The topic of user interfaces in a video game is always very interesting to me.
What I find so oddly fascinating about the topic is how deeply personal they can be – how much people customize their UIs to reach minor improvements, how to tune for readability, the ways in which you can differentiate a player’s role by how things like raid frames and what data meters are visible on screen – healers tend to have centered and short distances to their raid frames, while a raid leader might also accompany that with multiple readouts of DPS, damage taken, damage taken by spell, and the like.
For years now, I’ve used a relatively standard ElvUI installation with a damage meter of my choosing (Skada around Legion era, Details from Battle for Azeroth forward), boss mods (depending on the era I’ve had DBM installed always, but sometimes alongside BigWigs for more clear timers), and some other trimmings like DejaCharacterStats, MikScrollingBattleText for configurable damage in and out numbers, and usually some sort of market management addon like TSM or Auctionator.
Over the last few weeks, I set out on a revamp of my current WoW UI, because I found a few things I wanted to have improved upon and some datapoints that might be more useful for me as a co-raid leader and for conversation’s sake during raid livestreams. Those priorities were as follows:
Rotation Assistance: I’ve been getting better at Havoc DH, but I really wanted something to help me manage the rotation better. I’ve rarely used rotation assistant addons, so I didn’t have any strong preference, other than wanting the addon to be lightweight and easy to place near center-screen without obstructing my view. I also wanted it to have robust support for the Havoc rotation – managing critical strike Fury refunds on Chaos Strike, watching for cooldowns and identifying moments of opportunity where it made sense to sit out and wait for a big button to become available, and for it to more readily point out when I had opportunities for Consume Magic to make sure I am as much of an asset to my group as is possible.
Clean Multi-Meter Array: I wanted to setup more than just a damage meter, but to instead have eyes on all the roles and the general health of the raid. In fact, I settled on 5 meters for in-game review – a DPS meter, a healing meter, a damage taken meter, deaths, and damage taken by spell. This seems like a lot, but when evaluating wipes in the moment, the data helps – seeing death timings allows tweaks and adjustments, as does seeing when people are taking avoidable damage and being able to parse out what is actually happening. Damage taken is to see outliers outside of the tanks, and while healing meters are often of dubious measure (the worst healer in our group brags about how he is often top HPS, ignoring that he often fails on mechanics and his #1 healing target is himself) it does help to see how much healing is going out relative to incoming damage, and to see target selection and spell selection to ensure big cooldowns are being used as requested.
Smaller, Less Intense Action Bars: I don’t click my action buttons, save for item buttons that aren’t used in combat, so having large action buttons doesn’t really make sense. I wanted bars that were compact, but not completely hidden, so I could still watch cooldown timers and have a clickable item bar while not losing huge portions of my screen to simple buttons.
Clear Health Bars: One thing I disliked about base ElvUI, but never bothered to fix, was the default health display being rounded (37,615 health being 37.6k). It doesn’t matter much, if at all, but I like being able to see the full numbers, especially at present when scaling is so close to the lower digit level. Ironically, my complaint about the rounding made a lot more sense in Legion (as a Vengeance DH tank in that era with 12.6 million health, where 0.6 million could be…a lot of different values!) but since the rounded data is more actionable today, I wanted to see the unrounded, raw totals.
Easy Streamability: I wanted a UI where sensitive info like chatboxes could be covered with an unobtrusive camera window instead of needing multiple elements, so the visual to my viewers in WoW streams would be clean and still offer a lot of data.
Here’s where I landed:
I got pretty much everything I wanted in a relatively simple manner – it only took 1 new addon and an import for ElvUI!
Here’s how I got it, starting with the addons:
DBM (with all era dungeon/raid packs and the Challenges pack)
The tricky part is that the base UI you see is built on ElvUI without other mods, and that’s where the last part of this equation snaps in. By importing the NaowhUI configuration, I got most of what I wanted from base ElvUI – smaller, easier to use action bars, clean readouts on unit frames, centered raid frames, a single chatbox that was smaller that I could easily frame in OBS to be hidden by my facecam on stream, and a mostly clean, unobstructed top 2/3rds or so to enable a lot of space for various other addons or just being able to see the game!
So far, here are my observations!
Hekili is a Heck of a Big Help: Hekili is the rotation assistant I went with after some research. It’s light, compact, easy to tuck above my action bars but to the side so I can see and react properly to movement mechanics, and it has helped facilitate another couple of weeks of incremental improvements to my raid DPS performance. My damage has gone up a fair amount from it and my gear upgrades, and it adapts remarkably well to all the contours of the Havoc rotation. It auto-adjusts my queue for Fury refunds from Chaos Strike, ensures I weave in Glaive Tempest and Immolation Aura on cooldown, and has adjustments to compensate for various talent builds (the two days I spent playing Unbound Chaos post-patch, it would throw in a Fel Rush after every Immolation Aura activation).
Small Action Buttons Work Wonders: I avoided using very small action buttons for a while, because I liked having big clear cooldown indicators. However, now, I’ve found myself wondering why I dodged small buttons for so long, because I’ve lost nothing from the sizing and gained screen real estate.
The Details Readout Seems Excessive, But Helps: I’ve been far better able to diagnose mistakes and issues in raid from having all of these meters available. It’s rare that I’ll use all of them in the moment, but it is nice on a wipe when I have a moment to spare. Since I can mouseover and see details, or click for more, I can see things like damage by spell by player, death causes, and even in solo play (particularly as I try pushing Torghast Twisting Corridors) it helps to show what actually is killing me and to watch for the mechanics as they come in.
Overall, all of this is just me rambling about my UI, but I think that knowing what tech is out there is nice, as addons have changed so much over the years and there are a lot of functions available that previously weren’t, or weren’t as easily accessed and used. And if nothing else, I can test how the image block on WordPress is working with full resolution images, and that is good!