Warcraft Classic: UI and add-ons

After testing a few things I think I’ve settled on a UI for Classic. Or at least settled on the fundamentals.

I decided against a full UI replacement with ElvUI. Despite the convenience of one-add-on-to-rule-them-all, it’s less fun than creating your own, certainly during the early days when there aren’t as many add-on choices. Plus , when levelling, things like Boss Mods and rotation optimisation aren’t nearly so important, meaning you can concentrate on just adding bits and pieces that make it more enjoyable to play.

I played for a few days and started noting down the things I was missing. The most immediate one was having unit and action frames closer to the centre of the screen where my character is. Having to constantly shuffle your eyes down to the action bars at the bottom of the screen, and way up to the unit frames at the top left, means often missing out what’s happening to your character in the middle. That can be bad when adds start coming, but also it means not seeing nice attack animation and even just admiring mob design mid battle.

The default UI – functional but eyeball inefficient

After testing a few things to solve that issue, I chose Bartender4 (BT4) for the action bars, and Shadowed Unit Frames (SUF) for the, uh, unit frames. Both were tools i used in BC so it was a nice throwback as well as being useful.

UI hidden – the best view of all

Bartender is easy to configure and immediately simplifies the screen by removing a lot of the Blizzard chrome. It also allows easy hiding of bars that you don’t want, and you can move those you do whereever you like. So now I have my main actions just below my character on two bars.

Similarly SUF simplifies the look of your character frame, and the target and target of target, etc. There’s a lot of options, but the defaults work well and match BT4 well too. One favourite feature is hiding unit frames when out of combat, which cleans up the world view considerably.

Modified UI when idle. Hides a lot of the cruft to make the world a lot more visible and pleasant. It’s not too much busier than a totally hidden UI

The next obvious thing was a bag replacement. It didn’t matter too much at first given only one bag, but the sudden proliferation of tailors making linen bags to level their skill meant a bag add-on was a big help. I tried Bagnon and Inventorian, but didn’t love them. Then I found that TBag had been recreated for Classic and rejoiced. TBag is my favourite bag add-on – super simple, fast, colour coding, and category sorting all add up to a winning combination. It’s unfortunately been abandonded for Live – another reason Classic is Better!

For nameplates I added Threat Plates, which has the advantage of helping with threat management as a tank. It colour codes the threat levels (green when you have threat, red when you’ve lost it, and yellow when you’re losing it) and can work for either tank or DPS classes. I may change this for DPS use depending on what I end up levelling the most, but at the moment it’s working fine.

Modified UI in attack mode. All the important stuff is happening where your eyes should be.

Those were the main things I replaced that made the game nicer to play without changing the experience too much. I’m also using OmniCC and Classic Aura Durations, just to have nice countdowns and sweeps on abilities.

The other thing I tried briefly was ClassicCodex, mainly because I saw some screenshots that showed interesting things like the percentage drop chance of an item and this was the add-on that did that. But I soon disabled it because it added much more than drop stats. It introduces a lot of the quest conveniences we’re used to on Live and more – map icons for quest givers and hand ins, dots on the map to show quest locations, spawn locations for quest mobs, etc. It was also default configured to auto accept and auto hand in quests, which totally confused me for a minute. So it basically felt a lot like a fast levelling tool, which is fine but not something I was looking for or interested in.

Once I get into Dungeons I might try AtlasLootClassic, as it was another original add-on and it’s fun seeing what the bosses might drop and planning accordingly – but I wonder if it too might be a bit too revealing, like the Codex add-on.

I’m enjoying the slower pace so something that interrupts that to make you more productive actually seems counterproductive in a weird way. SynCaine nails this contradiction when analysing a MassivelyOP post revelling in the slowed down nature of Classic which at the same time talks about how to speed it up: I love the difficulty so much I installed a mod to remove it!.

Using the default UI is completely workable, and is theoretically more ‘Classic’, but in the end I agree with Belghast’s tweet where he said that using add-ons has been as much a core part of Warcraft as the game itself. It’s fun to use them, and it’s incredible seeing what people have created to enhance the game.

Warcraft Classic: Preparation

It’s almost time. I tried to do some dailies in Nazjatar today but my heart wasn’t in it – Classic is too close.

I’m still unsure of which character to try first. As with many other bloggers, one inclination is to go with the first character I played – my Undead Rogue namesake. She was with me all the way through Kara, only eventually swapping out so I could level a tank for WotLK.

Rogues are both easy and hard. For levelling, stealth allows Rogues to make their way to bosses and quest objectives without having to bother with the trash gauntlets, which is a major time saver. But in dungeons – and raids! – they are super squishy. I remember dying a lot, too much, and as the saying goes you can’t do any DPS when you’re dead.

Another option is a Hunter – echoing my current main, and also an early character of mine. Hunters too are an easy levelling class (once you get to level 10 and can tame a pet) and a it’s always fun to have a companion as you roam around. I clearly remember taking a Hunter into some BC dungeons and running out of ammo mid run, much to my horror, but on the whole they survive dungeons a lot better than Rogues, and bring good utility with their traps and snares. It’s was funny to read that Hunter’s were hands down the hardest class to recreate in Classic – pet management and ammo being the unique features I’m guessing.

My other main interest would be a Warrior. A Tauren Protection Warrior was my main throughout WotLK, and I loved the playstyle whether levelling or grouping. Charge is one of the all-time great abilities, and having plate on obviously great for staying alive. They do suffer a bit from not having any self heals though. And I do wonder if I’m up for tanking with strangers – the tankxiety is real.

