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The Great UI Overhaul, Unit Frames (Part 3)

Where we left off

Unit Frames, or What Is that Mob Up To?

Until recently, I’d always used a large addon like Perl Unit Frames to do this work, but I always found them to be slightly buggy in some way or another, so I went for something that’s both been around the block and has good reviews. You know, or used what Sona selected after she did the research. We play to our strengths, right?  So I selected Shadowed Unit Frames.

As I mentioned before, I like having my character on the left of my bars and my target on the right. Focus and Focus Target just above, and target-of-Target under my target.  Since I’m also dealing with my own pet, I chose to put Sionnach underneath Breige.  Setting those up was easy, I just placed them where I wanted to, selected how I want to see buffs and debuffs, and away we went.  SUF has a few settings worth playing with, like what you want to hide from Blizzard’s UI (say, your cast bar and buffs) and what to show on each frame’s info panel. The nice thing about SUF is that you can use global settings to set up a whole bunch of things the same way, then tweek them individually later.

The next thing to tackle in SUF is party and raid frames. I wanted both to take up the same space on my hunter, since generally I’m not doing any healing, so 25 small frames work just fine for me.  A few selections, and then some sizing was all it took. Be sure, of course, to select when to show or hide each type of frame so that you don’t get overlap. That wouldn’t be helpful.

There were a bunch of additional frames available to me, as well, like tanks and bosses. I wasn’t sure how I wanted that to go at first, so I decided to put them on the left over my chat window. I’ll see how often I need them, and suppress them later if they become a problem.

Shadowed Unit Frames with one Party Member

Shadowed Unit Frames with one Party Member

Once SUF was done, I took a look at Vuhdo, since on my shaman and priest, I use Vuhdo for my party and raid frames for the click functions.  One of the big advantages of SUF is that you can use profiles. I did the bulk of my work in the default profile, but moving over to Sruith, I started a new profile by copying from default. Then I supressed party and raid frames, and set up Vuhdo very similarly. And, of course, set up my spell clicks!

From what I’ve learned over the last 8 years of WoW playing, those two things are the meat and potatoes of my interface. Buffs, maps, and functionality addons come and go depending on my interests and their dependability.

In the next segment, we’ll talk about a few of those functional things, including maps and chat.


The Great UI Overhaul, Bars (Part 2)

How often do we see this UI?

Yes, that is a lion. We dinged 25 after Sona noticed we were within a million points of achieving max guild level!  But, back to the task at hand.

Creating Something From Nothing

Someone commented on a Youtube video (that was linked by someone else, and now I cannot find it!) that it is generally easier to build up from nothing than to chisel away at default settings. So very true. And so, here you have it, folks, the default UI.  The first addon I installed was Bartender4. As I mentioned in my last post, Bartender has been with me for some time, probably since shortly after I stopped using one of the larger addons (Perl Unit Frames and similar predecessors).

Bartender has some wonderful functionality, but it’s primary purpose for me is moving and resizing my bars.  Sona uses a two bar approach to her actions. Those bars are placed directly under her feet, making them easily accessible.  I decided I’d try that method, though Breige gets three bars – the top bar is actually a combination of two bars: The pet bar and a 4-button bar that has pet commands that come from my resources.

I was suddenly a little sad when I realized a very useful ferocity pet talent didn’t make it onto the action bar, and to be only functional, I would need to remove the play command. Being able to have a dancing pet is too much fun, so instead I removed the defensive status button that I never use. (I would have removed the attack button, but, well, I actually use that one!)  So I urge all you pet wranglers to take a look at your pet’s spellbook to be sure they have the right abilities out on their bars!

I have additional bars out, which run the bottom of my screen. These contain the buttons that I use when I’m not in combat, like professions, my hearthstone mount and pet summoning, and so on.   I current have my XP and Reputation bars stacked on top of them to make a nice smooth break, but I may be moving my XP bar to just below my two action bars (clearly, much smaller!) as I only reference it lightly.

