Outgrowing the interface

When something is created, it’s not always possible to know the exact path its development will take.  I’ve written programs that changed wildly from the first iteration to the last.  A client will say “I need” and the program is bent/warped/sliced/blended to give the client what they need.  After a number of generations of these changes it’s no longer the same program.  It’s always better, but never the same.

This is what Blizzard ran into when the wrote the original interface for World of Warcraft.  The original was one bar of spells (the number keys) with movement keys and panel keys occupying the majority of the remainder of the keyboard.  For the start, it was good and everyone smiled.  Now it’s wholly inadequate and interface addons are a must.

One day I did trapping with a friend running the same spec.  In comparing notes, our dps was dramatically different.  We determined it was the difference in our interfaces.  She was running the Blizz UI against my conglomeration of addons.  Her toon was doing about half the dps of mine.  Yup, time to change the interface.

So here, in all it’s rambly make-it-up-as-I-go-along fashion, are my thoughts on what works and why.

In the Blizz layout you are using the least accessible keys and you have to press a key to change to a different set of available spells.  It’s the awkward row of keys, switching (and remembering what’s on each bar) that kills dps. If you’re trying to use the same hand to shift between spell bars, move your toon AND shoot . . . yeah, that’s not such a great plan.  Blizz, what were you thinking?  Yeah yeah.  It’s the path development thing.

I’m not saying you need to do things the way I do . . . not at all.  I have square hands with short fingers, the genetic luck of the draw.  (My sister, bless her heart, got the long elegant fingers.) How you organize your spells is going to entirely depend on not only your play style but your keyboard’s layout.  (I do my best gaming dps on a Kinesis Freestyle2 keyboard and with few exceptions only use the left half.  The right half is pushed away until I need to type in chat.  As a result I’ve changed a lot of my keybinds but that’s a topic for another day.)  So, here it is, my Bartender (green shading) and Buttonforge (unshaded vertical bars) layout.

Bar layout

Bar layout

Bars 7, 8 and 9 are the ones that swap when I change stance and they swap out the ASDF keybound row. My number keys are used for not-frequently-used spells or spells with long cooldowns.

Keyboard assigns

Keyboard assigns

Here’s a closer look at the keyboard emulation portion of the setup.  Notice I use the tilde key and the capslock key.  All the more frequently used spells are on the unshifted letter keys.  Shifted keys are less frequently used but still viable to use in combat.  Cntrl modified keys are very infrequently used and just as easily clicked with the mouse.

To make all this work it’s necessary to shift all character movement to the mouse.  I’ve got an eleven button Anker 5000 (discontinued model).  The only character movement missing is the walk/run transition.  This is my second Anker 5000.  I love this mouse.  The button layout is logical and easy to use.  When it finally dies I’ll buy another Anker product with as many buttons as is currently available.

One final thought on spell organization . . . if you run multiple classes put the same sort of spell in the same place so you can easily switch toons without a lot of fumbling.  I have multiple level 100 toons.  My dps toons are not that well equipped (~700) and they are always in the top 10, usually the top five.

So if your dps is lacking and you feel like an also ran in any party, raid or dungeon, consider looking at tweaking your interface.

The value of organization

Adibags - Moema

Adibags – Moema

One of the addons I use and pretty much can’t do without is AdiBags, an addon that replaces the Blizzard bag interface.

One of the many things to like about AdiBags is how new things are handled. They are put in “recent” at the top of the bag.  Clicking the “new” button moves them into their assigned section. Want to find what dropped off the boss you just killed?  It’s right there at the top!

Categorized by effect

Categorized by effect – Aileas

More importantly, I like that I can categorize my bag contents in a way that works for me.  Rather than have all food in the food category I have grouped items with like effects together.  If the food provides a buff it works like a flask.  Food that gives a temporary boost to health and/or mana acts as a potion (though I tend to leave low level or common food drops in their original category so I can find and sell them quickly).  I can categorize something as junk (things that drop that I never use) which makes it easy to find and sell when I’m clearing my bags.  I can move entire categories between bank and bag with a single click.  I can send a single type of thing (non-soulbound armor and weapons, herbs, ore) to a mail recipient with a single click.

All my devices are in one category as they’re a persistent gadget that does a short term job (Findle’s Loot-a-rang, Bitsi’s Bobbing Berg, Sassy Imp).  I might move my jewelcrafter’s kit over to devices though it isn’t really a device.  It does fit there . . . sort of.

