Posts Tagged ‘addons’


Kong – king of casual UI mods


A while ago I came across a post on WoWInsider highlighting an add-on called ‘Kong‘. Back then, it didn’t seem worth the trouble of setting up. But since I’ve started doing to Stormwind cooking and fishing dailies, I also started thinking: “Do I really need all this useless UI elements when I’m sitting on a bench on the shore of Olivias Pond?”

The answer, of course, is “No, I don’t”. But then, Alt-Z’ing the UI hides some information I do want. Like, how many more fish do I need to catch? Alright, so the sounds of QuestGuru help with that, but still. Or a glimpse of the minimap would be nice – the least intrusive UI element there is.

So, I finally headed back to Kong and installed and configured it. Really, a video would be best to explain how it works, but instead, I made a few screenshots showing it in action.

Click to enlarge!



Travel mode - most of the UI is hidden




Mouseover the QuestGuru frames




Casting mode - Unit frames unhidden and action bars partially visible




Combat mode - all bars and frames visible




Back to travel mode - note that all popups open with 100% alpha



One thing to note is that you have to set it up completely yourself, but it’s very easy to do so. All you need is the frames you want to edit open on your screen – the rest is done with a few clicks.


In sickness and in health


Just my usual luck: The week the big 4.0.1 hits, I’m completely ill with a high fever. Nevertheless, I managed to get about an hour of playtime in with my Druid yesterday, and here are the cliff-notes:

30 is the new 20

Yes, I finally did it. My druid took a whole month to get from 20 to 30, but I think he’s starting to be more fun now so that future levels will be a bit more, well, fun to play. It also means I switch characters again, but that’s more than okay, as I need to adjust to the new talents in the patch anyway. Probably my warlock will go first, since she now also got a new demon (Felguard) to play with.

Crash and burn

Not all, not even most but a few critical addons. QuestGuru was broken, but got fixed pretty fast. For a few other addons I’m still holding my breath, but in general there were fewer errors than I thought. Auctioneer seems broken, though, which is a major setback.


Gorgeous. And still pretty easy on the hardware. On my five year old PC, I still turn everything up to ‘ultra’ except shadows – and that only because I like the graphics on ‘high’ better. The additional ground-clutter alone makes a huge difference. Add to that a bit more view-distance and you got a whole new game, right now. Also fantastic are the water reflections. I urge you, turn liquids up to ‘ultra’ and go to, say, Ru’theran Village when it’s raining. It is simply beautiful.


Well, Talented doesn’t work, but the new talent trees are just as good – my main complaint was that I couldn’t see all of it at one glance. Now I can. They seem to read my blog, because the Druid changes are exactly what I wanted to make it more fun playing one. The tree themselves seem a bit more condensed, but I’ll wait and see how it works out in the long run. So far, though, I’m quite happy.

The verdict

If this patch is any indication for Cataclysm performance on your hardware (and I think it is), you can all relax. My ancient rig still manages 60 FPS in most scenes – and with ENBseries doing it’s magic, I’m still well over 30 FTP. That is enough for an MMO. In fact, I’d say performance has increased after the patch.

Visuals are good, I can’t wait to see what the actual Cataclysm will bring. Talent and class changes so far also seem to hit the spot, although I can only speak for the solo and questing faction.

Ready for Cataclysm? I think we are!


The GearScore fallacy


Vacation time means catching up with one thing. Gaming, and sleeping. Two things. Vacation time means catching up with two things: Gaming, sleeping and blogging. Three. Three things…

Before this ventures too far into the surreal world of Monty Python, something completely different.

I read Gevlon’s blog. Most of the time I don’t agree with him, for the simple reason that I don’t think he ‘gets’ why people play games and his poor understanding of what ‘being social’ means. But that is not the point at hand. Occasionally, I come across a post that I do agree with. In this case, a rather old post, titled GearScore Failure.

He proposes that, in a casual environment (pugging, in his example), GearScore is actually inversely proportional to player skill. The reasoning – in my own words – is thus.

Acquiring gear is mostly a function of time spent. While time spent also equals experience (as a player) gained, this ratio varies wildly. A skilled player is someone with a high ratio of time spent to skill gained. An unskilled, carried player is someone whose ratio nears zero. Both type of player, though, acquire roughly the same amount of gear.

