A Call to Blizzard for a Better UI

This week’s Shared Topic at Blog Azeroth really struck a cord with me: What would you add to the UI with Cataclysm.  I must say, Elkagorasa’s question really made me think, because I run a very heavily modded user interface.  Add-ons and mods play a large role in my overall game-time, and are a source of endless amusement and fun for me.  However, what if there were no third-party add-ons.  What if I relied utterly upon the default Blizzard UI?  What would be the make and break factors for me in continuing to patronize this game after having enjoyed the ability to grab a mod for almost any function I could desire?  If Blizzard were to discontinue third-party add-on development for their game, you would see me lobbying in every forum available to me for the following functions to be added to the default user interface.

Let Me Move Stuff

You might not have played a Turbine MMO although you’ve likely heard of Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online.  Like WoW, these games allow for third party add-on development; however, there has not been the massive outpouring of mods crowding the scene.  There isn’t a list of required mods when you join a guild, and if you peek over at LoTROInterface you’ll see that they style and functions of the mods are very different.

Why is that?

You could just chalk it up to the smaller player base.  Even combining the subscribers from DDO and LotRO you wouldn’t hit half of WoW’s 11.5 million subscribers.  There’s just not as many players who have the skill or desire to create mods for the game environment.  However, I don’t think it’s that simple.  The biggest factor, in my mind, between the differences in mod development is the a single big difference in design philosophy between the two games: the ability to control your screen real estate.

World of Warcraft has this very “crafted” look to their UI that is created by the look of their bottom bar.  However, as many a player will point out, that polish doesn’t mean jack when you have your eyes darting hither and yon trying to track your health, your raid’s health, watch your buffs and debuffs, examine the little dots on your minimap and manage to click your buttons.

When you log into a Turbine game you are presented with a similar arrangement of elements.  Buttons, character frame(s), minimap.  However, there is one big difference.  You can move everything.  And as an extra bonus, it’s easy to get to as well.  LoTRO has a simple slash command that makes your screen look horribly intimidating, but does show you every little thing that is able to be moved (whether you can see it right now or not).  DDO lets you click and drag anything that catches your eye.

Bottom line: Players think differently.  Left-handers and right-handers have different visual and clicking needs.  Healers needs to see the raid at all times, d.p.s. could often care less.

When I consider the “core” mods that I use, the reason I chose them is because they added the ability for me to move things on my screen where I wanted.  While my current set-up is built around hiding non-essentials, I’d be happy to have some extra components on my screen if I could place them where I want–out of my way!

Raid Frames

I will give credit where it’s due: the raid frames ARE better.  But are they good enough?  My biggest gripe with the current incarnation of the raid frame is that it wastes a TON of room on fluff–mainly, the frame itself.  Take a lesson from your players and look at what they’re using for raid frames.  BIG HEALTH.  Little mana.  Very visible debuffs.  Some key buffs.  Will they be able to get this perfect for eveyone?  I seriously doubt it.  However, filtering information is a huge part of being able to effectively play the game on any class, and for healers particularly, the raid frames are our gateway to the game.

Allow us to filter what buffs and debuffs we’d like to see.  Allow us to see who has aggro.  Get rid of the “artsy” fluff.  It doesn’t look that good and it wastes not only valuable screen real estate, but also requires us to process and discard another piece of irrelevant information.  Why I love Click2cast capability (I use clique, many players use Vuhdo/Healbot, etc. that has this baked in) I could get what I wanted with macros.  Making the raid frame an intuitive tool instead of a frustration would go a long way to alleviating my need for add-ons.

Buffs, Debuffs and Cooldowns

I’ve grouped a rather large amount of categories into this request, but in large part, I am able to meet all these needs with a single add-on: Power Auras.  Some things I need to know right now.  Some things I can check out of combat.  Being able to flash messages to myself about missing buffs, nasty debuffs, and when specific cool-downs are available has, I believe, made me a more responsive and solid player.  The standard Blizzard UI allows me to track this information through a buff list, a debuff list, and my action bars.  However, like many of the things I am discussing here, control of information is vital.  Being able to filter this information so I am not running through dungeons on overload allows me to actually enjoy my gaming experience.  You give me a way to filter these things and give myself a visual cue, and I’ll happily go mod-free.

Cataclysm spoiler/note: I did read that a power aura like functionality was being added.  However, from the limited information, I was unable to tell the control and fine-tuning we, as players, would have over the final product.  Despite my general anti-news stance, I am eagerly awaiting more information to see if the functionality will truly rival and replace PA, or will merely be a partial product.  I don’t believe the PA function has yet been added to beta servers, so hopefully we’ll have an answer about this soon.

Chat and Combat Log

I could make myself suffer the chat log if I really wanted to… honest…. I can switch back anytime I want.  You know what I want out of my chat–less clutter.  I want to decide which of my tabs go all glowy when I have new information on them.  Yes, I want guild updates.  No, I don’t want to know if general/trade is hopping.  Let me get rid of those big ugly buttons–scroll wheeling is awesome.  And that’s just the regular chat.

My issue with the combat log is a bit different.  There’s a lot of really good information in there, if only it was easier to read!  I’ll admit, I’m the first person who tells someone to check there log when they die; however, I wouldn’t tell anyone to evaluate their healers performance on the last fight, or how their avoidance set stacked up vs. their threat set because, well, it’s horribly complicated to pull all the vital goodies out of a line by line listing of every single piece of data.  I want more filters.  I want the ability to get rid of the extraneous text.  If the combat log was better, I might not even need a recount like mod.

That Is It!

If these things were more accessible, easier to configure through in-game options, I would be willing to drop every mod in my folder.  You’ll notice I didn’t mention a boss mod.  I don’t think boss mods are necessary.  I have a lot of fluff that makes certain actions more accessible: showing my cloak, emptying my mailbox, even disenchanting my greens.  I like those mods.  They do make my game-play a tad more streamlined, but I could live without them.  I could live without a mod that sorted my stuff into mini-containers.  I’d miss it, but I AM capable of organizing my own stuff.

What add-on or feature would you want to see handled without requiring you to download a mod?

4 thoughts on “A Call to Blizzard for a Better UI

  1. I would LOVE to be able to resize different elements of the UI without having to resize the whole things. I’d like to keep the frames and minimap the same size please, but shrink the action bars and buff icons.

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  3. Great list there. I would say resizing and moving are probably two of the most important things they could do for allowing customization to the largest number of users.

    Not everyone's going to need raid frames, and many that do need them use addons that also have additional functionality (notably healers). When I'm not playing a tank/healer for example, I turn my raid frames off completely because I don't need them.

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