Saturday, 18 September 2010

WoW: The Coming Add-on Cataclysm

Post soundtrack: “Cataclysm” by Blizzard.

There’s nothing like visiting the PTR to convince you it’s time to re-subscribe to WoW. Hence I’ve returned (albeit not especially triumphantly).

Look! It's not a dwarf!

So I’ve started tidying up some loose ends on my old main characters on alliance side  and have been trying to get my solitary high-level horde alt (ding 64!) up in level enough to do the new troll quest chain (despite the likelihood that it’s probably going to be just as truncated and as underwhelming an experience as the Gnomes failure to recapture Gnomeregan was).

But my limited time on the PTR reminded me of one important little detail: when Cataclysm strikes and (insert rampant hyperbole here, describing how things changing ruins the game you know and love, while simultaneously bitching about the game you know and love because it’s all the same and nothing changes and… oh, wait), it’s also likely going to be losing a number of the addons we currently know and love.  (Ask yourself how long it’s been since some of the addons you may be using have been updated? My oldest was last updated Jul 2008…)

I transferred an 80 rogue and 80 priest onto the PTR, and while I can play a rogue with the default UI (well, I can solo; raiding would probably be kind of difficult) there’s no way in heck I could even heal a 5-man without Vuhdo. Looking at the collection of addons in my live install, it’s clear I’m going to have a lot of work ahead of me to get ready for Cata, not just in winnowing out those which are now unsupported, but also in searching for the new and improved.

Everyone needs an idea of what *not* to do. This is a good anti-example.

There are three parts to the UI that my UI layout revolves around:

  • Action Bars: The default bars are almost the only part of the UI that I leave untouched – not only are they perfectly functional (and guaranteed to work the day after a big patch), but I also like the art used when you’re controlling vehicles.
  • Player/Target Frames: While sparse of information and truly awfully positioned (especially for classes with rapidly changing resources to manage, such as rogues, hunters and warriors) they do the job; in the past I’ve usually replaced them with XPerl, which is the best implementation I’ve come across so far of “It Just Works” in terms of unitframe addons. I find unitframes, once more sanely positioned, are best supported by a HUD in the centre of the screen, so important information is located where your attention is focused. (MetaHUD is my current HUD of choice, having dropped DHUD which hasn’t been updated for a while)
  • Raid Frames: I rely upon these for my healing, and experience shows I perform best with spells bound to all four mouse buttons (left/right/forward/back) with shift/ctrl/alt modifiers. My addon of choice for this is Vuhdo, which handles both frames and mouse-over healing quite capably (but isn’t currently PTR-ready, although apparently there’s a version for the Beta).

After those, it starts to get cosmetic.  Unlike minimalists, I like having access to more information than the default UI usually reveals (although not necessarily displayed all the time).  A Data Broker bar addon (and assorted modules) is great for this, my current being ChocolateBar.  The minimap gets replaced and moved to the centre-top of the screen, cue Chinchilla. A more detailed buff/debuff display, Elkano’s BuffBars. Replace Blizz’s Floating Combat Text with MikScrollingBattleText.  Replace chat windows with Prat and WIM. Then there’s Auctioneer, of course. And who can forget DeadlyBossMods?

My old raiding UI.  Not perfect, but at the time it was Good Enough™.

To that you can add convenience addons like Atlas/Atlasloot, Fishing Buddy, Mapster, Opie, Outfitter, Skada, and little things like No Gryphons. And that barely scratches the surface of the various bits and pieces I’ve accumulated – I have 235 folders in my Addons directory, probably representing near on a hundred addons installed.

How much is too much?

Methinks ‘tis time to cut back. And hey, what a great opportunity for it!