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Keybindings and how to change them

Mike Schramm

Xella has a great post over at WoW LJ about keybindings, and it got me thinking. I play with what I thought was the "standard" way -- with the left hand sitting on the home fingers of Shift, A, W, D, and the spacebar, and then jumping up to the 1-6 (or further down the number line if necessary, though truth be told, I usually mouse-click those when I have the time to do so) to hit various abilities. But xella does it very differently -- she maps her fingers to the top abilities keys, using only her ring finger for movement. I would probably never have come up with that on my own (my habits come directly from FPS games, where the 1-6 keys are mostly for weapon switching, something you don't do quite as often as casting abilities), but it does make a lot of sense, even if xella says her ring finger, with all of those movement motions, is getting somewhat worn out.

And then she hits on something else I've been dealing with lately, too: changing what you've got. Setting up your keybinds is one thing, but actually changing them can be tougher.

For instance, my Hunter has always had Hunter's Mark attached to the 5 key -- that was the easiest and quickest place for me to put it when I was setting things up, and so I've trained myself, whenever I am about to start shooting a target, to smash the 5 key and move on. But I have Arcane Shot sitting on the 6, and Explosive Shot (when I'm in that spec) sitting on the 4. That can cause problems, as you might have guessed: reach up to mark a target before the fight, accidentally hit the Arcane Shot, and then I get labeled as a noob for pulling early (probably a deserved title for many reasons, but still). So I decided to switch the mark away from there, and put it somewhere else more out of the way.

But instinctively, as I've been hitting 5 for Hunter's Mark for so long, I would reach up and hit 5 again whenever I entered combat -- I had a lot of trouble retraining my reflexes to hit something else. I only really tried to change for about an hour, but at that point I had to run off to a raid, and rather than making mistakes during a raid setting, I just went ahead and moved the keys back.

I presume that if I gave it more time, I would eventually learn the difference (we humans are nothing if not adaptable), but I was definitely surprised to see just how ingrained my reflexes were with the key presses. xella says she wants to change as well, and most people recommend what I would do (and what I'll probably have to do if I really want to change) -- just take the time to practice and re-learn the keys. It's interesting that we can change keybindings in seconds, but especially if we've built up experience over time, it's much harder to change the way we move.

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