Archive for October, 2012


Addons Revisted

Addons are evolutionary. They evolve and so do your requirements. I’m an advocate of KISS, keep it simple stupid, and Do One Thing Well. This should apply to all software not just addons, so I’m always looking for the precision nut cracker of addons, rather than the sledgehammer. Sledgehammers are larger and heavier than required and although they crack the shell they often smash the nut inside and often break the surface the nut was on…even if it’s a paving slab. Moving this analogy back to Warcraft, bad addons are are bloated: they contain more, totally unnecessary, lines of code, that need to be loaded into memory. I have lots of memory people brag, it’s not a problem for me. Bloat slows loading when phasing, changing zones, porting into dungeons, low FPS when a lot is going on graphically. Bad addons are difficult to debug, as so much of the code is useless, they often don’t trap errors: this means that if the addon receives an invalid input it crashes because it has nowhere to go. Error traps catch all out of range values and return errors and then go back and wait for another input. A bad addon that’s not trapping errors will crash and often take your game with it.

Here is a list of my current addons in my usual categories, must have, utility and quality of life.

Must Haves, the addons I have to have to game effectively:

Ampere

Has to be listed first because it’s all almost all you’ll ever need to manage addons. Turn them on and off in-game and reload the UI. Perfect, especially when one of them is playing up. Ampere is one of Tekkub’s addons. Tiny and perfectly formed. He doesn’t update it very often, there is simply no need.

AddonSwitcher

AddonSwitcher

Plugin for Ampere. Allows for creation and quick switching of sets of addons. A minimal set for raiding and a special set for conquering the Auction House with the biggest addon suite ever written Auctioneer. Auctioneer would kill your frame rate in raid bless it. These first two apps together are all you’ll ever need to take control of addons.

Bartender [Actionbar replacement]

The main problem with the default interface Blizzard give you is that it’s so unnecessarily large. Rather than scaling everything down it’s better to simply have everything stripped away except the buttons and then the buttons can be a decent size and still cover only a tiny fraction of the screen. Key bindings are a breeze too: /kb and then hover the mouse over the button you wish to add a key bind to and press the key or combo. Hover and press Esc to remove. Simple.

DoTimer

It times the duration on DoTs. It displays all your DoTs as diminishing bars. These DoT bars are ordered in duration from top to bottom, DoTs about to fall off are moved to the bottom and then end and disappear. This tells you at a glance which DoT is going to drop off next, in how long and which DoTs follow. Allowing you refresh the most appropriate at the correct moment. Invaluable for Warlocks and all DoTting classes.

DeadlyBossMods

Raid / Dungeon boss warnings.As all instances are now tuned with the use of this (or similar) addons in mind this mod is essential.

Quartz

Improved casting bar with tick indicators. Casting Malefic Grasp when a Nightfall Procs? Get the next Grasp tick then cast Haunt. A perfect tool for maximising your rotation and procs.

Xperl

The default raid frames are horrible. Period. You must have something to replace them. Xperl also replaces party and player frames and is not just better looking. It has a raft of configuration options to allow you to extract the information you need quickly. Default frames suck. Pitbull is another good option here, I just found Xperl more intuitive for me.

Utility, now that’s useful (if not essential):

Outfitter

Now there is no reason you can’t use the built in Equipment Manager. It’s just that after using Outfitter before the EM existed it has functions that I now rely on. It automates and simplifies the selection and equipping of sets of gear. I always have a Healing and DPS set defined on appropriate characters for a quick shift in role. “Automation?” You ask. For example, when I fly into Wintergrasp (to fish) it equips my PvP gear set as I cross into the zone. No more getting ganked as a soft fishing target! If I open my cooking frame, Outfitter pops my Chef’s Hat on. When I fish or cook, my hat is displayed, but as Warlock hats are always horrific no helm is displayed with normal gear sets. OK, the last one is cosmetic frippery.

FishingBuddy

As the years pass FishingBuddy has reached the point where it’s no longer a quality of life extra but almost in the top, essential, category. Who wants to fish with a keypress? Double right click casting FTW! It will also auto-equip a fishing bobber and have your char drink Captain Rumsey’s if required. It integrates with EM and Outfitter so you can equip all your fishing gear and gives you important feedback about what you’ve caught here previously and what your fishing level and lure buff is. Almost essential.

