Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Tankadin UI Guide, Part I

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

The most common email question I get is "I love your UI. It's sessy, just like you. How can I get my UI to be as sessy as yours?"
Too many times, all you get as an answer to someone's UI is a list of Addons. But you never get the instructions on how they got there. Fear not, gentle reader. With my recent Faction Change, I took the opportunity to rebuild my UI from scratch. I'm going to walk you through the process step by step.

What Do We Want?

Before you start, it's a good idea to think about what we want in a good UI. Now, I am a no fuss guy. I like to do a minimum amount of tweaking to get my UI right. Ultimately, any time I spend futzing around with my UI is time I could be having fun in game.

One of my main concerns as a tank is being able to see just what the flux is going on in the raid. I want as much of my screen dedicated to the playing field as I can get away with. My next priority is to see who the boss is targeting at all times. Hopefully that's me (or my co-Tank).

I also want all the pertinent information about incoming damage, upcoming attacks from the Boss, my buffs, important debuffs (hello IMPALE!), and the threat situation. On top of all that, I need something to help me keep track of the buffs I'm responsible for maintaining, both on myself and the raid.

Have a Backup Plan

The idea here is to make restoring your current UI a quick and easy process. To do that, make a copy of your current Addons folder. On my operating system (Windows XP Home) it's in C:\Program Files\World of Warcraft\Interface\Addons directory. I'd tell you where it is on other operating systems, but I haven't the first clue where they store it. Anyway, copy that folder to somewhere else on your hard drive. I usually copy it right in the Interface folder with the creative name Copy of Addons. That way if something goes horribly wrong, we can at least get back to how our UI was when we started by copying that folder back to its original location. For me to restore, all I have to do is delete my Addons folder and rename Copy of Addons to Addons and voila, I'm back to where I started.

Go Back to the Beginning

"Vicinni says when the job goes bad, you go back to the beginning. Well, this is where we got the job, so this is the beginning!" - Inigo Montoya

A blog post is always better when you work in a Princess Bride quote.

Shut down WoW and delete your Addon folder, then log back in. This should restore us to the Blizzard Stock UI. For some people, this won't be much of a change. For me, I had almost forgotten what it looked it like.

Basics - Action Bars and General Layout

I am going to recommend you do this step by step and load into the game after each one. That way you can tweak my suggestions to make a UI that is perfect for your style of play.

Let me see!

I am a big fan of SpartanUI. It's an all in one, nearly zero configuration UI that maximizes my screen real estate. With this one addon (really two as it comes with Bartender4 for my action bars) I can accomplish most of my goals.

You can absolutely get more functionality and greater control from assembling the UI elements (character frame, party frame, mini map, etc.) from scratch. It will take several addons and at least two or three hours of customization. I'd rather use a 'turn key' all in one solution like Spartan. YMMV.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Spartan is in the midst of testing and putting out a new release, but I have found it to be very stable so far. Sometimes there are some minor glitches after a patch, but usually you can find a work around on their forums fairly soon after a patch releases. I'll be sure to blog about any issues I find in 3.3 and the solutions here on the blog.

Spartan is responsible for at least 80% of my UI. It's what puts the bar at the bottom of the screen where all my action bars go. Because it's tied in with Bartender, it also controls the buttons and where they go. It's a simply drag and drop from my spell book to the Bartender bars. Spartan is responsible for the frame that shows my character, what I'm targeting and most importantly, what I am targeting (the Boss) is targeting (hopefully me). Spartan puts the minimap in the bottom center of the screen.

But Spartan won't do it all for you. You need more in the package. Tomorrow, I'll post part two of the UI guide where I go over the 'extras' I feel like I need to make my UI complete.


Lonster said...

You will also want to save a copy of your WTF folder, in the same location as your Addons folder. Make a copy the same way, "Copy of WTF folder".

Addons is where the code for the custom UI is stored, WTF is where the config files are located.

Ardent Defender said...

