Posted by on September 16th, 2009 in Guides

So you’re a dedicated competitive First Person Shooter player, but want to take your play up to the next level? Look no further, for the GameDrone FPS Self-Improvement Series has arrived!

Having played FPS games competitively for the past decade, I’ve decided to share my knowledge with the you: the future skilled FPS players. These coming six days will be filled with varying thematic tips to improve your FPS playing skills.

This first entry in the new self-improvement series focuses on the topic of hardware. Do you go TFT or CRT? Does resolution matter? What kind of headset do you need? How should you bind your keys? Do mice and mousing surfaces matter?

These questions and more are covered inside…

1. Mousing around

Arguably the most important tool at your disposal in first person shooters is your mouse.

I know from personal experience that the kind of mouse you use while gaming does make a difference. Going from a cheap Trust/Microsoft mouse to a Razer Deathadder brings a world of difference – and a world of pain upon your opponents.

Ideally you’ll want to buy a good gaming-oriented optical mouse. Don’t bother with laser mice; they may have high DPI ratings, but I’ve yet to use one that responds nearly as well as a good optical mouse. Something with an extra side button would be best, because it gives you extra keys to bind to in-game.

2. Situational awareness is paramount

Take your games of choice into account when purchasing a monitor for your PC.

Oh, TFT monitors are fine. Going for CRT will not give you an edge. I’m talking size and resolution here.

A huge 24″ monitor is great if you like playing role-playing or strategy games, but its very unwieldy for competitive shooters. Most players sit no further than a meter from their screen, which means you’ll want a screen no larger than 22″ widescreen monitor (ideally a 19″ or 20″). Any more than that and you lose your overview and it becomes more difficult to spot opponents and perform well.

Taking in all of what's happening is easier on smaller monitors

Taking in all of what's happening is easier on smaller monitors

3. Pay attention and listen

Do not cut down on your sound systems. Integrated HD audio or a decent soundcard is a must, as is a decent pair of headphones.

If you can hear your opponent more clearly than he can hear you, then you’ve got the advantage. No, you don’t want to go for expensive 5.1 surround systems, but nice 2.0 headphones like the Sennheiser HD 595 will help.

It’s important that you’ve got clear audio with good positional sound. You’ll be able to hear exactly where your opponent is coming from, when a new power-up spawns, potentially which weapon someone is using (the buzz of a lightning gun/railgun in Quake Live) and once you’ve gained some experience; dodge shots based on sound alone.

4. Binds are key

There is a good reason as to why most skilled players use wasd or esdf setups: there are a lot of surrounding keys available for easily accessible binds.

It may take some getting used to, but having your weapons bound to separate keys will definitely help your performance in the long run. Swapping with the mouse wheel is unreliable at best, and using number keys will force you to release your regular movement controls in order to swap. Not so if you’ve got everything bound near your all-important movement and firing keys.

Obviously you can use any key setup you choose and there are a few good players using some very unorthodox setups. But very few indeed do not have their important functions (including weaponry) bound to more easily accessible than default keys.

Proper keybinds allow for quick swapping - and nice combination kills

Proper keybinds allow for quick swapping - and nice combination kills

5. Proper positioning

Make sure that your sitting posture in front of your PC is ideal.

Neck cramps from having to look down (or up) at your monitor, RSI from wrong positioning of your arms and hands, and physical effects of other uncomfortable positions will distract you from your play.

It’s not just good practice for keeping healthy, but also for better performance in games. If you know that your sitting position is incorrect, then you may want to look into improving that. It could well boost your play.

6. The best of surfaces

Some players will argue that it doesn’t matter, but most skilled players will have their favorites: mousepads.

Take your mouse into account when searching for a mousing surface. A Razer does not mesh well with glass plates like Icemats, but these light and high-sensitivity mice do generally slide better on rough cloth mats and the rough side of mousepads like the fUnc 1030. The rough surface slows them down a  little, which makes their high degree of responsiveness more manageable.

Conversely, I’ve found that bulkier mice like the Logitech G5 are better used on smoother surfaces. Not as responsive and a lot heavier, smooth mousepads will help glide it along. Whereas rough surfaces will become a hindrance.

GameDrone FPS Self-Improvement Series:

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