Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Addon Series, Part One: Why Use Addons?

This post will be the first in an ongoing series on addons in WoW. As such it will serve as an introduction to addons, why they are useful, and general principles in configuring your layout. Later on I will go into the different types of addons, and perhaps compare and contrast different addons of the same type to let you make an informed decision on which you'd prefer to use.

So, what are addons, you ask? Addons are things you can download that will alter or "add on" to the user interface(UI from here on out) of WoW. They can do anything from make your buttons look a little bit prettier, to completely replace the whole actionbar, or frankly any other part of the UI. With addons you can make your UI look almost any way you wish.

Now, why would you wish to alter or add on to the default UI? There are many reasons, and it really depends on what your play style is, but here are some of my reasons:

  • The default UI is ugly:
This is obviously a subjective judgement, but it is one that I know many others share. The default UI, simply, is not very aesthetically pleasing. It has too much ornamentation of the untiframes, on the actionbar. The casting bar is super skinny, the minimap is cluttered with buttons, the bag interface is very large and clunky. I could really go on and on, but I think you get the point.
  • Necessary information is displayed very poorly:
This is the crux of the issue for me. I mean, I could deal with an ugly UI if it displayed all the necessary information in an easy to see manner. Thing is, it doesn't. Tracking DoTs(damage over time) is much more difficult than it should be, as is tracking buffs and debuffs, spell cooldowns, aggro, etc. All of the information, when it is displayed at all, is put all over the screen, and that leads to my next point,
  • the layout is not conducive to a fast-paced type of play:
With all the information you need to see is placed all over the edges of the screen, you have to look all over to see it. If you want to track your DoTs, you have to look at the enemy untiframe, then to track your buffs and procs, you have to look over to the right, then to track your cooldowns, you have to look to the bottom of the screen, then if you want to see your casting bar, you have to look in the center. When you have to frantically dart your eyes all over your screen just to see the necessary info, that is taking away from the time you could be paying attention to where your character is standing, or where the boss/other players are. When reaction time matters(as in, in PVP and Progression Raiding), you cannot afford to be a second late on some things. 

Keeping those criticisms in mind, my personal design philosophy is to keep all the necessary information right near the center of the screen, easy to see and read, and hopefully pleasing to the eyes. That way, when the action is hot, I do not have to divert my eyes from the action for even a second, and so can react faster, play better. Here is an example of my Restoration Shaman UI:

As you can see, most of the information is near the center, with the most important information nearer to it. The big green cross(my 4-pc haste cd, the color drains as the bonus goes away), the sun(my Seal of the seven signs haste proc), the blue ring(healing rain timer), the big three cooldown icons at the top, and the mana bar above the casting bar are all from WeakAuras, which I will go into in a later installment. Let's just say that it is the one addon that I would not do without. The space between the casting bar and the spell cooldown bar is where my VuhDo raid frames go. But as you can tell, the most important things to me are my mana, my casting bar, and the raid frames. Then my procs, and the big 3 cooldowns. This UI makes it super easy to see it all without having to dart all over.

And yes, I do get a .9 sec GHW :P It's magic!

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