Editorial: Ooey-GUI (A How-To)

This space could be dedicated to a Dragon Age: Origins review. Really, it could, but listing everything I think about that game would likely cut in to my time to play said game, and we cannot have that.

So instead, constant readers, you will receive a post about my WoW UI. Every WoW player has one. Using the stock UI is the greatest sign of noobsaucness known to man. Kings have been deposed for using the stock UI. Entire blogs are devoted to breaking the noobish among us from their stock UI habits.

Stock UI
See what I mean? Ick.

This is a rather difficult concept to grasp. World of Warcraft is a well-made game, with some of the finest game designers and artists in the business working on the UI. Why, oh why, would the stock UI be so bad as to drive away nearly all advanced users?

The answer is not that nerds like customizing their own setups, though invariably, we all do. Rather, the answer is that the stock UI presents things in a familiar, artwork-encrusted package that is usable enough not to scare away new players, but easily modifiable enough that advanced players can customize it to their heart’s content.

My main character is an Arms/Prot warrior; this means my duties (depending on the instance and fight) will either be close-in melee DPS or tanking. My UI reflects these needs. They are:

    1. Readibility
    2. Organization
    3. Ability to see when my abilities are available
    4. Unobstructed view of the game field
    5. Quick notification of events needing my immediate attention

Modification of the WoW UI is as easy as downloading and installing an add-on, and as complex as editing the .lua files yourself. But with patience, dedication, and documentation, it can be done.

I spent a good two to three months after WOTLK came out trying to assemble my perfect UI. There is a definite tension between using an overhaul “suite” like NUI or SpartanUI and configuring lots of individual mods. I found that while I enjoyed the flexibility of individual add-ons to modify my UI, configuration was a nightmare, and if my WTF settings (where WoW stores UI configuration data) were ever reset, it was a total pain. Suites, on the other hand, are much easier to configure, usually well-laid out, but sometimes RAM or CPU-intensive.

I have found that among the add-on management clients out there, Curse.com‘s currently beta Client v.4 is the best of the lot, since the downfall of the WoWMatrix. MMOUI’s Minion just doesn’t hack it.

The good thing about Curse.com’s client is that it runs on both Mac and Windows platforms (my two gaming platforms) equally well. It contains convenient one-click updating and an intuitive interface. Getting started modding your WoW is pretty easy with Curse.

There are several basic ways to go about this. I suggest first mapping out your goals. The UI is moldable to get what you want, but you have know what it is you want. Do you want to replace the game’s panels and artwork? Look for eepanels or Viewport Art. Want a raid frame replacement? Look at Xperl, Pitbull, or Grid. Complete visual overhaul? NUI! Just need to change up the action bars? Go with Bartender or Dominos.

Confused by what I wrote? Just want a good-looking UI so that people will not know what a noobycakes you are? Look no further. Here’s how to get my UI.

This is the UI of Kings
Yes you, with just a little work, can have a UI that looks like this!

Click here for a full-size version of my UI.

The basis for this UI is NUI+, a complete graphical UI overhaul. It replaces the action bars, the unit frames, the raid frames, the bag bar, the micro menu, and adds a HUD, cooldown counts, casting bar, and provides a panel at the bottom to house everything. The latest version also includes a much needed typeface overhaul. And it only gets better; the designer is some sort of UI-designing genius. I can wholeheartedly recommend NUI as a good basis for overhauling your UI.

If NUI is not your cup of tea, then there are several other suites and overhauls that are available on WoW-Interface, complete with installation instructions.

The goals that NUI accomplishes for me are mostly readability and organization. It places all of the important information at the bottom and sides of the screen. Buffs/debuffs are represented by small icons and text, rather than just the icons. The HUD is especially useful while tanking, as it contains a focus frame, a target-of-target frame, and my own health bar so that I know when to pop Shield Wall or Last Stand. This way, I can keep my field of vision centered on me and the large, ugly monster attempting to chew my face off. Unit frames and the minimap are condensed into a Grid-like grid at the bottom, allowing me to monitor party health, buffs and debuffs, and who is taking damage.

