The Ideazon Zboard key set for World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade is an interesting idea, but one that ultimately doesn't feel like it brings much to your gaming prowess. That is unless you're a new WoW player.
If you aren't familiar with Zboard, it is essentially a tray on which you can attach a different bunch of keys (a keyset). The keys are designed with a specific genre (FPS in the case of the basic keyset) or a specific game in mind and of course it comes with a normal basic keyset that you can use for daily typing. The keyset can be removed quickly and easily and you can swap them back and forth without having to restart anything. The basic keyboard is not perfectly adapted to all game types, so an option to just change your keys to get the best possible lay out for your game is a good idea.
The problem with the keyset for World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade is firstly that you need to type to communicate in the game. This prevented Ideazon from going with a totally original layout like they did with their FPS keyset – the basic keyboard must remain mostly untouched. Instead the developers printed the functions of each keys on them and then added quite a few shortcut keys in the area where the numeric keypad would normally be.
Most of the people I know that play WoW do so with the right hand on the mouse and the left hand hovering over the WASD keys. Immediately you can see a problem with having most of the features in the numpad section: You have to let go of the mouse or of your direction keys to access them. This isn't such a big issue when hanging out in a town or dealing with some of the easier PvE content, but it can certainly make a big impact in PvP or the harder instances, where losing reaction time due to your hand letting go of your main command keys can be quite costly.
The second problem is that the shortcuts are, for a lack of a better word, trivial. In many case, the key only saves you from 1 or 2 key strokes, such as pressing the party button instead of typing /p. And due to the layout being what it is, it's faster to simply type /p. I don't blame Ideazon for this however – WoW is user friendly and makes everything easy to reach with a click or a few key strokes, making it quite difficult for a designer to make things even simpler or more convenient. I can think of quite a few MMORPG where having those shortcuts would have been a boon, WoW is simply not one of those.
There is something to be said for the emote keys. They actually did make it faster to use emote rather then type them. However, emotes aren't exactly needed to play the game – they're mostly there to goof around. And being a fast goof isn't quite that important.
The programmable keys on top are probably the highlight of the keyboard. You can program those keys to do anything you want (within reason) from the Zboard software. Essentially, it's like binding a macro to one of your key, without having to lose some of your hotbar space. This is very handy since those quickly become crowded as you go farther into the game.
I have been playing the game for a long time and because of that I am quite familiar with the way the game is played and as much as I wanted to like this product, I didn't find the utility I was looking for. But I figured I would opt for a second opinion – I asked one of my friends who had only ever played WoW once before to give it a try. And he liked it a lot – he didn't need to ask me how to do things every other minute he simply needed to look down and everything was explained. He didn't need to remember to use "slash commands" to talk to his party or the guild – a big button did it for him. This made me realize that the keyset wasn't aimed at the veteran WoW player, but at the new player. Many of the things I take for granted aren't that obvious to newer user and the keyset make it much easier for them to understand how to do things.
With the release of the Burning Crusade, quite a few people will get WoW for the first time and try it out. The keyset will work wonders for them. It will help to ease them into this huge game and make them more comfortable with it. While I wouldn't suggest buying a Zboard simply to get the The Burning Crusade keyset, if you already have one and are picking up WoW for the first time, then by all means, this is a worthwhile investment.
For more information, visit Ideazon.