One of the most amazing things about World of Warcraft's addons is that you're always learning something new or adapting your interface to the new standards because you can build on top of what's already there. Sometimes you do the opposite -- take all of the information you've learned and processed but strip it all away and start from stratch. It's liberating to re-form your UI with years of potentially new and useful knowledge and expectations when going to build your legacy UI.
Magistrum sent me a screenshot for his mage's new UI. I looked at the picture first as I usually do when picking out a UI for the column and saw a very basic design that didn't jump out at me while being far from offensive. After reading the short email, it dawned on me that I was looking at this UI all wrong. This wasn't a first attempt at cleanliness with a new player, hitting the game for the first time. No, this was years of learning and understanding what makes your own personal UI yours. The little pieces are all in place where you want them.
Take it away, sir:
This is my simplistic UI for my mage, Magistrum, on Shattered Halls. I have been playing WoW for several years now and have played with many different UI's, never finding one that truly suited my playing style.Thank you for the email and submission, Magistrum. There is something pure about such a basic UI that makes me forget how painful interface customization can be. But it doesn't have to be. Let's take a look at what Magistrum has here.
Eventually, I found your WoW Insider column and started reading,
learning many things I had never taken into account before. I took pieces from several of the other UI's that have been posted, mixed and tweaked them for myself, and this is what I've come up with. Feel free to critique as much as you like.
Bagnon-All in one bags
DBM-for boss fights
Dominos-action bar replacement
eAlign-to make everything symmetrical
HideBlizzard-to hide annoying blizz frames
kgPanels-for the bottom bar
Mage Nuggets-useful for CD's and stats
MinimapButtonFrame-keep track of addons
Quartz-casting bar replacement
Sexy Map-basic square minimap
Hope you like it!
The list of addons
I usually don't concern myself too much with the list of addons unless an addon is particularly noteworthy or instrumental to the creation of the UI. If I had to go through every addon each time, I would end up writing the words "deadly," "boss," and "mod" so many times that my mind would stop seeing the world in colors and shapes and instead as boss timers and ability warnings.
Rather than talk about specific addons, we talk about areas or elements of the UI. Look at how Magistrum structured his list of addons -- most come with a category, not a reason. Why did you pick that DPS meter? Because you needed a DPS meter. You need addons for specific purposes, but I like that each addon has a category that it can slot into for ease of customization discussion.
It's not a huge list, either. Not too many addons in a nice, slim interface means running fast, not chugging because of too much data manipulation or whatever -- and a smooth gameplay experience, I aim to surmise. Who doesn't like a little peace of mind?
Start with the basics
Magistrum has decided to replace a significant portion of the Blizzard interface elements, as you can see that most of the UI art and such is missing. With a simple black transparent bar at the bottom, Magistrum as warded off this area as a UI-centric district for addons as to not invade the gameplay space. Many people make an exception for the player and target health bars. The height on the bottom bar is also short enough that a huge amount of screen real estate is left untouched, ready for the world of Warcraft.
Action bars are set up to be simple and borderless, a good way to save space on the screen and reduce the distance between each icon holder. That gives everything a nice, neat, uniform look, at least to me. The group of bars, menus, and icons off to the bottom right warms my heart because of its perfect utility makeup. Portals? Check. Professions? Check. Bags? Check. I love it.
A new trend in minimap size
Over the course of the last year, I've seen a marked decrease in minimap size across the board. People seem to be scaling their minimaps even smaller than ever. Does this point to the deteriorating status of the minimap? Personally, I think that people just don't use the minimap as much anymore. While it is excellent for navigating dungeon-like spaces, when you're outside, the map's function is all about target acquisition and resource gathering. Those two specific tasks might not be at the top of everyone's lists these days, so things have been getting smaller as a result.
If you didn't already get the sentiment, the smaller minimap is a fine idea to me. I use it but always zoomed all the way out. At that distance, everything seems to fit, even on a smaller-sized map. Smaller minimaps also mean more screen space for you!
I wonder what Blizzard has in store for the minimap. What do you guys think? Should the minimap stay in a similar configuration as it does now or should the whole thing be redone from the ground up? What about the need for a minimap at all?
I've noticed that Titan Panel bars are coming back into vogue, which Magistrum has running with ChocolateBar, a great addon. For many, docking bars or LDB bars just don't provide the functionality that is always needed. Many people just don't track as much as others. There's tons of reasons. I guess I just forgot about LDB bars and such until I've seen them in almost every submission for awhile.
User interface trends are remarkable in WoW since they ebb and flow predictably with the type of content that is out paired up with the addon that assists of adds functionality. Love is in the Air addons (if there are any) will be popular and predictable at a certain time of year. That is the simplest of trends, sure, but you get the idea.
The new chic
So what do you guys think of new chic simplicity? We don't need much of anything, really, except a place to sit, a place to sleep, and a place to work. Maybe the best interfaces are the ones we can easily see through, much like Magistrum's, where only the basics remain and everything else is in the complexity of the game, not the information needed to play. Even though it can feel a bit space-wastey at times, I feel like there is a refinement here that doesn't happen when you play a game for a few days and call it quits. For us normal folks, this is a powerful thing to be able to call ours because we made it.
Interested in getting the most out of your user interface? Come back once a week for more examples of reader UIs. For more details on individual addons, check out Addon Spotlight, or visit Addons 101 for help getting started.