The guild I am currently in is quite small, containing just the raid team and a few other friends and family. We don’t have a guild website or forums but we do have a Facebook page where we communicate. A few weeks ago a pic was uploaded a guildies User Interface (UI) and then everyone followed suit putting theirs up, everyone accept me. I have decided to devote a blog to my UI and go into detail about what addons I use, why I have set it up the way I have and the pro’s and con’s of my set up.
Why have a custom UI?
Most experienced World of Warcraft plays know that the default UI is not very efficient or optimal at displaying the information we need as players. The UI displays a lot of different information depend on the situation being used.
In a raiding context the information is placed around the UI in different areas, mostly around the edges and in the corners e.g unit frames, buffs, enemy cast bars and action bars. This is not optimal because there is not a central area for your eyes to focus on. This is particularly evident for Feral Druids. Our resources (energy and combo points), enemy cast bar and debuffs are across the top of the screen but not very close together, starting in the top left corner and finishing in the center. Savage Roar and Predatory Swiftness are considered buffs and appear in the top right of the screen with your other buffs. The creature you are battling and any ground affects are in the centre of the screen. All of these areas are highlighted in the image below.
The result from having information spread all over the screen is less time spent looking at the centre of the screen where the action is taking place and more time scanning the edges. This is not very efficient or optimal. It is possible to improve on this set up with out addons. The character and target unit frames can be moved around (right click > unlock and moving them) and adjusting the scale of the UI, found by going to the Game Menu > System > Advanced and adjusting the scale bar. However I feel that a more efficient UI can be achieved through a small number of addons.
Reducing the amount of time your vision is focused not on the centre of vision can be greatly reduced through modifying your unit frames. Moving them to a more convenient place and displaying the information you need in a clear & efficient manner will improve your focus. I use Xperl Unit Frames. This addon allows me to move my character, target, target of target unit frames and customize target debuffs among other things. One feature I like is that I can show my debuffs at a larger size to other players.
In my UI I make the unit frames small enough so not to take up too much space, but large enough that I can still read the information. I move the character target, target of target unit frames to the centre of my screen just below where my character appears.
The default UI action bars are fixed into certain positions that are not great for optimal usage. In addition the level of customization available in the default UI for action bars is very limited, only turning certain bars on or off. I use the Bartender for my action bars. This addon allows you to customize the number of bars, number of buttons on the bars (up to 10), size, shape and transparency. It also lets you scale and modify other UI elements such as the stance bar (where your Shapeshift Forms go), pet bar, bag bar, XP/reputation bar and the micro menu (bar with buttons for character sheet, quest log, achievements, mounts etc…). Bartender also has the option to disable the Blizzard art bar (which is off be default). I prefer it off because it takes up a large amount of space and it can’t be customized.
In my UI the bars have been re-sized so that they are smaller than the default ones to give more open space on my screen. I have several bars that are set to fade out when not moused over because they are not used in my primary rotation or they hold keybound spells. For example, I have shrunk the micro menu to a very small size and placed it on the right-hand side and set it to fade out. I very rarely use this bar because I use the keyboard short cuts to access the menus e.g. “y” to access achievements, “b” to access my bags”, “l” to access the quest log etc… so there is no need to have it any larger or towards the centre of the UI.
I don’t use any addons for the chat window. I do however re-size the box & the font and move it from the left hand side to the right. Additionally, I also blacken out the background. I find this makes the text easier to read as some text colours contrast poorly with some background colours when it is transparent.
The default UI raid frames have come a long way from when World of Warcraft was first released, having changed in appearance, size and level of customization. I use Grid for my raid frames. Some of my alts are healers and Grid allows me to add buffs /debuffs, icons and warnings that help me when playing those characters. I have my grid positioned to the immediate left of my central bars. This gives me quick access for battle rezzing and it is close to my center of vision for keeping tabs on raid status.
I have my Grid set up to fill players from right to left. As I raid in a 10 man environment, it would take longer to find and target someone if it filled from left to right as that is further away from my centre of vision. I discuss the other advantages of raid frames in a previous post including what information they should display, utility usage and improving your skill as a player.
In the default UI enemy cast bars appear under the default unit frame (see the first image). Like the default raid frames, these have also improved over time. The latest feature now indicates which spells can NOT be interrupted by having a small shield icon the end of the cast bar. The importance of cast bars depends largely on your role. They would be more important to healers and dps that can interrupt. Feral Druids are a class that can interrupt enemy casts and having casts bars that are clearly visible is vital to providing timely interrupts. I have an addon called Quartz that allows me to customize cast bars. I have re-sized and positioned them above my character and target unit frames. They are also set up to show the name of the spell being cast and the cast time.
