Thursday, December 29, 2011

An actual post! Hunter UI Modification.

To give credit where it's due for the previous post: the idea was totally my boyfriend's. It made me laugh, though, so I had to embellish on it and make it into a blog post. Now, though, I should write a real post, or at least as close to a real post as anything I do. There seems to be more interest in interface modification than there is in slogging through uploaded combat parses - and now that I put it like that, I'm not really very surprised. I'm definitely going to do a post on hunter log evaluation, but it can wait a couple days.

Before I get into posting a UI screenshot and talking about configuration, however, I want to talk about how I think about my UI.

I see a number of people that post threads in forums that are along the lines of "I'm playing a hunter! What mods should I get?" and I really don't think this is a very helpful way to go about it. Not least because 30 different people will give you 30 different recommendations, and without any way to choose between them you're going to end up looking at blurry screenshots of mods and trying to figure out if you should get it or not.

I think everyone should ask themselves this question: "what are the problems with my UI that I want to fix?" It might even help to get out a piece of paper and write down your answers to that question. Without asking that question you're groping blindly, and you're just as likely to confuse yourself as you are to help yourself.

So before I post the big screenshot, here are my answers to that question:

  1. I need to have all my most important information near the middle of my screen, so I can easily see when I'm Standing In Bad.
  2. I need to be able to accurately and easily monitor a wide variety of different buffs, debuffs, and cooldowns.
  3. I need to be able to see adds instantly as well as switch targets quickly and accurately and I have to be able to misdirect to and use Master's Call on anyone in the raid in the middle of an encounter.
  4. All of the above have to be accomplished with as much visual economy as possible: cluttering up my screen with bars and timers and flashing buttons defeats the purpose by making it impossible to see that I'm Standing In Bad.
Those are my four goals. Every addon I have I picked and customized specifically to address one or more of them. Here's what my UI looks like shooting at a target dummy:
Click for full size.
I'll talk a little bit about each of the mods, in numerical order. I'm not really going to go into step-by-step configuration of individual mods, because they all for the most part have guides out there already. It's more important to think about the mods I use might or might not help you fix the problems with how you use your UI.

This pair of addons works together to clean up the game's default health plates and add features to them such as transparency, resizing, and additional visual effects that can be used to display threat information. Tanks, for example, can set the health plates for mobs targeting them to be smaller, more transparent and green while the plates for mobs targeting other people can be big and red with an attention-grabbing aura around them. As a hunter, I have the plates for mobs not targeting me a little smaller, transparent and green; mobs that targeting or could target me are big and red and so on. This makes tasks like picking a particular mob out of a whole pile of them much easier, while doing so with a minimum of distracting visual clutter.

I make fairly sparing use of Power Auras. It's a venerable old mod, widely used because it's so powerful. As is often the case though, all that customizability means it takes a little more effort to configure. I only do fairly basic things with it: you can see in the screenshot a small, somewhat transparent icon letting me know that I've got a haste proc from a trinket. I need to know this so I can adjust my expectation for things like "how many steady shots can I fit in before CS comes off cooldown?" I also use it to really scream at me when I've got Fading Light on Ultraxxion or I'm being targeted for Shrapnel on Madness.

I love this addon very, very, very much. Here's a closeup:
As you can see, the center of the mod is a focus bar. The tick mark is the amount of focus it would cost to use a Chimera shot, and the number is the amount of focus I have at that second. To the right is an animated indicator warning me that I don't have Hunter's Mark active on my target. Below that is an indicator so I know that I'm in Aspect of the Hawk.

Now, you can see that there are two Rapid Fire icons, one above the focus bar and one below. The one on top is because Rapid Fire is currently active on me, with 12 seconds remaining. The duration of the buff from Improved Steady Shot is displayed here in the same way, as is the cooldown of Chimera shot. As the cooldowns or durations tick down to 0, the icon moves from the right side of the bar to the left. So it's both an intuitive visual indicator of time left, as well as text indicating number of seconds.

I use the space under the focus bar to display my longer cooldowns, so the "3" there is white to indicate that it's referring to minutes rather than the yellow seconds of the icon on top. Once that cooldown is under a minute, it will display in seconds as well. This makes it super-easy to use make sure I use Rapid Fire again as soon as I possibly can.

Not pictured here are other things you can have Serenity monitor and display, such as notices that your current target has a buff that Tranquilizing shot can remove or the time left until Freezing Trap wears off of something you've got trapped.

This is a really great mod, and I would encourage all hunters to at least consider it.

4. Quartz
This is another classic mod that I've used since BC. Basically it lets you change the size, location, and appearance of any and all castbars (your own, your target's, target's target, focus, etc). It can also monitor things like the GCD, your autoshot/swing timer, debuffs and buffs on your target, and so on. If you're moving everything else in your UI around, like I am, you need to be able to move around your castbars.

I use Pitbull for much the same reasons that I use Quartz. Having my own healthbar stuck in the upper right-hand corner of my screen was resulting in my death occasionally, and anyway it was ugly! So I use this mod to make my healthbars prettier and move and resize them to fit my own desires. You can see I have my pet's healthbar visible but small, sitting atop my own. My target's target is displayed in a similar fashion, and everything is tucked in neat and clean in the bottom-center of my screen, so I don't have move my eyes very far off-center to scan them. I also use it to display large, easy-to-see icons of the buffs on my current target so I can easily watch things like the stacks of Warlord Zon'ozz's increased damage-done buff.

6,7. Grid/Clique
I first picked up using this pair of cooldowns as I was learning to heal on my priest, and I've found that they lend themselves to things like answering the question "is everyone in the raid alive?" and "where's the healer so I can use Master's Call on him?" These are also highly customizable mods, and if you decide to use them make sure you do so with a clear goal in mind. I wanted extremely clean, compact raid frames that I could tuck in a corner and use for very specific purposes; I didn't want a massive set of healthbars covering half my screen and covered in vibrating, pulsating icons.

Continuing the theme of many of my other mods, BT4 allowed me to resize, move, rearrange, and change the appearance and transparency of my various action bars and menu buttons. My mini-menu and pet bar have been made tiny and tucked under the chat box so they don't obscure anything. I've got an action bar hidden along the left-hand side of my screen where I've got bindings for a few macros for pet control and aspect swapping as well as placing traps (it becomes visible if I mouse over it). My regular action bars are still visible, but are much smaller, reducing visual clutter.

Other considerations/not pictured.
You can't see it but I used a tiny little addon called Tipsy to move my tooltips to the upper left-hand corner of my screen, so they wouldn't get in the way of my raid frames. I have Omen and Recount installed, but Omen is hidden unless I'm in a party/raid and Recount is hidden unless I specifically bring it up to look at something (during raid time, this is usually the "Deaths" page).

You can see that I've set up a few custom chat tabs and made the background of the chat window transparent. The tabs are so that I can restrict the chat I can see to just party, raid and guild, and the transparency is so that it doesn't get in the way.

Anyway, altogether I hope you can see how I've chosen my addons to fix my UI problems. Maybe some of these would be the right ones for you and maybe they wouldn't! There's no way for anyone else to know what addons are best for you.

That said, I am always curious about how other people play! So if you have any favorites that I've missed, please do drop me a note, tweet it, or leave a comment!

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