Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BigDaddyUI 0.1 - Genesis

One feature World of Warcraft nails is its user interface. The default UI is clunky and sprawling but usable and restricted. The perfect thing for a new player. Advanced players can choose from a massive number of addons, ranging from lesser tweaks to major UI revisions. Creating and modifying WOW's UI is something I missed. Since restarting the game last week, I've spent at least half the time online trying out addons. Then I had a thought... why not blog about the evolution of my UI.

What is my ideal UI?
Words to describe how I visualize the perfect UI: simple, minimal, clean, easy, fast, elegant, sleek.

The perfect UI organizes the outputs and inputs by priority. That is, the information and actions most important are located closest to the combat. I don't want to take my eyes away from the action to monitor my cooldowns or check my mana or whatever.

My ideal UI would use a darker color palette and use visual elements to integrate the different pieces into a single system.

What type of player am I?
I am a "mouse button clicker" type of player. If I was a "keyboard key pusher" type of player, my UI could be bare bones. However, I need action bars and plenty of them. I can keep my UI looking clean by hiding some action bars until I mouseover them, which is perfect for skills, spells, and items of lesser priority.

A few guidelines...
  • Stick to the standard color associations such as green for health, blue for mana, red for aggro, and so on. Avoid any confusion.
  • The only time I want to have bright colors popping up on screen is when something needs my attention.
  • Same goes for movement. Those 3D portraits look interesting but they distract me to much when the picture starts moving around.
  • I want to keep one UI for all my characters, but I realize that I may have to create a variant for my healers.
  • As a general rule I stick with Ace2 addons, but there are a few exceptions.

Let's start my new UI with three addons to cover the basics. Please keep in mind that this UI will be an evolution, changing over weeks as I add, modify, and remove addons. Plus your feedback and suggestions are always welcome.
  • ClearFont2 and Font Pack: The default fonts are difficult to read, especially at smaller font sizes. I changed the fonts to the sans serif font Insomniax. Long term I want to replace this with a better font, but this one will do for now.
  • Bartender 3: There are a variety of action bar mods out there. Bartender 3 is my favorite because it is simple to setup and provides many detailed options. My first order of business was to create two 12 button action bars centered under my character. The bag bar is shrunk and shoved to the far corner. The screen captures below don't show it, but I have a third action bar along the right edge of the screen hidden until I move my mouse over it. I've stuck all my infrequently used things like buffs and my hearthstone.
  • Pitbull: This is a new (to me) unit frame addon and my favorite. Setup is daunting, but the addon gives you a superior level of control. I created player and target unit frames to start. Colors and texture has to change, but keeping it simple for now. I positioned the unit frames between my character and the action bars. I prefer them there instead of the default up in the corner. I'm not sure if I want to leave them stacked vertically or spread the frames out horizontally.
The following are two screen captures. I'm new to using ImageShack, so bare with me while I work out the kinks.

The first shows my baby mage strolling around the woods one evening.

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The second shows him playing with woodland creatures. Hello, kitty.

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My plans are to add a few more addons at a time and blog about them. Then comes the revisions to make the UI flow and look pretty.

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