Welcome to Azmara of Ensidia
Earlier in the week I promised two very special guest posters this week. Azmara is Ensidia’s newest restoration shaman and is gracing us with his personal views on user interface configuration from the perspective of a full time healer. He boasts a massive amount of PvE experience at the very top of the raiding scene. You can check out his armoury profile here
Due to the huge amount of time and effort he put into this guide, I’m delivering it in segments. Part one will focus on macros, key binds and raid frames. Part two, which should be out for your reading pleasure early next week, will focus on more general UI design tips and the importance of good hardware. Azmara has his own UI compilation available for download. If you’re interested or if you have any further questions regarding his UI specifically, you should head to his thread over on the Ensidia forums.
“A screenshot of your UI”
How many people are stumped by such a simple request? Why do so many guilds insist on having a picture of what your interface looks like? Surely it cant be that important to how well you perform?
Simply put, so many ask because it is that important. I’m here to talk about a combination of queries that get thrown around quite regularly for healers. Specifically; keybindings, macros, addons and general interface design. This article is going to focus on interface design purely from a healing perspective, what addons should you have, and what’s available out there to help make your job easier.
To start off I’m going to talk briefly about how you can heal. There are three major ways to actually perform healing, the most basic of which is the simple “click player, click button” style. While this is by all means functional it is far from efficient, as it requires one more action than the other two methods. I personally would recommend using one of the following:
- 1. Mouse-over macros
- 2. Clicking
I personally prefer mouse-over macros. The reason behind this primarily is that option two requires an addon and I like to run as light as possible with addons. Your mouse-over macros should look like the following:
This will attempt to cast the max rank of Lesser Healing Wave on the target your mouse cursor is over when you press the button. This is assuming the target exists and is valid. If your mouse either isn’t over anything or it is over an invalid target (an enemy in this example) it will instead cast on your current physicaltarget. Make a macro similar to this for each of your spells (it works for everything from Earth Shield to Frost Shock) and bind them in place of your standard spells and you are good to go.
The final option is clicking stuff. In order to do this you need an addon, the major 2 being either Clique or Healbot (which I’ll talk about in a bit more detail later). These allow you to bind your spells to a specific mouse click such as left-click for Lesser Healing Wave or shift-left-click for Healing Wave and so on. I tried this for a while but I prefer mouse-over macros. It really comes down to personal preference – try both and go with whichever feels best. Just try to avoid the “target player, click heal” style.
People seem to be really interested in macros and I’ve never really understood why. While they can provide some nice functionality they aren’t going to perform miracles for you. Apart from my mouse-over macros I only actually use a few macros, two of which are simply to save keybinds.
The best and most practical macro is the simple “Swift/Tidal waves” macro:-
Since neither Nature’s Swiftness nor Tidal Force trigger the global cooldown you can place them both on the same macro, and this provides shamans’ only real emergency button.
In addition to that I have:-
This is fairly self explanatory, if control is held it will cast Cleansing Totem, if not, it will cast Tremor Totem. I have a similar macro for Fire and Earth elemental. This is purely to save keybinds.
Keybinds are incredibly important for every class in any role. It is important to have a good knowledge of where all your keybinds are located and have the ability to press them unexpectedly. Personally I have around fourty keybinds all of which can be accessed without moving my hands from the standard movement keys and mouse configuration. I won’t go into detail of exactly what I have keybound where, as keybinds are something personal – what may be comfortable and intuitive for me, you may find clunky and unwieldy.
What you aim for is to have your primary keybinds bound somewhere close and comfortable to spam when needed. Things such as Bloodlust/Heroism can normally be put a little bit further away. What I will do is suggest some keys to be using;
- Keys 1-5
- Q, E, Z, X, C, R, F, and V
Don’t forget about shift and control modifiers, they are essential if you want to keybind as much as possible. Really its just important to get keybinds that work for you, are comfortable, accessible and then to memorize them. The best way to really learn your keybinds is to get an action bar addon such as Bartender, and start hiding some of the bars. Start with your primary action bar, and then start moving on to secondary bars until eventually you don’t play with any at all.
That personally is what I do, I have no action bars at all visible on my UI. This is not to show off, I know all my keybinds, and there is no need to display redundant data. Instead this frees up some oh so precious screen space for other functions.
Getting a good set of raid frames and getting them set up correctly is vital to be a truly effective healer. You need to be able to easily monitor the entire raids health, along with your own buffs and any fight specific debuffs.
There are three major sets of stand alone raid frames out there and I’ll talk briefly about each of them in turn.