What looks like the engineer-crafted shield in consumable instead of potion is one of the naval yard ship buffs.  Because it’s in consumable instead of potion I know it’s the ship thingy even if it looks like something else.

Armor is unopened tokens.  Other is . . . . well . . . other.  It doesn’t really fit into any other category.  I should move the trunk gotten from the naval mission over to consumable as it is gone once opened.

I like this organization.  I can see instantly what to sell, what to auction, what to send to other toons for their professions, what I can equip (sorted by armor type which is in options).  If I need a certain potion effect on my bars for a specific boss it’s easy to find. And the organizational changes I make for one toon is carried over to all.  Sweet!

Adibags helps me quickly and efficiently organize.  I like that.

Draenor noobs

The Draenor expansion is full of awesome stuff. I’m going to list a few here and add to it as more occur to me.

If you are new to Draenor you might as well work toward flight as you level. Go to Wowhead and bookmark the flying progress tool.  As you work through each region, finish the requirements for Draenor flight.  When you get to Tanaan you’ll be most of the way through the required achievements.

Sergeant Crowler in your garrison sells a potion of accelerated learning.  It costs 100 garrison resources and increases your xp for one hour.  If you’re in a hurry to level it’s a must purchase.

Make sure you have Handinotes and Handinotes:Draenor addons loaded so all the treasures show on the map.  Collect them as you go.  You will need the garrison resources.

You can equip three warforge crafted items at level 91.  Watch the auction house and get the best buys you can. If the stats aren’t perfect you can buy items that reroll the stats to those more favorable to your build.  If you are an alchemist you can make a 620 trinket.  You need the stone for some of the alchemy transmutes and this stone does not count toward your warforge crafted limit of three.

There are a plethora of followers in Draenor.

  • Collect Fen Tao (standing next to the town hall steps in Stormshield) when you fly there to do the quest line that gets you Delvar (bodyguard follower).
  • Get Romuul (jewelcrafting), Rulkan (quest line, blacksmithing) and Shelly Hamby (quest line, leatherworking) while you’re running Shadowmoon Valley.
  • There are two followers in Gorgrond that aren’t apparent, Blook (beat him up) and Tormmok (protect him).  Look them up for the coordinates.  They’re both down by Bastion Rise.  There are a couple others you’ll get when you quest through.
  • In Talador pick up Ahm (inscription), Pleasurebot 5000 (tailoring) and Ilona (bodyguard).  Choose the artillery outpost ability in Talador and bomb the npcs for an easy peasy win for Ilona.  Artillery is the best choice here because you’ll use it in Tanaan . . . a lot.  Save yourself 5000g by choosing artillery the first time.  Yup, been there.
  • In Spires of Arak get Leorajh (bodyguard).  The other followers here are questline.    Make sure you read the linked follower guide and watch vids on how to get Leorajh.  Without flying he’s a bit difficult to get to.
  • In Nagrand get Lantresor (quest line, mining follower) and Abu’gar (collect scattered parts).

This is a bit of a repeat but . . . if you are a blacksmith or will have a blacksmithing hut, make sure you get Rulkan in Shadowmoon Valley (Alliance, Horde has a similar follower).  As a follower assigned to the blacksmithing hut, she provides a 4 hour buff that protects your armor and provides a elemental to fight with you which, other than bodyguards, makes her the best follower in the game.

In Spires of Arak get the Peon Mining Pick. If you have mining it cuts mining time in half. It stacks with the Preserved Mining Pick Lunarfall Excavation buff and reduces your Lunarfall Excavation node mining time to half a second (this is for everyone, not just toons with mining profession).  With the mining pick in your bag and the mining pick buff onboard, it takes longer to loot than to mine.  Sweet!  Oh, and Miner’s Coffee stacks.  The funniest in-game thing at the moment is male Panda monk on three stacks of miner’s coffee.  OMGosh.  And if you’re efficient you can complete the mine in the three minute limit of miner’s coffee.  If you can’t due to goren infestation, the stack renews to the full three minutes when a new miner’s coffee is added so don’t start with a stack of five or you won’t have room to add one.

In Nagrand get Gorepetal’s Gentle Grasp.  It cuts gathering time in the garden in half for everyone. If the toon has the herbalism profession it cuts gathering to half a second Draenor wide.  This and the Peon Mining Pick don’t have to be equipped but they do need to be in your bag to provide the buff.  Gorepetal doesn’t show up on the map if you’re running NPCScan (addon) until you’re right up against the cave.

