The mouse has the same feel as the keyboard, which is also pretty cool though I wasn't a big fan of the grips - the mouse was constantly pulling itself downwards towards its wire, which would result in my crosshair flying up into the sky. I had to give it a bit more slack with the wire to prevent this, which makes me wonder why the keyboard didn't come with a wire clip to keep things under control. The mouse also features programmable buttons on the side, which I've heard a lot of WoW gamers prefer to use for common skills such as for tanks or healers. I'm using the mouse paired with one of Razer's professional gaming mousing surfaces, the
surface. I was previously using a fUnc Surface 1030, and for almost any scenario - especially in World of Warcraft - you will not notice any significant difference playing either on a gaming mousepad or on the one that came with your WoW collector's edition. You will notice it quite more in PVP and some PVE encounters, and that's where having a surface like this truly shines. The mousing surface is great and the pad has a non-slip, rubberized base so it's not sliding around everywhere (something my fUnc pad did, and drove me crazy with). The price is a little steep - like I said, most WoW players would probably never notice a difference in their casual play, but it's pretty worth it for the price. The shape is a little odd, and I guess I have the smallest desk surface in the history of mankind (I'm using a keyboard tray) so I have to use the Destructor sideways, which its shape is not exactly made for - but it still works fine. It also comes with a carrying case, which would be cool except we all know that World of Warcraft gamers never leave the house, and therefore would need no means to transport a mousepad.
Ultimately, there's probably a vast majority of World of Warcraft players who are perfectly fine and great players using just a domestic mouse and keyboard, such as one that was bundled with a PC, without any bells, whistles and ultimate fragging precision. Will you see a difference in playing with "gaming" peripherals? Maybe, maybe not. When it comes to FPS games, more likely than not - I did notice a significant difference after getting used to the new hardware in the FPS games I play over Steam, though I did have a little loss of control with the mouse (probably because ultimately there is
control than I'm used to) so I will need to get more adjusted. In World of Warcraft, I found the keys more comfortable to switch between for casting my various heals and basically facerolling through Wrath of the Lich King content. The mouse is pretty moot, as its used strictly for movement and navigation and was never incredibly difficult before. What kind of gear do you guys pack for your World of Warcraft experience? How do you feel about all of the hype surrounding "gaming" branded peripherals - are they worth it?
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