Yay! Pretty Bars!

Yay! Pretty Bars!

Next up, Unit Frames!

Keybinds – Guest Post from Vuuk

Greetings everyone. I am Vuuk from <Immortalis> on EU-The Sha’tar, author of Mana Cake Musings, a mage-oriented site (although I post about my other 85s as well). I’ve commented on Tiny WoW Guild before, and my latest comment sort of sparked this guestpost.

I wanted to help out Shoryl with some tips on how to get started with keybindings. She suggested a guestpost instead, so .. here we go!

Step one: stop keyboard turning

In the classic WoW setup, A and D are used to turn left and right, respectively. Your character slowly turns to face said particular direction.
I would like you to re-bind these keys to strafe left and right. Strafing is the concept of moving in a direction, while still facing forward.

Strafing is what allows me, as a tank, to completely turn a boss away from the raid without moving him an inch from where he’s standing.
Strafing is what everyone in PvP uses to run circles around you.
Strafing is what allows frost mages to spam Ice Lance on you while running away from you.

Once you have re-bound your spells, go find some mob to dance around a bit and melee them. Ideally a big mob.
When you select a mob, you see their selection circle on the ground. Try to strafe along this line and turning the mob in place.

You will need to use your mouse to keep facing the mob, and either W or D depending on whether you are running clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Step two: getting used to finger-twitching

Now that you’ve got running down, you notice you’ll be able to use your mouse less to click abilities. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
We’ll start off really easy. Pick two of your most often used abilities, preferably instant-cast ones, and bind them to Q and E.
In my mages setup, I picked Blink and Fire Blast.

As you’ll notice, these two keys are right next to your movement keys. It only requires a short twitch of your index or ring finger to access them.
They’re easy to find without looking at them. This makes them a good choice to start off practicing with keybinding, and they’re useful for binding abilities you want to use on the run.

This allows me to do a flip in the air and blink “through” someone chasing me on my mage, or to Death Strike a mob while strafing away to pick up another one somewhere.

Step three: core abilities

So you’ve gotten the hang of using those two abilities on Q and E, but you’re still clicking the others. Why, exactly? There’s so much more you can reach!
In my case, my ringfinger can reach ` and 1, my middle finger can reach 2 and 3, and my index can hit 3 and 4 reliably, without moving the others too much.
5 is a bit further, so don’t bother with that just yet.

You should bind important abilities in your rotation here. In my Arcane spec, I have Arcane Blast on 1, Arcane Missiles on 2, Arcane Barrage on 3, and Arcane Explosion on 4.
Take your time to get used to these before you move on.

Step four: branching out

As you get more comfortable with hitting keybinds without looking at them, you’ll be able to “find” more and more keys on your keyboard like that. For me, I slowly moved away from
the movement keys and now have these keybinds, basicly (although I use an Azerty keyboard layout so some keys are switched around a bit compared to this picture):

Don’t bind all these keys at once, just take it easy and do one ability at a time, until you feel you’re comfortably and reliably hitting that keybind. It’s not as easy as you might think.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t get the hang of it right away. I can’t tell you how much I’ve died trying to hit F to Ice Block and hitting G or so instead, but now that my finger ‘knows’ where it
needs to look for that F, I can tell you I Iceblock a lot quicker than when I used to click.

You’ll notice I have one key with an alt modifier too: if I hit W, which is just above my left alt button, I get an Ice Barrier. Alt-W is Mana shield.
On my rogue, I went another step further and used alt modifiers for most of my abilities on 1 through 5 as well (mostly grouping up some finishers like Rupture and Expose Armor, Kidney Shot and Slice ‘n Dice).

