As you may have gathered, I have a… healthy… relationship with everyone’s favorite MMO, World of Warcraft. I forget who originally planted the idea in my head (there’s a good chance it was Lilboo, formerly of the Daring Blades on Kirin Tor), but I decided that I wanted a dedicated game controller that was more than just the keyboard; there’s just too much going on in WoW for an FPS-like control layout, in my opinion. I settled on a Nostromo, and after a few weeks of adjusting, and very few changes to my bindings, I have gotten very used to what may be a very unusual control style.
Verbose explanation of how I use the device below the cut.
First, the product itself. I have the Nostromo n52, which gives you a D-pad, 14 programmable keys, a scrollwheel, and two thumb buttons. I’ve only seriously tried configuring it for World of Warcraft (and also for Lord of the Rings Online, but I intentionally set that up to be almost identical to WoW).
Last year Belkin released the Nostromo n52te, now the Razer Nostromo, which as far as I can tell is the same product, costs twice as much, and has silly blue lights. Maybe they improved the “touch” of the keys, but the vanilla n52 works fine after hundreds of days of playtime (although the key labels have all worn off).
The Nostromo works with both PC and Mac, and the Mac software is one of the better ones for third-party peripherals; it’s implemented as a System Preferences pane, which is the “right” way of doing this sort of thing on a Mac (as opposed to a standalone application). Here’s what configuring it looks like on a Mac:
Pretty straight-forward; you select the key on the Nostromo you want to configure, and then you can select a wide variety of actions (and add modifiers). I haven’t ever used any of the “turbo” functionality, I treat them all as normal keys, with the exception of the Shift buttons.
Here’s how configuring the Nostromo looks on Windows (and how it looked on the Mac before they wrote new drivers, as opposed to just porting the Windows ones):
The same functionality, but the “cool looking” but non-standard UI I find a bit confusing. Both the Mac and Windows versions support some of the other Nostromo series products. The Windows version is a bit better at saving profiles for export; as far as I know, the current Mac version can’t do this (unless you want to dig around in OS X plist files).
Shifting is one of the really cool capabilities of the Nostromo: while there are only a few physical buttons, if you assign 3 of them to Red Shift, Blue Shift, and Green Shift, you effectively quadruple your available buttons (I definitely don’t use that many), as long as you’re willing to press multiple keys at once. This is usually called “chording”, and at this point it’s very well embedded in my muscle memory, as you’ll see below. This is what really gives you “speed at your fingertips” or whatever they put in the marketing literature – with only a few movements of your left hand, you basically get as many keybindings as a standard keyboard.
As you can see below, I use the D-pad for strafe-based movement, since I use mouse turning. The orange button near the D-pad is hard to use with the D-pad, so I just use it as an auto-run toggle. The six buttons in the upper right are associated with the active action bar; either 1-6 or 7-12, depending on whether or not I’m red shifted. The mousewheel is used for applying target markers (skull, X, etc.). Most of the keys on the left periphery are lower priority things, since they’re hit by my pinky or by an extension of one of my other fingers.
The main functionality is with that block of 6 keys. Between the red shift on my thumb (button 15, below the D-pad), and shift (the literal keyboard key) on Button 11, in the lower left for my pinky, I can select any of my character’s actions with a three-fingered cord. Since I organize my action buttons in-game carefully (see the next section), most of my fast in-combat actions can be achieved by mashing one key with the relevant finger, possibly while pressing my thumb. I can press my thumb on the red shift key while using the D-pad to move, although in highly mobile fights I’m likely to use a combination of autorun and mouse movement.
Also, these bindings should be perfectly valid for a newer Nostromo n52te.
|Key||No Shift||Red Shift||Green Shift||Blue Shift|
|Button 1||Blue Shift||Blue Shift||Blue Shift||Blue Shift|
|Button 2||Key (space)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (x)|
|Button 3||Key (5)||Key (-)||Key (F5)||Key (ctrl+5)|
|Button 4||Key (3)||Key (9)||Key (F3)||Key (ctrl+3)|
|Button 5||Key (1)||Key (7)||Key (F1)||Key (ctrl+1)|
|Button 6||Green Shift||Green Shift||Green Shift||Green Shift|
|Button 7||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|Button 8||Key (6)||Key (=)||Key (F6)||Key (ctrl+6)|
|Button 9||Key (4)||Key (0)||Key (F4)||Key (ctrl+4)|
|Button 10||Key (2)||Key (8)||Key (F2)||Key (ctrl+2)|
|Button 11||Press shift||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|Button 12||Key (c)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|Button 13||Key (m)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|Button 14||Key (shift+b)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|Button 15||Red Shift||Red Shift||Red Shift||Red Shift|
|Wheel Up||Key (opt+k)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|Wheel Down||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|Wheel Button||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|Circle Button||Key (num clear)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|DPad Up||Key (w)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|DPad Right||Key (e)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (d)|
|DPad Down||Key (s)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|DPad Left||Key (q)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (a)|
|DPad Up Right||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|DPad Down Right||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|DPad Down Left||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
|DPad Up Left||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)||Key (none)|
The other keybindings are pretty boring: they open the character pane, my current favorite map mod, or my bag management mod. Green shift and Blue Shift are largely unused, although they focus on modifying the core 6 buttons; Green lets me target party members (function keys), including myself (I mostly rely on Grid and mouseover macros these days); Blue lets me activate pet/vehicle abilities (control + number keys).
Blue shift also modifies some other actions, such as making the D-pad turn instead of strafe, or making my flying mount go down instead of up (note that x and space are assigned to the same button, just shifted). There’s a lot of room for expansion, and the configuration is admittedly a bit haphazard… but I’ve been using it for over 2 years, so I’m very used to it. It’s all in muscle memory, and I can react very quickly to most in-game events without moving my hands at all (I use a Logitech Cordless TrackMan® Optical in my right hand).
If it wasn’t obvious to most WoW players based on the bindings listed above, I keep the in-game keybindings set almost exclusively to the defaults (with the exception of a few additions, or tweaks to use particular mods in place of some default UI components). I also use only the default action bar; the shift-# bindings above select one of the six default action bar “pages”, and then 1 through = on the number row activate an action on the current bar. Thus my Nostromo configuration depends heavily on my bar configuration, since I memorize it
Without going into detail at the level of specific class abilities, here’s how I break down the six action bars:
- Primary abilities: attacks, anything with a short cooldown; in the case of my healers, geared towards soloing.
- Panic buttons: potions, trinkets, class abilities like Evasion and Desperate Prayer
- Secondary abilities: longer cooldown combat abilities; in the case of my healers, mouseover macros for their various group healing and cleansing spells
- Crafting: maybe silly to have a whole bar dedicated, but I don’t otherwise need the space
- Transportation: mounts, pets, and usable quest items
- Buffs: poison hotkeys on my rogue, blessings on my Paladin, etc.
I’m admittedly not 100% consistent in this, but that’s the general idea. Because of where 1 and 2 are bound on the Nostromo, the most important bars are under my pointer finger; similarly, within each bar (and related to the core 6 keys above when combined with Red Shift), the most important abilities are in slots 1, 2, 7, and 8, because these are again under my pointer finger.
Maybe a full description of my UI configuration, including button bar breakdowns by class, can come in a future post; the main takeaway from all of this is that I try very hard to keep things similar across characters, so my muscle memory doesn’t have to relearn much as I switch between the different roles on my various alts. Feel free to suggest any tweaks to this!