Firstly we have Grid. I’ll admit from the start that Grid is my personal favourite of the three so I may be slightly biased. Grid has a fairly basic layout with an easily configurable size. On the most basic level it shows your team mates, and their health. It is incredibly simple to add any new abilities you want to track. There are several main ways to track abilities, one option is a variety of coloured dots at the corners and the other is via an icon in the middle of each cell.
As you can see the in the screenshot above I’m tracking my Earth Shield via the center icon, Riptide via the blue dot at the top left, and Ancestral Fortitude with the orange dot in the bottom right. This can be fully customized to suit how you want it all to appear. Grid also has a number of extra “bolt-ons” that you can download to give extra functionality if you desire.
The second options is Healbot. Considering its name, you’d think it would be the no-brainer addon to have in your healing UI, but here are some reasons why I think that assumption would not be that accurate.
Firstly there is a widely embraced opinion saying that using Healbot makes you a worse healer. This is something I don’t agree with, nor do I understand where it came from. I don’t dislike Healbot because it makes you worse. I dislike it because it’s terrible.
I’ll get the petty complaint out of the way first. Healbot is fucking ugly! While by all means functionality is more important than aesthetics there’s a limit, and Healbot is that limit!
As far as more valid concerns go, my primary complaint is with the way the information is presented. I found it quite difficult to gauge at a glance the health of my party members, and when you’re raiding twenty five man heroics, a glance is sometimes all you can spare each person. Healbot’s major advantage over other addons is it’s ability to display a large numbers of buffs complete with durations. While this sounds awesome at first glance, you will soon realize that it turns your raid frames into a clusterfuck of different icons and spinning timers. Combined with the unclear health bars, this makes a bad problem worse. On the example below I found it quite difficult to gauge exactly how much health the warrior has at a glance.
It can be argued that these problems can be remedied by a proper setup. This leads nicely onto my other major complaint: the configuration GUI is the most confusing and unintuitive interface I’ve seen in an addon. For example why is the buff display found under “skins” instead of under “buffs”?! It makes no sense and only served to infuriate me as I struggled to make sense of the different options.
The one praise I will give Healbot is the “test mode” option. That is incredibly useful and something I wish more raid frames had.
My ideal raid frames are simple, attractive, not overly colourful and able to display all the information I need in a clear and concise manner. It should be able to do all of this while taking up as little space as possible. Healbot is the total opposite of what I want from my raid frames! It is overly complex and horrible to look at. The constantly changing colour bars do nothing but distract you from what is going on elsewhere (also known as healer tunnel vision). Worst of all, in order to display the information I require, Healbot would occupy almost a quarter of my screen. I wish I was over-exaggerating here but I’m not; in order for Healbot to be of any use, it needs to be huge, and I just can’t deal with that.
Vuhdo is the third contender. I had never used or ever really looked at this addon prior to writing this post, but that ensures you’re going to get an unbiased view on the addon from a new user.
Unfortunately most of the complaints and annoyances I had with Healbot return in Vuhdo, starting with another truly terrible configuration window. The author has designed a completely original configuration window with custom colours. The particular choice of colour scheme is quite painful on the eyes of the average user, as blue on white is not easy to distinguish under any circumstances.
After a brief setup, I had a quick blast through a heroic dungeon for a test drive. Again, I found more of my Healbot complaints returning. There is too much information and not enough space to accurately display it all. After only five minutes of the dungeon, the frames began to become a bit of a strain on the eyes. This is a problem I’ve yet to have with any other frames.
In my opinion, Grid is definitely the best of the big three. It has a simple configuration and adding new debuffs is simple and intuitive. It can provide the amount of detail you need in a very clear way, without obscuring anything. Also, while documenting for this post, I downloaded a fresh version of all three addons and Grid was by far the simplest to configure.
Closing Comments From Zing
There we have it ladies and gents. Part two of Azmara’s post will be with you next week. This will feature some more general design tips along with his thoughts on the importance of hardware for your raid performance. From a personal point of view, I’m fascinated by UI design and to see how other people create theirs is always inspirational. I play restoration as an offspec (and love it) but I far from consider myself a healer so I thoroughly enjoy reading design ideas from those who truly are healers.
Once again, I’d personally like to offer my thanks to him for offering his insight. Remember you can download his UI here, where he is also available to answer questions or queries regarding it. Any comments left here will be forwarded to him and perhaps he’ll be kind enough to answer them.
