Emails first, as usual:
Mat - I sent you a question a few weeks about finding add-ons to help maximize FPS, and you featured it in your weekly column. Thanks, that made my week.Thanks for the email and submission, Oakdusa. There is something very special about the raiding UI, all lit up and dancing and bells and whistles going off as the fight goes on. It's kind of like a miniature version of Las Vegas happening on your screen. Come to think of it, World of Warcraft's aha moments do have a similar frequency to pulling on a slot lever ...
Here is my UI in a raiding situation. Static UI's are nice and pretty, but I prefer to look at Combat UI's, because this is where things get messy. I am a big believer in "clear field of combat", SO I push as much as I can to the edges. Above my Player/target frames, I like to have timers, cast bar and proc info. The rest of the major elements provide secondary of tertiary information. As a DPS'er, I use the Blizz raid frames, as that is all of the info I need. The big hole right below Quartz and between the player/target frames is for the "special" button (i.e. Ultraxion button)
Common UI elements: Bartender, Chocolate Bar, Quartz, Elk's Buff Bars, Chinchilla Mini Map, Recount, DBM.
Un Common: Mage Nuggets (a MUST for Mages, especially for the CD timer). SunnArt (screen framing that creates nice backgrounds for contrast), Mik's Scrolling battle text (incoming on left going down, outgoing on right going up). CoolLine (additional timers, like trinks), & Stuf (for player and target frames).
But I digress. Something about Oakdusa's UI brought me back to my early days in EverQuest and Ultima Online; the black enclosure around the main window was a staple of MMOs back in the day. It was simply an amazing feat that in the Scars of Velious expansion you could finally make UI elements transparent. Mana users were forced to stare, literally, at an image of a book, not the game world, in order to regenerate mana more quickly. You read that last sentence correctly, and if you didn't, I will repeat myself. In order to regenerate mana at an acceptable pace, you had to stare at a picture of a book, not at the enemies around you or your friends performing heroic actions. You stared at a book.
Things have obviously come a long way, with the once bearable now the unthinkable. There was a reason we used to push game errata and interface off of the game world or force ourselves out of the moment -- the immersion illusion. Taking as much of the interface off of the game was a boon for allowing you to show more on the screen. Interfaces are about controlling experience, and the early generation of MMOs directed their respective experiences with the best of their ability and technology for the time.
No doubt raiding is a hectic affair, especially for DPS classes, as a new self-reliance on movement while keeping up the numbers remains the new design focus. While the DPSer has less in terms of on-screen suites to worry about, there are precise time and number issues that the best DPS players pay attention to. When to pile on cooldowns and when to save them makes a difference, period. Watch your cooldowns to make sure you don't miss too many moments with a GCD ready and waiting to be hit. Razor-thin margins stand between world firsts and world seconds.
Your performance in a raid matters. It really does, I swear! Sometimes, it might feel like that's not exactly the case. I'm here to tell you that it is the case. Join up in the Raid Finder one of these days and, based on the best DPS in the group, compare their equipment to yours. I promise you there are plenty of people out there who could benefit from a DPS addon or two.
The curious case of the disappearing raid elements
Long-time raiders will commiserate with me in this regard: Sometimes you never really notice that your UI is cluttered or messy because, really, it doesn't matter. If bosses are dying, then who really cares, right? Truthfully? Agreed.
Something that I've noticed for a while now is that my DBM bars are in a crappy place. No joke, -- they are in a crappy, stupid place, and I probably should move them. Over time, however, I just stopped caring because where they are is working and sort of disappear into the background. The default (or slightly off from default) locations for most addons is usually enough for most, and that's not a bad thing.
There are pieces of Oakdusa's UI that I feel could be in better places, but they just don't register as crucial moves to make. The raid group windows, for instance, would look better as a Grid frame or scaled down significantly. Oakdusa would free up a ton of room, be able to see some more stuff off to the left side of the screen, and not have to be constantly reminded about how sad times were when the old-style Blizzard frames were all that we had. That and Decursive.
What I suspect happened was Oakdusa needed some raid frames, saw the ones that were there were good enough, tossed them to the side and never thought about them again. In fact, Oakdusa didn't think about them so much that they just started to blend in to the background, like a beeping smoke detector or the millions of ambulances outside your house making all sorts of noise.
Something about it
In the end, maybe that's what I find so endearing about most raid UIs. There is not only that lived-in quality that feels like the best pair of jeans you've ever bought, but this weird, backwards math that you can do on where someone decided things were good enough or just not going to change. That's something I can respect. Lately, I've been seeing people's UI decisions these days as more of a reflection of the type of player who is submitting these screenshots. For Oakdusa, I can sum it up pretty easily -- here's a raider who doesn't have time to let the stuff on the sides get in the way of the kill. I like Oakdusa's UI, because it reminds me of the best MMO days ever -- just a little cluttered, but it gets the job done, every time.
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.