Colin is a writer for Parallax Media
I’ve always enjoyed pedagogy and stories of how famous artists, athletes, and others came to achieve such high levels of skill. Even in the case of prodigies, their stories all have one core similarity: they practiced their asses off. The same goes for every professional FPS competitor. So if anyone wants to improve at the game of their choice, they’ll have to commit a routine that addresses the fundamentals. Luckily for FPS players, mechanical training is relatively straightforward. This is especially true now that aim trainers like KovaaK’s FPS Aim Trainer are available. Before we discuss KovaaK’s FPS Aim Trainer and describe a training routine, we should understand why using an aim trainer is worthwhile.
One of many scenarios in Kovaak’s Aim Trainer.
Simply put, an FPS player’s overall skill is the sum of three things: game sense, movement, and accuracy.Some games emphasize certain aspects more than others, but these are the overarching “skill trees”, so to speak, that a player can improve. Importance of each skill will also depends on the game. In CS:GO, for instance, a combination of movement and accuracy is crucial. But being knowledgeable of each gun’s recoil also helps after the first bullet is fired, and each gun has an individual pattern, which calls on a player’s game sense and accuracy. We can do this all day, separating each aspect of an FPS game into those three general categories. What all aspects have in common is that they are built on the player’s ability to aim well.
The important thing to recognize is accuracy and even more importantly, consistent accuracy is key. Consistency, after all, is the heart of training. Ideally, you want to hit a target regardless of angle, movement (in regards to both the target and the player), distance, or in-game distractions, right?. Using aim trainers like KovaaK’s allows you to prepare for every imaginable scenario in a controlled environment, and allows you to do it at your own pace, so that you don’t practice bad habits. This is important because we want to be consistently accurate, so when practicing, we must make sure we are aiming almost perfectly, even if it requires us to do it slowly.
KovaaK’s has over 600 different scenarios
Speaking of being slow, let’s talk about mouse sensitivity. The simple rule is: if it works for you, it works. A quick look at pro-level sensitivity charts will show varying game sensitivity ranges and DPI (dots per inch, or the number of pixels your cursor moves relative to one inch of mouse movement). Still, pro players generally use a much lower sensitivity than the average person. Imagine if you had to write a paragraph on a post-it note. It would be difficult, if not impossible. But if you had to write the same paragraph on a regular sheet of paper, you’d have much more control over the pencil. The same applies to low versus high sensitivity. The lower your sensitivity, the more your mouse must move to make your crosshair move, thereby giving you more control over your crosshair, especially when the target is very small. KovaaK’s has imported sensitivity scales from several popular engines/FPS games, so it’s easy to make sure you’re practicing with the same sensitivity that you actually play the game with.
You can customize sensitivity, target colors, and more.
This all might seem very overwhelming at first, and we haven’t even addressed mice, monitors, or mouse pads, but don’t panic. Just follow these general guidelines:
1) Copy a pro gamer’s settings: see what the general settings are for pro players who use lower settings and get used to that. No matter what, it will feel very sluggish at first but it’s worth the initial awkwardness.
2) (Optional but recommended) Get the biggest mousepad you can fit on your desk: the larger area you have to move your mouse, the less you will have to pick up your mouse and re-center it. I use a SteelSeries Qck that I got off Amazon for ten bucks.
3) (Entirely optional) Get a gaming mouse: I think this is self-explanatory. They’ll perform better than the average USB mouse. But don’t worry too much about it. You don’t need a gold-plated bench-press to start lifting weights. You also don’t need a $100 mouse to improve your aim.
4) Turn off mouse acceleration in Windows 10 and use raw input in your games: this ensures a consistent ratio between how far your move your mouse and how far your cursor moves, no matter how quickly you move your mouse.
Turning off mouse acceleration in Windows 10: Go to mouse settings, go to additional mouse options, select pointer options, and make sure the “enhance pointer precision” box is unchecked.
Now that you’ve found a sensitivity, stick with it for at least a week. If you switch between games, use a converter to ensure that your sensitivity between different games is consistent. Accept that your aiming will seem to be worse with the new, lower sensitivity. That’s okay. Your muscles will need time to adapt, and they will get adjusted faster the more you train.
So we’ve discussed all the theory, got ourselves a faux-mink mouse pad, a diamond-encrusted mouse, and an iMAX-sized monitor. We’re ready to start training. For this section, I am indebted to reddit user Categorist, also known as Aimer7, for their incredible essay on FPS aim-training and KovaaK’s FPS Aim Trainer. I highly recommend reading it, as it goes into far greater detail than this article. Essentially we can separate aim-training exercises into three categories:
- Tracking: following a target with the cursor
- Flicking: the name is debatable but this basically refers to seeing a target that is somewhere on the monitor and moving your cursor straight onto that target in one smooth motion.
- Combinations: think skeet shooting; spotting a target, flicking to it, and following its trajectory.
How do you decide what to practice, for how long, and how to practice it? It depends on your time and dedication, but no matter what, the amount should be consistent and daily for the best results. You wouldn’t expect to get better at guitar if you practiced once a week for three hours, would you? I personally think 30 minutes a day is a reasonable amount to practice. That’s enough time to cover the three types of aiming, and it’s easy to fit into your schedule. Even if it means sacrificing time to actually play the game, the long-term rewards are well worth it. You can also train aim while you’re waiting for matches to load. Just put KovaaK’s or 3D Aim Trainer on in a window and Alt+Tab between the screens to make the most of your time.
In the interest of keeping things simple, I recommend the following routine. Stay relaxed, as it helps your muscle memory. Keep a timer to stay on schedule. If possible, try to constantly be moving your character while you shoot. Stop training if you get too frustrated. Play your favorite tunes while you train and try to have fun with it.
Warm-up: one to two minutes of any kind of aiming practice.
“Flick” or “Pop-up” shots: ten minutes. Don’t stress about missed shots or how fast you are. Emphasize straight, smooth movements of the cursors between targets, and go as slow as you need to ensure this. This way, you’ll be practicing good habits.
Tracking: ten minutes. Keep your cursor over the target as much as possible. This will be a little discouraging at first, but just keep at it. You’ll notice improvement over time.
Combination training: ten minutes. This can range from skeet-like exercises to game-specific exercises like peeking. Just find a way to add extra challenge and fun, even if it’s something as simple as jumping around while you shoot.
If you’re using a free trainer like those on the 3D Aim Trainer website, you may have noticed that they’re a bit limited. This is why I recommend using KovaaK’s FPS Aim Trainer. It can be purchased on Steam for $10 and is well worth the money. It has over 600 scenarios that address each type of aiming in various levels of difficulty, allows players to adjust their sensitivity based on scales from different games, and even lets players make their own scenarios. It also has a dedicated community of users on Steam, a subreddit, and its own Discord where people can compete in weekly high score contests.
Just remember that consistency, diligence, and patience are key. You will feel like your aim is slow, but in just a few weeks, you’ll find yourself pulling off some pretty crazy shots without even thinking about it. Good luck, and have fun!