On Day 1 of BlizzCon 2010, I got to run over to the Steelseries booth and meet with Philippe and Kim, both awesome designers who gave me the grand tour and showed off their products -- and, to my great interest, their design philosophies for their hardware.
Steelseries SHIFT gaming keyboard and Cataclysm key set
This was my first chance to put my hands on Steelseries' Shift keyboard, a competent and capable gaming keyboard that hits all the right points for functionality. Basic keyboards are basic keyboards, right? I wanted to be surprised by the Shift, and thankfully, I was.
What's so special about the Shift? Popping the side clasp off the keyboard reveals a fully removable and replaceable key set. The flagship Cataclysm key set, featuring a fully realized and fully functional set of Warcraft-specific commands, will be released along the Shift in a bundle on Dec. 7, 2010.
Bottom line: Steelseries' Shift is a competent gaming keyboard that feels good on the hands and works like a charm. Nothing felt out of place on the set, and my own personal learning curve was incredibly low. If you're in the market for a specialized keyboard that provides extra functionality for Cataclysm come December, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Steelseries World of Warcraft MMO Cataclysm gaming mouse
At first glance, the Steelseries MMO Gaming mouse seems very similar to the original version of the same mouse. Well, you wouldn't be wrong -- a lot of the functionality of the original mouse has stayed on board. However, the mouse has had a few changes, including a fix to one of the biggest complaints about the original mouse.
I asked the designer, Philippe, why they removed one button from the mouse. For him and Steelseries, it was a no-brainer -- if people are complaining about buttons that were poorly placed in the beginning, Steelseries wasn't going to leave something that didn't work or people didn't like. So the side button configuration on the left side of the mouse was changed due to feedback. I respect hardware manufacturers that don't leave on the superfluous in the face of added "box" functionality.
There were varying reviews concerned with the build quality of the original MMO mouse. Version 2 feels much more solid. I knocked it around a bit, playing with the buttons and the sensor, making sure it was responding really well. It felt fine -- but more importantly, it felt sturdier and more solid than the original. Steelseries seems to be very, very interested in consumer feedback, which warms my heart.
There are two ways to configure and use the MMO mouse. Since the MMO mouse is a licensed Blizzard World of Warcraft product, the mouse has been built from the ground up to work with WoW's interface. Blizzard and Steelseries has worked closely to allow the game to detect the mouse, as well as having interface elements and keybindings inside the game's own keybindings menu. You can also use the comprehensive software suite to bind whatever you would like to the mouse.
You can change the mouse's glow to practically anything on the color spectrum. It works out of the box for Mac and PC, and you can even save your mouse configurations to the mouse's onboard memory to take your keybindings and profiles with you. The software looks at the armory for you, putting your character-specific images and information next to character-specific mouse profiles. It's slick, and it shows.
Bottom line: The new MMO gaming mouse feels better and more stable in my hand than the first version, as well as feeling more solid and sturdy than the last iteration. The buttons were reachable and easily configurable, and the onboard profiles and armory integration sealed the deal on the awesome interface. I liked it, even if it's not the type of mouse I choose to use every day. Gaining 14 accessible buttons in addition to your keyboard is not something to laugh at.