Last week, we talked about how add-ons add zing to your game, and we explained how to download and install them. We hope you spent time poking around some of the major mod sites and found some things that caught your eye -- but if not, we're back to fill you in on some of different types of mods along with some of the most popular add-ons that will streamline and enhance your game experience.
What are the major kinds of add-ons?
The bulk of what most players consider to be WoW's "must-have" add-ons falls into some half a dozen loose category types.
- Action bars These replace the default action bars and hotkeys, allowing for custom placement and grouping of your spells and abilities.
- Auction and economy These mods give you more details and functionality for Auction House transactions, such as breaking prices down to unit prices and recommending best deals.
- Boss These mods warn you (with text and/or sound warnings) about key moments during boss encounters that require you to take action.
- Class These keep track of and help automate functions specific to your class, from managing your pet to spotting who needs rebuffing.
- Combat DPS meters, threat meters and other tools help make your combat more efficient and effective.
- Map Reshape and resize your map, show information about gathering nodes, create notes directly on your map and more.
- PvP Streamline for PvP with enhanced maps, Battleground-specific alerts and warnings, and ways to monitor what enemies are doing.
- Unit frames Resize, reposition and add function to your unit frames (health and mana bars for players and NPCs).
Mods don't stop there -- far from it! You can find add-ons that add pizazz or extra functionality to your achievement tracking, game sounds, chat, questing, mail, bags and inventory management, roleplaying, professions, buffs, pets, tooltips and more.
Many seasoned players advise rookies not to rely on add-ons at all. It's true that you'll get a better feel for the game and enjoy it more immersively without the extra tools. This is especially true for add-ons such as quest helpers that take the puzzle out of the game. Depending on your playstyle and MMO experience, you may develop a hankering for mods earlier or later as you progress.
More and more functions of popular mods are being incorporated directly into the game. Some players are happy to dump their mods and rely on the in-game tools; others prefer the generally more detailed approach of the independent mods. Neither way is "right" or "wrong"; use what works best for you.
Here are our basic recommendations for mods you'll want to have loaded and be familiar with by the time you start running PUGs and raids at level 80. For the sake of brevity, we've suggested mods that seem to be standards among today's player base and linked them all from a single add-ons resource site, but we encourage you to investigate similar mods and explore alternate mod sites.
- Deadly Boss Mods Boss encounter warnings and cues
- Omen Threat meter
- Recount DPS tracker
- Grid or VuhDo Condensed raid unit frame for healers
- Auctioneer Auction House data enhancement
- BarTender Action bar replacement
- Carbonite or QuestHelper Quest mapping and assistance
- Cartographer or AtlasLoot Mapping and gathering nodes charting
- Clique Click-casting for healers
- Decursive Curing tool for healers
- Elkano's Buff Bars Configurable buff display
- Natur EnemyCastBar Displays enemy (PvP and PvE) casting
- OmniCC Cooldown tracker
- Outfitter Automated gear-set switching
- PitBull or ag_Unitframes Unit frame replacement
- Rating Buster Stats-weighted gear evaluation
The ultimate test of a good mod is whether or not it works for you. That said, there are a couple of ways to sort through what's out there.
- Footprint Add-ons can gobble up computer resources like nothing going. Some mod types require require extensive libraries (extra files required to make them work). Some add-ins pride themselves on a smaller footprint. Generally, smaller is better, because you're leaving more of your system free to run the game.
- Popularity Most add-on and UI sites list Most Downloaded or Popular add-ons. While they're not foolproof I-Win switches, these lists will give you a solid idea of what's working for other people.
- User ratings The big sites have ratings systems in place for the mods they list.
- Mod author If you find a mod you like, look for more mods by the same author.
- Update frequency With a major patch and an expansion in our foreseeable future, we have plenty of opportunities for our favorites to go out-of-date and become non-functional. What's the track record of updates for the mod you're considering?
- Support If you absolutely can't figure a mod out or you have a technical problem, is there a forum or thread you can turn to for accurate, timely, friendly assistance?
We understand. We've been there, too. Add-ons can be addictive – until the patch or maintenance day that makes everything stop working ... Or until you need to play on another computer, but you can't seem to function without your mods ... Or until you notice that your computer is groaning under the load of so many add-ons ... Or until your favorite mods stop being supported and you have to switch to something else or readjust to the default UI. We're not saying don't use add-ons for these reasons -- we're just sayin' ... If you decide to dive in deep, be prepared for some inconvenience as the game evolves and you have to update or change your favorite add-ons to compensate.
To learn more about where to find add-ons and how to download and install them, see Add-ons for rookies.
Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to all our tips, tricks and how-to's. WoW Rookie walks you through all sort of new-player concerns, from game lingo for the beginner to joining your first guild as a mid-level player and on to what to do when you finally hit level 80.