Eavesdrop is an amazing little addon that I’ve literally used for years. I think I first discovered it during Sunwell when I was raiding on my warlock. Since then, whenever I have redesigned my UI, eavesdrop has been a core feature.
What Is It?
Essentially, it’s a highly visual combat log. It’s fully customizable so you can choose what is displayed. This isn’t restricted to incoming and outgoing damage, but it does include it. Your options are:-
- Periodic Damage
- Outgoing Direct Damage
- Pet Damage
- Incoming Damage
- Mana Gains
- Buff Gains
- Buff Fades
- Incoming Heals – Including who cast them and what was cast
- Debuffs Fading
- Skills Gained
- Honour Gained
- Spell Damage Coloured by Damage Type
- Combat Summary – A quick summary of the total outgoing and incoming damage along with outgoing and incoming heals
The frame along with the events are fully customizable. This allows you to define the visual appearance of both the frame itself and the colour of the events displayed within. This makes it easy to maintain a colour trend throughout your user interface (should you do that.)
I find eavesdrop much easier to navigate than a normal combat log. It’s highly visual appearance makes it very easy to distinguish between your outgoing damage or heals and your incoming damage. Establishing precisely what killed you during a raid is very easy. This makes it simple to conclude whether you were out of position or for example, lacked incoming heals during a period of high raid damage.
I’ve mentioned in order user interface related posts that I do not like scrolling combat texts. I don’t like anything scrolling across the screen that can draw my attention away from the environment. I see so many screenshots of raid UI’s where scroll combat text in it’s default state covers a large area of the crucial area around your character and can potentially obscure spells you need to be moving out of.
Eavesdrop, for me, is a nice compromise between an effective combat log that still allows you to see your visual and live damage during an encounter and not having distracting text scrolling across your main playing area in game.
This addon will work straight out of the box and additionally, it’s customisation is very easy. The command line to open the configuration panel in game is /eavesdrop.
Upon opening, the default configuration tab will show events. These are simply the different events you can choose to show or hide from the frame. I personally prefer to keep mine relatively uncluttered as I don’t like sifting through endless ticks of, for example, mana stream totem to find what hit and killed me. Buff and debuff gains and fades I deal with via other addons so they’re all turned off. For those who do wish to display buff gains, scrolling over them in the log will also give you a time stamp and a detail explanation.
Resizing the Eavesdrop Window
When you first load up the addon, moving it around is done by clicking on the tab at the top of the frame and dragging it.
Once you have it positioned where you want it, resizing can be done via the configuration window. This is accessed by typing /eavesdrop in game. When the configuration window opens, select the “frame” tab from along the top of the panel.
The above screenshot shows the multitude of options available to resize the eavesdrop frame. Here you can resize both the frame and the text size itself. There are also check boxes to hide the default tab that will appear at the top of your eavesdrop window in addition to locking the frame so you can’t accidentally move it.
Changing Event Colours in Eavesdrop
You’ll notice an option in the configuration window entitled “spell damage colours”. This option will colour your spell damage according to the school of damage. This is demonstrated below with the different colours applied to our nature, fire and frost schools.
Should you wish to coordinate your eavesdrop events with the rest of your user interface, you need to turn this option off. Then from the configuration window, select colours. This will open the following window:-
You need to select outgoing spells from the window to the left and this will open a very simple colour selector allowing you to choose the colour your spell hits show as in the eavesdrop window.
The result, as shown above, is that all outgoing spells will display in the colour of your choice.
Should you still want to keep a differentiation between the colours of different magical schools (for example, your lightning bolts versus your lava bursts), this is perfectly possible also. Once again, open the configuration window via the /eavesdrop command in game. Select “colours” from the tabs along the top of the window. Selecting “spell colours” will open a window displaying different schools of magic (fire, frost, <font color="#66cc66"nature and so on).
Editing the Frame Colours
The colour of the frame, it’s opacity and the colour of the labels can also be changed via the configuration menu. From the configuration menu, select “frame” from the menu on the left.
From here, you can select the background colour of the frame along with it’s level of opacity. In addition is an option to alter the label colours of the main eavesdrop frame.
Where Can I Get It?
Eavesdrop is available either via the curse downloader or directly from curse here.
As I mentioned at the start, eavesdrop has been one of the few addons that has been with me for a number of years. I spend a lot of time browsing new addon releases and I’m always willing to try and test them. Sporadically, I will stumble upon an addon that I never remove again and eavesdrop definitely falls into this category.
