The obligatory UI post
I’m pretty sure that there’s a rule of WoW blogging, buried somewhere in the middle of the handbook between sections on “How to Handle Trolls” and “Things You May and May Not Call Ghostcrawler,” that sooner or later, you’re required to show your UI off to the world. I have successfully avoided doing this for 15 months because, quite frankly, most of the various iterations of my UI are a horrible mess that are sure to cause panic in the aisles like the original screenings of King Kong. Brave men will go weak in the knees, frail women will get the vapors and faint, children will be scarred for life, and pets will hide under the furniture and not come out, all because my UI finally saw the light of public scrutiny.
The hell with it. A little chaos is good for the world every now and then.
Plus, I’ve actually got it kitbashed up to the point where, while it’s not super-polished and pretty, and still has some problems, I actually get good use out of it. It’s not the most elegant use of phospors and pixels out there, but it actually works for me, and that’s the most important thing, right?
See, my UI, like many, is a work of evolution, and my evolution only occurs when something I already have doesn’t work. Patch days are when my UI takes steps forward out of the primordial ooze. I have this cycle: I find something I like and I use it, and won’t change…until a patch breaks it and there’s no update available. Then I grumble a bit, go find something to “temporarily” replace that function, and fall in love with it so the “temporary” replacement becomes permanent. That’s just how I roll.
So. Without any further stalling, here’s the business. Click to see my UI during a 10-man Saurfang at 1024×768, click again for it in all its dubious full-sized 1680×1050 glory:
I’ve numbered each feature, or at least most of them, so let’s go through them one by one:
Firstly, an un-numbered mod…Tekticles. This changes the default Friz Quadrata TT font used by the UI to Calibri, which I find easier to read. Friz Quadrata TT is OK, but basically, I just got sick of looking at it after a few years. So now, all my default UI stuff and text is various forms of Calibri; many of the other addons use a very slick-looking and narrow yet easy-to-read font called Myriad Condensed Web, which I use wherever possible now.
1. Bar mod: ChocolateBar. ChocolateBar is a Data Broker framework that lets you hang various Data Broker plugins on one or more screen bars, in a manner very similar to old-school Titan Panel or FuBar. Data Broker is supposed to be the “new improved” kid in town for plugins like this, and I found out about it from this post over on nostockui.com, so I decided to give it a whirl. It’s not bad, although I haven’t been able to duplicate quite all my old Fu functionality. Typically I run (left to right) a coordinate addon, a memory addon for tracking down pesky runaway memory-nomming bits, an experience tracker (for my sub-80s), a repair tracker, GearScore (more on that later), and a money tracker. The right side has icons for various other addons’ menus; I should use those to reduce the clutter on my minimap buttons, y’think? (My apologies for not remembering the exact names of the Broker addons I use…but honestly, there are multiple versions of each of those functions I listed, and you should download and play with them to find the combination you like.)
2. Empty space. Yep, empty space. I only mention it because on my enhancement shaman Sakula, I’m currently experimenting with using this otherwise-unused area to hold all the various timers and doodads from Shock And Awe, an addon specifically designed for enhancement shamans and all the myriad cooldowns they have to keep track of. The jury’s still out on it.
3. Raidframes: Grid. I didn’t used to run a raidframe at all as a tank. I thought those were mainly for raid healers and raid leaders. But some folks in my raid convinced me to try Grid, and I like it. I don’t generally need it for much; it’s useful for checking relative mana levels if I’m MT and in charge of the pulling, to see if we’re ready, and also to see who’s alive and dead. I could probably fine-tune this into something a lot more useful, but for now, it does what it does and I’m OK with it.
5. Raid info: Deadly Boss Mods/oRA3. I’m honestly not sure which of those two mods pops up this stuff; I think it’s oRA, but really, I run so many mods, I can get confuzzled as to what does what. Anyhow, on some bosses (Lady Deathwhisper with her mana shield, Saurfang with Blood Power, the Iron Council or Twin Val’kyrs, etc.), an extra set of health or whatever bars will pop up here. This is where I used to have my main tank frames; interestingly, oRA3 does not work with any unitframe mod I’ve ever used in terms of generating main tank frames. I have to go without them. That hasn’t been a problem so far.
