Friday, August 6, 2010

Windower advantages

Avesta solo'd Byakko recently. There's a link to the video in that thread. What you'll also find in that thread is a heated argument (if you can call it that) about whether or not using Windower gives you an advantage and if it's an unfair advantage as well as whether or not Avesta's solos take more skill than if he used Windower and Spellcast.

Well, first off I can tell you that I have no personal experience with Spellcast. I've seen snippets of scripts that give me a broad idea of what it's capable of. I've used Windower a long time ago. At the time it was so I could dualbox and see my EXP/hr in parties. I haven't used it since SE made their own windowed mode. I don't use it, because
  1. I'm paranoid about being banned for it, despite all the evidence that it won't happen.
  2. I believe, in the majority of cases, the game should be played with the means the developers provided and nothing else.
Given the Byakko solo as well as similar fights I can think of the following things third party tools could have done to make it easier:
  • More efficient gear swaps
  • Distance plugin
  • On-screen recasts
  • More distance gained from JA0Wait (not windower related, but still 3rd party)
Avesta did not seem to use multi-layered macros that span multiple sets. I personally do this because I don't want to limit the number of slots I swap out. This introduces new problems though. First of all, to be efficient you have to start on the same set everytime. I use a macro to send me back to the first set in every spot that I don't use. As long as you control your button presses and you don't panic, you can do the same things with regular macros as you can with Windower macros. If, for example, I have my Bind macros across two sets, then I can use Fastcast in one and swap back the magic accuracy/skill gear after the magic cast line in the second. The benefit is mostly in being able to put more precisely timed pauses as well as eliminating the chance that you start your macro on the wrong set.

A secondary benefit is the small time gained by only having to press a button once. Some people make this point laughable by claiming that pressing a button 3 times doesn't take more skill than pressing it once. The point is that it takes more time and, as mentioned before, is more prone to error. You can not spam the macro presses. From someone who has always relied on intricate in-game macros, I can tell you that pressing the macro buttons too fast in sequence can cause some equipment swap lines to be ignored/skipped. Recently my idle-set macros have gone from two sets to three. I now have to press ctrl+1 three times to go back to my neutral gear after taking an action. I admit that I get sloppy when doing this and often don't go back to my idle set between actions because I want to be able to do things in quick sequence. This is a non-issue when using spellcast gearswaps, which are more powerful than Windower macros.

Against any mob whose magic or abilities can be avoided by standing at the correct range, the distance plug-in allows you to do this with a lot more precision. Sometimes there is a small band you can stand in where you're both safe from an attack and able to cast on the mob and/or tanks. I personally find this simple to figure out when fighting something in a group. I just take a few seconds to find the maximum casting range and I try to stay there. In certain solo's however, exact positioning can be a big benefit. Seconds are lost when you try to cast a spell on a bound or otherwise immobile mob, only to find out you need to take a few steps back to reach. Will this be the determining factor in the solo? Unlikely, but as I learned from my attempts at the Requiem of Sin battle, it does certainly matter.

Knowing whether or not a spell or ability is up, or knowing how much time is left on a buff before it wears off makes any battle more efficient. Since SE added the recast command I try to use it as much as I can. However, I often end up removing it simply because it takes up macro line space I'd rather use for something else. More ofte it's because I find it impractical to put a recast line in a macro of the spell I'm trying to cast (barring Refresh and Haste). In practice I would try to cast something, find out I can't yet, then go back to my idle set before I try again, find out I'm 1 second too early and I cycle through the macros sets again until the spell comes out. Blinking aside, it also introduces wasted keypresses which could have been used for something else. Why not use a specialized recast macro? Valid question. My answer to this is that the macro I would make would have at least 3 recasts in it. Visually parsing this moving list of numbers takes time. Also, the chat log updates slowly. By the time I've figured out what the actual recast is I may have pressed the macro three times due to chat-log spam from other things going on. In the end I find it not to be worth the precious macro real-estate and live/deal with sometimes pressing a macro too early. It's not as big a problem for my personal style of play. In cases where it could be, I use the recast macro command.

Though the distance gained from blink casting is not extreme, there are some clear examples of where this small difference is essential. One of them is Kaeko's impressive Bhaflau Remnants Solo where a single hit form Long-bowed Chariot could have ended the attempt. It also made his Kaizer Behemoth solo go notably faster. The argument that this can be done manually is somewhat invalidated by the fact that lag and response time as well as computer speed make this hard to do reliably. Windower macros can be helpful here too due to its more precise delay mechanism. I came up with a way to blink out Blizzard3 about 75% of the time using a sequence of 3 different /wait commands which made it so I could delay for a fraction longer than the sum of all the waits. Once I started doing this soloing Iriz Ima went much faster. It didn't make me take less damage, since, even with the spell-completion freeze, it's too slow to catch up as long as I start moving right before the spell completes. What it DID do was allow me to spam spells much more frequently as I could widen the gap between me and the NM much more quickly.

For all the benefits of these 3rd party tools, each can be argued to be only a marginal improvement. I believe that with proper planning, preparations, strategy and player skill, the difference these tools make is LESS essential to success than the race of the character. Galka vs Taru MP pool for example. However, be they marginal or essential (in certain specific situations) they add up and improve efficiency and as a consequence, the overall chance of success. I can't think of a solo right now that REQUIRES these tools to achieve. So, as far as I know, right now any solo done with them can be done without them. However, to me, claiming that these do not improve the odds of success sounds like a defensive reaction from people that do use them, rather than a balanced well evaluated opinion.

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