During raids it is vital to keep as much screen real estate free and clear as possible. If you can’t see environmental effects due to so much addon clutter, you can’t possibly hope to react to them and stay alive. Equally vital is knowing when you make a mistake and how to correct this. These mistakes can vary from personal ones (that is to say, you stood in that fire and you died, learn to move) or raid related ones (this encounter has a raid wide aura and I received zero heals here guys.) An effective combat log is vital to stay abreast of what is happening and how you can improve. Effective is a key word however, it still needs to be navigable and easy to interpret. Undoubtedly, eavesdrop fills these requirements for me.
I’ve always had a peculiar relationship with addons. The game I came from had none. We didn’t have boss timers. We had members of the raid sat at the other side of their PC’s with stop watches timing the AoEs and announcing them in game. After a certain amount of time, people were expected to handle this themselves and as with most things, you gained an inner feeling for when things were due to occur. No warnings, no boss timers, just your own knowledge of the encounter and your own ability to react to what was happening around you.
When a new MMO, Aion, launched last year, there was uproar on the forums when a discussion began about whether the developers should allow addons to be developed (and used) in game. People were very split on the issue but there was a strong feeling from some of the community that they did nothing but dumb down the play experience.
A few years ago when Nihilum were still the top raiding guild (and yes, I know I mentioned them yesterday), I read an article about their recruitment. One thing mentioned was that their GM, Kungen, particularly liked old Everquest players. For reference, this is the game mentioned above. Why? Because he believed that raiding there made more reactive, responsive, alert players.
WoW is a little different these days and boss encounters are more complex and undoubtedly designed with the idea in mind that most people use boss mods. They work by providing us advanced warning that an ability is about to happen. This allows us to move, stop DPS, spread, stack, switch target or otherwise respond in whatever way is appropriate.
Today I had this addon linked to me.
What Does it Do?
Essentially, it adds additional visual effects in game to aid with certain boss mechanics. There are a number of examples on their wowace page, ranging from displaying where Malleable Goo will hit on the Putricide encounter (and it’s “splash” area) to where to stand with your tombs on Sindragosa. I’ve taken some stills from their youtube movies. Apologies for the quality, but they’re directly from videos. You should get the idea however.
Below we see the addon running on a Sindragosa 25 raid. It’s visually displaying where the players marked for tombs should stand.
Obviously, these positions are perfectly calculated to prevent any splash damage between the players, as is shown below.
Below you can see it displaying where the Malleable Goo is going to hit on the Putricide encounter. Again, it takes into account the splash damage from these and marks the “danger” zones with red circles
On the heroic version of Professor Putricide, one of the key mechanics that your raid has to learn is the tracking, monitoring and passing of the Unbound Plague. This addon clearly marks that person, again with a circle, signifying precisely how close you could potentially be before passing it.
The screenshot below shows the player with the debuff marked clearly.
The next screenshot shows the plague being passed over to the next person.
I’ve blogged a few times in the past about what I believe makes a skilled PvE raider. One core trait for me, is the ability to concentrate. It sounds very basic but so many players watch TV while raiding or perhaps have a second monitor playing movies or just browsing the internet. The skills required to be a good raider are not something that you’re born with, they develop through practice.
Consider when you first level a new character to 80 or when your class is altered in such a way that you need to master a new spell rotation. This will feel awkward at first. A great deal of your concentration is sucked away by trying to keep the rotation perfect whether this be not clipping a dot, not letting a dot fall off a target entirely, or ensuring your cooldowns are used in a timely fashion. The more you practice, the better you become and the more natural your rotation comes to you. Before long, you can perform it in your sleep. This frees up more of your attention resources to focus on other things – such as what is happening in a boss encounter.
The same thing happens in reverse. When you first learn a new encounter, there can be various environment effects occurring that you need to react to. Until you’re comfortable and familiar with these, they will take up most of your attention and your DPS will likely fall. As you become familiarised with the encounter, your reactions to the stimuli (the events in game) becomes more natural too. Your DPS rises and ultimately, the boss will die.
This is how we learn. For most of us this takes form through repetition. Some people learn faster than others, that’s just a fact of life. However once all your raid have mastered the mechanics, your kill will come shortly after. Most subsequent kills happen with a great deal more ease because you have developed the skills and the reactions to deal with the encounter.
