World of Warcraft has me spoiled in regards to MMO user interfaces. While I don't like bringing up other games in my columns, it is almost necessary at times when talking about the overarching themes of the genre, something I am passionate about. Take, for instance, the original Bioware stance on DPS meters ("there will be none") and the subsequent reversal of such a plan -- I would have preferred gun-stickage.
Competition drives innovation in our marketplace, and other MMOs have been stepping up their games in recent years in regard to almost every aspect of the MMO experience. Yet WoW's UI is still leaps and bounds more customizable, flexible, and vibrant than a majority of the AAA titles on the shelf. What the heck is going wrong with the MMO industry and the UI? The Old Republic had to patch in basic UI features. RIFT, while capable in and of itself with UI customization, still suffers from constraints. The original EverQuest made you look at a book to regenerate mana faster. I realize it's not the same world as WoW, but it's still a part of the package.
... which brings me to today's interface and topic. Saintstryfe may have not intended this submission to spur the topic that it did, but I don't care. Saintstryfe, you're riding the Reader UI train now, and this train's conductor doesn't slow for no. One. No one. Except myself. I'm the conductor. Other games reveal aspects of World of Warcraft that otherwise would be left unnoticed due to repetition and routine -- a foil, if you will, to the idiosyncracies of World of Wacraft ... and maybe insight into how to fix them.
Saintstryfe, take it away:
Hi Mat and fellow WowInsider addicts!
My UI is dedicated to PvE healing. As such I value streamlining as much information as possible so that it's easily accessible without jamming up my screen in frames and timers while keeping it pretty. Obviously I drew a lot of inspiration from ElvUI/TukUI which I use on my dps and tanking toons. Unfortunately I don't have an in-raid screenshot to show it all in action.
My main, Saintstryfe - Mug'thol, is a disc priest, which means several large CD's as well as the all-important rapture to manage. This is handled by a combination of Hermes (thankfully I no longer raid lead but this was a godsend when I did), Ingela's Rapture Tracker, and Power Auras. DBM of course its own box, as missing one important mechanic can lead to a wipe. My text box is given equal stature not only because I demanad symetry, but also how useful it can be in-combat. After taking a break from wow and raiding in release Rift, I very quickly had to relearn how to raid without any addons. That meant often times the only way to know what was about to happen was to be continually glancing at the chat box for what the boss was yelling.
Finally Skada is (in my opinion) the best "meter" addon due not only to how lightweight it is, but also how mobile and thorough it is. Oh and of course Vuhdo is the greatest healing addon. Ever.
Quick list of important addons-
- Stuf Unit Frames
- Ingela's Rapture Timer
- Power Auras
- Satrina's Buff Bars
Hope you enjoy it. While I am very satisfied with my UI, any constructive criticism would be appreciated.
Thank you very much for the email and submission, Saintstryfe. Healer UIs are always a bit of a beast to dicuss, so let's get right into it.
Saintstryfe's UI is clean, no doubt, but the real slickness comes from the boxed areas that separate each addon into its own little compartment. It's a rigid structure, sure, but aligned correctly and with enough wiggle room for new UI elements. You've got a solid base.
Action bars surrounded by a stark box or barrier are always cool in my book. Maybe it's the defined look or the nice gray colors, but no matter what, I like the setup. While I'm not as excited about how high up the bottom UI cluster goes, the Vuhdo setup gets a pass for height because of the healer factor. What's the healer factor, you ask? Well, that's when you add points to a healer's effort for just being a healer because, frankly, it's a thankless job.
The Rapture Timer bars and the Hermes Cooldown Tracker are both well situated in their places, right next to meter alley and the Skadas of the world. Front and center is the aforementioned Vuhdo, rounding out the setup with a healing focal point and simple symmetry. I do have to say that I'm liking it.
Going away, coming back
As MMOs vie for the next top spot and the next best thing, innovation will play a big part in what gets added to the genre as a new staple. I am incredibly surprised that an open and customizable user interface is still not one of those things, despite existing seven years ago in World of Warcraft. WoW has had so many competitors over the years, yet none of them have smart enough to put together a comprehensive, customizable UI like Blizzard's (with notable exceptions, of course).
In fact, at this point in the MMO-building process, I would consider it an insult that game companies do not want to give us control over the user interface. Even League of Legends has a UI scaling option.
One of the biggest draws of having a supremely customizable user interface is that players suss out and fix problems that would otherwise take a development team a long time to fix and implement because of a priority queue. How many little interface tweaks and problems could have been solved in many AAA titles by users invested in the game, versus waiting and watching subscriber numbers fall because things aren't exactly like WoW?
There and back again
When Saintstryfe left Azeroth for the other worlds out there, he brought back an appreciation for certain pieces of the UI. I know that when I log into a new MMO, the first thing that I have to do is change action bars around so that I have two of them. Who uses one action bar these days? Rather, who uses one regular-sized action bar these days? There is no way everything you need can happen on fewer than 12 keys.
In this case, it was the chat window that has been redeemed in Saintstryfe's eyes. Having no addons isn't the worst part of it -- new boss notifications and screen pop-ups that happen outside the main text interface are the new normal for World of Warcraft, while other games are still clinging to the older philosophy of having all notifications appear in the chat box. WoW also puts notifications in the chat box, but there are also copious numbers of warnings for players, making it so that you can keep your eyes forward and not down at the chat box.
Raiding in other games can be a challenge because a lot of WoW's endgame design is based on a culture of raiding that included addons. The reason that dispels and cure spells are so mana-intensive now is because of the addon Decursive, which changed the structure of raiding ever since the end of the original World of Warcraft. These games borrow the raid concept from EverQuest but have systems set up that are distinctly not EverQuest-ian. While WoW began as an EverQuest wanna-be, it grew into its own culture and language, whereas other games aren't playing to their own strengths. So to recap, raiding based on WoW raiding without addons is like basing WoW raiding on only half of the content, especially in a brand new MMO.
Clean, simple, sensible
There really isn't much to say about this UI other than the fact that I like it. It's simple, and the world is a better place because dedicated healers like you are still patrolling the mean streets at night. Healing in other games is almost as ridiculous as it sounds, especially without UI scaling or configuring. RIFT is a notable exception, with a robust built-in UI configuration utility, but for many, it was just barely enough. The lessons learned in other games can and will stay with you for as long as you let them.
I'm in the process of teaching a new person how to play World of Warcraft, and believe me -- don't discount the basics. That includes your vast knowledge from other games.
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.