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The Art of War(craft): A handy guide to winning at everything

Zach Yonzon

Zach enjoys PvP in all its forms, thus celebrating when some form of PvP was introduced to the Facebook game Pirates Ahoy!

Let's continue from last week's handy guide which was titled intentionally to play on the various meanings of "good." This week, we'll go through a few pointers at how to win at everything. Or, at the very least, to put up a decent fight and not go down in a terribly embarrassing fashion. That's all one can really ask for -- that one puts up a fight. Note that in most cases, the victor won't care because a win is a win, especially in PvP. There are no moral victories in PvP, but there are educational defeats. If you're going to lose, at the very least learn from it, right?

The first rule to winning is to think you can win. If you don't give yourself a chance to win by thinking you're outmatched, then unless your opponent is a total buffoon, she's already won. Don't worry too much about class or your level differential. You must go into the battle thinking you can win or, if you're a healer, at least survive indefinitely. It doesn't matter if you can actually win or not, especially when you're clearly outmatched, such as when you're many levels below your opponent. In such cases, your opponents already expect to win, so if you surprise them with some resistance or maybe even bring them dangerously low, then you will have put some doubt into their heads. As I mentioned last week, most griefers don't actually look for a challenge. So there, the most important rule: Believe you can win.

Hardware and connection

The harsh reality is that because World of Warcraft is a computer game -- an MMORPG -- your hardware and connection speed matters. You will need a computer that exceeds the minimum requirements of Wrath of the Lich King and, later on, Cataclysm. The game can be processor-intensive at times, and a hot processor simply bogs down and can sometimes create all sorts of havoc with your system -- anything from crashing the application to slowing everything down. If you want to put up a fight, the last thing you want is WoW crashing on you, which will leave your opponents a target that's running in place or standing still (basically, a free honorable kill).

It's no surprise that most avid PvP players invest in their hardware, simply because it's more critical than, say, handing the graphics output of a boss encounter. In fact, the regular event that demands the most resources in World of Warcraft both on the server and client sides is Wintergrasp, a PvP encounter. Tol Barad in Cataclysm will be demanding to your system, as well, albeit the map has been designed to spread players out.

One way to alleviate the demands of the game to your system is to set the video settings low. You won't need any of the fancy graphics to kill an opponent, so if your computer isn't up to snuff, then set your video quality to low, with the probable exceptions of View Distance, which allows you to see objects and opponents farther, and Projected Textures, which renders area-of-effect spells on surfaces. You should also turn down your resolution to 1x multi-sampling, which will make everything look jagged but will render much faster. Your game will look like crap, but you'll see a significant jump in your game's performance. Everything will feel snappier. Uglier, yes, but definitely snappier.

You will also want peripherals that do their job passably well, which means you might want to invest in multi-button mice. I highly recommend the Razer Naga, but basically any mouse that has more buttons than your basic two-button mouse should already help you access spells much easier than your keyboard. Likewise, you'll want a responsive keyboard that allows you to hit all the necessary buttons very easily. This means your most important spells should be within reasonable reach of your keyboard fingers (e.g., for smaller hands, keys 7 to = will be inconvenient). I went through a look a gaming hardware in a series of posts that took a look at options for gaming.

Equally (or perhaps even more important) than hardware is your internet connection. Because data is transmitted from your computer to Blizzard's servers and back again, the speed at which this information travels is critical. Let's say you have two players pressing a potential killing blow button at the exact same time; the player who has the faster connection will almost always get the upper hand. This is a sad reality for players in Asia such as myself or elsewhere who must continually contend with high latencies owing to the simple, incontrovertible reality that longer distances will translate to delays in relaying information.

A faster connection will help if only because it allows you to send more packets of data without getting constricted. If you play with a green latency bar or green screen icon (0-300 ms), you should be good. Yellow (301-600 ms) will probably see some delays in your spells, and red (601+ ms) will render you unable to compete at the highest levels. At yellow and red latencies, you will even have problems targeting because the information you are getting will no longer be real time. For example, with a high latency, you will be receiving late data such that your targets may no longer be in the same place that they are currently. Melee classes will receive common errors such as "target is too far away," despite being right on top of their opponents on their screen.

Here's the kicker: Players who have poorer-quality connections will have to adjust. Your opponents will not know -- and will not care -- if you're suffering from a high latency. In fact, they'll probably take it as an invitation to take you to town. So adjust. Melee classes will need to learn to move in a particular way such as to ensure optimal contact with their opponents; this means taking advantage of lateral movement and strafing very often. Combat in close quarters is good, such as the tunnel in Warsong Gulch, because it minimizes instances of erroneous targeting. Ranged classes have far greater room for error because of automatic targeting and range. Once you have gotten used to the nuances of a high latency, you'll perform even better when you luck out on lower ping because your spells will go off and land all that faster.

Next week, we'll discuss other ways to improve your ping such as SSH tunneling, techniques on how to adjust to a high ping, how to move with your mouse, and other handy tips and tricks to improve your PvP. Perhaps you can use the time waiting for part two to shop around for a more powerful gaming rig. At least, I think that's what I'm going to do. I'll probably need it for Cataclysm, anyway.

Zach delivers your weekly dose of battlegrounds and world PvP in one crazy column. Find out how the Cataclysm talent tree redesign affects PvP, how sub-speccing will work at higher levels in the expansion, and how the new Azeroth will affect world PvP. Visit Blood Sport for the inside line on arena PvP.

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