As you can see, I've been running with both addons active, in the interest of testing, and what's more, I've been combat logging and uploading the results to World of Logs, in the interest of having the output verified against an independent third party. And the results have been fairly interesting!
But let's start with a comparison of some of the elements of the addons that don't relate to their numerical output. First and foremost, before we get on to the heavy stuff, by far the most important question one can ask about any DPS meter, what visual customization does it offer?
Skada and Recount both offer considerable numbers of options, fonts, textures, and the like, allowing a decent amount of variation. The rest really boils down to personal choice, and how particular you are are about the look of your UI elements. For me, personally, as a user of ElvUI, and a healer, I really, really like how, as you can see from the screenshot in the header image, Skada allows several embedded windows in the right-hand chat pane, thanks to the Tukui and ElvUI skins addon, which reskins most other well-used addons to match the look of these well-known UI replacements. I've tried and tried, but I can't seem to get Recount to give me a similar multi-window setup.
But where Recount falls down in allowing multiple windows with different meters, it gains points for having pretty graphs. I was highly entertained to note that I could have a almost ECG-like meter of the raid's total damage output running on my screen, presumably to assess the perfect time to yell for more DoTs. Data is power, and while Skada wins in some areas, Recount has the pretty graphs down.
OK, so you'd never do this, but look at them all! Personally, I don't quite see why you'd need even one of them, but there's probably some use or they wouldn't be there! However, the split summaries of abilities, damage sources, healing sources, targets, hits, crits, misses and the like, are well-illustrated in Recount with pie charts and bar graphs and the like, while Skada relies on a far less visual list of numbers. However, this makes Recount far more memory heavy, using around 30MB on fights to Skada's around 5MB.
Really though, it's up to you. If you prefer pictoral representations of output, and aren't too fussed about complete visual customization, then Recount wins this round, while if you are happy with text and numbers to tell the story of your damage and healing, and like the extensive customization Skada offers, such as separate windows, then Skada takes the first battle.
As a healer, I feel that I should also mention Skada's "total healing" mode that you can just make out at the bottom right of the screenshot, which is the best way to display healing that I've seen so far. It shows a bar that shifts from green to red, the green bar is effective healing, and the red is total healing, so if you healed for 10 million, of which 5 million was effective healing and 5 million was overhealing, that bar would stretch to 10 million, of which 5 million would be green, and 5 million red. I haven't seen a comparable display in Recount.
Skada also offers a threat meter that serves to completely replace Omen on my tanking characters, but lacks Recount's death reports. Of course, for both addons, there are addons you can download that give them what the other lacks, but I'm looking at the pure addons for now.
All about the numbers
Now that we've got the looks out of the way, let's look under the bonnet. One thing that separates Skada and Recount is often their output. My raid runs a mixture of the two, and it's extremely rare that skada and recount have the exact same answer on DPS, damage, healing, overhealing, you name it. Now, of course, these systems both draw from the player's personal combat log, so there are always going to be inconsistencies based on the number of targets, the type of fight, and the demands it puts on players.
But which is the more accurate? That's the big question. In order to establish that, it's necessary to have a benchmark for what constitutes accurate DPS. For the purpose of this exercise, I've decided that World of Logs will be our benchmark. No, there's not a good way of proving that World of Logs itself is perfectly reliable and accurate, but it's widely cited as being one of the better sources for player output.
I've been playing for a good fortnight on four separate characters, and assessing my results against World of Logs for, principally, damage and healing. It will come as no great surprise that Skada is consistently lower than Recount, and in all honesty we're not 100% sure why that is. However, it seems that it relates to activity, and how that is measured within the two addons. Skada measures DPS and HPS from the moment combat begins until the moment combat stops, but Recount pauses its data gathering in moments of inactivity.
So, for example, in fights like Spine of Deathwing where you have to not DPS for a while, Recount will not measure that downtime against your total DPS output. Which is better? Well it's very much a matter of preference, and very much related to the type of fight.
Comparing Skada to Recount to World of Logs on Damage Done, or Damage as Skada calls it, on Grand Empress Shek'zeer, reveals that they all had the exact same numbers, as far as rounding allows, for the total damage put out during a fight by any given player, by the end of a fight. Taking snapshots during a fight indicated that there may have been some inaccuracy in the rankings and numbers for sheer damage output, but come the end of the fight it all works out.
5-man dungeons were far trickier, for some reason, and World of Logs is not really designed for 5-man content, so it was harder to gauge accuracy from that, but Skada and Recount both reported rather different results, even disagreeing on who was the top DPS and what abilities they used.
You can see one example of this here, to the right, where both addons agree on the DPS of the rogue, but Skada ranks the Mage's output somewhat lower than Recount does, and neither addon can quite agree on DPS, although that last bit relates to the above -- the fight was the last boss in Stormstout Brewery. And even more oddly, I was playing the mage. I could understand it if I had been healing, or playing the rogue, but for the two addons to draw different figures from my own combat log is very strange indeed! There's likely some explanation but it's not immediately obvious. Perhaps Skada is not including pets in my damage.
However, in raids, as mentioned, they're very accurate on the damage. But which is closer to the actual DPS on World of Logs? Well, neither. For Shek'zeer, the top DPS on Recount had 88,694, and Skada had 86,872. World of Logs total DPS has 91,286, and effective DPS of 78,081 Effective DPS is defined on World of Logs as damage done/fight duration. So clearly both Skada and Recount have different ways to measure DPS, both of which differ to World of Logs!
We have no better news on healing accuracy. For the same fight, Shek'zeer, in total healing done, excluding overhealing, Skada puts the top three healers at 26.18m, 25.87m, and 24.89m. Recount has them at 26.21m, 25.47m, and 25.06m. World of Logs has them at 25.57m, 25.26m and 25.08m. HPS is not much better, but I'm not going to spell the numbers out, and HPS is not a great measure to go by anyway!
What's the moral of the story, here? Pick one and stick to it, and assess yourself based on that. There's a reason why I began this column with the pros and cons that excluded the hard numbers, and this is it: there's not one that's more accurate than the other, when compared to World of Logs. I didn't just try for one fight, either, Shek'zeer was one of many, four 10-man raid nights, two tanking, two healing, and three characters' worth of Raid Finder over two weeks, and still no sets of matching numbers. So just go for whichever you like the look of, and be consistent!
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