Being a reliable interrupter is a skill that contributes to being a good player. By interrupting you can prevent damage and improve your survivability. Be sure to have your interrupt (Skull Bash) on an easily accessible key.
Since the introduction of Vengeance and the further changes to threat generation, the risk of pulling aggro from a tank is not as likely as it once was. However as it is still possible and since I do tank from time to time I still use a threat meter and recommend that everyone does also. I have used Omen Threat Meter since BC. It is a very simple addon to configure and use. In my UI it sits to the right of my central bars and left of my chat window. I have it set up to show only the tank and the top 5 threat holders. I don’t think it’s necessary to have it show more considering the scaled down importance threat. Like Grid it is close to my centre of vision and it only requires a quick glance at to gain the information I need.
With the release of Mists of Pandaria the Feral Druids threat reducing ability Cower was removed. With no personal way of reducing threat close attention will need to be paid to the threat meter. However, through Symbiosis a Feral Druid can learn the Play Dead ability from a Hunter. This spell functions exactly the same as Feign Death.
While this is “not essential” I still like to have one installed. They are a useful tool for making decisions and analysing situations because they record other information in addition to damage, such as a death logs, damage taken and friendly fire to list a few. Like Omen, I have used Recount since BC. Skada is another damage meter that is popular, I have not personally used Skada but my wife and friends use it with great enthusiasm. Recount sits in the far left corner of my UI. As I don’t need to view it while in combat it doesn’t need a prominent spot close to the centre.
Floating Combat Text
The default UI comes with floating combat text, but as with most of the default UI the number of options and level of customization is limited. Scrolling Combat Text is another addon that I have been using since BC. I have it set up to show my damage dealt in an arc around the right hand side of my character. On the left hand side I have my damage taken. For my other character that can heal, I have healing dealt on the right hand side with damage. The advantage of SCT over the default floating combat text is that you can move it to a different area of the screen and have it scroll in different directions and formations. I also have SCT set up to show combat flags and combo points which the default UI can also do. The combo points pop up in the middle of my screen, shown as “1CP, 2CP” etc… and at five combo point it says “5 CP Finish it!”. Because combo point generation is so fast and constantly changing, I find it easier to keep track of when it is in the middle of the screen.
Class Specific Addons
I only run one class specific addon, BadKitty. BadKitty is debuff tracker for Feral and Guardian Druids. This addon tracks bleeds, buffs, debuffs and Predator’s Swiftness procs via timer bars. In addition it can track other features like the cool downs of Tiger’s Fury & Berserk and combo points. However as I mentioned above I track combo points with a different addon. I prefer timer bars over graphical queues which BadKitty can also provide. This addon really ties in what I say in the begining, it condenses all the important information you need into a central location. I plan on doing full feature post about this addon in the future as its options and versatility are more than what I can cover in one paragraph. Definitely worth checking out.
In terms of addons specifically for raiding that is about it. I do use a boss mod (Deadly Boss Mods), a click casting addon that interacts with unit & raid frames, a cool down tracker and some other non-essential addons for quality of life improvements e.g. a bag addon. It is worth mentioning that there are complete UI packages available that offer themes, coloration’s and other visually appealing elements to present a UI that is very smooth and sleek. Elv UI one popular package.
Here is a screen shot of my full UI with all addons installed and operational. The addons in the screen shot are numbered to correspond to the list below so you can see which addons are doing what.
- Unit Frames – Xperl Unit Frames
- Action Bars – Bartender
- Raid Frames – Grid
- Threat Meter – Omen Threat Meter
- Damage Meter – Recount
- Combat Text – Scrolling Combat Text
- Boss Mods timer positions – Deadly Boss Mods
- Cool down tracker – Heatsink
The main points I am emphasising in this post are to keep as much of your centre of vision clear and have the information you need displayed and located in a way that it is all together to reduce the amount of eye movement. Everyone one is different so no one setup is going to work for everyone. It is about experimenting and finding what works for you and objectively looking at your own setup and seeing what can be improved upon.
What are your thoughts on my UI. What are its good points? Do you think it could be improved? Were there any ideas in this post that you could implement to improve on your own UI? I would like to hear what you think. You can leave a comment on the post, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet me @Elamari_ or leave a comment on the File Under Feral Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/FileUnderFeral.
<Naenae> Proudmoore, US