Tinker Town: Vanilla Unitframes in 4.0.x

In this column, I'll discuss user interface modifications and some tips and tricks I have picked up along the way. I have developed my own addon (SavedInstances), and while I'm hardly an expert I certainly have glimpsed behind the curtain more than once.

Those who played beside me back in The Burning Crusade will remember me as something of an addon-addict. I had several hundred installed at one point. So it may shock you to learn that my resolution for Cataclysm is to level all the way to 85 without any addons installed! Why the about face? Well, I've been watching the developments in the Cataclysm Beta (and more recently on the PTR) and it seems Blizzard has definitely revamped the vanilla interface in several important ways.

Unitframes are probably the most obvious element to replace. Unitframes are how we refer to the player, party, raid, boss, arena, pet, target and focus frames collectively. Does it have a health bar? Can you click it to change your target? Then it's probably a unitframe.

Blizzard's vanilla unitframes have never been especially exciting for the following reasons:
  • locked in the top-left corner of your screen, can be far far away from the action
  • health (and power) bars are thin enough to make triage by healers somewhat difficult
  • raid frames are even less legible than party frames, mostly useless for hardcore healing
Take a look at my new party frames on the PTR, accomplished completely without addons. The differences are more than skin-deep:
  • party frames can be set to behave like raid frames
  • fully adjustable size (although the minimum is still a little large)
  • displays incoming heals 
  • raid frames (and thus, party frames) can be re-positioned
  • lots of ways to personalise and customise
  • can group players in several different ways
Unit Frames options
Raid Frames options
While the player, target and focus frames don't seem to have received the same overhaul, their size has not changed so they are still quite legible. My only complaint is that their position still seems a little unhelpful.

When raiding (on the PTR), players can now explicitly mark their role. Forming raids and remembering who can tank and who can heal is definitely going to be easier moving forward. No more asking for healers to type "1". and hopefully fewer raids that fill up without healers or tanks. :P

I obviously can't wait for Cataclysm, but it isn't just the story and the new spells, talents and loot that I crave. It will be interesting to see what other cues Blizzard have taken from the addon community. Blizzard have certainly made efforts to provide us with an interface that needs less replacing.