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Warning, overload


Last week I wrote a post about one of the player-driven factors that I think makes for a great in-game tank–situational awareness.  In it, I wrote that good situational awareness is something that can’t be caught, but it can be learned.  You go, you tank, you die, you wipe, you hork things up, and you learn by sheer experience.  It can be painful, and expensive, and time-consuming, but speaking as somebody who learned by that method, it just works.

But I did come up with at least one way that you might be able to help improve your situational awareness…well, maybe not one “way,” but at least one concept to think about.  That concept is filtering the information that you have to process in order to build your SA.  (By the way, this concept holds true for anybody, regardless of your role.  Healers, DPS, doesn’t matter.  I’m just going to look at it from the view of a tank because that’s the role I play in-game most often.)

Here’s what I mean by that.  We know that if you’re a tank, you have a lot of things to worry about.  Health, agro, positioning, adds, timing, your own cooldowns, and so on.  But there are some things that you don’t need to know about.  For example, if I’m tanking Kel’Thuzad, I don’t really need to know that one of our druids just dropped a big heal on our hunter who just ate a frost volley.  That is not a piece of information I need to do my job.  So why should I include it in the stream of information I have to take in and process?

So for me, that means that when I’m on a raid, since I don’t have a healer, I don’t run raidframes.  Ever.  Quite frankly, there’s two health bars I care about 99.9% of the time…mine, and whatever’s eating my face.  Period.  (If I’m on my hunter, add a third–my pet.)  I have my normal five-man party healthbars up on the left, just because I’ve been too lazy to modify that frame.  But especially in 25-mans, I need the screen real estate that 25 health bars would take up.

Another example.  I’m addicted to Scrolling Combat Text.  It’s a kick-ass addon, still better than the built-in Blizzard combat text.  But SCT can absolutely bombard you with information.  Ever left heals turned on and run with a shadow priest and a paladin?  HOLY GREEN SPAM, BATMAN.  Now as a tank, I like knowing that I’m getting healed.  But generally, I don’t need to know the details.  Especially when I’m getting a heal or replenishment constantly–say, Blood Aura, or Judgement of Whatever Heals Me Every Time I Smack The Mob, or similar stuff.  So I’m going to turn those off.  I’ll keep track of my heals by looking at my health bar and watching for SCT “low health” visual and audio warnings.  It’s that much less stuff that I’ve got to look at and interpret.  Other folks use a HUD-style interface to do the same thing, giving them mob health and their health/mana/energy/RP at a glance without having to even look to the upper-left of the screen.

Basically, my advice would be this:  Take a little time about what you need to know to do your job.  Then group that information into categories–like, say, “got to have,” “nice to have,” “don’t need.”  Once you’ve done that, you can start looking at your interface, your window into WoW.  Think about configuring your UI to maximize the important information, and drop the things you don’t need.

Get rid of as much clutter as possible.  I personally like running with as much screen real estate wide-open as I can so I can see things.  (This, BTW, was why I always hated back-into-the-corner fights like Prince Malchezzar.  I really don’t want to spend four minutes trying to tank blind, relying on other people to tell me where to move, and seeing nothing but flashing lights, yellow numbers, and Eredar package.)  

Strip your UI down to the essentials, use what’s needed, drop what’s unneeded.  You probably don’t actually need to have Recount open during a fight unless you’re wanking off to your l33t d33ps…but you might want to have Omen open instead to make sure where you are on the Threat Parade.  Are all those flashing lights and patterns causing problems?  Turn your spell effects down.  Can’t hear Vent?  Ratchet your in-game sound down so you can.

Basically, use your UI as your first line of defense against information overload.  Filter out the extraneous garbage, and give your brain a little more bandwidth to handle the important stuff.  You’ll thank yourself when you walk out of a raid with a lot smaller headache than normal.

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10 responses

  1. excellent advice! I play a healer mainly, and took my a good long time filtering out the default stuff from SCT, until someone suggested, like you did here, to limit the output to only what I cared about. Suddenly, I could SEE the fire I needed to move out of. :)

    February 25, 2009 at 21:31

  2. I’m curious as to whether you keep healer healthbars up in your 25 and 10 man raids, in case of weird aggro things? (since something eating a hunter isnt that important, but something eating the holy priest kind of is)

    Also, if you don’t want to turn SCT off completely, you can have it filter everything out that’s lower than, say 3K – that way you’ll still see your big heals but not the Vamp/HoT Spam. Another option would be to get something like VisualHeal, that’ll show on your healthbar all incoming heals (usually in a different color) – again freeing up real estate on the screen!