Lets return to what does make a good player? Attention is part of it for sure. DPS who aren’t concentrating and are slow blowing cooldowns or slow moving into DPS increasing effects (think the shadow crash on General Vezax in Ulduar) will put out less damage than the ones who are 100% focussed on their job. The ability to play dynamically is also vital. There maybe times, as a shaman for example, where something needs interrupting or purging. An add could be slowed if you throw a frost shock at it. Most classes have a range of skills that they bring to a raid and the better players with utilise all those skills without someone needing to prompt them. They can see what is going on around them and they can react to it. A good raider isn’t the one who tops the meters while standing in fire and ignoring that everyone else is needing to interrupt to cover their personal unwillingness. A good raider is the one who does all the small things that make a kill smoother (or make it possible) whilst still maintaining a good level of DPS and not stressing the healers by taking unnecessary damage.
Where am I going with this? Simple really, all these skills come from practice. They come from paying attention to what is happening around you and learning how to play your class to it’s fullest potential. If you start to depend on addons to draw circles around “danger areas” or to visually tell you where to stand, then what is left to think about? This kind of play doesn’t help to develop or create truly skilled players. It encourages people to not think so much when they play and allows lazy players to continue. All encounters are difficult when you’re first learning them but it’s through practice that we become better players and progress together as a team.
There is a reason many cutting edge guilds will ask potential members whether or not they can play without addons. This is precisely the environment that can occur on PTR testing. Raids can’t grind to a halt because someone’s addon didn’t get updated or stopped working for another reason. The reality for most of us is that we don’t play in those guilds either by choice or otherwise. Never the less, should we not be aiming to still be the very best that we can personally be? A dependency on addons to be able to perform doesn’t help you to become this.
For those who are wishing to give this a try, you can download the addon here. It works alongside BigWigs, Deadly Boss Mods and DXE (you will need to keep your boss mod as it doesn’t include timers and the like).
A few weeks ago, I highlighted an amazing UI compilation from Damia, based primarily at ranged caster DPS. I generally have a mixed relationship with compilations. Frequently there are things in there you don’t really need. This can result in a very bloated UI that in turn, slows down your machine and affects your FPS in raids.
That said, some people are simply talented at designing UIs. As such, compilations can be a way for players with less time on their hands, or perhaps simply with less inclination to spend their time creating a UI to utilise a good interface.
They can also provide a good basis for modifying a UI to suit your own personal needs; perhaps even acting as a good source of inspiration for creating your own UI
This UI has been around for some time but was recently updated for patch 3.3.3. The UI itself is courtesy of Syronius, a shaman residing on the US servers. One of the things I like about this UI is the support for all three specs. You can download the UI from here. The author also has his own thread here where he provides help for people having issues setting up the compilation.
Unit Frames and Raid Frames
As I’ve mentioned before, pitbull frames, while popular, are notoriously bloated and many people complain about severe drops in their FPS while using them (particularly in 25 man raids). If you’re looking for another option for your unit frames, this compilation utilises stuf unit frames.
I haven’t personally used these frames (though I am going to in my next UI creation which I’m starting work on shortly), I have heard many good reports from players who have switched after suffering performance issues with pitbull.
In addition to stuf frames, the screenshot also shows Syronius’ grid setup. Grid has always been my preference for raid frames and when combined with mouse over macros, makes for an excellent healer base.
One of the thing I love about this author’s UI’s is the option to download parts of the UI alone without needing to download everything and extracting the addons you wanted. You can download his grid configuration here and according to the wow interface page, his st_uf frames will be available for download shortly.
On the above shot, you can also see totem timers making an appearance. Regulars to my blog will know that this is my totem addon of choice and you can read my own review of the addon here
Satrina Buff Frames
SBF has long since been one of my favourite addons due to the immense flexibility it gives you in seeing precisely what you want, where you want. Indeed, this is another addon that I have reviewed in the past.
SBF makes an appearance in this compilation also.
DXE Raid Warnings
As with Damia’s UI featured before, this compilation utilises DXE boss mods as opposed to the more commonly used DBM or BigWigs.
You can see DXE running in test mode in the screenshot above.
A favourite addon of many raiders, power auras allows you to create visual alerts for just about anything in the game. Charles over at wowhats has previously featured this addon and included his personal preferences for it.
This compilation has power auras implemented for all three specs and you can see an example of the enhancement auras as seen in game showing below.
Boss Debuff Auras
Engineering Specific Auras
Once again, the author has released his power auras settings as a stand alone option. This can be found here. In addition, there are youtube videos showing the auras in action for all three specs:-
All movies serve as a good method in which to see the entire UI in action also.
While there are some elements of the UI that I would personally change (the very large chat frames and the multitude of bartender bars for example), I do believe that the author has done an amazing job at presenting a UI fully compatible with all three shaman specs.
