The Default UI and Its Flaws

30 10 2010

As you’ve probably noticed, in patch 4.0.1, Blizzard introduced what is essentially a default-UI version (WoW Insider gives a brief explanation of it here) of Power Auras, a mod that let you create large, visible notifications for procs, debuffs, any number of things. At first it was confusing–I didn’t know what meant what, and big things were popping up on my screen confusing me during combat. That quickly passed as I became familiar with new talents and abilities. And while the WoW Insider post I linked above says this about Bizzard’s auras:

It’s simple, it’s effective and it’s pretty. I was really impressed with these ability notifications because, frankly, there aren’t really any options. The system is just … there. Believe me, it’s a plus. Sure, there are options to turn it on or off and set the opacity, but that’s all you get. Fewer options, in this case, is better,

Blizzard auras

No countdown to be seen

I have to disagree that fewer options is better. The images are nice, yes, and it’s good that we can set the opacity, but frankly, that’s not better than Power Auras. This isn’t really a complaint, seeing as how this is the case with almost all basic UI elements that are inspired by addons–the Blizzard version is functional but not customizable. But rather a plea that raiders do not use these over Power Auras or similar notification systems.

Timing is everything

The most important feature that the Blizzard auras are missing is a timer. When Killing Machine or Rime procs (the two Frost DK auras), I need to know when they’re going to run out so I can plan my next few abilities appropriately. It’s also crucial to know what’s going on with other abilities. Again taking the example of Frost DKs, Unbreakable Armor, on a 1 minute CD, needs to be used often, and Power Auras will help while Blizzard’s won’t.

I haven’t yet had a lot of experience with the raid UI, but my guess from looking at the options is that it has about half the functionality of Grid. When I healed as a Druid, one of the most important uses of Grid was seeing where my buffs were and how long was left on them without having to click on players individually. Grid does this–admittedly with a fair amount of setup–and does it well.

 

Raid frame options

Limited options

Too much is too much

On the opposite side of things, some default UI stuff just does way too much. Again, this comes down to a lack of customizability, but leads to a problem of too much information busying up your screen. The default Floating Combat Text is a great example of this. Realistically, you don’t need to see any kind of damage in a raid environment, but it is nice to see when you hit a big crit or something. It’s also really important to see certain things, like immunes, parries or misses since that can either mean you’re positioned wrong or have been standing in something bad (e.g. dust clouds). You don’t need to see your DoTs ticking, your pet’s attacks, other raiders’ hits, white hits, etc. I set my combat text to display the following:

  • Any incoming damage above 3k (probably will raise this once Cataclysm raiding begins since health pools will be much larger)
  • Outgoing damage above 5k (this means I don’t usually see non-crits or white hits)
  • Parries, dodges, misses, immunes, buffs and debuffs

    Floating Combat Text

    Can't control the flow of numbers

That’s the really important stuff you need to see. Blizzard’s combat text just isn’t this flexible. And your level of addon customization should ideally reflect how seriously you raid. If you do 5-mans and that’s it, well, most of this stuff won’t matter. But in a 10-minute long boss fight, it’s extremely important to see what matters most in a clear and understandable way. Lack of information or missing something in a cloud of text is no excuse for a death. So get customizing!

Like stats, raiding UIs should be min-maxed

For raiders, the barrier to entry is already steep. If you want to seriously play your class, there’s a lot of information you need to know, and more and more comes with each patch/expansion. 4.0.1, for instance, introduced entirely new abilities, a new rune system, more glyphs to work with and an easier way to switch glyphs around, and reforging. Addons are simply another aspect of this. Many great addons do far too much or far too little out of the box, such as MikScrollingBattleText, of which I use a very pared down version. 

So when you’re going into your next raid, pay attention to exactly what you’re using the default UI for and how you could do it better with addons. No matter how much Blizzard incorporates addon-inspired ideas, these will almost never be ideal for any serious raider.








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