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The Great Macro Debate

Published by under Blog,Game Mechanics on Oct. 20. 2011.

This will be my second time at getting this post out. The first I went too much into how other games have handled macros in the past.

But after 3000+ words it was plain to see that other games can not and do not make a case for or against TOR having macros.


I’ve played many mmo’s in the past that have had no macros what so ever, then games like Ultima online and SWG which had vast amounts just so you could play the game. Without them your existence within the realm would result in constant pain and anger.


Yet the games that had macros needed them and without some sort of macro system the game was unplayable. Take Ultima Online. The lack of a skill-bar you have to make a macro for every spell, heal and simple things like mining.

Yet that game could see you complete a wealth of tasks that would run for hours just by the click of a button.


With my limited time with TOR, its clear that how other games handled macros has little to no relevance on how macros would be beneficial to the game.


So just looking at TOR what stands out first is the lack of an auto-attack and lets not forget that 1.5 seconds global cool down (GDC). Now you may think that 1.5 seconds ain’t too long, but let me tell you I can bash a skill an average of 3-4 times before the next skill shoots off.

This was at low levels with around 7 skills on my bar.

Now think of having 30 skills or so that you will be watching with that GDC you would go through keyboards like they had a death wish. No auto attack means that if your not using skills all the time your going to slowly die.

If you are watching GDC timer run down your going to miss that great combat BioWare has told us so much about.


This is the first instance I can see macros helping the game along. Now these don’t have to be like those that will do everything for you. I still like to have the player in control and as such you should have to think for yourself. And I don’t mind having the GDC in-place after all that combat is another reason TOR stands out.

Yet as you play and acquire more skills your focus moves away from that combat and until you just watch those skills tick over.


A simple in-game macro could make combat much way more enjoyable. I will have macros available through the use of my keyboard but not every player has these type of things at hand. So all these macros do i place everyone on the same footing.

These are simple to set up the macro goes like this.


/cast skills 1

/cast skill 2

/cast skill 3



All this does is trigger off a skill when the timer runs if you have the energy available. The last skill will be your level one skill that will always trigger if no other skill is available. This will cost no energy at all in TORs case.


This type of macro is the most commonly used macro found in most mmo’s. Yet they still keep the player in control at any given moment and the player still has to bash a key but the key use has been reduced from 20+ to around 3 or 4 keys total.

This let you enjoy the game and see the combat play out there is no need to sit and watch you skill bar and your GDC tick away.


I can see this making its way into TOR, its not overpowered and simple to use and still need a player to play the game.


The other type of macro that I can see being of great benefit to TORs game-play would be those of the move-over macro and this is not just for healers.

In TOR you will be taking on 3 or more enemy’s at a time. You have to TAB or click everything to use a skill on them.


Mouse-over macro will allow you to take out the weaker mobs and still remain focused on the stronger mob that seems to be in almost every encounter you come across.


For healers it has many benefits.

Healers tend to spend raids doing little more than watching health bars go down and they will miss most of the raid due to this fact. I have raided many times without mouse-over macros and I would be hard pushed to tell you what the boss looked like never mind all of the trash mobs you find on the way.


Now these can be done on most gaming keyboards they are a little more complicated and you have to target areas of the screen and then have your macro switch back to the tank (your main focus as a healer). But having them in game and ready available to everyone makes the process so much easier.


They look something like this.


/cast @mouseover big heal

/cast heal


What this does is allow the healer to use his mouse pointer as a target devise. They can move it over a target that is needing a heal and cast without the need to click on that target. This in turn will return healing focus on the main tank in the group when you remove the mouse from that target.


It does not do anything other than that, so it will not make a bad healer a great healer. What it will do is make you better equipped for react to your DPS classes when they take a smack in the face which they tend to do a little too often.

Bad healers will always be bad healers and great healers will always be the guy you want to come along on a raid. It will not heal for you but its an added tool to let you enjoy the fight like everyone else in the group.


You can also group different heals in the same macro when you use Alt or Ctrl within the macro like this.


/cast @mouseover big heal

/cast big heal

/cast [Alt] @mouseover heal over time

/cast [Alt] heal over time

/cast [Ctrl] @mouseover small heal

/cast [Ctrl] small heal


Nothing in this macro lets the player loose focus on what it happening within the game. All it serves is to assist the healer so he does not have to watch health bars and timers and miss all the good stuff.


These so two are what I could see being use in TOR soon after launch. These both still need the player to take control of the game and normally heightens what the game has to offer.


Now I’ve seen macro do almost everything in-game. I could never get my head around why anyone would want to watch the game play itself. I’m not for macro that are all singing all dancing robots that take control over every part of the game for you.


But does TOR need these ?

It’s hard to say.


From what little I played they would of been very useful and you can notice they are missing with that GDC ever constant. The game is set up for you so you cn complete everything it has to offer. So in that context no they are not needed.


Yet this is about having fun and with them you will be to enjoy the game BioWare have spent so long making for us so much more enjoyable.


I guess there is no right or wrong when it come to macros. We all have a different stance when the subject comes up.

I can see the examples I’ve shown turning up and they will not subtract away from the players skill. So your good players can still remain the good players that everyone knows. I know some are dead against macros that some games now have in place I also have that stance.


