Take it away, Quatho:
I've been playing the game since June 2006, and thought it was about time to share something about one of my favorite things about WoW: UI's. Although I never have been a "hardcore" player, I do enjoy raiding with friends once in a while. So far I'm very happy we managed to down the LK about 2 weeks before the Shattering :-) The idea of sharing this popped up when scrolling through my screenshots folder and being amazed at how my interface changed. To get an idea, I uploaded the most relevant screenshots of this evolution here.
Now back to the current interface, a thing that I've always been confronted with is screen size. I've always played WoW on a 13" macbook, on a 1280x800 resolution. I rarely use an external display, so the challenge is to make the game experience as good as possible on the small screen.
At the moment the interface I've settled on has three major states:
Out of combat, no target
Here the focus is on my location (minimap) and the visual world around me. Most of my interface is hidden, showing the minimap and a very slimmed down version of all the other bars and addons. (I guess more could be hidden that I currently do)
Out of combat, target
When targetting someone or something, I play with transparency to very lightly show the info I need about the target. This is slightly different whether I'm in a city or 'outside'.
The focus is on my own status, the group members and the target(s). Also threat and damage meters come into play here. Also, the minimap gets hidden at this point, which helps a lot in making the change of state clear.
Also another 'requirement' for me is to have a UI which is as flexible as possible. My main character is a Warlock, but I do also play a healing/tanking druid. This is mainly the reason that I have quite a large space of my UI reserved for Vuhdo, it's pretty handy when tanking/healing ... might be a bit overkill when playing as DPS, but so far this is the most optimal thing I've come up with.
You'll find an annotated version of my UI in attachment, showing the most crucial addons I use. These are:
Bartender 4 I use several bars scattered around the UI. Most of them are hidden and appear on mouseover. Since I play on a small screen, I scale all my bars down to 60 - 70% depending on the functionality.
Chinchilla Minimap Since a while I settled with this minimap, I like the simplicity of it
ForteXorcist I like to have my spell timer bars in the centre of the screen. As I mostly play a lock, this is a pretty crucial thing, so having it showing dominantly in the middle works pretty well.
Marking bar Very handy addon to quickly mark things in nasty PUG situations. I also scaled this one down to save screen estate.
MiniMapButtonBag (MBB) Since my minimap is pretty small, there's no space for additional minimap buttons. MBB gathers them all in one, scalable, button
Omen I still like having Omen besides Skada, but there's no real reason for that.
Prat I like to have two smaller chat screens, one filtering the guildchat, whisps and party chat and the other showing the rest. It really helps to focus on the important chatter.
Quartz Casting bar of choice.
Satrina Buff Frame I recently switched to SBF from Elkano's buff bars. I love the customization options of SBF, which I'm still tweaking at the moment.
Skada Lightweight damage meter showing all information needed.
Stuf After considering several unit frame addons, I now settled with stuf. I had the conceptual idea of having large, almost square, healthbars. Using stuf this seemed to be working out the best.
Tidy Plates / threat plates I believe a must have addon for all classes, so much information is contained in just that colored square above the mobs.
Vuhdo I like vuhdo because it has decent options for dps, healers and tanks .. and also, the configuration screen is pretty fab compared to others ^^
Apart from that, I couldn't live without (won't go into the details here):
Advanced trade skill window
Deadly boss mods
So playing WoW on a small screen surely is possible. It's all about experimenting with sizes, positioning and transparency. Addons like Clique and Opie can also help a great deal in setting up an enjoyable small screen UI since they hide functionality but are still very rapidly accessible via mouse or keyboard shortcuts. Also, when building my latest UI, I found it very helpful thinking about those three states (no target, target, combat) having separate UI requirements which really helped my puzzling together my current UI design.
Hope you liked it!
If you need any additional information, let me know.
Quatho, Zenedar (EU)
Thanks for the email, Quatho. Transparency is a tool that many people are not always using to its full advantage. To be fair, getting used to UI hiding and transparency is not the easiest thing in the world, but taking it one step at a time can help you slowly become accustomed to a system that allows pieces of your UI to disappear when not in use. If you're the kind of person who like everything on screen all the time, you might be able to glean a few cool ideas by working with transparency.
See through me
One of the coolest aspects of transparency is that you can quickly notice pieces of the user interface come to the forefront of your setup when they go from lower transparency to opaque. I've been using transparency as an option in Grid for a long time, bringing group and raid members into opaqueness when reaching a health threshold. The same can be said for many user interface elements -- you might only need to see them when specific things happen. For instance, action bars that aren't for trade skilling or general use can be hidden or transparent until combat.
What Quatho does with his UI is make most of the combat pieces transparent during the times when he is out of combat so that the "shadow" of the user interface is usable but not at the forefront of his mind. With a smaller screen, hiding interface elements means more screen real estate to see the world and keep awareness when out of combat.
Another cool aspect of having interface options go opaque upon entering combat is that you always know when you're in combat. Before I made a few of my elements transparent out of combat, I was the guy mashing his mount button until I popped out of combat, constantly pressing the button, hoping it would make the whole ordeal go faster, like an elevator button at the mall.
Focusing on states
Quatho's philosophy for deciding when and where certain interface elements are applicable and important is a great way to go about dealing with your own user interface. Take time just flying around one of the capital cities doing whatever it is that you do during a general play session. Take note of the buttons you press, the activities you perform, etc. I guarantee that half of your user interface is just sitting there, collecting dust during this time.
So why not create states that your user interface can be in? The simpliest would be in or out of combat. Think about it: Most of the pieces of your user interface help you deal with combat-oriented activities. Start tinkering with one addon at a time, and see if you like how transparency can open up some areas of your user interface. You'll be focused on combat during combat, but slowly paring down the amount of screen space occupied by addons out of combat.
How to hide
So, you want to try out some transparency or conditional/situational UI hiding? Good for you! It's easier than you think, I promise. Action bar addons already have some pretty simple transparency controls built in, so if you're a Bartender or Dominos user, those tools are right there, ready to be used. Jump into the bar editor and select the transparency options from the individual bars.
Recently, I did an Addon Spotlight on one of my favorite addons, Kong Automatic UI Hider
. This little addon will assist you with conditional or macro conditions for hiding all sorts of elements on your UI, plus it's easily configurable and easy to use. Kong is my UI hider of choice, but I am sure that the comments will have plenty of other suggestions as well.
Working within the constraints of a laptop screen can be occasionally brutal, especially with a game like World of Warcraft
, where there are so many options for UI advancement and change. Adding to your UI doesn't always have to be a mess on your screen at all times. Try being transparent -- I think you'll enjoy it. Thank you very much for the submission, Quatho.