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.
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!