Gatherer

At it’s simplest Gatherer populates the maps (World and Mini-) with every gathering profession node you (and your guildies) have ever found. Invaluable for working out the most efficient way of traversing a zone when farming herbs or ore (or both). Additionally it has a built in HUD which plots nodes in circle around the centre of the screen relative to the direction you’re facing. Those behind you appear at 6 o’clock those to the left at 9 o’clock. Distance from the centre is their relative distance from you. So you can fly around watching where you are going without staring at the mini-map and without missing a node. A HUD may feel odd the first time you use it, but I find it very valuable when farming flowers and ores.

WhisperWhisper

Captures all whispers to a seperate UI frame, like WIM (Warcraft Instant Messenger), but using far less memory. This prevents missing whispers, especially if you’re AFK. I find it especially useful with the broker plugin. Unlike WIM it doesn’t clutter the screen with pop-up windows and it does notify you of a whisper in combat, without interrupting you.

Quality of Life

DockingStation

…or Chocolate Bar have to go in this section. It’s not quite essential, but they save you hours of clicking through menus and millions of mouse miles. Both these addons are Data Broker Display modules. Think panel like FuBar or Titan. DataBroker plugins require this bit of kit. What these bars excel in is giving you either always visible information (that the default interface requires you to open something to find) or one click access to functionality that the default interface buries deep in menus.

  • SocialState – Number of Friends Online/Total : Number of Guildies – Online/Total. Hover over drops down list with multiple clicking options to invite, whisper, ignore etc…Optionally display Guild MOTD on the drop down.
  • Ara_Reputations – hover for a drop down list of all reputations. Displays tracked rep and a percentile towards the next rep level on the bar. Just simple.

  • Broker_Pets – summon a companion pet.
  • WhisperWhisper_Broker– tidies away the WhisperWhisper frame.

    WhisperWhisper

    Never miss another whisper.

  • Broker_Everything – makes a lot of information available in different parts of the UI available on your bar: Calendar (as above); Frame rate; Latency; Memory use (below); Durability; Money; Bag Space; Clock (bottom)! All at a glance – nothing to open!
  • Broker_LFG – more convenient access to dungeon queuing and times.

  • Stuff – Double click icon to log off (double left) or exit the game (double right).
  • Volumizer – a great example of this is sound and volume. To access the sound settings and set the game volumes you need to press Esc, click System and then Sound. Then you can change setting and slide volume controls up and down. What WoW needs is a little speaker icon on the interface that gives direct access to volume and sound settings. Volumizer is that icon on you Docking Station.
  • FPSLatency – Memory Usage (dropdown shows addons in Mem usage order).
  • Ampere (no bespoke plugin required)

  • XP – XP earned/required for next level, XP to reach next level. Bar displayed a percentile.
  • Broker_TinyPad – single click access to TinyPad which I recommend to everyone. There is so much to do in WoW and so much to forget, you need a page for in-game notes.

  • Broker_Mounts – quick access to all your mounts
  • Outfitter Broker– one click access to switching gear sets.

Skada – DPS / Healing metre. Essential? It’s not unusual for people to find DPS soaring when they can’t see it. Just relax and fall into you rotation. If bosses die you’re doing enough. However, I find Skada useful to track my gear, gemming, enchanting, reforging progress…a dip in average performance has me looking for what I missed. Pot, buff, proc, fishing rod still equipped? This is the real use of DPS metres: compare your DPS now to what it was at another time. Ignore everyone else.

OpenAll – adds a button to your mail tab that offers to do just that. It does just that too.

TinyPad

I used to use a notepad and pen, but TinyPad keeps Warcraft notes where they belong – in Warcraft and not hidden under other things on your desk. Also capable of executing scripts and automation. A sophisticated tool.

TomTomOpenGL mode has a bug currently which hides my map pointer. So I don’t know where exactly I am. So knowing where other things are on the map doesn’t help. TomTom is actually now an essential as I have to have a large green pointer to everything. This is an unnecessary, quality of life improvement.

SexyMap – is a…ahem…sexy map. It’s has a rotating rune effect border…this is my one real concession to looking fine. Actually it’s not that resource heavy, but it is the first thing to go in 25 man raiding. Excellent HUD, I use it in preference to Gatherer ‘s.