In the end I think I’ll rotate around and see what feels best – unlike Method I’m not after a world first in a week. But I would like to find a guild and potentially join in with the raiding crowd so levelling can’t be too slow. Thinking about that possibility also means not tanking as I won’t have the time to dedicate to the gearing that raid tanking requires.

Plenty to ponder, and not much time to do it!


Another thing to decide is how much UI to replace with add-ons. There are plenty of opinions on this, ranging from complete replacement to just the modifying the essentials to not touching anything:

something about the spirit of WoW Classic, a sort of back to nature, seeing the game in a raw or primitive form, makes me feel like Addons might be a bit of a betrayal, a cheat, an option that would deprive myself of the full experience.

BlizzardWatch have been tracking a list their best add-ons, and Curse have hundreds ready to go. If you did want to go with a whole hog, ‘Live’ game favourite ElvUI has been recreated for Classic too.

During BC and WotLK I used to build my own UI from scratch, grabbing bits and pieces from all over the place. I remember using TomTom, threat and damage meters, bags, and floating combat text – though why the latter became so popular is beyond me. My UI back then was a predictable messy nightmare, but I loved it – and loved constantly tinkering with it.

Then I stumbled on the concept of total UI replacement packages put together by players. My favourite for a long time was the very minimalist but very functional GarUI from Garwulf, who still blogs very occasionally but no longer maintains his UI. It was a beautiful UI, fading into nothingness when you weren’t active so you could appreciate the world around you.

More recently I’ve taken it easy and just plonked ElvUI into place, my bag manager of choice, and a few other utilities. Building your own is fun but maintaining it through patches and incompatibilities less so – ElvUI is a happy medium, if sometimes a bit over engineered.

For Classic I think I’ll fall somewhere in the middle, replacing bags and toolbars, maybe nameplates (useful for Threat management on a tank), and some vendor helpers – I noticed during the stress test that the vendor price for items isn’t shown by default, something that’s super helpful when managing bag-rage during the early days when bag space is at a premium. But I’ll try to keep it simple and lightweight – unless the default UI cruft starts to become annoying.

I wish Blizzard had allowed us to logon in the past week or so, even if it was limited to the starter zones, just so we could configure our UIs before launch. There’s no rush of course, but it would have been a fun thing to do while waiting. Not long now!

#Blaugust26

Add on, add off

As part of my rare seeking project (hm, I think it needs a better name), I started looking around for addons that would help find the vanilla zone rares. I was hunting for something that would put a marker on the map showing you where each rare spawns or patrols, so I can plan my movements efficiently.

The venerable NPCScan is the obvious candidate, and it works well for alerting you when you enter the radius of a rare mob. But it doesn’t seem to have a static map option for just showing the expected location. There is a map overlay plugin, but it’s being reworked for the new 8.0 version of the mapping API, and from memory it is kind of overkill for what I want.

Next I turned to HandyNotes, which I discovered during Draenor when hunting treasures. The base version simply allows you to create pins and notes on the map, but the great thing about it is it allows plugins. The main use for me has been the rares & treasures plugins (for Draenor, Legion, and now BfA), which is kind of cheating but didn’t reduce the fun for me at all (in fact it may have reduced the self induced pressure to find all the hidden treasures).

However I found there’s no equivalent plugin for the vanilla rares – perhaps because there’s no associated achievements? This immediately got me thinking – surely there’s a demand for this, and surely it can’t be too hard to modify one of those plugins to create a Vanilla version. I have a vague understanding of coding, and usually find taking an example and modifying it the best way to learn and create something new.

How wrong I was. Despite the HandyNotes page referencing a ‘plugin API’, I can’t find any documentation or examples anywhere, despite using all the google-fu I could muster. Downloading the code for the other plugins didn’t help much either, as they are mostly undocumented and use some zone specific tricks that I’m not sure translate.

I tried looking at a simpler plugin – one that shows Dungeon and Raid entrances – but even that left me befuddled. At least modifying that one I managed to get an icon for Bjarn to appear on the map, which felt like a minor triumph.

I feel like there must be a hidden community of HandyNotes addon developers out there that I’m not finding, or maybe I’ve just picked the wrong addon to modify. The reference to an API though, and their encouragement of plugins, make me think the truth must be out there somewhere.

In the meantime I guess it will just be more alt-tabbing to Wowhead – and maybe it’s time for a second monitor!

Slightly more prepared

One day and eleven hours to go for BfA, as I write this. I’m not really that prepared, having looked at finishing Legion Engineering and Mining and failed, and also failing to participate in enough fishing raids to level the Underlight Angler much. Once BfA launches it will be nigh impossible for a while, until people start backfilling content.

I did finally empty out most of my bags. Where by ‘most’ I mean half – I can’t quite let go of all the special bait and fish!

After the new PC build, my addons are also mostly under control. I decided against ElvUI for the time being – it’s a nice set and forget system, but it is very hard to customise and tends to take over everything. So I’ve slowly built a passable UI using some core components: Bartender4, Shadowed Unit Frames, ThreatPlates, Adibags, and of course FishingBuddy. I’ve thrown on TitanPanel too, which is fun though I’m not sure ‘required’, though many swear they become dependent on it. Just need to find a minimap and chat fixer and we should be good to go.

The other thing I wanted to get a better handle on before launch was the lore backstories. Luckily Blizzard Watch have our backs here. Super lore-watcher Anne Stickney (why hasn’t Blizzard hired her?) fills us in on the undeath of Sylvanas, while equally knowledgable Matthew Rossi goes deep on Saurfang.

There is also a super useful BfA timeline article, that outlines the plot points and has links to all the novellas, comics, and animations that bring us to the launch. I’d missed the comics, and all three are excellent and flesh out a lot of the storyline – especially Jaina. Recommended reading!