One last note …

I must admit I occassionally click some things, still. A lot of the abilities on my number bar past the number 6 I cannot reach without letting go of my movement keys.
I’ve made some pretty dumb (or epic, depending on the point of view … shifting out of bearform while tanking Azgalor on my druid instead of using LW drums comes to mind) keybinding mistakes before, and so for raiding I often click crucial abilities like Time Warp.
It’s not a PvP ability that has to go off THIS INSTANT, and I’m standing still a lot more in PvE anyway so I might as well hit the keybind with my toe and it still wouldn’t make a difference.

Shoryl’s take so far…

Simply put, it’s actually hard to get used to. I’ve been playing the game for 6 years, and habits die hard. I initially started trying to do step one while working on getting elders. I thought: Lots of travel, lots of movement, this will be good.  I ran places, staying on the roads, trying to follow various terrain details to practice my strafing and turning abilities. (The idea of running around in circles around a big target is a good one… except that I get motion sick with lots of that type of movement, so it doesn’t work for me) That was cool, but the minute I got into real combat, I was trying to use the old methods. I went back to my old methods for the couple of dungeons I did, but I’m planning my night tonight as another practice night, while questing, where if I die, it’s only on me, not on a group. Hopefully I can get used to it enough to be confident taking it into dungeons tomorrow. 

The Conundrum of the Interface

I’ve been reading a lot of the Add-On Spotlight and Reader UI of the Week posts over on WoW Insider.  Reading these kinds of philosophical approaches to environment, makes me think about my own environmental philosophy. I do it with my work environment, my personal environment, and my social environment, so why wouldn’t I do it with my WoW environment?

So a while ago, I went on a bend and made some basic changes to my UI, which I tried carrying across the board to all of my alts.  For the most part, since I don’t raid, I was successful. But there are a few niggly little details that I still need to work out.

First and foremost, I like to run add-on light, because I don’t have the most powerful computer out there, and I don’t raid, so I can scratch off a whole stack of add-ons with just that. I do 5-man, though; so things like Omen still need to exist.  Second, I have 8 classes and three of the four play-styles represented in my characters. I have no rogue and no death knight, and I don’t tank. And third, I want the majority of my UI to be usable on all 10 characters.

I’m currently running a top and bottom motif, which I like. Up on the top, I keep my experience and reputation bars. Those bracket a few bars: My Guppet bar for random mounts and pets, an action bar to house things like my professions and other “in town” functions, and the Menu bar.  My buffs also go up there, in the middle, as opposed to on the right where they are by default.  There’s also an extra bar up top that sits underneath the reputation bar, which I toss extra random things on, like counters when I’m collecting some item or another.

On the bottom, I have a lot of stuff, but I try to keep it tidy none-the-less.  I have a stack of four bars which contain most of my actions. I know I could trim the fat there a lot by really considering what I have out on my bars for abilities, but that’s what I’ve got at the moment.

I keep my target, focus and character bars, as well as my minimap, on the bottom right. These are the things I need the most in combat.  (yes, I actually do use my minimap in combat periodically. I get turned around easily in movement intensive fights).  On the left is my chat window, with a simple chat mod.

To do all of that, I actually use surprisingly few addons: Bartender, MoveAnything, SexyMap, Pratt and Guppet.

My healers get one more addon – Vuhdo. I put my Vuhdo party frames right on top of my stack of bars in the middle.

All in all, it works okay. But there’s a catch, because there’s always a catch.  I keep having to fiddle with where a few things are, because I don’t have the spacing perfect for every character. Some things are character dependent, and others are not. Drives me crazy!  Another thing is that since I have  a druid and a warrior, I have a couple of bars that get exchanged for action bars based on their form/stance. I have not done a great job of making sure those bars aren’t the ones in my various odd places.

So over the next week, I’m going to try and find some time to rebuild my interface on Shoryl, and port it over to my other toons for a basis to build on for them.  I have a structure I generally like. It just needs a few tweaks so I can really enjoy a seemless interface.

Hopefully, a post in the next week or two will be what was, and what it became….

While you’re here, let me know what your favorite add-ons are, and why.