I'm not rich, nor do I have a lot of money to spend on special equipment like a Nostromo or Razer Naga. I did buy a Logitech G13 at one point, and it was an amazing piece of equipment, but it just wasn't for me. It's very possible that those pieces of equipment would greatly help my performance overall, but since I so frequently hear of one of these pricey devices breaking or not performing up to par, I find it easier to rely on a standard keyboard and mouse.
I learned my keyboard setup from Ed Park, who wrote a pretty extensive post on keybinding and strafing. The premise is that the default settings for most MMOs are wrong because they put some of the more important keys too far from the left hand. Obviously, if I were using a Naga or similar mouse, this keyboard layout wouldn't be that much of an issue, but since I'm not, it's a bad layout for me.
First, Park explains, never keyboard turn. Mouse turning is always faster and less clunky. Second, move forward with your mouse, too. By default, if you press both mouse buttons at the same time, you will move forward. If you do this, ideally, you will need only two keys on your keyboard to move. Unfortunately, I could never completely break the habit of moving forward with my keyboard, so I use three keys to move. Next, shift your movement keys over by one space. Your hands should be used to sitting that way because of the way you're supposed to type. Lastly, set up your keyboard layout the same for every class you play based on types of abilities. I have a quick diagram here of how I do it, but this is just one example. You should lay out the keys the way that works best for you.
Looking for my stun break? It's on my middle mouse button, which most mice have now.
I think too many people are afraid to experiment with their skill trees. For me, that's part of the fun of playing an MMO. Perhaps people are afraid that they will mess up something or that change will hinder their performance in group activities. I don't believe you should mess around with your spec if other people in the group are counting on you to perform optimally, but if you're doing something that you know you can blast through, then what's the harm in healing or DPSing slightly below standard?
So where do you start? Not the official forums. That's not to say there isn't good information there, but sometimes you have to sift through a bunch of crap and contradictory information in order to find what actually works. Instead, I suggest turning to fansites. If you have a favorite fansite, then ask its staffers what they do. I used to tell players that Noxxic was a good place to start as it's fairly accurate and easy to navigate, but it's not always up to date on the latest class info. You can still use the site, but understand what you find there it's not necessarily the best build -- experiment!
Recently, the writers at Dulfy have indulged in class guides. So far I have been impressed with the write-ups. Many times they will post not just the "best" way to build your character but options on how to enhance that build based on playstyle. I have not read through all of the guides there yet, and my primary class doesn't have a guide, but these players are very active in the game, and they will likely have a quick turnaround when class changes hit for Update 2.6.
This is my current Marauder build, which might be the default PvE build on Noxxic. But I seriously recommend experimenting.
Perfecting your ability rotation takes time, sometimes a lot of time. I have been playing an annihilation Marauder since I hit level 50, and I am still finding ways to make things faster and better for me. However, just as with skill trees, you need a good place to start. Some people like to know the best order to hit the keys -- do this, then this, then this, then this. Many of the guides will lay abilities out that way. And for optimized openers, that is definitely a good way to handle things, but for me, rotations don't click until I know why certain abilities feed off others. For instance, carnage-specced Marauders will do Gore, Berserk, and then Ravage. But the reasoning isn't clear until you understand that Gore breaks armor, Berserk speeds up channeled abilities, and Ravage is the most powerful channeled ability for the carnage Marauder.
My original source for rotation guides is no longer in service, but Dulfy's guides have really blown me away. Not only do they break down the optimal order of abilities, but they also explain how much damage or healing each ability should be doing based on the spec.
If you're truly interested in how I play my class, feel free to ask a question in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. I'll see you next week.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!