Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pimpin' the Interface, WAR Style

After a month of getting by with the default UI options, I finally broke down and looked into installing some player made addons.

My general goal when looking at addons is giving myself more empty screen real estate and a cleaner, more streamlined UI. I like to do as much as I can with the built-in interface options and find addons that are simple and to the point, without a lot of extra fluff that I don't use. I also try to keep the number of addons I'm running to a minimum. The more you have, the more you have to worry about conflicts, updates, etc. Five or Six addons at most would be ideal for me.

I did quite a bit of interface tweaking in WoW via addons, and its obvious that the WAR addon community (as well as the WAR API that allows addons) is still in its infancy. So while the addons themselves are generally easy to install (simply copy the folder into your Interface -> Addons folder), they all use a variety of slash commands to change options in-game and there are a number of minor issues with a lot of them.

One of the first addons you will likely need is Libslash. This is a dependency that many other addons require. It allows the addon authors to easily incorporate slash commands to allow users to control the addon settings.

First off, a quick note about what I changed with the default UI options. Looking at this first screenshot you can see that I have hidden both my experience and renown bars. It's not overly important to me to know exactly how far along in rank I am, so out they went. I decreased the size of the game options bar and the zone control bar, putting both in the center. I've also broken my chat into three tabs and removed the combat tab altogether. One chat tab is the basic default tab, the other is for all guild and alliance chat as well as tells, while the third is for say, emotes, party, warband and scenario. General and guild chat tabs are on the left and the local chat tab is on the tight. I also moved around a number of screen elements to try and keep everything compact and near the edges of the screen.

Click on the images below to see a larger version.

In the bottom right you can see my minimap, provided by Custom Map. Not only does it remove the extra graphic fluff around the mini-map, but it makes it into a nice square shape (which is great for fitting it into a corner) and also allows me to zoom out to the zone level, which is nice for getting a quick view of the local battlefield objective and keep status. Current location is displayed above the map, and at the bottom of the map, it gives your percentage influence for the current area.

Warband and party healthbars are controlled by Squared. Makes everything nice and simple and also has numerous commands for changing the shape, size, layout, colors, etc. It has an option for displaying buffs/debuffs on players in your warband, but I have that disabled to try and improve my system performance. You can move the Squared display around by going into the Layout Editor and moving the Squared Anchor box.

The only issue I've had with this addon so far is that every game session, I have to go into the warband UI and manually tell it to not display the default warband healthbars. There doesnt seem to be a way in Mythic's UI options to just not display this. Apparently there are are other addons that will take care of hiding the default warband interface, but so far I've just been manually disabling it every time rather than adding in yet another addon.

Healthbars for myself, pet, target and friendly target are all controlled by Clean Unit Frames, I've never really understood why MMOS force me to look at photos of myself and those I have targeted. It would seem like this would be an obvious option to add in from the beginning. There is a little bit of weirdness with this addon in that each UI element has a small sliver of black space on the left side, and to get mouseover info on buffs and debuffs, you have to hover over a very precise, tiny area at the top of the buff icon, but otherwise it works great and has a compact, sleek look that I appreciate. Character rank and renown rank are both displayed on my healthbar. Champion, hero and lord level mobs are noted by the + signs next to their names on the target healthbars.

Vertigo is used to control the layout of the action bars. You can change the number of buttons each bar has as well as how many columns the buttons are arranged in. The bars can be moved and sized as normal via the layout editor. I have Action Bar 1 reduced to 6 buttons and use it for storing all of my attacks (it switched pages based on my current 'plan'. See the PlanB info below). Action Bars 2 and 3 are below that along the bottom of the screen and I altered the hotkeys for one of them to use the F1 through F8 keys. And then, over on the right next to the mini-map, I have a smaller, vertical bar where I store consumable items for quick usage.

MinChat is a simple chat mod to remove the scrollbar from the side of the chat windows and also removes the extra graphics fluff. The mousewheel is used to scroll through the text in the chat windows.

Note: It looks like I hadn't yet installed MinChat when I took the above screenshot as you can see the scrollbars on the chat windows.

On top of those I also have two mods that cant really be presented in pictures.

PlanB - This mod is a godsend for Black Orcs and Swordmasters. It sets things up so that your first action bar will change pages based on your current Career status. This way you can reduce icon clutter on your screen. Unfortunately, Mythic has it setup so that page 2 of action bar 1 is the same as action bar 2, which makes it kind of useless for people who want more than one action bar on the screen. Luckily, PlanB has ways to handle this. First off, I used the /planb pagemax slash command to increase the number of pages available. Then I used the /planb pages command to make it scroll through pages 1, 5 and 6 on action bar 1, so that those buttons wouldn't overlap with my other action bars. Very handy. I held off on installing this mod for a while, but as soon as I got it setup and configured, I kicked myself for not installing it earlier. It makes combat as a Black Orc much easier to deal with.

Buff Throttle - Controls how often buffs and debuffs refresh. Given the extreme number of these seen during RvR, this addon seems to be pretty much required if you are interested in engaging in large RvR battles. It definitely put a dent in the amount of lag I was having to deal with.

So that comes out to 8 mods total. One is simply a library for some of the other mods, and another is only in place due to WAR's poorly optimized client. I'm sure there are lots of other mods out there that many people would find useful. I don't do crafting and I also don't get a lot of emails, so I haven't looked into any mods that help out with those two features.

So this is just Round One. I expect to continue tweaking my interface (and in fact, I've already made some modifications since taking these screenshots). Look for another post on tweaking the WAR interface soon.

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