In the first part of this series we looked at guilds and socialization. Now we're going to build upon that and take a look at some of the many other factors that exist outside of the game itself but will effect how you play, including the technology that you do (or don't) use and your own resources, physical and mental skills.
What are your goals when you're playing? Do you even have or need any? Having goals is the only way to get anything done, and will help you out in the long run. Because this isn't real life, your goal doesn't have to be productive but should be realistic. Your goal(s) could be anything from using up your spare time while you relax, have fun and socialize; to being in the top 5-10% of all players in PvP or PvE. You should try to understand and define your goals as best you can or you won't know or be able to figure out how to or when you have achieved what you want.
Your goals should be realistic, even if they're ambitious or unproductive. Being the best player or even having the most fun ever isn't realistic. Even being in the top 10-20% of all players at one aspect of the game may not be a realistic goal if you can only play for 5 hours a week or have extremely bad hardware. No matter what any other players or developers may tell you; if you want to be anywhere near a "good" player in an MMO, you will have to put enormous amounts of time and effort into the game. You will need to play for dozens of hours a week, if not a day, if you want to become a top player. Even with quick reflexes and the ability to come up with and execute good strategies on the fly, it's very likely that there will be lots of people just as good as you at those things, but who have more experience and practice (if not also a higher level or better equipment) than you simply because they play more. By the very nature of current games, the casual player automatically has a severe disadvantage against hardcore players. This goes for any competitive game ever, not just a certain select few that are considered, or designed, to be time intensive.
All of your technology must be up to par with the standards of the time. This doesn't just mean the device you're using to play the game (a PC or console), but everything that goes along with it including how you leverage that technology. Internet and networking connections, websites, forums, VOIP, text messengers and game control devices must all be up to date or well utilized. Whenever a new piece of technology comes around, you can either use it or deal with the consequences and hassles of failing to do so.
External communication with your friends and group mates is almost a necessity; whether it's to organize activities or just to chat or role play. Communication is key and is needed before (forums and websites), during (VOIP and text messaging) and after (DKP and other loot distribution systems) almost everything that you will do in game. Some of these may be provided to you by the game itself, others may not. These forms of communication are mostly for guilds and groups of friends. Even though you could use some of those with random people or pick up groups, you shouldn't really be in those groups to begin with because they will likely hurt you when trying to reach your goal; even if that goal is just to have fun or role play, let alone getting something accomplished.
You must also have a good current PC or current generation of console to be able to play the game all. Also keep in mind accessories; everything from your internet connection to keyboards, mice and other types of controllers. You can't play modern MMORPGs on dial up or even some bad broadband connections. If you can't get a connection or platform that exceeds the minimum requirements, then you probably shouldn't be playing at all. As for control devices, I highly recommend a trackball with the settings set to a high sensitivity. The first few weeks may be a little tough but after you get used to it, your clicking and movement speed and accuracy will greatly improve. And for keyboards and console controllers, the rule is: the more buttons and options, the better.
Playing an MMO will require a certain level of natural skill. This doesn't just mean quickly and accurately pressing one or a combination or buttons, but that is part of it. It also includes your ability to think both before and during the heat of the action (also analysis afterward, especially when you fail, is helpful so you don't make the same mistakes again). Thinking doesn't just pertain to battle, you should also try to plan your characters' development, the equipment you would like to use and any activities you want to do, as best you can to maximize your time in game. When you do plan for battle, try to plan out as much as feasibly possible, including you and your group mates movements, casting order, gear and what targets everyone should go for and in what order.
Do your homework. In order to get the maximum out of your play time, you should spend approximately 10% of that time doing outside research (and yes, reading this counts towards that time). This may seem like you're wasting time, but a few minutes of research could save you hours of frustration in the game and will make you and your character better overall. Go to databases, data collection sites (like Allakhazam and Thottbot) and forums (both official and not). In forums make sure to avoid topics in which people just complain and go for posts that have tips and guides. You can normally tell the mood of a topic within the first 1-3 posts (if not just by the title alone); also look for posts by developers and officials. Research does not negate the possibility of exploration, it gives you the option to not explore or not have to test new ideas when you get stuck or just don't feel like it.
Organization is very important as well. This includes how well those within your social circle cooperates; and your inventory, hotbar and key binding organization. For your social circle I'll just say that it can be very helpful to you, and make things go faster, if they all know what they should be doing and when to do it. Your inventory and hotbar should be organized by importance. Whatever you use the most often or anything that you would need to get to quickly, should be in the most convenient location. You should also group like things together, not just in your inventory but on you hotbar as well. If you have an attack in-between a heal and a buff and you accidently press the wrong button, the results could be much worse than if you had your hotbar more organized and simply pressed a different attack, heal or buff spell.
Everything which I just said about your hotbar and inventory also goes for your key bindings, but with your key bindings you also need to customize them; meaning don't just use the default ones. The default is not the best key set up. Normally the default movement control keys are W, A, S, D for forward, turn/strafe left, back and right respectively. I personally like to use R, D, F, G so that the left side of my hand has a lot more room for addition places to bind keys. Other people like E, S, D, F so that they have a little extra room and their fingers are already in typing position. Find bindings that work for you; experiment and change them anytime you're not 100% satisfied with them. You should also change them early on when you first start playing a new game. That way you get use to them as you're leveling and will be ready to go by the time you get to the end game.
There will inevitably be other real life factors that you need to deal with, if nothing else at least eating and sleeping. And you should make sure to deal with these other factors the very second they arise, but try to minimize what you end up doing. The more quickly and efficiently you take care of everything outside of the game, the faster you can get back to it afterward.