Gaming pads have been around for quite some time, however most have been seen as being used solely for first person shooters. Not many have looked at using them for MMOs like World of Warcraft.
However after getting a gaming pad and using it since Wrath of the Lich King expansion was released by Blizzard, I couldn’t imagine playing without it.
Now these gamer pads you need to know a few things to get you started. First off there are many to choose from and you need to pick one that is right for you, since every gamer has specific requirements. So lets break down the different options
1. n52te – Belkin powered by Razer
- Adjustable soft-touch wrist pad for maximum comfort and endurance
- Easily toggle between 3 keymap states
- Programmable 8-way thumb pad with removable joystick
- Nonslip rubber pads grip in place for aggressive fragging
- 15 fully programmable keys built for complete customization and speed
- Enhanced tactile feedback and button responsiveness for rapid key presses
- Backlit keypad and scroll wheel for total control in dark conditions
- Powered by Razer™
- Personalized multiplayer profiles for all your games
- Razer Synapse™ onboard memory enables plug-and-play versatility with no additional software installation
- Unparalleled customization tools for intuitive setup and performance
Cost: $74.99 MSRP
This is the gamerpad I personally use, I chose it for a couple reasons
1. I liked the key layout, they weren’t a ton, which meant I could focus on my most crucial abilities that I need at the ready.
2. It had a thumb-stick to move my character around
3. At the time the logitech G13 was not out so only was able to compare it with the SteelSeries Fang.
4. The ergonmic design is great and allows me to play World of Warcraft for hours without my wrist getting sore.
For me this pad has been great, has worked now with all my WoW characters without being a hassle, and has worked on a wide array of characters: Death Knight, Paladin, Mage, Rogue, Priest. The software was easy to use to setup the different buttons, the keys are backlit for playing in the dark, and the pad changes colors based on what key profile you are using. Changing profiles might be great if say you are a druid and need to be able to switch profiles and access different action bars easily and quickly.
Some of the cons with this pad are that I wish it had some better rubber stoppers on the bottom, as the ones it does have it still has a tendency to slide a bit. This was easily rectified by putting my own rubber stoppers on it, but this seems like a simple design change that was overlooked. Also if you are a lefty, well this won’t work for you, as it was predominately designed for righties…sorry.
2. Logitech G13 Gamerpad
- Naturally contoured design: Follows the natural shape of your hand and fingers for increased comfort during long sessions.
- Large, concave buttons: Let you locate buttons by touch on the home row.
- Solid, stable design: Helps assure that your gameboard will keep up when your game gets intense. Strategically placed feet. Stable weight (650 grams).
- Twenty-five programmable keys: Customize keys to suit your style of play.
- Quick macros: Assign complex actions to single keystrokes—on the fly.
- Programmable mini-joystick: Maneuver quickly and easily. The control you need is under your thumb.
- Backlit keys: Let you easily locate the right key in low-light conditions or lights-out play. Plus, you can customize the keys with any backlight color that you want.
- Onboard memory: Saves your profiles so you can take your personal preferences with you.
- Portable design: Keeps the game going wherever you go.
- High-visibility GamePanel™ LCD: Gather tactical information, including live stats, system info, and communications from fellow players.
- Public software development kit (SDK): Upload the latest enhancements developed exclusively for GamePanel™ by the Logitech open-source community.
Cost: $79.99 MSRP
Now I don’t use this pad on a daily basis, but my good friend uses this, so I sat down with him and he let me try it out myself. So after talking with him and a test drive I have the following impressions.
The pad fits your hand very well and is very comfortable. Unlike the Belkin, this pad stays in place without any extra modifications. Now I have a G15 keyboard so the software that comes with it is very intuitive to use and easy to setup. The LCD frame gives you tons of great information about the game you are playing, however if you already have a G series Logitech keyboard, then you get the same World of Warcraft information on both, which redundant information isn’t very helpful.
Now the buttons can be a pro or a con. If you have small hands or feel 25 buttons at the ready are too much, then its a con. However if you have larger hands and need more buttons than the n52 offers at easy reach then this pad definitely offers a lot more buttons. One of the cooler features is the onboard memory so it will save your settings in the hardware and you can take it and plug it into any other computer to get a similar experience without needed to redo all your settings.
The thumb-pad my friend says is a con, because currently it only really picks up on 4 directions, but that shouldn’t be a problem for MMOs though, as the n52 is very similar to this.
Probably the biggest downside to this device is that the buttons are so tightly clumped together that its very easy to fat finger and hit a spell you didn’t mean to, throw off your whole rotations. I am sure it can be overcome with practice but that was my biggest gripe when trying it out.
3. Fang by SteelSeries
- Ambidextrous design to suit any gamer
- Anti-ghosting capability: Up to 7 simultaneous keystrokes
- SteelSeries Z Engine allows full customization of each key
- Pre-defined profiles for more than 150 games
- Improved ergonomics through adjustable height
Cost: $29.99 MSRP
The SteelSeries Fang is by far the cheapest option out there. The biggest plus out of this is that if you are a lefty you too can use this. Very easy design to move your character and strafe. Buttons are programmable and within finger length. The pad makes adding custom macros easy with its drag and drop macro builder. As you can see thge number keys are all there.
However one thing you will notice is that lots of the buttons revolve around other functions than action, like toggling walk/run. The lack of an ergonomic design I feel hurts it but understand they are trying to go the ambidextrous route. This is a good pad for the cash, but you really do get what you pay for, and for most WoW experience I think you would want something that puts you in a bit more control and lets you define the buttons instead of the pad defining what the buttons should be.
Modifying your UI action bars to mirror the controller.
So now that we went through the pads and you chose your new toy. How do we use it in the best way? Well many scientifc studies show that if the controller mirrors what you see on screen it becomes more intuitive to the end user, which reduces the learning curve for adoption.
I am going to take the example of the Belkin n52te along with my UI. First lets look at the key pad on the device. Notice how the device has 3 rows, the top 2 have 5 keys, and the bottom has 4, for 14 total keys.
What we want to do is mirror that setup with an action bar mod like Bartender4. So for Bartender4, you need to create 2 bars, 1 that has 9 buttons and another with 5, or 1 with 10 and 1 with 4. All depends on how you want to set it up. The end product you should get something like this:
Now of course if you go down the Logitech or Fang route, you will have more or less buttons, but placed in a different configuration but the idea is that the custom action bar mods can help duplicate it so your eyes can help associate the button clicks with your mind, making World of Warcraft your new personal playground.