We pretty much use the same core addon package since I also been using Spartan package addon for last 5 months or so when i started leveling my Shaman.

I started on my Shaman since he was a new lowbie to get used to the addon on a new character vs on my Paladin and changing his UI where I knew everything else was already.

But I as well really like Spartan core package for all the reasons you stated in the blog piece, most was it makes my view cleaner to see what's happening and as a tank that is valuable to be able to see as much as you can. I've gotten used to it and really like it.

But just like you said as well Spartan is not all of my addons either. I use Grid for my Raid frames mostly to save the space and condense all party frames. Other stuff like Parrot and Ice Hud adds allot to see what's happening as well on my UI with other addons as well. Really its having the right addons for the information you need to your specific task.

Only thing I haven't figured out with Spartan yet is how to get the Focus frame updated for a cleaner look since its the default Blizzard Focus frame. I haven't updated Spartan in a month or so so maybe its been updated or in the next upgrade.

But overall its a awesome UI core package to like for a clean sleek look.

Doogiehowser said...

I can't thank you enough for actually taking the time to go through your UI. I have been struggling with my own, trying to work with Xperl or Pitbull, and it all just ends up looking like a chaotic mess.

I'm going to go home and make sure that I download Spartan tonight! Can't wait for the rest of your UI discussion.

Thanks Honors

- Doogiehowser (now Bubbletruble - Pally Belf)

Rhii said...

Our UIs look very similar... I also use Spartan these days, and I keep recount and pally power in the same places. I don't like the Spartan frames though, so I'm still using ag unitframes for those, up where your buffs are, and my ElkBuffBars run down the lefthand side where your raidframes are.

Steven said...

"A blog post is always better when you work in a Princess Bride quote."

So true, so VERY true.

I have not used Spartan in a while, It got pretty buggy for me a past itteration so I eliminated it as no updated appeared to be coming.

I am currently using a mish mash of Dominos, Grid, and a few others. I may have to check out Spartan again.

"If I use my right, (pft), over to quickly."

Skarlarth and Co.

leivadith said...

Grats Honor, very cool UI. I liked it so much I've been trying it out the last couple of days.

One small issue that irritates me is that I can't find a way to increase the size of the debuff icons over my target. This is not much of an issue on my paladin, but it is on my hunter since SS and BA debuffs are too small and I cant keep track of them when there are 2 dozen different debuffs from other raid members.

I see that on your UI, the debuffs are larger and have timers, any help on how I could get that too?

Honors Code said...

Power Auras is great for keeping track of key debuffs (Like Explosive Shot). I'm going to be covering my buff/debuff mod tomorrow (Thurs). This was originally just one post but I saw it was too much and broke it up some.

Dargnash said...

I us SpartanUI too but always have a problem with it or bartender on the Instructor Razuvious fight. When I am controlling one of the students and try to dismiss him, hitting the button on the action bar does nothing. This normally means I control him until he breaks lose and this can be bad when I am tanking with him. But since I rarely do Naxx 10 anymore its not too much of a problem.

Maaya said...

After playing with various stand-alone elements and trying to organize a pleasing look, I realized SpartanUI has a lot of what I want. It took me about 30 seconds to think through and confirm that it actually fits my goals quite nicely.

All thanks to your screenshot. I wouldn't have thought of using one of these if I didn't see that screenshot.

It's really much easier to leave the design and thinking to the experts.

@Ardent Defender: the version I downloaded just now has the focus frame in the same style as player and target frames.

@leivadith: why not use an independent debuff timer that will only show your own debuffs?

Lastly just a small tip. If you want to copy UI placement to alts, e.g. dialog window, recount window, all those extra things that you carefully placed and locked in, then all you need is to copy the layout-local.txt file from one character's WTF folder to the others. This will leave all saved variables intact. I do this too for backing up UI arrangements.

Anonymous said...

So when is Part II up? Or did I miss it somewhere?

Honors Code said...

I fixed the links. Sorry about that.