I always stress the importance of a good UI. In the past I’ve highlighted specific addons that I personally use and believe to be the best (or very strong contenders) in their categories. Creating a UI can be a very timely process however and if you want to make it visually appealing also, it can become even more so.
Some people may prefer, therefore, to download compilations. I’m generally not a huge fan of most compilations out there. Unless you pay careful attention to what you’re downloading, you may end up with multiple addons that you don’t need and this just bloats memory usage in game. That said, there are some UI compilations out there that are extremely well designed and for most people, creating better is an unlikely task.
Damia has been mentioned on this site before when her DBM customization was featured in a number of my raid screenshots. Her compilations over the years have been exceptional and throughout Sunwell progression, I was using one of her UIs with no alteration or editing by myself. A few days ago, she released her latest compilation. Her previous incarnations have all been warlock UIs, though with a small amount of editing, they will work perfectly well for most people. Her latest UI also features her settings and addons for her own restoration shaman. For both this reason and the fact that once again, it’s an amazing UI, I believe it deserves a mention here.
Firstly, you can find her compilation here
This compilation is very extensive and features support for multiple raid frames and two different boss mod addons (grid versus Stuf_raid and DBM versus DXE). You can simply choose which you prefer to use.
Stuf_Raid Versus Grid
I am personally a huge fan of grid (and I’ve been promising an article dedicated to this addon for a long time). For those who aren’t, Damia has included full support for Stuf_raid frames.
Grid appears is her resto shaman compilation and can be seen in the screenshot below.
Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of grid, stuf_raid frames make an appearance in her death knight’s UI.
Enabling either of these addons will simply require loading the applicable profile and disabling the addon you don’t want at character select (though I would advise that you remove any addons you don’t wish to use from your computer entirely.)
For anyone unfamiliar with stuf frames, you can read all about them here. They’re starting to appear more and more in many well known UI designs as a more lightweight alternative to Pitbull frames (which honestly, are a huge memory hog and many users complain of drastic FPS drops in 25 man raids while using these frames.)
DBM Versus DXE
She has included customized versions of both DBM and DXE boss mods in her UI.
The above screenshot shows her DXE timers setup on her death knight.
Her cutomized DBM setup can be seen above (and yes, I repeat it’s her DBM setup that I use on my shaman and that can be seen in all of the screenshots on this blog)
Once again, both addons are included in her compilation so it’s simply a matter of loading the addon you prefer and selecting her profile.
Other Things to Note
The UI features ForteXorcist for the dot timers and the cooldown bar. These can be seen below on her warlock.
These have been my preferred DoT timers for many years now. They’re very well maintained and frequently updated. In addition, I don’t think I have ever encountered a serious bug during my entire time using them. (For those wondering, yes there is a shaman version, it simply requires that you turn it on at the addon screen of the character select and it does update your flame shock duration correctly as your levels of haste alter.)
Her damage metres are Skada instead of Recount. Once again, this is to address the heavy memory usage associated with Recount.
The compilation also includes my favourite buff management addon, Satrina Buff Frames, which have featured on this blog before.
If you’re looking for a UI compilation for your shaman, this is definitely worth checking out. Her UI’s have been featured by many websites over the last few years and as usual, this version is amazing. You should also note that Damia’s official UI thread can be found here. She’s very good at answering any questions regarding her UI and helping people to fix problems with installation (she has a lot of Finnish fans as you can see from the postings but I can assure you she will reply in English!)
Another compilation caught my eye last week and I’ll be featuring that over the next few days also. After all, what better way to spend the holidays than fixing your UI?
On that note, Happy Easter to all my readers!
Last week I wrote an article about the factors that contribute towards someone being an exceptional player. One of the elements I covered there was the importance of a good, clean and informative user interface in ensuring maximum environment awareness in a raid situation.
There were a couple of screenshots features in that article that showed my current Deadly Boss Mods configuration. As I mentioned in response to a comment on the post, the custom layout was created by Damia of Memento Mori guild. For anyone unfamiliar with her, she’s been creating very good UI compilations for a number of years (though obviously geared to her own role of caster DPS).
Should you be interested in either her DBM custom layout or her entire UI compilation, you can find it here.
Due to the extensive modifcations she has made to DBM, you need to save certain files from the addon folder before attempting to update DBM. These then need to be replaced after the update to keep the visual layout the same. While it sounds a hassle, it’s really not that bad.
Locate the DMB-Core folder in your addons directory.