Now for context. In a casual environment, what type of player is more likely to apply for a pug? A skilled player that is himself more likely to be in an actual raiding guild? Or a player whose applications get turned down again and again because of a lack of actual playing skill? You can’t see the skill. But you can see the GearScore. And since time spent equals gear, skill equals time spent to skill gain and skill gain means higher probability of raiding guild membership – high GearScore in pugs means probably not much playing skill.

Probably. Of course there are a ton of exceptions. It also depends on how high you set the bar for being a skilled player. Or an okay player at the least. But factoring in other outside elements, such as character name and general demeanour in chat, you should be quickly able to discern into which category the player falls.

Why am I posting about this, anyway?

Enter the casual player.

Time spent means gear. Or rather, time spent raiding means gear. Time spent questing means less gear. But time spent no matter what means skill gained. Granted, the ratio is potentially higher when raiding, but still. Skill gained, in this case means nothing at all for guild membership. To get that gear, though, a casual has to spend more time questing and soloing instances. Whether soloing instances is still casual is open for debate, I say yes. More time spent means a higher potential skill gain. Soloing can be quite stressful, and a good training ground for improvisation and quickly adapting to new situations.

So, since a skilled raiding player won’t apply to pugs (he will, but for the sake of argument, he’ll be the exception), we have two players applying for the pug run: One with a high GearScore and dubious guild membership and one with a medium to low GearScore and no guild membership. Unless both have the same dismal outside factors in chat, the low-GearScore casual is not only much more pleasant to run with, but also probably more skilled. Go with the casual. You’re doing yourself and everybody else a big favour.


A weekend recap


This weekend marked the first time in quite a few weeks that I had more than enough time to play WoW. So I spend two happy afternoons levelling my rogue, who was the lowest level of all my characters. That spot is now firmly in the grasp of my druid and, frankly, I don’t think he’ll relinquish that one any time soon. Even the Worgen priest (and I don’t like priests) who is forming in my mind has a fair chance of catching up once Cataclysm is out.

Take a long look - it's all going to change!

So, instead of boring you with yet another post on low-level content, I bring you my current favourite zone – Wetlands. A rare shot with one of my characters in it, unedited.

I also found out that MobInfo already does what I’m coding at the moment. Well, partly. Not exactly what I want, anyway. So, I continued working on my add-on and am happy to say that it now actually displays something that vaguely resembles a scrollable list. It also record critter kills, which came as a completely unexpected bonus.


LUA – Geekfaktor +20


I admit, I am a computer person. Obviously. I am also a software developer. And frankly, it shows.

While levelling my rogue, I had the urge to track how many kills of what gave me how many XP. A quick search on yielded no suitable results, though. However, coding an addon can’t be that hard, right? Right. Granted, there is no UI yet, but LUA scripting is easy enough, even if I couldn’t find a good, free IDE other than my trusty Notepad++. And so I wrote my first line of LUA yesterday.

And so, from a simple welcome-on-login script, to event handling to persisting structures in database-like tables and showing various bits and pieces of information in tooltips (How many kills of this mob? How many XP can I expect based on past performance?), code is growing. It is fun and strangely relaxing.

No deadlines. No feature requests. Just looking through the API for cool sounding functions and seeing if I can use them. Going over code-snippets on WoWProgramming and saying “Hey, that’s nice, I could change this bit and add that bit and then do something completely different altogether but thanks for the idea”. Seeing representations of my data structures flow by in the chat. Watch new lines magically appear in tooltips (but only when I want them to, i.e. with modifier key press).

Coding for the sake of coding.

My tip: If you’ve never done that, do it. Now. I mean, right now. Go to WoWWiki, API documentation and write an addon that does nothing more than pop up a messagebox greeting you with character title, character name and welcoming you back to the region you are in. Optionally address yourself with different wording depending on your character’s gender.

Ten minutes of code, endless hours of joy seeing your work appear in the game.


Gnome at heart


The world cup craze is getting slightly more sane – there are now only two games per day instead of three. And unlike other nations (England *cough* France), Germany is still in the running.