PetJournal Enhanced – good and simple enhancement of the default Pet Journal frame. Features:

  • Sort Pets by level, alphabetically, pet type, rarity or pet specialization, ascending or descending.
  • Filter by current zone (this appears to be problematic for all Pet Battle Addons).
  • Shows each pets specialization in the Journal list as an icon representing their highest stat. Now you know at a glance if your pet is tanky, speedy, or powerful.
  • Pet names are coloured by their rarity.
  • Shows each pets rarity in its border in the pet journal list for non wild pets.
  • Shows the rarity of non wild pets in the pet card.

Your recommendations are always welcome. Please avoid all singing all dancing suites, I just don’t. Equally, don’t bother me with replacement UI suites. Most of them are a victory of appearance over substance, design over function and are packed full of so much crap they takes so long to actually configure there’s no time for actual gameplay. Bollocks to that.

Initial thoughts

MistsOfPandariaSo another expansion sheds it’s load on the dockside. Players like millions of rats crawl all over it, skipping across the surface before nibbling inside. It’s early days and an expansion should feel: fresh; engaging; varied; packed with new ideas; and epic. Check.

The old hub city problem reappears in Mists of Pandaria (MoP) but Blizzard have a solution to get us out of the Hub City and out into the world. All parts of the world. First there is the wonderful Halfhill. Or the Cooking/Farming hub. It’s a twist on the the old daily profession grind visit. In Wrath of the Lich King tailors had to fly out to the three Dragonshrines in Dragonblight and create their epic materials. That still exists in MoP, in the Silken Fields for tailors, but to buy cooking materials and harvest them from your farm you need to be in Halfhill. It’s also the quest hub for Tillers Reputation grinding. So Halfhill is Valley of the Four Windslikely to see busy passing trade for most of the expansion, with farmer’s passing in and out of phase as they plant, tend and harvest.

Blizzard’s coup de grâce to the overused hub city though has to be Pet Battles. I have never seen so many maximum level players out in the world. From Zul’Masher to Jaguero Isle, Cradle of the Ancients to Frostsaber Rock everyone doing heroic battles with pets. Job done. Check.

For the Horde Blood Elves lacked a real identity they were just pretty, for the Alliance the reverse was true for Draenai. Goblins had bags for culture, personality and a separate identity. Worgen…were…I’m sorry I almost feel sorry for the Alliance getting Worgen.

Pandaren FemalePandaran have a continent, a deep, well constructed culture and history that players are introduced to, and slowly immersed in, as soon as they set foot in the Jade Forest. The job has been done so well and Pandarans are so three dimensional the player base has had few or no problem accepting Pandaran player character models. Pandarans, more than all the other races demonstrate a culture and continent of diversity. We see them serious, heroic, comical, humorous, learned, ridiculous, industrious, drunk.

The Jade Forest is more beautiful than any of the Cataclysm zones. I will take suggestions for a better looking zone (outside Pandaria) because I can’t think of one. It’s even more impressive than I found Howling Fjord to be on first entering it. Blizzard‘s decision to make us earth bound until 90 is vindicated. The epic scale and excitement of discovering what is over the next ridge has returned in abundance. The game hasn’t felt this large, this expansive since vanilla and there ladies and gentlemen is the argument for removing flying mounts from the game. If you want to travel fast there are flight points (once initially discovered) or you can fight your way across the map on your ground mount.

For those who don’t remember, it was an exciting, sometimes scary, always epic journey to the Badlands for the first time as a Horde player. The most popular route was south across the Thandol Span bridging the gorge between Arathi Highlands and the Wetlands. South through the Wetlands to the Alliance controlled dwarven tunnels through the mountains to the Alliance controlled Loch Modan. South through the whole length of Loch Modan to the Badlands. Now we consider the overhead of using the circuitous bat route from Undercity (slightly faster). It’s actually much quicker on our epic flying mount to fly, as a crow would, direct from Undercity to New Kargath. We have no need to fly to Hammerfall and ride from there, with or without flying points we can go directly to Kargath. Convenience gained, but a great deal has been lost.

Shado-pan MonasteryDespite all our fears, Blizzard have brought us Pandas, Pokemon and Farmville. However, much to our surprise and relief all three are surprisingly engaging. They are fun. I have yet to raid. Outside of raids this expansion appears a huge success and likely to tempt many new players, those who quite during Cata to come back, and World of Warcraft looks like it’s back on track, building strongly on the essential work carried out during the last patchy expansion.

Warlocks have been fixed too.