We should expect tools that make things a little more easy and not those that take that control out of the players hands. One of the mmo’s strengths is testing a player against another and not who has the best program or macro.


Well thats all for now.


Until next time, MrWarlock signing off.






8 responses so far

8 Responses to “The Great Macro Debate”

  1. Undeadfatheron 20 Oct 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Where was the “create macro” option in the beta?

  2. MrWarlockon 20 Oct 2011 at 6:45 pm

    From what I played and BioWare have released no macro function is in the game.
    The best you get is key binds which were also absent when I had my play through, which may make for a stronger case for the reason why I find a need for some macros in the game.

  3. Zlattoon 20 Oct 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I loved macros for many of the merchant tasks.
    In WoW I had one that I would use at the DarkMoon Faire. I have the ability to be online at work, so I would be on the phone or in a WebEx and just be clicking my macro now and again to purchase all resources of value from the seller. It was the best route for me to gather Lotus, and I still chuckle at ppl spiting, and attempting to duel me as we all stood around the vendor together awaiting the merchant to spawn goods to sell.
    I can just imagine them seeing the Lotus and Leather disappear just before they clicked on it to buy. Well … +30 Dark Side points for enjoying that :o)

    I think we well see creative options to meet perceived needs, once we all know what they are.

  4. Ruinon 21 Oct 2011 at 5:07 am

    All you really need to deal with the GCD is a buffer in the game with stackable ability uses. No more than 2 are really needed IMO, but 3 wouldn’t kill the game. That way you can anticipate what you are going to want to activate, and stack a couple to give you time to watch the action and plan your next move.


  5. MrWarlockon 21 Oct 2011 at 7:23 am

    You have a good point and it would make combat a lot more smooth for sure.
    Though healers would not benefit from this method as they would have to some way of canceling spells.

  6. J8-E2on 22 Oct 2011 at 1:25 am

    As a note, the “GCD” is the Global Cool Down. The GDC is the Game Developer’s Conference, and not what you’re talking about.

  7. Daeldaon 23 Oct 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Custom avatar

    Just remember – Razer has swtor branded Keyboards and Razer Naga Mice (in addition to other items). I don’t know how the Macro keys on the Razer Naga works – if it can be programmed like a keyboard Macro, or if it requires in-game Macros – but if it can be programmed, then anyone using the Razer swtor gear is at a major advantage over others if Macros are not put into TOR at some point. Heck, we have already been told that some special functionality will be given to these items that will give owners of these items a bit of an advantage (like the headset pulsing red when an enemy is near).

    In my personal opinion, BioWare will need to add in Macros at some point – and probably have them planned for either Launch or just shortly Post-Launch. I could be wrong, of course.

  8. prenerfedon 26 Oct 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Keyboard/Mouse based macros can bridge part of the gap left by not having baked-in macro functionality, but you have to have your hotbars populated with skills for the keyboard emulation to activate them. The good part of that is that you can reduce the number of visible hotbars and have the keyboard emulation activate a bunch of “shift+#” or other complex key combinations without actually having to perform the finger-gymnastics. Very useful, especially if you’ve got Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome or early onset arthritis from decades of gaming. 😉 The bad part of this is that if you decide to rearrange your hotbars you’re going to have to edit your macros. I recommend keeping the macro-activated skills on your secondary bars, even if there are some duplicates from your primary bar. Some other games would allow you to create a macro with the skill names alone, and no need to even have the ability on any hotbar.

    An advantage of using a peripheral device to make macros is being able to shave the GCD down to its limit; SWTOR, like other games before it, will supposedly have a grace period in the GCD timer where your button press WILL activate that skill a few tenths of a second early. Some peripherals (like my own beloved Logitech G13 game pad, or the other G-series keyboards) have software that will record your button presses, including the delays between them. If you can record a super-efficient rotation with the bare minimum of delays between button presses then you’re going to be at an advantage over someone who is watching the GCD indicator and activating each skill manually. No matter how good they are they won’t get that optimal timing EVERY time like the recorded macro will.

    These technical advantages and disadvantages are secondary to the fact that the player still has to have some intelligence about using their skills and designing their macros so that they don’t get locked into a rotation that is easily negated or avoided by an enemy (esp. in PvP, or unpredictable PvE encounters). No matter how efficient your timing or layout might be, if you can’t activate an essential skill at the moment you need it because it’s only on a macro behind three other skills you don’t need right now, you’re doing it wrong. One more reason to have your primary hotbar populated with the essential skills you might need at any time, and only have your macros activate 2-3 skills in a row when you KNOW that rotation is essential (e.g. like WoW rogues who would need to stack four or five “builder” abilities before using a finisher. Efficient macros would frequently have 2-3 builders for different effects, maybe using them twice or using two different ones before manually activating an appropriate finisher).

    The variations on how to create macros are endless, but a little intelligence (and a decent peripheral for SWTOR) can go a long way toward improving your game. SWTOR having some in-game macro functionality would be a great benefit (especially mouse-over healing, which I always loved as a healer in raids) but it’s not going to ruin the game for most players that they aren’t in (yet?). There will be a minority of players who use peripherals to bridge the gap, and there will always be players who don’t know anything about macros and don’t bother with them even when they’re available in other games.