6. Combat text: MikScrollingBattleText. I was a long-time SCT user. But I ran into a problem a few patches ago–SCT would not properly flag when a couple of abilities were ready to use, most problematically Bloodsurge in Lin’s Fury offspec, and Sword and Board in his Prot spec. Somebody suggested MSBT and I’ve fallen in love with it since. It takes some getting used to; in its default form, which is what I’m using here, it’s very “busy.” The stuff done to you scrolls down the left side of the screen center (heals or damage), the stuff you do scrolls down the right side (damage done, etc.) Crits, either way, pop up in large “shaky” text. As your abilities or spells go on or go off, that scrolls up from the center. So you tend to end up with crap scrolling everywhere and it gets a bit overwhelming at first. I have, for now, managed to train myself to pick out the important stuff. The trick is that MSBT is amazingly configurable. Scroll areas and contents are easy to change any way you want. You can hook sounds or different graphical displays to dozens of different events, procs, and spells. Now, I have Bloodsurge and Sword and Board rigged to pop up near the top center of my screen in 36-point type when they proc…accompanied by a “ding” sound. It’s Pavlovian. I hear ding, I poosh buttan, mob dies faster, I get phat lootz.
7. Unitframe: Shadowed Unit Frames. I was an X-Perl fanboy for, literally, years. When a patch temporarily broke X-Perl, I was very annoyed and went looking for a replacement. I tried Pitbull v3 and Pitbull v4 both; I liked the clean, square, simple look more than X-Perl, but was bewildered by the configuration options. More importantly, for reasons still unknown, both versions destroyed my computer performance during raiding–as in, 5 fps while fighting Flame Leviathan when I normally got 50. Enter Shadowed Unit Frames. If you like Pitbull, think of SUF as Pitbull Lite. They look somewhat similar, and they function alike, but SUF doesn’t require a doctorate in particle physics to set up and didn’t slaughter my framerate even in the toughest of raids. You don’t see it here because I’m on Linedan, but for my hunters, the pet and pet’s target frames are to the left of the player’s frame (much as target and target-of-target are to the right). My focus target and focus target’s target are down and to the left, right above the chat window. Party frames go down the left side in a 5-man, which suppresses my Grid window.
8. Timers: Quartz and DBM. I use Quartz for personal and cast timers (such as the swing timer bar just above the button block) and DBM for boss timers. I nestle the boss timers under the boss’s unitframe, and have DBM swing them up into the center under the boss when they get close to zero. My cast timer and the target cast timer are right above the swing timer in the lower center, stacked.
9. Bars and buttons: Bartender4. I’ve used a lot of different bar mods, but Bartender v4 is my favorite. It doesn’t have the flexibility of some of the others, but it’s redonkulously easy to set up, and if you’re like me and just want a big square clump o’ buttons, it’ll do that easily. I also use the “one bag” feature (only shows one bag instead of all five) and have the “micro menu” tacked up along the far right side; here it’s hidden behind Recount and a tooltip. For cooldown counters inside my actual buttons (see the “7” inside my Shield Bash button, ninth from the left on the bottom row), I use OmniCC.
10. Buff/debuff tracking: Satrina Buff Frames. For a very, very long time I ran the old CTBuffMod and stacked my buffs, with text and bars and timer, down the right-hand side of the screen. That quickly became unwieldy when I had so many buffs they ran off the bottom of the screen. I also tried Elkano’s Buff Bars mimicking the CT layout, but still, when I had a ton of buffs going (like in a raid), my screen got so cluttered I couldn’t pick out what I needed. I wanted something that could give me information, but not eat up too much room. Enter Satrina’s Buff Frames. SBF is very flexible, but I like it because it lets me do this block-style format of just icons with timers, and separate the buff and debuff frames. (The debuff frame on this screen is below the buff frame, slightly inset to the right, and only has two things in it–Chill of the Throne, and Sated from a Bloodlust. I did it this way because 99% of the time, it’s a lot more important for me to track my debuffs–Gastric Bloat, Impale, etc.–than to track my buffs.) You can even set up a third user-defined frame with whatever you want in it. In an earlier version of the UI, before replacing SCT with MSBT, I had the third frame showing debuffs I’d placed on the target, mainly for knowing when to refresh Rend in my old Arms spec.
