An odd email was sent to me by a reader expressing his concern over some of the new additions to the user interface coming with Mists of Pandaria and, more specifically, with the monk class. This got me thinking -- we need to start getting ready for the next expansion, and we need to do it now. Klaxons are sounding and alarm bells are ringing! Monks and pandas are coming!
So how do we go about talking about designing a preliminary UI for the monk? First, we have to look at what is being added to the interface through the new class. Second, we have to use our current vocabulary to discuss what could potentially be applied to monk-specific UI elements.
The new basics
We know that the monk uses a brand new type of resource bar that feels much like the paladin's holy power meter or the death knight's rune display. It's a character-specific on-screen indication of your dark or light force, which is used and consumed in different ways by different attacks. This force system is obviously going to be front and center, considering players will be watching the meter closely to hit attacks because the monk has no auto-attack of his own in between button-pressed blows.
So we've got a new resource bar. What else? Monks also have a secondary resource bar called chi, which regenerates much like a rogue's energy. This bar limits the amount of force-generating abilities you can build up, forcing the player to understand and tinker with resource management rotations and cool tweaks to the best ways of play. We are also going to be watching this chi bar, which brings up even more questions when you factor in two resources.
So where do we put all this stuff?
We can learn a lot about how these systems will work by looking at the default configuration. German website gaming-insight.de posted an interview with Ghostcrawler during BlizzCon 2011 in which he admitted to wanting to experiment with moving resource bars closer to the center of the screen, much how they are positioned in many of the newer MMOs out there. People seem to want to gravitate down to the bottom of the screen now, as monitors are getting larger and the eye distance from the upper left corner to the middle is larger than ever.
I'm going to assume the majority of people will want these new bars front and center, much like Ghostcrawler has said about the new bars in Mists of Pandaria. This location gives you good view of the screen, character, resource bars, and your cooldowns. While you'll have to glance for your health and chi, this seems like the majority of setups for the playerbase. But I'm already skeptical of keeping chi in the top left corner.
Addons that I'd like to see
We are going to see many cool monk addons the second the open beta begins for Mists of Pandaria, and addon developers are already clamoring to get their hands on the coming architecture. The first addons that we will see will most likely combine the dark and life force bar with a chi bar indicator, much how some rogue addons put combo points and the energy bar in the same location in the center of the screen.
Monks are very global cooldown-based in terms of limitations in character playstyle. You'll always be pressing a button because with the monk, there is no such thing as missing a global cooldown. You hit it or you don't. There is no auto-attack here, mister.
What I'm assuming would be built into this new addon would be a more prominent global cooldown indicator, most helpful to tanks and DPS who rely on maximizing GCDs for maximum damage and defense. Plus, with a more prominent GCD timer, you could concentrate less on the actual action bars showing you a GCD and rely more on the little bar in front of you. I think it's a pretty good idea!
What Blizzard needs to do with resource bars
Blizzard needs to put players' resource bars and indicators front and center and allow players more configuration options out of the box. Layout and direction is a good start, and scale is already present. I think we need more control over the resource bars, especially as players move to a centered screen approach.
In fact, Blizzard could do an amazing job laying out a new action bar piece where the player aura/stance selector is and building a resource window into there. Slim it all down, and you have a cool new feature-rich bottom bar with attach capabilities and scaling. Hey, I like it.
Build your Mists UIs and send them in!
I want UIs that are getting ready for Mists of Pandaria. I want to see drawings, future potential UIs, prototypes, ideas, questions -- anything about building a UI for the future expansion. Let's get ahead of the game and start working on this now, people!
Also, you should submit your very own UI to Reader UI of the Week. How do you do that, pray tell? Well, you send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with some screenshots of your UI and a little writeup telling us all about your UI, the decisions you made, what you like about it, and what addons you like to use. Remember, that's email@example.com.