NUI’s layout also helps with being able to see the whole field of vision. I find that adding a top bar helps “frame” the playing field, much like letterboxing on a movie. I use TitanPanel with some of its associated add-ons to control several things, like Outfitter, which helps me switch between tanking and DPS sets of gear, as well as my spec’s, the durability of my armor, the members of my guild that are online, and my gold.

The only non-NUI add-ons that I routinely use satisfy my other two goals. The first of these, knowing when my various abilities are ready, requires “scrolling combat text.” There are several add-ons that will accomplish this minor feat, and the one I’ve found most amenable to easy configuration is Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text. I have incoming damage set to curve in a parabolic arc to the right of my HUD (where my health bar is). Outgoing damage curves to the right beside the enemy’s health bar on the HUD. Procs, or special effects that let me know when I can use one of my high-damage abilities like Overpower or Sudden Death, pop up on the left hand side of my screen, by my left hand, so that I can hit my keybinds quickly. Refreshed cooldowns pop up on the right, letting me know when other abilities are off cooldown.

NUI adds a cooldown count and a tick count to the action buttons themselves. That way, I know when Demoralizing Shout or Rend is about to tick off, or when the my tanking cooldowns are ready to be used to stop Gormok from Impaling me.

The fifth and final use I need out of my UI is perhaps the most important but least visible — the ever-popular boss special ability alert mod. I currently use fan favorite Deadly Boss Mods. DBM, as it is known, provides timers of boss special abilities, warnings of when and where to to move, and to let me know where my party stands on Enrage timers, so that I can call for Haste potions, Heroism, and so forth. Combined with TankWarnings, which alerts my raid if I pop a cooldown or a Taunt is missed, and GTFO (the most aptly-named add-on ever), I never die to environmental damage I should have been aware of.

After a little bit of tweaking to get everything in place, my keybinds set up to match my gamepad (a Logitech G13) and my mouse, I have found that I have a fully immersive experience where all the information I need to raid is presented to me in an easy-to-read, understandable package.

One of the things I like most about my UI is that it contains almost no artwork. I find art and graphical flourishes to be distracting; simple matte black panels, square or rectangle motifs, legible text in a humanist typeface, and color-coding are the names of the game for me.

If you find mine to be unusable, but still like the general theme, this is the one I use on my much-less-beastly Mac laptop. It does not have quite all of the “raid-ready” information that my main setup does, but as my laptop is incapable of handling the stress of raiding, it works well for checking mail, auctions, or leveling my death knight.

For lower-end systems


  1. We clearly play WoW in very different ways–but then you are a tank, for whom many factors are of great import, and I am a Mage, for whom nothing is really of great import.

    Your UI is impressive, but I’m going to stick with the default one (albeit with Koordinator and the Raid mod our guild leader has us use). For a Mage, these things are fine.

    Seeing your UI has convinced me of one thing, though: I never, ever want to play tank. Or indeed any other job.

  2. This was really beneficial for me, Lane. Thank you. My DK has a tanking offspec that I have used a few times now, and some of your add-ons will be great. (For example, I could not for the life of me remember the name of Outfitter and was looking all over for a good equipment manager)

    @Lusi: You might want to snag bartender or bongos or something to help manage your actionbars. And some doofy thing for dispels or wtfever Mages do when they ought to be deepsing, or making me strudel. =D

    Memo to self, find Lusi a strudel add-on …

  3. My action bars are all arranged nicely as is, with direct damage on the main bar, targetted damage on another bar, and buffs on the third bar. At right are utility spells.

    I’ve honestly never had trouble using my stuff with the standard UI, but like I said, I have very little to worry about in raids.

  4. @Lane – ain’t you helping your enemies by giving this type of info?

  5. Lane is in a different battlegroup, and so he has nothing to fear from Ginia and I.

    Which is a good thing, because tonight’s less-than-five-minute-long Wintergrasp battle might be the fastest steamroll ever, and apart from the massive 13K honour, seems to have taken place solely for the lulz.

  6. I’m not entirely sure what you just said but it sounds like you busy handing peoples asses back to them so I congradulate you.

  7. Hi… I love the site… nice reviews and articles… I am particularly fond of ui discussions… i just came across this beauty last night, and I must say that I am in love….

    I look forward to reading more from this site…


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