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Posts tagged “UI

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:


Hi, my name is Linedan…

…and I’m an addon addict.

(“Hiiii, Linedan.”)

It’s pretty amazing, really, that Blizzard made the WoW interface so extensible.  I remember in the old days of the original Everquest, where the UI was the UI and that was that, period, end of sentence, and attempts to alter it one tiny bit would get you banhammered with lightning speed.  (And what a godawful UI it was, at least before changes in one of the early expansions.)  But not so with WoW.  Here, you can download literally thousands of different addons to tweak your experience in Azeroth exactly the way you like it.  Don’t like how–or where–your character’s health is displayed?  No sweat, take your pick of unitframes.  Don’t like that big clunky bottom actionbar with the dargons on the end?  Here, have umptysquillion different bar mods.

But there’s a dangerous, inconvenient downside to this endless tweakability.  Without fail, come time for a patch, especially a big “point-zero” content patch like the one that dropped yesterday…your shit is gonna break sooooo hard.

So that’s why I was up at 5:30 this morning, hitting Curse and WoW Interface before they get slashdotted later in the day, for new copies of all my addons.  And sadly, I run a lot of addons.

It started off small, as most addictions do.  In the beginning, there was Cosmos.  But Cosmos kept trashing my chat channels, and eventually, I found the nice, all-in-one CTMod, pieces of which I still run 3+ years later.  Then I decided I wanted a better set of action bars, so I tried a few different bar mods before settling on Trinity.  Then I discovered the sheer Heaven-sent high of XPerl Unit Frames.  After that, it wasn’t long before I was waking up in dark alleys after a bender of chugging BigWigs modules and mainlining Titan Bar plugins.

One of these days I’ll do a detailed “here’s my UI, you can stop laughing now dammit” post.  But here’s just a partial list of what I ran during 3.1.x, unlinked because I just can’t be arsed to link everything…

  • Unitframes:  XPerl
  • Bar mod:  Bartender4
  • Timers/buff mods:  ElkBuffBars, DoTimer, Quartz, OmniCC, NeedToKnow
  • Gear:  ItemRack, Rating Buster
  • Raid and combat mods:  Grid, oRA2, Deadly Boss Mods, Scrolling Combat Text, Omen, Recount
  • RP:  FlagRSP2
  • Appearance mods:  Tekticles, TipTop, FuBar plus a lot of Fu stuff

You get the idea.  Now I know there’s some duplication there; I don’t really need four timer mods, probably.  I only use NeedToKnow for timers when I’m in Arms spec and need to keep Rend up on my target–and honestly, I may switch to Power Auras for that anyway, given the good stuff I’ve heard about that addon.  (See?  It just gets worse!)  But after all that tweaking and downloading, I had a fully-custom UI that was set up just the way I wanted it, with everything arranged just so…more or less.

The problem is, of course, the administrative nightmare of keeping all that drek current.  It’s hard.  Half my addons were out of date before 3.2 even dropped.  I’m slack about updating stuff like DBM that changes frequently, unless it’s obviously broken.  Now throw in a large content patch that will cause half or more of those addons to break, sometimes spectacularly, and you see why I completely write off doing any playing on the day and night of a patch release.  (Well, that and lately, Feathermoon and the Cyclone battlegroup in general have been down longer and more often than any other set of servers when Patch Day comes.)

So there I was this morning, in front of the computer at oh-dark-what-the-fuck, starting to pull down addons to get ready to raid with No Bads tonight, assuming they get some new hamsters to power the server.  I got a few unpleasant shocks, as usual, worst of which was that XPerl, my beloved, awesome unitframe, wasn’t yet updated for 3.2.  This is Not Good, friends.  My UI, like a lot of others I’ve seen, has all the frames down near the bottom, where I can see them without having to flick my eyes to the top of the screen.  (The layout is largely inspired by Anna’s UI, though it’s not nearly as cleanly laid-out.)  Moving those frames back to the top left with the Blizzard default frames…uh-uh, kids.  It would not be a good thing with me trying to tank Ulduar.

So, somewhat frantic, I grabbed the Pitbull unitframe package…and then spent 45 sleepy, sunrisey minutes beating the damn thing into submission with all sorts of virtual sledgehammers until I got it looking the way I wanted it.  I still miss my XPerl, but this’ll do for now, and who knows, it might grow on me.  That’s how I’ve tried many other addons…a patch breaks one and it’s not updated on release day, so I grab something else just to try and wind up sticking with it.

(I note that even as I write this on Wednesday afternoon, XPerl has been updated to version 3.0.4a, which is patch 3.2 compatible.  I think I’ll probably try Pitbull tonight, and then if I don’t like it, back to XPerl I go.)

