In response to a particular Bellular video and in an ongoing effort to really improve my WoW experience and get things a bit more fun, I decided to document my setup and the reasoning behind my choices. I don’t expect that this particular document will have an extremely wide audience, but for those people that are even mildly interested, it may serve as an inspiration for your own WoW improvement project.
Why is that a thing?
Honestly, while this will likely never be ‘done’, I’ve already found my gaming experience to have improved by great leaps just by the steps you see taken so far. Given how choosy I am, I’ve spent years doing nothing but default UI and systems, and … this has been such an improvement I’ve found myself wondering why I haven’t done this before. A little time? You really can have an exceptionally better experience in the game we all love.
So here we are – the Addons and UI project. May it help you out as much as others have helped me, and may it serve as an inspiration for your own ongoing improvement efforts.
Throughout this project, there are a few design conceits that I’ve stuck to. These core principles may help you understand why I’ve made some choices I have, and will hopefully head off some commonly asked questions. This entire document should be addressed in light of these notions, in fact.
- We are using the default CORE UI.
Look. I’m a raider with my guild, and every time WoW has a patch, the UI full replacements (EveUI, et. al.) end up breaking for a day or so, and sometimes longer. While I can make do with a broken addon, I can’t make do with a broken presentation of information.
With that in mind, I will not, ever, fully replace the default UI. While this will cost me some flexibility, it ensures that I’m always able to run at some reasonable percentage of capability when raid or M+ night rolls around.
- The design plan needs to be portable across all character types.
I play a LOT of alts. I mean a LOT. This means that things like button placement need to be as portable as possible across broad design goals. While it’s likely I could optimize all of these things relative to a single class, i don’t *play* a single class, so I need to maintain things in broad categories so I minimize changeover shock.
- One pane of glass.
Wherever possible, all game information relevant to playing must be relayed in a single pane of glass – and preferably organically on the playing field.
- Everything has a reason.
Every single addon or change in this document will have a justification. I’m going to tell you why I picked it, what of it I use, and how I use it. We do not select addons because they are popular or because it does some niche, bullshitty thing – no, we’re picking stuff that directly improves my experience at a fundamental level. The niche, bullshitty stuff will get its own section. THIS is the stuff I need to just play and play in a good way.
And that’s it! Keep these in mind as you use the rest of this document.
With Twitch addon management coming to an end, it’s important to address some method of keeping those addons maintained. After looking at the options available, I’m going with Ajour – fast, lightweight, multi-repository, and simple. You’re welcome to use your own, but any conversation around addon management will be relative to this manager.
This section will go addon by addon, expressing why I’ve chosen it and what it does for me. Appendices to follow will give you my specific configs where those are useful for each addon. This part? All about the addons themselves. They are actually ranked in order of “I can’t live without this” – from most-necessary to least.
- Deadly Boss Mobs (DBM).
As a raider, my raid team requires this mod, and I require it for myself. This mod gives you contextual warnings based on boss abilities, and improves your situational awareness of tiny cast bars and massive battlefields.
While some say that this is cheating – I view it as reducing informational overhead. A must-have mod that is largely fire-and-forget, and will change how you play.
Note: One settings change should absolutely be made – make sure you turn off auto-skip on cutscenes. If you’re like me and love lore? It can very much suck to work to see a cutscene for a second time for whatever reason, only to have DBM nope it right off your screen.
Immersion is a quest frame replacement that makes the game far more interactive, changing how you interact with NPCs and slowing you down a bit (if you let it) so that you can keep your eyes on the story in a way that’s more engaging than Walls Of Text. In terms of quality of life, this one addon has made everything I do in WoW far more engaging, and has (as a lore hound) made me far more cognizant of the lore tucked into quests.
Go beyond “collect ten things” – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how lovely the game becomes and how much more invested you are.
I will have an entire section of this guide dedicated to WeakAuras and how much it can and will improve your gameplay. Now that I have it configured? It /hurts/ to not have it present, and I back up my WA configs like I do my character folders.
I’ll show you how I use it to maximize my information delivery – and you can use it as you like. However, if you’ve ever just wished you got a better visual notification that some state was occurring? This is your goto, and solves almost all of your information troubles in the game.
- Opie (Oh-Pie!)
A UI improvement, OPie lets you bind keys to radial menus of abilities. Best used out of combat, OPie lets you stack all of your utility abilities, buffs, mounts – portals! Whatever you can think up, onto single button presses and intuitive action. This has resulted in my removal of huge numbers of action bars, and freed up a great deal of brain power. Not a single ability remains ‘on click’ for me – how cool is that?
