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.


Killing Machine: Tipping The (Mad) Hat

As previously discussed, I took a bit of a break from WoW for a few reasons: I was moving inter-state and didn't want to make commitments I couldn't keep, and a serious of guild collapses had left me emotionally drained. Since then I'd logged in just frequently enough to disqualify myself from any re-subscription discounts.

This week, I put my tiny foot down and decided I that it was time I came back for real. I reached out to the mega-guild and found a friendly Icecrown Citadel 10-man group that would give me a chance. I had a few days to prepare, but found that nothing had changed with my class. I quickly flipped through boss strategies and the only encounter I had zero experience with didn't seem particularly noteworthy on paper. At this point I am feeling confident. Almost too confident.

Now, I would describe myself as being 95% reliable and a fairly decent player, but with a rare tendency to fail spectacularly. This is something I probably should have shared with the Mad Hatters before we started last night. 

Little did I know how true-to-form and red-faced I would be only minutes into the very first encounter. Half-way through, I am feeling relaxed enough with my rotation that I can mix it up and start weaving Unbreakable Armor in. Of course, the recommended way to do this is with Blood Tap, which I keep right next to my Death Grip button. Yes.

I am still grateful that this did not get me instantly kicked. I taunted Marrowgar, he spun around, cleaved and took out 4 of us, and this was while I was tapping my UA button not realising how out-of-sequence I was. Seconds later we were all in spectral form returning to our lifeless bodies. My spectator knew what I'd done and laughed at me from the couch. I was in total disgrace.

My form for the rest of the night was pretty decent, I thought. I played my role adequately and I don't recall any major issues. We had fun all night, and left only the Lich King alive for Saturday. I am especially impressed by the Mad Hatters break policy, which I think goes along way to keeping everyone relaxed and having fun. I even won that frustratingly rare amazing melee DPS trinket.

Reputations are funny things. In the old days I was remembered as the tank that fell screaming over the edge while facing off with Kologarn. Now I am "the Death Grip guy". /shrug

Here are some automatic screenshots from the achievements. You'll note that my button bars were temporarily re-organised for the safety of the group. :P

I'm on a Boat
The Plagueworks
The Crimson Hall
The Frostwing Halls