From here, make copies of the textures folder and the dbt-template file. Save these somewhere else.
When it comes to updating DBM, download the addon or update as usual (either manually or via the Curse Updater). Once updated, copy your saved textures folder and dbt-template file back to the DBM-Core folder. You’ll be asked if you wish to merge or replace the files in question. Replace both.
This will allow you to keep Damia’s amazing custom layout while still updating DBM to the latest version.
Should you choose to download her whole UI, she has her own forum thread dedicated to answering any questions or addressing any problems that arise here. Don’t be put off by the Swedish in many of the posts, she’ll reply in English! 😉 Furthermore, any new UI compilations she releases will most likely be detailed there first.
Patch 3.2.0 went live on the 4th of August 2009. This patch brought with it quite revolutionary (and long overdue) changes to totem management for all three Shaman specs. Prior to this patch, Shaman’s had to place each totem individually at the start of combat. This cost four global cooldowns before they had even begun to DPS anything.
The Call of the Crusade patch added a default totem bar to the Blizzard UI along with the ability to place four totems in one go. This was done via the use of Call of the Elements, Call of the Ancestors and Call of the Spirits
The Shaman could now create pre-defined sets of totems bound to one of the above skills. For example, an Elemental Shaman may choose to have two PvE sets (one with Totem of Wrath, one with Searing Totem) and then a PvP set (for the Faction Champions encounter in Trial of the (Grand) Crusader). These sets can be changed on the fly to meet the needs of specific encounters, such as switching a Healing Stream Totem for a Cleansing Totem.
As with most elements of the default Blizzard UI, it wasn’t long before a number of players began developing their own totem bar addons with additional functionalities.
For the raiding Shaman, managing your totems is vital. For people new to the class, learning to switch totems on the fly to meet different demands can be a steep learning curve. While they might seem a hassle to some, our totems add a huge amount of diversity to our class. Taking the time to ensure your UI is configured in such a way to enable easy handling of totems is well worth it in the long run and will improve your performance as a Shaman.
There are several different addons out there to replace the default totem bar. This article will cover my personal preference; Totem Timers
Much like the default totem bar, the addon allows easy configuration of totem sets. The actual bar features five buttons. The first is the skill that governs each individual totem set, that is to say, Call of the Elements, Call of the Ancestors or Call of the Spirits. Scrolling over this button will enlarge the menu to show all of the totem sets. The next four buttons constitute your actual totems, grouped by their elements and again, scrolling over them will expand the selection to show all the totems currently available per element. Scrolling over any totem will open a tooltip identifying the totem by name. In both instances, the tooltip will also offer a reminder of how to place the totem or how to add it to one of the predefined sets.
So what does it offer?
- Configurable timers for the duration of your totems
- Visible cooldowns for your Fire Elemental or Earth Elemental totems
- Visual alerts if you are out of range of your own totems
- Numerical alerts for how many raid members are out of range of your totems
- Mouse over details of the raid members out of range of your totems
- Pulse effect where applicable
- Visible cooldown for your Reincarnate skill
- Visible duration of your Flametongue Weapon buff
- Visible duration and number of charges of your Water Shield buff
Obviously, many features can be turned off or on to suit the individual.
Basic Totem Management
At it’s most basic level, Totem Timers allows you to configure your totem sets and view the durations of your totems.
Upon mouse over of the multi cast button, the menu will open and show all three predefined totem sets, that is to say, Call of the Elements, Call of the Ancestors and Call of the Spirits. Naturally, all of these can be bound to individual keys via the default user interface key binding menu.
For the default UI, this is done by bringing up the game menu via the Escape key, clicking on Key Bindings and the scrolling down to the Shaman Totem Bar Functions.
In the same way, hovering over a specific element with your mouse will open a menu displaying all the totems available in that element.
Adding a totem to a set couldn’t be easier. You choose the totem set from the multi cast menu and then right click on the totem you wish to add from the individual totem listings. For new users, there is a default tooltip that will display both a totem’s name upon mouse over and also remind you how to add a totem to a specific set.
These tooltips can be disabled via the configuration panel for the addon.
In the screenshot above, you can see the check box for disabling the tooltips
As mentioned above, if it’s basic “fluff free” utility you’re looking for in addon, most features of Totem Timers can be turned off. The durations of your totems can be displayed in two different manners. You can choose to show the duration remaining underneath the totem (and with a bar), or on the actual totem icon.
