One of the things that always strikes me as interesting is how people move in Warcraft. Some people keyboard turn, others use a mouse, most use a variation of both. Equally interesting is how many people claim they could never do it any other way. However, when I think about it, I believe that how you move is very much dictated by the class you play. After all, the mechanics of a mage are quite different from those of a warrior. So I thought I would write an entry about the different styles of movement.
The basic methods
There are three basic methods of controlling character movement. If you do any of these methods as described, I suggest you learn a more advanced method. I’m not going to tell you to do something foreign or uncomfortable to you, but I will say that if you try to step out of your comfort zone, you may find that it doesn’t take that long to get used to a new way of doing things.
The keyboard turner – The basic keyboard turner uses the four arrow keys to move around. This is the least mobile type of movement and one that I don’t recommend for anyone. The advanced keyboard turner uses Q, W, E, A, S, D to move around. This allows for six directional movements instead of just the standard four. The big drawback is that the turn rate is very slow.
Click-to-mover – Another very entry level option. A click-to-mover will simply click the ground of the location they would like to move and your character will move to that location. The advantage of this method is that you will very accurately go to that location and it doesn’t require you to hold down a button. However, in a heated battle you may find it very unwieldy to keep clicking on terrain to move around.
The mouse looker – The mouse looker is the first of what I consider the real options for moving around. The mouse looker holds the right mouse button down to “free look” around his surroundings. When they have a direction they want to go, they click and hold the left mouse button (while still holding the right down) to move the character in that direction. The advantage to this method is that you can turn as quickly as you can spin your mouse. The disadvantage is that for some people can get disoriented and it can take some time to get used to it. If you get disoriented easily, I suggest inverting your mouse and slowing down the mouse speed.
The advanced methods
The three advanced methods presume you know how to “free look” with your mouse to move. Anyone who strictly keyboard turns or clicks to move is always going to be less maneuverable than someone who learns how to free look.
The circle strafer - Circle strafing is a concept first introduced in first person shooter games. The general idea starts with the typical A,S,D,W keys to control movement. W remains move forward, S remains move backward. However, you rebind A to straft left and D to strafe right. What’s the difference between strafing and turning? Let’s provide a real life example. Stand up. Turn to your right, but stay in the same spot. That’s keyboard turning. Now – take three sideways steps to your right while facing the same direction. That’s strafing. In this method of control, you “turn” by holding down the right mouse button and “free looking” with your mouse. However, you MOVE by pushing the A,S,D,W buttons to move forward/back/sidestep left/right. Circle strafing gets its name because you can literally keep yourself pointed towards the middle of a circle while strafing (side-stepping) in a circle. No other method of movement control offers as much mobility as circle strafing.
The mouse looker “plus” - This is a mouse looker in the traditional sense: they hold down the right mouse button to “free look” and the left mouse button to “walk”. However, they have purchased a mouse with extra buttons that they also configure to perform additional movement. For example, mouse button 3 is backward and button 4 and 5 are strafe left/right. This method allows the mouse looker to move in a similar fashion to the a circle strafer while only using the mouse to control movement.
The clicker “plus” - The clicker plus uses “click-to-move” to send him a direction when things get particularly crazy and they need to move. This ensures they get to where they want to be while they concentrate on casting instants or other things that can be done on the move. As needed, they override “click-to-move” with mouse free-looking and/or strafing. This method sacrifices mobility by somewhat automating movement, but frees up your hands to focus on other damage dealing (or healing) activities.
Which method is best for you?
Needless to say, any of the advanced methods is superior to the basic methods and you could really make any of these work for any class. That being said, I think that some of the methods provide distinct advantages and drawbacks for certain classes.
Range classes that rely on casting time – If your class primarily uses ranged abilities that have a casting time that requires you to stand still for one or more seconds, than mobility is really about moving quickly only when you need to move quickly. For these classes, I highly recommend practicing “click-casting”. This is where you bind most of your mouse keys to different common actions that are performed when you perform a click on a portrait or unit. For example, shift-right click is Polymorph, shift-left click is Fireball, ctrl-left click is Pyroblast. Due to the nature of how you are binding abilities to mouse buttons, your best method of control will likely be circle strafing. This allows you to control most of your movement with the keyboard while freeing your mouse to perform the click casting.
Range classes that rely on instant casts – If you like click casting, then circle strafing is still a good option. However, you may also find that casting instant while “on the move” is also very effective using the clicker “plus” method. The basic idea here is that you click a point to move and then focus on casting. There is no need to “free look” while moving, you can just click on units and portraits to help you with your instant casts. I still recommend using click casting with this movement method, but you can also use bindings bound to your keyboard.
Melee classes – Playing a melee class is about being in melee range when you want to deal damage. In PvE, a lack of mobility won’t kill you since mobs rarely run around that much. In PvP, mobility is VERY VERY important since your target will never stay in the same spot. The two methods that provide the most mobility are circle strafing and mouse looker “plus.” The big difference with melee is that “click casting” is far less helpful to you. Most melee have very situational abilities and typically find that binding hotkeys to your keyboard is more effective. A warrior, for example, has a good dozen abilities that they may commonly use in a fight. In that scenario, I personally find that I prefer the mouse looker “plus” method. This allows me to control movement with one hand and my abilities with the other on the keyboard. Since my left keyboard hand often dances around they keyboard hitting hotkeys, I’m never in a position where I can’t outmaneuver someone because I had to take my fingers off the movement keys.
BTW – Here is a tip if someone is circle strafing you. Back up. It’s nearly impossible for them not to end up in front of you again. I can’t tell you how many fights I have won simply because I kept backing up as they tried to strafe around me.