    February 25, 2009 at 21:51

  3. I do have them all turned off, groups 1-8 in XPerl. It hasn’t been a problem up until now–our healers and DPS are really good about agro. Although, if I could come up with a better UI setup, I might have room to turn them back on.

    I need to re-overhaul my UI again. Looking at yours gave me the inspiration to do my first overhaul a few months ago and it’s inspiring me again. I think if I shift a few things around and shrink my Block o’ Buttons, plus move my player/target/target of target unitframes down to the lower center kind of like yours, I can free up the top of the screen to handle tank targets, Omen, and BigWigs/Quartz timers–and might even have room to turn raidframes back on.

    February 25, 2009 at 22:51

  4. Forgot to add–moving the player/target frames will probably be a big change for me, because over the years I’ve trained myself to scan the upper-left of the screen for that info. But if I can put everything around the center of the screen, HUD-style, it minimizes the amount of eye movement needed to get that very important tank info. It’s all part of making it as easy as possible for the necessary information–and only the necessary information–to get to the player so they can process and use it. Hopefully it’ll be worth a little bit of WTFery while I get used to it. Of course, setting up bars and frames for an entire account full of characters does suck…

    February 25, 2009 at 23:03

  5. Kansin

    Part of the job of a tank is to set the pace of the raid.

    If you don’t have raid bars up, how do you know if people have enough mana for the next trash pull? That those that got rezzed are up? Do your healers have enough mana for that next trash pull, or can you safely pull two packs?

    At a minimum, you should know the general status of the raid at all times. If you don’t want a full raid setup, such as grid, XRS or RABuffs fill that slot. You know the basic status of the raid without checking individual mana bars.

    Check out Fusion’s guide for faster raids for examples:

    http://www.stratfu.com/strats/RaidFast

    I disagree with your comment regarding Recount. If you have no idea what your current deeps are based on where they should be, you won’t know until the night is over if you are missing something critical. In every single fight, there is an opportunity to very quickly glance at the meters to know how well you are doing.

    February 25, 2009 at 23:13

  6. Yeah, but as a tank, deeps ain’t my primary job. I do look at Recount occasionally throughout the night, and in more detail post-raid (along with the WWS report), but more out of morbid curiosity and as a “OK, am I pushing a little more than last week” check than anything else. If I left it open all the time, not only would it clutter my screen, but I’d depress the hell out of myself.

    I’ve diddled my UI around a bit to try and work with Grid and make a space for it. We’ll have to see how it works on the raid tonight, I’m hoping it’s actually information I can use and not just 25 boxes of flashing lights and debuff icons and sparklies.

    February 26, 2009 at 12:34

  7. I don’t run recount. I probably should for the raids where I am not a raid leader, but frankly, I’m normally so busy doing a hundered other things, that recount is the least thing on my list.

    And I have to say that I do always have my raid frames on. I also have my screen all the way back. Of course, aside from Pill, I always have a character that can heal and I ahve been known to stop and heal when it is needed just for that reason.

    But even when I was tanking, I had basic raid frams up.

    February 26, 2009 at 17:54

  8. doubledtrouble

    I apparently need someone to teach me how to manipulate a bar mod…because I run with default UI buttons and could probably use the space better.

    If I let someone look at my UI, they’d probably have a coronary that I tank with it at all.

    February 26, 2009 at 22:32

  9. In Vanilla WoW, I tanked with the Blizzard UI, even though I had already been talked into using mods for Pill. In fact, Cylinn was the only character I had without any mods but raidframes and boss warnings through BC.

    February 26, 2009 at 22:39

  10. Kansin

    As prot, you’re not going to put out hardcore deeps but you can always do better. Comparing your prot numbers with my rogue numbers is silly. There is still value to be had, even when tanking, to knowing what your current numbers are. Recount has a “realtime graph” that will show just your DPS over time, without the epeen contest that you can’t win thanks to being a tank.

    (see: http://static.wowace.com/uploads/19/8/875/RealtimeView.jpg )

    During the fight, I run with the above view and don’t show the epeen graph (the default view) because its not about ego until the boss is dead and loot has been handed out. I want to focus on the boss and doing the best I can do right then and there, and I’ll worry about how I compare as soon as the boss is dead.

    Tank threat these days comes mainly from high-threat moves that do damage. Knowing how you are doing at any given point can help you know when you need to adjust what you are doing.

    February 27, 2009 at 15:46

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