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.
This week we'll look at Heads Up Display's or HUDs for short. These addons are an alternative to unit frames that show a variety of information about you and your target. They're displayed right in the middle of your playing field so your eye doesn't have to wander to get vital information. They accomplish this using non-traditional graphical elements like slices of rings representing health and mana bars. HUDs are used in real life jets to show the pilot information in such a way that their eyes don't have to wander to far from their field of vision. Many games use HUDs of varying types as well. In WoW, HUDs employ transparency effects so they can fade in and out so as not to obstruct the playing field. Let's get the show on the road with a look at Archud, MetaHud, and IceHud.
Archud was one of the first HUD addons that I used on a regular basis, and it's easy to see why. It's streamlined presentation and Ace roots make for a well rounded HUD that's light on its feet. Archud has the typical features found in a HUD like player, pet, and target health and mana bars with corresponding text. You can adjust the color of the bars to your liking as well as the placement of the HUD and width of the left and right halves of the display. Transparency effects make the HUD fade in and out of combat or according to the depletion of your health and mana bars. Archud goes beyond basics and features advanced options such as:
- Player and Target casting bars
- Mini 3d model of your target
- Clickable nameplates that can be used with click casting addons
- Ability to choose the placement of each ring of the HUD
- Special ring to show Druid mana in animal forms
- Combo point ring for Rogues and Druids
- Text display of target's target and target's target's target health
Archud's design seems to emphasize features over presentation. That's not to say it's ugly, but the bars are rather simplistic with no textures, though they're smoothly animated. Obviously something like the art style is going to vary from person to person, but the option for a few different looks for the bars would be a nice addition. Archud is a full featured HUD and may intimidate newer users, but the configuration menu is pretty easy to use, indicative of Ace addons. Finally, while the author of Archud is clearly detailed oriented, exemplified by the amount of features it has, the additions of party bars and alert icons like the resting, combat, and group leader indicators would complete the package and allow you to ditch typical unit frames altogether.
Metahud is a derivative of DHud. It takes a different approach than Archud using graphical elements to spice things up. The health and mana bars are thick and can be livened up with textures. They really stand out, and would be almost an annoyance if not for the fact you can scale and move them. At first glance Metahud might seem to be a bit much, it covers a lot of your view area and you may think it comes on a bit too strong. I thought this as well, but after giving it a chance it has found a permanent home in my addons folder. The key to taming Metahud is taking the time to configure it to your liking, Duh Matthew, you're no doubt thinking, of course you have to configure an addon for it to match your needs, but setting up Metahud radically changed my opinion of it. At first I thought it was obtrusive and I switched back to Archud, but I gave Metahud another try recently and really took the time configuring in detail. Metahud now fulfills my HUD needs to a T. The feature that won me over was transparency effects that let you adjust how see through Metahud is in certain conditions. When I'm full health and mana, and have no target selected I set Metahud to hide completely. When I have a target selected or am regening health or mana Metahud is partially see through. Finally when I'm in combat Metahud is at full view serving up all its information. Now this feature is not unique to Metahud, but because of its health and mana bar style it makes the best use of it. Metahud's bars are well animated as health and mana fluctuate, and the colors can all be adjusted through its options pane. You can even set colors to change dynamically for different states of the bars, such as green when a bar is at full health, and a transition to yellow and red when the bar is at 50% and almost depleted. Finally Metahud rounds things out with a nice assortment of icons around the HUD such as resting, combat, and group leader icons. It even decoratively puts the elite dragon frame around the HUD's target health bar, a nice touch. Finally Metahud can show buffs and debuffs for your target. However, with all these features Metahud does leave a few things out.
While Metahud has a target of target health bar and a player cast bar, it lacks health and mana bars for your focus target along with party bars, so you can't totally replace regular unit frames. Another missing feature is the ability to place the bars where you'd like. You can select from two layout options, but you don't have complete control of where each bar lies relative to one another. You can move the unit text around however. Finally Metahud may be a bit much for players new to HUDs and addons in general, and may still be over kill for advanced players wanting a streamlined HUD experience.
Wrapping things up we have IceHud. This is another Ace addon, so configuration wise it's a lot like Archud with its use of generic Ace options menu. Not a bad thing as with all Ace addons, it's an easy to use configuration panel. There's not too much to say about IceHud as it doesn't do anything fancy beyond the basics. This does however make it a good HUD for less experienced players and addon users. Like the others, IceHud has bars for the player, pet, and target, and a few extras like player and target cast bars. IceHud's uniqueness comes from 3 presets that change the bar graphics from the typical circular shape to a V like formation. You can edit the bar's color, height, width, and spacing as well as transparency settings like the other HUDs. Unfortunately the bars aren't animated like Archud and Metahud. Overall, IceHud is a competent HUD addon, but is over shadowed by the more full featured alternatives. It's existence is still warranted by its uniquely minimalistic approach, and of course having more addon choices are always a good thing.
The Right HUD for You
While all these HUDs do essentially the same thing, their design and way they go about it differ. Archud is hard not to recommend as it's full featured and relatively easy to configure. Newer users might be overwhelmed with the amount of options, while others may not like its artistic style. For those wanting some bling in their HUD I suggest MetaHud. Its indicator icons and art style are nice touches, just be prepared to configure it to meet your needs. Finally, for minimalists and newer users, IceHud serves up the basics in a light weight package. For another take on Archud and MetaHud, check out when they were featured in Addon Spotlight here and here.
As always thanks for your feedback and for reading. What interface issues are prevalent to you? Leave a comment with interface and addon issues you'd like me to look at. Till next week, take care!
Matthew will continue spending more time building the ultimate UI than actually playing his Mage and assorted alts in his quest for usability nirvana.