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WoW Add-ons panel at Dragon*Con 2009

Gregg Reece

While at Dragon*Con this weekend, I was able to attend a World of Warcraft add-ons panel hosted by Cameron Knight, commonly known as ckknight, the developer of such add-ons as Cartographer, Pitbull, Chinchilla, and FuBar. As a day job, he is currently the Lead Developer for both Curseforge and as well as working as an add-on developer liaison with Blizzard to make sure the major add-on developers get access to the Cataclysm beta. The questions during the session ranged from how to write add-ons, add-on recommendations for newcomers, and even funny bug reports and anecdotes. After the break is the summarized version of the panel.

Past, Present, and Future with ckknight

Cameron gave a little background on himself as an add-on developer. He has been programming since he was around nine years old. Around February of 2006, when he was around eighteen, he started playing World of Warcraft. At the time, he was using Titan Panel, but his computer only had 512mb of RAM and was having problems pushing the add-on package as well as the game itself. He decided to learn some Lua so that he could write alternatives to his favorite add-ons that were more lightweight. He wanted a clock add-on, so he wrote a little clock to sit in his UI. After that, he wanted something to track his experience and thus another small add-on was born. After a while, he had all of these little add-ons scattered across the screen, so he decided he needed some place to put them all and FuBar was born.

There are better alternatives to FuBar now, he admits, such as the LibDatabroker compatible add-ons. However, you can use add-ons like FuBar2Broker and Broker2FuBar to convert between the two if you are so inclined.

He's currently finishing up the documentation for Pitbull 4. He admits that versions one through three were a bit awkward at times, but promises that version four will be much easier and quicker to configure. As a follow-up, someone asked what his favorite project was and his response was Pitbull. Cameron said this was because his favorite project is almost always his current project.

Addons for Newbies and Lowbies

Several times during the panel, he was asked what add-on setup he recommended for newer players or for specific classes or specs. Throughout the panel he gave several different ways to approach the problem:

  • Use whatever your guild members use or tell you to use. This way you have people you know use it and can approach for help.
  • Try an add-on package and try out the various features. Replace or upgrade components as you see fit until you get things where you are happy.
  • Take each UI element individually and replace it. Start with your unit frames, then a bar mod, etc until you get things the way you want it.
For those looking for more specific help, he does plug his own add-ons like Cartographer for mapping, Pitbull for unit frames, and such but does point out that if you don't like his products, then don't use them. Find something that works for you.

TourGuide4He also recommends that you pick up something like QuestHelper or TourGuide especially if you are still leveling your character. Bartender is his recommended button-bar manager. For figuring out item upgrades, RatingBuster is one he also likes, but prefers to use it in conjuction with Engravings. When it comes to gear swapping, he uses the built in Equipment Manager with the help of CrossDresser for keeping things organized. Lastly, Auctioneer is a good add-on for anyone to install.

He did point out one that I was unfamiliar with and it was the Addon Control Panel. It allows you to load and unload your various add-ons without logging out. This is helpful as it allows you to be able to turn off Auctioneer during raids or Omen during auction house browsing without needing to remember to log on and off constantly.

For healers, he is a big proponent of click-casting mods like Clique. While mice with an overabundance of extra buttons can't currently use more than five of them with add-ons like Clique, Blizzard is changing that in patch 3.2.2 to support up to thirty-one different mouse buttons. Also, using either a custom unit frames or raid frames add-on such as Pitbull or Grid is a must. While he equates Grid to playing whack-a-mole with healing, things such as HoTs don't display as well using it. As such, the player would be better off to use a unit frame in that situation.

Blizzard, the Add-on Community, and What Not To Do

Knight was able to have dinner with the Blizzard UI team during BlizzCon. He said that the Blizzard UI team viewpoint is the default UI should be as good as possible for the lowest common denominator. What that constitutes changes from patch to patch as they notice trends in the add-ons that people use. For example, automatically looting all items off of a target wasn't originally in the game. Because of that, there used to be an add-on that would do that for you before Blizzard added it to the UI. It is a cycle of life type of thing where features of certain add-ons get absorbed into the game as deemed appropriate.

Sometimes, this causes lots of work by the add-on developers to go down the drain. The developer of Omen used to spend hours figuring out the minutia of the threat mechanics in order for his add-on to work properly. Blizzard decided that basic threat announcements should be part of the game and thus causes all of that work to suddenly be obsolete. There is an upside to all of this. As Blizzard develops these new features for the UI, the scripting team then has to open up ways to access the backend of UI. This trickles down to the add-on developer community which means that Omen is now much more accurate and faster than ever before, because the game is doing most of the work on the backend.

As far as which patches affect the add-on community the most, 2.4 was the largest non-X.0 patch in the game. They were expecting 3.2.0 to be a similarly large patch with the quest helping functionality, but that feature was pulled at the last moment. Supposedly, there is some question if that incarnation of the feature will be added to the game or not as it didn't meet the critical Blizzard quality standard.

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