I know some people who have broken their addiction to addons and have gone back to a more vanilla interface.  Blizzard is actually making it easier to do so, really, as they seem to be very attentive to the better user-written addons out there and incorporate their functionality into newer versions of the game (without breaking the ability to use the user-written versions, which is a damn nice touch).  Me, I’m too weak.  I can’t do it.  I’m too used to the crutch of having Omen dancing in one corner of my screen while my target frame sits near the bottom with pretty cast bars in between, and having six or seven nicely lined-up small 12-button bars bottom center.  To me, the default UI looks like a hideously inefficient use of space.

But take heart, default UI-users.  There’s always my wife.  She has seven level 80s, that’s three more than I do.  She raids with me on her feral druid Rashona and is consistent top-two DPS in 10-man and top-four in 25-man, cranking out 4500+ dps with ease.  And she does it with a UI that’s 100% bone-stock except for FlagRSP2 and Deadly Boss Mods.

Oh yeah…and she clicks half her abilities, too.  How’s that taste?

New 3.1 info–UI changes

Ghostcrawler’s got some info on 3.1 UI changes up on the official WoW site.  The highlights:

  • You’ll be able to switch specs anywhere out of combat (except Arenas or Battlegrounds), only taking 5 seconds to do so.  The only downside is that you zero out your energy, rage, mana, etc. when doing so.  No Lexicon of Power is needed to switch.  (This is perfect for me as a raid off-tank…switching between tank and DPS mid-raid on the fly.  Awesome.)
  • There will be a UI option to preview your talents before committing to them.  (HELL YES!  No more blowing a 50g respec because you fat-finger one click!)
  • It still costs 1000g to activate dual specs, but the minimum level is now 40.  (Twinks rejoice.)
  • The Equipment Manager (the built-in UI version of current addons like Closet Gnome or ItemRack) will move stuff to and from your bank if you’re at a bank while using it.  And you can hotkey your item sets.  (Handy!)
  • The UI will include expanded quest-tracking abilities, including putting icons on your window to use quest items without digging through your bags.
  • New LFG window improvements.
  • You’ll be able to queue for a Battleground from anywhere.

Go read the whole thing–there’s some seriously tasty stuff there.

(Hat tip:  TankSpot.)

Not a bad night’s work

Despite a late start into Naxxramas tonight, everybody but the Horsemen are dead downstairs (thus continuing our odd pattern of dropping exactly one boss more each week on Thursdays, no more, no less).  So Friday gives the Anvil plenty of time to work on Sarth +2 after saying hi to Korthazz, Rivendare, Ziggy, and Blammo, and then going upstairs to give Sapphy and Kel’Thuzad some noogies.  And, we pulled off two things we’ve been after for a while, as seen above–Arachnophobia, and The Safety Dance.

The “Superior” achievement seems a bit odd, though.  It says “equip a superior item in every slot with a minimum item level of 187.”  Well, apparently that doesn’t mean that all my items have to have a minimum of 187.  I’m still carrying around a craptacular ilevel 174 blue in my ranged slot (Weighted Throwing Axe) because I’ve been slack about getting an Armor-Plated Combat Shotgun made.  And one of my trinkets is the most overinflated and still-useful ilevel 115 purple ever–the Commendation of Kael’thas from Magister’s Terrace.  (I actually have two BC purple trinkets…as part of my shield block set, I swap in Coren’s Lucky Coin from last year’s Brewfest.)

What put me over the top on the achievement was replacing the last of my crafted gear–Tempered Saronite Bracers–with the 60-Valor-badge tanking bracers, the Bracers of Dalaran’s Parapets.  I’ve had terrible luck even seeing tank bracers, much less getting them, so the badge bracers are perfect.  I also picked up two more pieces of DPS plate that nobody else wanted.  Slowly, I’m building at least part of an epic-level deeps set, with 3.1 dual specs in mind.  I don’t really know what I’m doing in terms of itemization, and I’m not bothering to get it enchanted right now, but I figure, hey, if the name’s purple and it’s got +strength, +stamina, and +pwn, and I’m at the bottom of the Suicide Kings list anyway, and nobody else wants it…why not?

I experimented with Grid as a raidframe tonight and it worked out well.  It’s small enough that I could block it out and ignore it when I needed to, and still glance over and keep track of peoples’ statuses on the few occasions I had to know them.  My new UI configuration still needs some tweaking, but it’s already showing improvements, and should show more when I break some old habits (like looking up for my target frames instead of looking down!).  Once I get it more presentable, there will no doubt be a long and involved post on the UI and the components thereof…maybe next weekend.

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.