Each week Matthew Porter contributes The Creamy GUI Center, a column aimed at helping you enhance your WoW experience by offering an in depth guide to addons, macros and other tools we use to play WoW, along with commentary on issues that affect how we all play.
Welcome readers! Right off the bat let me thank you all for putting up with my sick on the 4th post, and for the well wishing. I really appreciate the kind words. Luckily this week I'm feeling much better, and even got to see the new Harry Potter movie. (Spoiler Alert, unlike last week's Nyquil induced hallucination, John McLane was nowhere to be found.) Anyways onward and upwards as we explore part 3 of my 4 part series on addon compilations with Mazzle UI. To paraphrase Optimus Prime, "a user friendly interface is the right of all sentient beings." Is Mazzle's unique blend of functionality and eye candy more than meets the eye? Let's find out!
Mazzlefy Your Wow
The Mazzle compilation is quite the feat. It takes addons by a variety of different authors that seemingly have little to do with each other and blends them into a greater whole. It accomplishes this with a control panel dubbed the "Mazzifier" that aids you in setting up the compilation by offering presets of the included addons. While you can still setup and tinker with most of the addons individually, the Mazzifier eliminates the need for most of this by preconfiguring the addons based on answers of the questions it asks you when you first use it. Questions such as if you PvP with your character, if you'd like to use a HUD display, which raid addons you prefer to use, and varying presets tailored to use lower system resources for the performance minded user or all the bells and whistles on for maximum functionality. After the setup process, Mazzle reloads the interface and arranges all the addon elements in what the author strives to be a clean, symmetrical, provides lots of information, use minimal space and be highly efficient user interface. For the most part, I feel he accomplishes this, albeit with a few caveats.
The Dazzle in Mazzle
Usually to get an interface that looks as nice as Mazzle you have to devote time and energy gathering and configuring addons, and then meticulously place each one wrapped around in artwork to give the interface that sleek look. With Mazzle, all that work is done for you, even giving presets for different screen resolutions. While other addon compilations accomplish this to varying degrees, they rely on including modified WTF files. The WTF folder in the WoW directory holds files that store all your setting's information, such as key bindings, graphic and sound settings, macros, and other miscellaneous information for each character you've ever played on your computer. When you install a compilation that relies on the interface elements being in an exact location, you have to use their WTF files to get the look the compilation promises. With Mazzle, this process is simplified as all those files are created dynamically during your first use. Another words, compared to other addon compilations that offer the same experience (i.e.: an addon assortment wrapped in a nice layout with artwork), the Mazzle UI goes the extra mile in every way imaginable.
So what all does Mazzle offer? Well the usual compilation stuff like action bars (modified BongosBar), unit frames (a modified Discord Unit Frame layout), quest minion (nQuestLog) and hodge podge of other handy addons ranging from raiding tools (choose between BigWigs or Deadly Boss Mod) to inventory managers (itemrack, trinket menu, Baggins, and Sanity2). I'm not going to go into details about every addon included, as I've either covered some or they will be in the future. The important thing here is how Mazzle assembles these addons to a greater whole. During the setup process you pick and choose which addons you'd like to use, and Mazzle does the rest by melding the addon elements into the artwork that surrounds the interface. The author, Mazzlefizz, shows an uncanny attention to detail as the addons blend into and even become a part of the artwork. Several themes are provided using the same layout. Most of the addons are located in the lower third of your monitor that leaves an unobstructed playing field to view all the action. The remaining elements are hidden until needed, like an action bar panel for non-combat related tasks, your bags/key ring, and Blizzard menu bar. Finally other addons are shown by clicking on what appears to be artwork. This is a nice touch rather than the typical minimap buttons; however as a new user you wouldn't know they were there so it would be nice if the Mazzifier pointed them out during setup. All in all the Mazzle compilation is a great way to get a good looking UI with the added convinance of a compilation. However, with all of these addons and graphical elements there are a few problems to address.
Mazzle May I?
With compilations that serve up their own layouts and artwork you are constrained to stay in its bounds. No free thinking here, the placement of everything is decided for you. Now obviously the layout is part of the allure of Mazzle, so you know going into it how things are going to be. However, some will find this confining. It should be noted that this isn't a Mazzle specific issue, as any compilation offering custom layouts have this problem. I would personally prefer a bit more user choice, particularly with the placement of unit frames and non-combat related action buttons. Also when using the class presets, even more freedom is given up as spells and abilities are placed on your action bar for you with key bindings already decided. While obviously you can change these things, doing so seems to break the elegance of the design (but not functionality). Since Mazzle sets all your spells and abilities up for you, blank spots appear and then get filled as you level up or gain talents. While it's appreciated that the author planned a layout for each class, it's a little clunky having to reload the UI to properly fill in blanks. The same compliant can be applied to the preset keyboard shortcuts. All of these are decided for you, and again while these can be changed, doing so sort of "breaks the 4th wall" of the compilation, taking you out of the experience it's trying to deliver. Finally, while you can supply and supplement a few addons yourself (depending on functionality), doing so can accidently break Mazzle's dependence of some addons while also disjointing the artwork's flow. Ultimately this is my biggest complaint; you're limited to only the choices Mazzle is concerned about and not your own.
The Wrap Up
Of the compilations reviewed so far Mazzle is the most unique and grandest design. For a compilation of addons not specifically made to work together, Mazzlefizz does an outstanding job making them do just that. For a compilation experience that offers layouts and custom artwork, Mazzle goes a long way in bringing these features to the masses. I would love to see Mazzlefizz "outsource" his Mazzlefier for other addon artists to make layouts, or 3rd party skins and themes. While making a one size fits all layout has its share of kinks (like having to use certain presets, and needing easier expandability for your own), I feel many of these can be remedied as Mazzlefizz refines the compilation. If you don't mind the loss of control then I highly suggest checking it out. For those of you who want total control I still suggest having a look see as you could use this as a jumping off point for your own interface. For another look at the MazzleUI check out a prior addon spotlight review.
Next week concludes our look at compilations with Mirage UI (formerly Insomniax Recompilation). In the mean time I'd love to hear feedback as to what you'll like to see me review after that. Thanks for reading!
Matthew will continue spending more time building the ultimate UI than actually playing his Mage and assorted alts in his quest for usability nirvana.