|Uhm, I might need a co-pilot for this|
PPC's, lasers, machine guns, AC's, SRM's, LRM's . . . if your mech is one of those with diverse hardpoints, all the group management needed gets out of hand after a while. That's why you usually see simplified builds on the field, focusing mostly on two different weapon systems. (I'm not going to consider how much it makes sense to use diversified weapon loadouts here)
With that being said, since I started playing last January, I have slowly developed these simple rules that help me a lot getting the most out of my weapons. I found out that by following these rules, I struggle less with group management and focus more on aiming. You also don't get disoriented when playing with different mechs, since all your groupings follow the same rules. Now, these are mostly down to personal preferences and my mouse, yours might differ a lot. Still, a new player might benefit from these pointers or you might even decide to change your habits a bit.
Mouse buttons and rules of thumb
- Left mouse and right mouse buttons are your most important buttons, always assign your "primary" weapons to these groups. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but your index finger and middle finger are your fastest reacting fingers and will give you the best reaction times. Not to mention how suited those big LMB and RMB buttons for precise timings. It makes sense assigning timing sensitive weapons like Ballistics and SRM's to these. Try to assign your heavy hitter to LMB, if it's not breaking the following rule.
- Weapons on the left side of your mech goes to LMB group and right side to RMB. Again, a no-brainer. Still, if you don't follow this rule, there will be times where you will be "confused" about what you're about to fire and where will it fire from. This will allow you to intuitively manage those corner shots and reduce your mental "workload".
- Arm mounted weapons take precedence over what gets assigned to LMB or RMB, if they can be considered "primary" and need to be aimed well. If you're running an AS7-RS with 4LL's and an AC20, it might be a good idea to assign arm lasers to LMB, RMB and AC20 to a side button.
- If you have a lot of hardpoints(Stalkers, Battlemasters, Awesomes), then torso/arm division takes priority.(Arm weapons to LMB-RMB, torso to side buttons for example)
- If available, secondary weapons(backup) go to mouse side buttons(mostly back-forward buttons on your mouse). Now, your thumb doesn't have the greatest reaction time and when you're using your thumb you will apply a side force to your mouse, which you will have to compensate with your wrist or little finger, which in turn makes moving your mouse difficult(go ahead, try it). This gets more difficult if you're trying to press LMB and RMB simultaneously. What does this mean?
- Don't assign precision weapons to side buttons.
- Unless necessary, don't assign weapons you have to continuously fire(keep the button pressed) to these. This includes constant fire weapons like MG's, Flamers and relatively faster firing weapons like AC2's and AC5's.
- Assign bigger, "one off and done" weapons like SSRM's, AC20's, LRM's and alpha laser groups here if possible.
- I don't use the scroll-wheel button. It forces me to take my index finger off LMB, costing me reaction time. It also increases the mouse drag because you're forcing it down while pressing the button, making tracking your target more difficult. I don't even use it for zooming, it's completely unused(well, I have 3PV switch assigned there, but it's insignificant). If you prefer, it might make a good arty/airstrike button however.
- If ML and SRM counts are low(let's say 2-3), they're used in a single group regardless. Except if you're in a Commando or a Locust and seperating them is good for heat management or aiming(seperating arm&torso mounted SRM's, lasers).
- If you have more than one LL or LPL, it makes sense to make their group linked. This will allow you to manage your heat better as it's really hard to use 2xLL/LPL at the edge of your heatscale. Still, a double tap will give you an almost perfect grouped fire. You can also get around heat scale by doing this.
- When boating lasers, try to keep them seperated in as many groups as possible for best heat management. Try to group them according to their location on your mech but preferably in groups of 2. Jenners need not apply.
- LRM's don't need very precise timings and you don't usually fire them very often. Give them your least favourite buttons(side buttons in my case).
ExamplesLet's take this "oversized Jenner" QKD-5K for example. It has 6E hardpoints(2LT,2RT,2LA-RA) and one M in CT. So how do we manage this? At first glance, it makes sense to assign arm lasers to LMB for maximum aiming efficiency. But having for example RT lasers on RMB and LT lasers on a side button is awkward and confusing. So what do we do?
In this case, torso lasers gain priority since they make up the most firepower, and are mounted so high that they allow for some impressive JJ shooting. So LT lasers are assigned to LMB, RT lasers are assigned to RMB. Arm lasers and SRM's get the lower priority buttons.
Another example is one of my favourite brawlers, the Protector with 2xML, 1xAC20 and 1xLPL. Again, we have our heavy hitters in torso, so they get the same treatment according to their locations.
What happens when we shift our firepower to arms? Take a look at this Awesome. A lot of firepower on those arms right? So, our torso mounted SRM's and ML's take the backseat this time.
Same principle again, LA and RA. Note that I also linked arm LL's for better heat management. This doesn't mean you have to fire them linked though, if you have the heat capacity, double tap LMB/RMB to get almost the same effect as group fire. This also lets us escape the heat scale penalties.
I hope this post was helpful. This is only based on my experiences though, what's your individual strategy? Let me know in the comments.