Buff tents are a new thing in Draenor.  They provide a 10% stats buff like the rested bonus you get from staying in an inn and the effect stacks with other buffs.  The tents are made by the leatherworking follower (Shelly Hamby from Shadowmoon Valley for Alliance) assigned to the leatherworking hut.  They only stack to five though there are so many varieties of tents you could fill a bag with the variety available.  They are account bound and can be sent cross server/faction.  They can be used by level one toons.  The buff drops off in dungeons and raids and if you logout.  It doesn’t stick like most other buffs.

Bodyguards!  Let’s hear it for bodyguards!  Once you have a level 2 barracks you can assign a bodyguard to your barracks from the architect’s table.  Pick up the bodyguard at the steps to the barracks.  If you kill off your bodyguard you can unassign that one and assign another.  The steward in the barracks sells a device that let’s you micro-size your bodyguard.  The need for this will become clear once you start running with a bodyguard.  Tormmok is enormous and Leorajh is only a little bit smaller.  Oh, and get the addon BodyguardAway so you don’t get the annoying window up every time you accidentally click your bodyguard.  One more thing on bodyguards.  Their strength/survivability/damage/heals is dependent on your item level.  You can take a level 94 bodyguard and s/he will do impressive things if your gear score is nice and high.  If your gear score sucks, taking a 675 geared bodyguard is going to do you no good.  Their effectiveness scales to your gear, not theirs.

Crafts and crafting . . . There are three methods of updating your armor in Draenor.  For crafted items you can purchase the first upgrade pat from the trainer in your profession hut.  The first three crafted upgrades require Savage Blood which is gotten from a level 3 barn.  Until you’ve got your gear completely through the first three upgrades a barn is a must.  Each upgrade takes 15 savage blood.  Suck it up, build the barn . . . after you do Oralius’s quest (inn or tavern) and get the crystal.  This is the on-steroids version of the Crystal of Insanity we all sought on Timeless isle.  So, build the inn first, watch for Oralius, run Blackrock Spire (dungeon), get the crystal and replace the inn with the barn.  All the other inn quests require Silver on the Proving Ground.  That’s great stuff for later but to start . . . you just need the crystal and the quest and dungeon for that item don’t require heroic.

The second upgrade for crafted items requires a pattern purchased from the daily trader.  Herb trader has alchemy and inscription pats.  Ore trader has blacksmithing and engineering pats.  Leather trader has leatherworking pats. Fur trader has tailoring pats.  Dust trader has enchanting pats.   The traders are on a five day cycle, herb-ore-dust-fur-leather.  Excess raw mats can be traded to the traders for primal spirits and the traders will all have a handover quest for 25 primal at a cut rate.  So if you’re a leatherworker and have collected stacks of ore and herbs and dust (from DEing your gear) visit the right trader and swap it for primals to boost your production of your profession’s soulbound mat.  Sweet!

Garrisons!  There’s so much going on here there’s no way I can adequately cover it all.  The internet is a great resource and wowhead rocks.  You can visit another person’s garrison to use their huts or the daily trader.  Go to the dungeon eyeball, click premade groups, custom groups and type in the search box.  You can find someone with an enchanting studio and disenchant all  your soulbound gear for the mats (once you join the group click your picture and view leader’s garrison) or use their enchanting follower’s enchant effect on your weapon.  When you’re done visiting you’ll want to leave group, then click your pic and view your garrison.  If you don’t you’ll get chucked out way past the Bling rock and have to hoof it back.

Let there be loot!

The Draenor expansion’s absolute best thing is Findle’s Loot-a-rang. Did you kill something that’s surrounded by things you can’t or don’t want to kill? Send the loot-a-rang in to fetch the goodies. Did something you kill end up halfway down the hill with no way to loot it? Yup, you get your loot.

Hands down, without question, this little device made by engineers is a true treasure, worth the slot it takes up in your bag. Not only will it loot everything within killing range, it is usable by level 1 players.

Hunter or huntard?

Barrage

Barrage

I think etiquette and technique are what separate a socially acceptable and effective hunter from a huntard, a player so oblivious to the responsibilities, possibilities and opportunities of the class they’re an annoyance to all who encounter them, a stain upon all hunters who have a clue.

Part of the reason there are so many huntards is because the class is so easy to play. And because leveling and staying alive as a hunter requires little thought of effort, many who play this class don’t take advantage of some of the best features.

