Building a unified UI

Like most people new to WoW, I slowly (and painfully) came to discover what threat and dps meant. Once I did, it was like a lightbulb going off behind my eyes. I embarked on a mad dash to get all the amazing addons I could get my hands on, a veritable kid in a candy store. I started with Omen for threat, then got recount, then some map mods, an inventory mod, raid frames, loot mods, HUDs – you name it. And then had another awakening – my UI looked like I was driving a car with a windscreen caked in birdshit.

I tried to clean up my UI throughout WOTLK but never really managed to get it to a point where it seemed to mesh together and look presentable. Making things look good does not come to me naturally. With patch 4.0.1, I decided to throw it all out and rebuild it into a unified UI that would work for tanking (which I love), healing (which I enjoy) and dps (which I love but burn out very quickly on). It would have to be functional first, but I’d take a stab at making it presentable by using kgpanels and restricting the parts of the screen I could use to keep clutter down.

The UI would have to:

  1. Provide information on threat (how far ahead of dps (tanking) / behind the tank (dpsing) I am) and aggro (in a trash pack pull, are all mobs on me (tanking), or is any mob taking an unhealthy interest in my dress (dps and healing)).
  2. Raid frames. Once you’re used to them you can’t go back. I need my raid frames to double as cast frames, show me target-of-target, aggro, range, direction, debuffs, health and mana. This is worth a post in an of itself.
  3. Lots of action bars that are easy to keybind, with paging. So that I can bind my most useful abilities to 1-6, 1-6(+shift), 1-6(+ctrl), 1-6(+alt) and have them on my fingertips at all times. I have big hands and I lose track of the mouse pointer when there is a lot going on on-screen. So I want to play to my strengths. 🙂
  4. A separate set of player, focus, target and target of target frames that show cast bars, aggro, health and buffs/debuffs clearly.
  5. A replacement for the built-in range detection – I don’t want the number indicating the keybind going red when a mob is out of range – I want the whole freaking button to glow red. I also like to see my cooldowns and buff times on the action button itself – so if I just did a concussion blow on someone, I want to be able to see how long they’re stunned for and then next, what the cooldown on my ability is for when I need to use it again.
  6. A unified cooldown indicator. Sometimes you have multiple tools to do the same thing, its nice to know which one is coming off cooldown first. A cooldown bar with time compression is perfect for this as I can see at a glance what the cooldowns look like on my spells.

So this is what I have now:

WOW UI raid in-combat screenshot

It is not very polished yet but manages to consolidate the information I want into the lower quarter of the screen leaving the important middle area free to see the action.

I’ll break the UI down into components with a diagram.

The key parts of the UI are:

  1. Tidy Plates, Threat Plates – this is probably not the best screenshot to show this addon’s usefulness but in a nutshell it shows you nameplates over the head.
  2. Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text – on the left is stuff that is happening to me – damage taken, healing taken. On the right is the damage (or healing) I am putting out.  Above the name plates are procs.
  3. Deadly Boss Mods – Shows boss abilities, fight mechanic timers and warnings. To raid in modern WoW raids this is pretty much required. If you raid you need this (or a functional equivalent).
  4. SexyCooldown – shows a compressed timeline showing when spells, trinkets, racials etc are coming off cooldown.
  5. Pitbull4 – Unit frames. I usually have 4 frames up, focus target (left most, not showing in this screenshot so you have a blank space), player (Majh here), target (Raging Spirit), target of target (Majh).
  6. Chatter – chat mod that allows me to reposition the chat box, add timestamps, color coding etc.
  7. Skada – Meter mod. In combat I have it showing threat (like in this screenshot), out of combat it shows either damage, dps or healing depending on what class I am playing. The biggest reason I switched to this from recount was that this shows disc priest absorbs properly.
  8. Dominos – Action bar addon. It enables me to rearrange the action bars, change how many buttons are shown, if bars are faded out when I am not mousing over them but most importantly – it lets me easily bind keys and mouse actions to spells. My most used ability when tanking is a mouseover+mousewheel up key bind to taunt. 🙂 I also use inline auras to color buttons red for abilities that I am out of range for on my target and buff timers to show what uptime I have on a debuff applied from an ability on a mob. You can see 29 seconds left on my sunder armor stack in the screenshot above.
  9. Vuhdo – I first got it for use as a healing addon but it does so much more. I use it to see my raid members, range to them, their locations, direction to them (on mouseover it points a tomtom-style arrow towards them inside their raid frame), to see who has aggro (lights up their box and brackets the name in >> <<), debuffs, their targets and targets of targets. So in the screenshot you can see that all dps are dutifully attacking skull and our hunter is dutifully taking out the ice sphere.
  10. TipTac – enhanced tooltips. I like to be able to see at a glance who a mob is being targeted by, their buffs/debuffs etc. In a nutshell more useful information than the standard tooltips present. I also like to be able to pick where it shows up, what fonts are used and its size etc.
  11. SexyMap – A map and minimap mod. I use this to hide annoying minimap buttons unless I’m mousing over the map, to see the zone name, co-ordinates and to know who is pinging on the map. Our indomitable raid lead, Kymberrly, is pointing out where people need to run to in the screenshot above. 🙂

I intent to do a much more detailed post on each component in the UI in the coming days to illustrate the value they drive for the informed player – whether it is a tank, a dps or a healer.

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