Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mod Configuration: Watcher

In the Burning Crusade, hunters needed one button.  In my case, it was the 3 button, and you would laugh at the difficulties that caused.  I actually bound that action bar button to a fourth button on my mouse, and I would alternate between pressing that button with my right thumb and pressing "3" with right and left index fingers.  Oh my god I hated long fights in the blistering and cramping they caused.  I actually in large part loved Archimonde (even though melee destroyed me on the meters) because it gave me so much extra stuff to do.
Thankfully, those days are behind us, and hunters actually use a few different buttons these days.  This, of course, introduced some new difficulties of its own.  When I first came back to the game and did a Naxx10, I stared at the timers on my action bars and tried to manage a Survival priority system with nothing else.  I actually managed 3k DPS on Patch10 wearing BoE 80 blues and 70 raid gear, which isn't terrible, but the more I raided that way, the more I hated it.  I didn't actually do anything to fix it, though, until I saw my boyfriend setting up his UI to play offspec ret on his holydin.  He found this mod - and I can't remember what it was called - where he set up a simple priority list.  Then the mod would display a large icon of which ability he should be using at that second, with a smaller icon to the right of the next ability he would be using.  If a higher priority ability came off of cooldown during the global cooldown (or rare cast time), the "on deck" icon would change.
It was an epiphany, and the second he finished showing me how it worked, I went back to my computer to find something similar.  The eyestrain-eliminating mod I found was Watcher.
I'll begin by quickly summarizing what the mod is intended to do.  It's pretty simple: first, you set your own shot priorities in the mod's configuration screens.  Then it shows you when those abilities are going to come off of cooldown in an intuitive, scrolling timeline fashion.  It also prioritizes them according to your settings, stacking lower priorities behind higher priorities.  Here's a shot of the mod in action:

Here's what you're seeing in this screen shot:
  • The dark gray vertical bar to the right is where abilities will "stack up".  When an ability's icon reaches this bar, it's off cooldown.
  • The light gray horizontal bar on the bottom is the timeline.  This counts down your cooldowns for you.  I have it set to go out 6 seconds, so I have time to plan what I'm going to do.
  • The icons for Chimera and Aimed Shot are showing how far out those abilities are.  CS will be available in 1.8 seconds, while AiS will be available in 2.6.  The global cooldown is 1.5s, so the rule to follow is: "don't fire a steady shot if you've got a high-priority ability 1.5 seconds or fewer away".
  • You can also see that CS is "behind" AiS, which indicates that Aimed is a higher priority ability.  In this case, however, I would probably choose to go with CS - CS actually does more damage, Aimed's priority is higher because, over the course of a long fight, you're hoping to outweigh lost Chimera Shots with gained Aimed Shots.  If AiS is .8s behind CS, though, I'm just going to use CS.
Next, a shot of the first configuration screen:

Here's what you're seeing in this one, leaving out the self-explanatory stuff:
  • "Bar Scale" is set to 1 because I liked the default size, but you could scale it up and down to make the whole thing bigger or smaller without changing the length of time shown on the timeline.
  • "Alpha" is another word for transparency.  An alpha of "1" is completely opaque, while an alpha of "0" is completely transparent.  I chose an alpha of .5 so it's easy to see, but doesn't obscure the screen behind it.  I've since chosen to set "Background Alpha" to 0, since I only care about the timeline and ability icons.
  • "Max Time" is the number of seconds out the timeline will go.  I've found six to be a good fit for me, but experimentation can't hurt.
  • "Interval", as far as I can tell, sets the first time mark.  Since 1.5s is the length of the GCD, that's what I've chosen.
  • I use Quartz to watch my swing timer and GCD, so I have them disabled here.
And the last shot:

Here's the all-important screen where you set your shot priorities, so there's no bulleted list here.  I've chosen a Survival list here, just because it illustrates how things work better.  I've got Kill Shot as my top priority, because it does more damage than anything else.  Explosive, as my primary damaging ability, is second.  Black Arrow, as my source of LnL procs, edges out AiS, since Aimed is just not very important to SV damage while BA is.  Last listed is AiS.
I've left two things off of this list: Serpent Sting and Steady Shot.  The reason is that neither of these abilities have cooldowns, so they just clutter up the timeline.  I monitor SrS with Quartz and fire Steadies whenever nothing else is available.
I'm sure you've noticed I haven't touched several of the options screens.  I played with the labels and keybind settings, and they do what you'd expect: put extra text on the icons.  If, to use the SV example above, I set the label for my fourth priority as "AiS," then that text would appear in the middle of the icon on the timeline.  The keybind screens are just the same: in my case, AiS is bound to "6", so I would enter 6 for the fourth priority for the primary spec.  Then the icon would have a "6" in the middle when it was visible on the timeline.  I didn't really find either of these options helpful, so I elected not to use them.  Like, I know what the Aimed Shot icon is and I know I've bound to 6, right? I don't really see the point, but maybe those options are good for you. Spell Settings is there for you to add custom spells to the mod, since as you saw, you set your priorities from dropdowns.  As the mod is no longer updated, this screen should hopefully extend its life a bit.
Anyway, this should be enough information to get you up and running with the mod.  As always, I'd be happy to answer any questions about it, about priorities, or anything else!  I would also be more than thrilled if anyone could link in a comment or email me their alternative ability watching mods, especially ones that support priority systems.  If you've got a mod you use and love for this purpose, please let me know!

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