Are the bad guys bypassing your pet and coming to whack on you? Set your pet to tank. You didn’t know you could set your pet to act as a tank, increasing his threat and armor? Yup, you surely can. A hunter has the ability to change a pet’s aspect. A pet on tank with a good heal rotation (you did know hunters can heal their pets, right?) and crafty use of the few DoT spells left to them after the last expansion can solo most anything if they don’t overpull.

Sites like Noxxic and IcyVeins will give you a suggested rotation but to perfect the art of kill-it-quick you must practice and be observant. And watch out for that Barrage spell. If you don’t keep your range in mind you’re going to pull the whole neighborhood. Sometimes that can be a good thing . . .

Addons are King

I’m an addon whore. I have a list of must-have addons not quite as long as my arm . . . but close. And I’m fickle. What might be just the thing today is easily second best tomorrow. Master Plan might have been the best thing yesterday but Garrison Commander is lots better! JMPO Yeah, totally fickle.

One of the addons I really like is ButtonForge. There’s no way I use it to its full potential. Remember me? The really lazy one? I want to get there and have a good time but not break a nail or muss my hair in the process. Wrapping my brain around all the wonderful things ButtonForge can do is . . . uh . . . okay, we’ll look at all that great stuff another day. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So here’s what I like about ButtonForge. I can set my right side bars with keybinds so I don’t use any Blizz bars. Nice eh? AND, unlike the Blizz interface bars, I can drag stacks of stuff to the Buttonforge Bar. Need to know how many ogre stones I have in my bag? It’s on the bar. Mighty traps? Yup, that too. Woot! One bar 3 buttons wide and 14 rows long and I’m golden. Room for my mounts and their keybinds, hearthstones, logout macro, food and buffs . . . awesome.

Resetting the interface

Resetting the interface

Complete fail

One of the things I found so awesome about the gnomes was the charm and good cheer universally exhibited by this race of little people, a real can-do attitude that makes them fun to be around.  Blizz, in it’s obviously less than stellar wisdom has, in the new racial models, completely stepped into the weeds.

Here’s my lovely Moema, a charming and beautiful zen monk.

Moema, charming, zen and lovely.

Moema, charming, zen and lovely.


Here’s the new model. I don’t know whose dumbass idea this was but I don’t even want to KNOW this toon let alone play her. Fail Blizz. HUGE fail.

The new model, a toon I don't want to know let alone play.

The new model, a toon I don’t want to know let alone play.

Horde as palette cleanser

In the world of WoW, once you get a toon to 90 you’re doing the same thing every day with few breaks in the routine.  Day in and day out, it’s daily creation, farming, 20 rares on Timeless. When you have seven 90s, things get stale and boring REALLY fast.  In short order it becomes mind numbing.

I happened to be online when a close friend popped in . . . to do her daily creations and farming, of course.  She told me about a group from our guild who had started a horde guild and were playing horde toons on another server.  My immediate thought was . . . ooo!  Guildees playing somewhere else?  As horde?  Ooo!  A new place to use all that heirloom equipment I bought to level my alliance toons!

My friend said she had started a single toon there and was lamenting the lack of bag space and the difficulties involved in soloing without support.  That’s something I hadn’t run into very often as I had leveled most of my toons nearly simultaneously and their professions supported one another.  So . . . what if I tried to duplicate that in a much tighter group . . . something with fewer than 9 toons?

So, I’ve started five horde toons; troll druid (herbalism/inscription), orc mage (tailoring/enchanting), tauren monk (skinning/alchemist), tauren paladin (blacksmithing/mining) and goblin rogue (engineering/jewelcrafting).  I’ve covered all professions with the exception of leatherworking which was not fun to level.  I’ve done it once and would like to never have to repeat it.  Never fear, I have a plan . . .

Once I get this stable of toons to 60 I will start a death knight.  I will start leatherworking and skinning on that toon and, once the DK is 60, I will use the account upgrade instant 90 buff to level the toon AND the profession.  Problem solved.

So let’s see how well 10 professions can be crammed into five toons . . . and how well only three doing gathering can support all.

And the palette cleanser bit?  I was happy to do my farming and daily creation because I had something else to look forward to when I was finished.  Go me!

Key layout is key

 

Overall layout

Overall layout

I’ve gone through a number of iterations of addons.  The one I’m most thankful for is Bartender 4.  For a newbie or someone who doesn’t see well, being able to move and expand the action bars is a godsend.

Closer look

Closer look

Having a mouse with enough buttons to handle all the toon’s movement (Anker 11 button gaming mouse) lets me keep my right hand for movement and pointing and my left for casting. Beauty.