This one would absolutely hurt to lose.
I suck. I mean /suck/. At using my dispels. On all of my characters. I never know what debuffs I can target, and never realize someone needs it until it’s usually a moot point – even when I’m healing.
Decursive is a simple addon that addresses this issue, giving a small array of tiny buttons representing your group or raid, and lighting up when there’s something on a person you can cure. Further, it lets you cure the lit up person with a single click.
It makes me look good at it – and lends massive utility for such a small thing. 10/10.
- Details! Damage Meter
A lightweight, multipane damage meter/healing meter/threat meter, details lets you cross section your fights and figure out what’s really going on out there. It’s hard to raid without a damage meter, and this one is really the best i’ve found.
Absolutely lovely for post-fight breakdowns and a review of what you did relative to others – on top of letting you stay on top of your rotation and keep track of how changes affect your throughput – and so much better than its competitors that I’m shocked it’s not more popular than it is.
I’m a roleplayer AND a raider – and if you don’t use either MRP or TRP, there’s an an entire RP layer of the game you’re missing. Even if you don’t fill out your character sheet here, you’re missing out if this one isn’t in your addon list.
WoW is terrible about actually, y’know, letting you take usable notes in-game, where they make sense. HandyNotes lets you add notes to map pins in the environment, and thus keep track of things you want to manage. Nice utility for everything from exploration to tagging vendors, and persistent across sessions and states.
As a general rule, I’m an explorer – and I like finding things on my own. However, sometimes it’s nice to just have and/or give a waypoint and have a “GPS” to get you there. This is that.
Wow’s Keybinds are AWFUL. They’re rooted way back in 2004, and it absolutely shows – and it turns what is a pretty exciting game of thinky ability chess into a huge slog of making things happen when you want them to happen.
I mean.. Look at this garbage:
Look at it! Buttons everywhere – with entire banks of secondary abilities that you want to have, but don’t need often, limited palettes of hotkey-usable abilities, small size, confusing icons… bleah. No. Eww. Up until very recently, all of my characters looked like this. I used 1-5, middle mouse, and alt-1 to Alt-5 with some shift and alt key macros to do everything I needed to do in a fight, and that wasn’t enough nor was it intuitive, and it didn’t use any buttons the way that I could have.
Now, I’m a gamer. I have one of these:
And my mouse has a lot more than three buttons. So what the heck was I doing? So very stupid.
Lately, I’ve taken it on myself to improve things considerably. This is what my mage looks like today:
“But Aunne”, I hear you saying, “Where’d all that stuff go? Don’t you want to use it?”
I absolutely do. But – this is where keybindings and OPie come in, and have changed everything for me. Let’s start with a visual aid:
This is that claw again, and next to it, let’s put our keybinds:
The top row here is the ‘shift-keybind’ of the row beneath. Notice, everything comes off my left hand? Q is my ‘goto spender’ – that ability you use *all the time* when there’s nothing else you need to be doing. 1? My ‘use at certain times’ button – here, it’s Arcane Barrage, which clears out my charges to maintain mana and do some big damage. 2 and 3? Special case damage utility – Arcane Missiles for those lovely clearcast procs, and Arcane Orb for when I need a quick charge builder.
That gets the base damage spells out of the way. Good, right?
E, R, and T represent Special Use items. E represents a damage boost – in this case Touch of the Magi. This lets me set up for mini-burn phases and represents a short-cooldown cooldown or AOE booster – lots of utility, but needs to be used often and at the right time. R? My interrupt. R is *always* my interrupt. Always. And T? Spellsteal/Dispel. Oh, look – my target has something interesting? Tap that T, baby.
F and G are reserved for cooldowns. F is my arcane power macro to kick off a burn phase, and G is evocation to recharge after it’s over.
X is my other ‘loose key’ – currently not really used. This one I’m reserving for defensive cooldowns – in the case of my Mage, this is going to be Mirror Image.
Look at *that*. Eleven hotkeys, all within a short distance of my movement cluster – and 22, once we note that shift-hotkey is the second bar. Also, do you notice the far right? That’s my middle mouse button – something I reserve for important things on every character. For my mage, that’s a macro with Blink and Alter Time – my escape buttons. Coolbeans!
“But Aunne,” you may say – “Where’s all that other stuff?”
That’s what OPie is for. Check it:
While definitely still a WIP – this puts literally every ability off of my left hand – and I still have lots of buttons left. I haven’t touched the G-keys, M-keys, B, Z, and 4-6!
These broad categories of OPie wedges are used across all characters – with different things stuffed into each box based on the class – but I know where to find it based on those broad classifications.