So what does a casual gamer do during a thirty minute break between two matches of football? Fire up World of Warcraft of course! But thirty minutes is quite a short time, even if you only want to grind a few mobs and maybe do a quest or two. Thank god the auction house is available on the iPhone, or thirty minutes would be gone without getting any actual playing done!

The question still remains, however. And I found a perfect answer – for me at least. Macro design and PowerAuras.

Now, I have a history with macroing in games. Back in my Counterstrike days, way, WAY before it went commercial or Steam, a long time before anybody at Valve thought of including favourites or predefined sets of equipment, I built a whole inventory / shop system, complete with intelligent decision what side you were playing, memorising your selections and able to preset your next buy during play and then just committing it with a single button. And all that with nothing more available than the ‘keypress’ command (for selecting menu entries), the ‘alias’ and ‘bindkey’.0

So when I found out that WoW includes a nice macro language, I was ecstatic. And I’m not even talking about the ability to run LUA scripts directly from within the game, something that I as a software developer find particularly interesting. No, the very basic macro commands, with their simple conditionals and modifiers and no logic at all. In my opinion, how much you can achieve with these simple tools is nothing short of amazing.

Everybody has written the odd castsequence for their mage. But how about a macro for their warrior to execute either Overpower or Revenge, depending on your stance? Still a simple line of ‘code’1, but it merges two of your skill buttons into a single one. Of course you can also page your action bar, but if you’re like me, then even the best paging has its limits when there are simple so many things to put on bars.

PowerAuras are another thing. I like them. They’re shiny. They remind me of things I need to do. They’re casual, although not trivial to set up correctly. I use a mix of global auras and ‘personalised’ auras for each character – very effective so far – basically, the goal is to not have an aura on screen. If there’s an aura, there’s something I should do about it. Either an ability goes unused, a buff un-buffed or maybe I should consider my options of retreat and regroup.

You can even chain several auras together to check for multiple conditions – something that I use on my warrior to show the correct auras only when I’m in a stance that could use them.

However, where it really gets amazing is the combination of PowerAuras and macros. Specifically, the ‘ability usable’ part of PowerAuras. What counts here is, according to the documentation, the name of the ability on the action bar. Or the macro. That means that you can set up a few auras to check for combat status and stance. Then your macro has one or two conditionals that ‘branch’2 for two different abilities. And your final aura checks for the aura chain and your macro.

Congratulations, that’s a hell of a lot of logic you were able to create for displaying the correct symbol on your screen and then doing something about it by reflexively pressing a button – no matter what stance you are in. And you can delete the unneeded abilities themselves from your action bars.

Yes, I am a software developer, so I find these things almost, if not more, fun than actually playing the game. But maybe I’m just a Gnome at heart – tinkering with things, in the case of auras often on the fly while in combat to see if they behave correctly, and watching things blow up in my face when they don’t.3

0) Actual names of the commands may have been slightly different, this was 11 years ago.
1) Macro writing is not writing code. Not is writing HTML, but that is an issue for another day or blog.
2) That’s not really a branch, but it is an abbreviated if statement, or case statement.
3) There’s actually a pretty funny story how I nearly TK’d a teammate during a critical league match because I set my controls to the wrong ‘mode’ in the initial buy phase. But that is definitely a story for another blog.


A fresh look


Time for spring cleaning. And with that, SpartanUI finally had to go. It felt too clunky, too heavy – I’m a big fan of a transparent UI that only fades to opaque when needed. So I ditched Spartan, and Bartender as well. Instead, I’m now using Dominos, which offers nearly all features of Bartender (can’t figure out auto-paging yet), but has a graphical interface for arranging the bars and manipulating the looks.

The rest of the UI got rearranged a bit as well, to go with the new, cleaner, more spacious look of Dominos. For the minimap I chose Chinchilla, way better than SexyMap in my opinion. No unneccessary fluff and bling, instead a few good options and features.

A cleaner UI

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the current look, but there are still a few thingsĀ  bothering me. The standard chatframe, for example. Even with Chatter and Fontifier, the look of it annoys me. I want to fade it out completely, or have it pop up like the WIM windows. But WIM can’t hook the system channels, only player chat.

Still, a huge improvement over my last version – you can still compare it on my addon page, which I’ll update on the weekend – lots of changes there.