The screenshot of the configuration window above shows the very user friendly check boxes allowing selection of timer formats. In addition you can see that the bar representing the duration can also be customized by colour and by it’s texture (thus allowing you to choose the same colours and textures as used throughout your UI)
Managing Shields and Weapon Enchants
In addition to managing your totems, Totem Timers can also display your shields and weapon enchants. Your shields can be set to display their duration and charges remaining while your Flametongue Weapon will display the time remaining.
Range Alerts on Your Totems
Totems have varying ranges and they have to be positioned to cover everyone in your raid. An excellent functionality of Totem Timers is the visual alert if yourself or a member of your raid is out of range of your totems. Not only can this aid with deciding positioning for a boss ahead of time, it also allows you to warn people on the spot that they are out of range of your totems (or adjust your totems if necessary).
There are two distinct types of alerts you can choose to use for Totem Timers.
Firstly, are personal alerts. The addon will display a small red dot in the corner of each totem that you are currently out of range for.
This is particularly useful when levelling or soloing. If you’re questing in an area with a lot of mobs bunched together, it’s not necessary to replace your totems every pull. There durations are long enough for this to be an unnecessary waste of mana. The self range checker will tell you exactly when you need to replace them without guessing or checking your individual buff effects.
If it’s not an option you feel is necessary, then you can simply turn it off under the configuration window.
Secondly are the raid alerts and I personally feel these are essential for the raiding Shaman. Most raid members should monitor their own buffs and will probably alert you to the fact that they’re out of range of your totems anyway. Assuming they’re not personally at fault for standing where they shouldn’t, be proactive and ensure everyone is in range of your totem effects. There are two levels of alerts within Totem Timers. Firstly, the addon will display a number by each totem. This number will represent how many members of the raid are out of range of that totem’s effect.
In addition to notifying you that people are out of range of your totem, the addon can be configured, upon mouse over, to list who those raid members are.
Again, if this is more information than you want displaying on your user interface, you can simply turn this off via the corresponding check boxes in the configuration panel.
Expiration Warning on Your Totems
Totem Timers has an in built feature that will cause the corresponding totem icons to visually flash red when they’re about to expire. Most of the time you should be aiming to think ahead and re-summon your totems at a time when it won’t cost you a global cooldown that could be used during a DPS period. Generally this is done during periods of movement in an encounter. If you know you have to move, the consider spending the GCD then to reset the duration of your totems (and their position if need be). If you haven’t done this, then the expiration warning feature will ensure you never accidentally let your totems expire without realising it.
More often, it can be used as a timer for your Searing or Magma Totems
Once again, if it’s a feature that you simply don’t want, it can be turned off in the configuration window.
Some totems, most notably our Tremor Totem and Cleansing Totem act on a pulse effect. That is to say, every time the totem “pulses” it will attempt to remove a fear component or a disease or poison, depending upon the totem in question.
Totem timers gives you the option of visually seeing the pulses on the totems that utilise this mechanic.
Our Earth Elemental Totem and Fire Elemental Totem, naturally, have cooldowns. Totem timers can display the remaining cooldown of these totems if you so choose. Below you can see the time remaining before I can use my Fire Elemental again
In addition, it can be set to show the cooldown remaining on our Reincarnate spell should we ankh mid fight.
Finally, it can display the number of ankh reagents in your bags. Annoyingly, for those using Glyph of Renewed Life, this figure will only show as zero and the only way to remove it is to also remove your reincarnate tracker.
For the people who like to keep a constant theme running throughout their UI, Totem Timers has good visual configuration options. Fonts, bar textures, button sizes and spacings can all be altered to suit the player.
For players using Button Facade, Totem Timers integrates perfectly well with this and allows you to customise the appearance of the actual buttons to match with your Bartender visuals.
As a side note for anyone curious, the “look” of my totem timers is depicted below
This is created using Button Facade’s Apathy skin and with the gloss effect turned to 50%. In some of the screenshots used in this guide, I’ve turned the effects and skinning off for the sake of clarity. But I figured this was worth mentioning should anyone be interested!
Configuring the Addon In Game
The beauty of this addon is how user friendly it is. Many addons with a lot of configuration options become insanely complex to set up and players can become intimidated by the sea of options set before them. Totem Timers has a very simplistic configuration panel based on a series of check boxes.
The command to open the configuration panel in game is /tt
My one primary complaint about this addon is that it requires the use of Reflux to utilise profiles where as most of my favourite addons have a stand alone profile manager built into them. Luckily, the addon is easy enough to configure that this is a mild annoyance at best.