11. Raid warnings: DBM. Nothing too special here.
12. Nameplates: Tidy Plates/Threat Plates. I never used to use nameplates. Too big, cluttered my screen too much, didn’t like the way they looked. Then I saw a post by Kadomi over at Tank Like a Girl about two addons–Tidy Plates, and the Threat Plates skin for Tidy Plates. I gave them a whirl and…wow. I am addicted, kids. I have a fever, and the only cure is more Threat Plates. You have GOT to try this addon. This screenshot doesn’t do it justice, because the nameplate over Saurfang’s head is buried behind spam, but the plate will show you the mob’s health in bar, number, and percent form, as well as a cast bar; more importantly, if you’re tanking and have agro, it’s nice and small and green. If you lose agro, it gets BIG AND ANGRY AND RED. It’s fantastic with AOE-happy groups in heroics because you can instantly see what mob has gotten yoinked and can take steps to grab it back. Plus the plates are small enough not to clutter, but big enough to easily use for targeting. And, if you’re tank/DPS dual-spec like Linedan? No sweat. The addon will automatically reverse itself when it detects a healing or DPS spec; now green plates are not aggroed on you, and a big red plate means you’d best be reaching for your agro dump. I could, and probably will someday, do a whole blog post on this one addon alone and how fantastic it is.
13. Minimap. Yep, it’s a stone-cold mess. I don’t run a minimap mod, so it’s a little cluttered. One day I’ll fix it, but as long as I can see what’s on it, and see the clock at the bottom, I don’t care about the rest.
14. Quest tracking: Blizzard’s objectives window. One of the few stock areas of my UI. Normally I close this up when raiding to remove clutter, but because I wasn’t tracking much on that particular Saturday, I just left it up. It’s important for me currently since I’m in the homestretch on my push to Loremaster and Seeker.
15. Threat meter: Omen. Pretty self-explanatory, huh? I raid, I tank, I run a threat meter.
16. Tooltips: TipTop. TipTop is a definite “nice to have” instead of a “must have,” but I like the information it gives me over and above the standard tooltip. It also fully integrates with FlagRSP or similar RP addons to show the additional information that they provide, as seen in the tooltip on the screenshot.
17. Meter: Recount. Yep, the oldie but the goodie. I still use Recount even though I keep hearing Skada is supposed to be better, largely because it can do at least some of the jobs of both Recount and Omen. I use it mainly for curiosity purposes when I’m tanking (such as saying to my wife, “hey, sweetie, you’re 9th so far tonight, are you going to let the mages keep beating you?”). When I’m swapped over to my secondary spec and pretending to DPS, though, I keep it open to see how I’m doing. The window is sized for about 13 lines of display; if I have to scroll to see myself, then obviously, I’m doin it rong.
You don’t see it on screen, but I do also run FlagRSP as an RP description mod. And yes, I know this will wreck all my cred with my fellow casual gamers, but as you can see on the ChocolateBar display, I do indeed run GearScore. Why? Two reasons–by seeing someone with a high score, I can inspect them and see their gear and maybe get some ideas for some of my characters. And also, I can look at scores going into a random dungeon and get a tentative idea of what to expect. If I’m tanking on Linedan and the healer has a very low Gearscore, I keep my cooldowns just a little bit closer. If the DPS has very high Gearscores, I make sure I’m ready to get aggressive with threat, because they’re probably going to be bringing the pain and I better be prepared. I do not use it to pre-judge people; it’s one data input into how I handle myself in a PUG, nothing more.
As for what I don’t run? Well, I don’t use Cartographer or a similar map mod; my Blizzard map is bone stock. (I do my mining and gathering the old-fashioned way…I queue for a random dungeon as DPS and then put the 15-minute wait to good use by flying around.) I also don’t use Auctioneer or similar AH mods. I probably should, at least on some characters, but I’ve just never gotten around to it. I also don’t use Questhelper or similar quest guidance mods.
The best thing about the way that Blizzard has given us such incredible extensibility in the WoW UI is that there’s no one way to do it “right.” I have this massive collection of addons that’s totally transformed my UI. My wife, She of the Seven Level 80s? She runs a bone-stock UI except for DBM, FlagRSP, and one or two other small behind-the-scenes things…her buttons, frames, etc. are totally Blizzard-standard-issue, and she raids 25s with us and does 8k+ dps while doing it.
We have a near-infinite number of options to create and configure our experience to be just the way we want it, and find what works for us. This somewhat kludgy-looking collection isn’t pretty or elegant, but it works for me. It provides me what I need to know and lets me do what I need to do. If you’ve found some inspiration from it, I’m glad! Don’t mindlessly copy, though. Take a little from here, a little from there, a little from somewhere else, and use the ideas to build your own UI.