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Addon Spotlight: 4.0.1 UI improvements


Each week, WoW Insider brings you a fresh look at reader-submitted UIs as well as Addon Spotlight, which focuses on the backbone of the WoW gameplay experience: the user interface. Everything from bags to bars, buttons to DPS meters and beyond -- your addons folder will never be the same. This week, we discuss some of the UI changes in Patch 4.0.1.

Did you all have a fun time watching the BlizzCon coverage over the weekend? Exciting times, yes? Surprisingly, there was a pretty big user interface announcement amidst the hectic lore discussions, log-in screens and worgen cinematics. We'll get to that in time, of course.

Patch 4.0.1 brought some awesome new features to World of Warcraft that many people have emailed me asking about. What's the deal with built-in Power Auras? Have you seen the new raid UI and raid frames? Was there something about Atlasloot? All of these things will get answered today, as we take a look at some of the new stock addon and UI features in the WoW stock user interface. I'll even give my own little review of things. Sound good? It better, because this ship is setting sail right ... now.

Blizzard's built-in ability notification system

Let's start off with a differentiation -- Blizzard has not included Power Auras into World of Warcraft. Blizzard has implemented, however, a very capable and gorgeous ability notification system with patch 4.0.1, with original art and sounds, that let players know in a very Power Auras-esque fashion when certain abilities are ready to be used or a trigger has gone off. Power Auras has a level of complexity that this system does not, but for most people, what the wonderful interface guys over at Blizzard have included is about 95 percent of what Power Auras was being used for.
So what's the deal? It's simple, it's effective and it's pretty. I was really impressed with these ability notifications because, frankly, there aren't really any options. The system is just ... there. Believe me, it's a plus. Sure, there are options to turn it on or off and set the opacity, but that's all you get. Fewer options, in this case, is better.

What this illustrates, for me at least, is that the core functionality of Power Auras really appealed to the designers' gameplay philosophy going forward with Cataclysm -- simple, easy-to-understand, clear-as-day reminders that abilities are ready to use or some new benefit is being bestowed upon your character, without the need to install or setup an addon for such a simple notification. Power Auras isn't going away, however. Like I said before, there is a level of complexity in Power Auras that allows you to use some amazing rules and conditions to show the information that you want.

A new raid frames and UI

The WoW stock UI raid frames and UI has always been lackluster. Perhaps the game just took a different direction than the interface team could anticipate. Who knows? Raid frames have been the domain of addon creators since Cosmos. Blizzard has decided to give raid frames another go, as well as attach a new raid interface, in the new patch.

We can see that the new stock UI raid frames are inspired by the Grid/Vuhdo/Healbot genre of raid interfaces, with configurable blocks for player information. For the player who does not want to use addons or wants a simple Grid-type raid interface, the new WoW stock frames are getting closer to what we should expect.
Customization, however, is on the light side. Again, the interface developers seem to be saying that customization is firmly in the realm of the addon developer. Blizzard wants to offer the basics, addons offer the next level of customization. Buff and debuff settings, aggro and a host of other alerts for raid frames are absent, left to the addon creators to work their magic.

One specific option, however, is available to turn your regular WoW party frames into something resembling the raid frames, much like how many people use Grid to show their party as well as raid. This is perhaps the most important customization option, since it allows you to completely remove the old party style interface if you so choose.

The new raid user interface, however, is a nice little control panel offering raid leaders a quick way to offer ready checks, role checks (people can set their own roles as tank, DPS or healer), mark targets and plant the new raid flares. Raid flares are probably my favorite new feature; you no longer need an engineer to craft marker flares to show people where to stand. It works wonders on Festergut, let me tell you.

So, in conclusion, the new default raid frames are still not as comprehensive as an addon in terms of customization and function, but they are a marked improvement over the original set of frames. The raid UI is pretty neat and definitely serves its function, but I would love to see a really awesome reskinned version in the next set of most raid frame addons.

Built-in Atlasloot and abilities coming in Cataclysm

In a surprising move at the Raids and Dungeons panel at BlizzCon, Blizzard has said that in the new Cataclysm instance map interface, a boss' loot table, abilities and lore profile will be available to the player. Finally, we do not have to run into a boss and die horribly to see what he does, and explaining boss abilities will be much easier when everyone has the descriptions right in front of them.

What does this mean for addons like Atlasloot? To be honest, not much. Atlasloot, as well as other addons that replicate or enhance default UI functionality, will add things that you cannot get in the basic setup. Wish lists and loot browsing in Atlasloot is awesome, and from what we hear about the Blizzard version, it will still be a basic configuration. Personally, I love my item wish lists. Addons that do more than the default will continue to do more, giving you resources in game you might have otherwise not had access to.

So, there's your look into some of the new UI functionality for 4.0.1. For some of you, some of your addons have become obsolete or less intriguing. Others will remain committed to their custom experiences. Despite how you feel about the new additions, it's nice to know that Blizzard's UI team is clued in to what players want and how to create their own brand of addon-like community inspired additions while still keeping things simple, allowing the addon creators to control customization.

Addons are what we do on Addon Spotlight. If you're new to mods, Addons 101 will walk you through the basics; see what other players are doing at Reader UI of the Week. If there's a mod you think Addon Spotlight should take a look at, email

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