Sunday, December 14, 2008

Addon Happiness: Light-Weight, Focused Info

Like a lot of WoW players, I like having more information than the basic user interface provides on display for my immediate referral. But the added graphical detail and other rich goodness in Wrath of the Lich King taxes the resources of my computer, which is really right near the low end of acceptable capability to run the game at all. So I'd settled in to mostly doing with out, and mostly doing just fine with it—we're talking here much more about convenience than necessity.

On the other hand, what's wrong with convenience as a concern? It is, after all, a game. At this point, enter my friend Bryant Durrell with advice of the sort he's been dispensing as long as I've known him.

The Foundation. It turns out that there's now a library of programming goodies called LibDataBroker, that provides a very light-weight, focused, efficient way for addons to pass information around. Using them is a two-step deal: you get the addons that gather the info you're interested in, and a display addon that lets you see what you've got. If you ever used something like Titan Panel or FuBar, you know the drill; it's just that the Data Broker apps do it more compactly.

Where They Hang Out. Seems like WoW Interface has the big listing—nearly a hundred of them at the moment, between display and data addons.

What I've Got. Bryant suggested Fortress, and it's suiting me fine. There are others, and none of them shrieked "Beware!", but I like the way Fortress works.

The first thing I wanted was a simple DPS meter. I've been using Recount, but realized that it was probably contributing to my lag problems. (The non-technical version: WoW makes a huge amount of data available to players and their software. Actually gathering and using it, however, requires extra packets zinging around. And when your system's having trouble keeping up with the stock stuff—the images and sounds, and the data necessary for play at all—this can be a trouble-making burden. I wanted to see if I could shuck most of that load without losing info on my own characters' performance.) And sure enough there are several. As with display addons, I started with Bryant's recommendation, StatBlock DPS, and it's also serving me as well as any of the alternatives.

Here it is in action, as Tivara and Sagarmatha about their Sons of Hodir daily quests:

StatBlock DPS

That, friends and readers, is about as minimal as it gets. But y'know what? It's what I want. It's enough for me to judge the performance of the moment.

In addition, I'm using StatBlock Coords for coordinates:

StatBlock Coords

And also StatBlock Money and StatBlock Ammo to track just what you'd think with each:

StatBlock Money and StatBlock Ammo

Youll notice that while I have DPS and coordinates showing as simple white text with transparent background, money and ammo are in bordered and shaded little frames. Each of these frames is movable and adjustable. That's part of what the display addons like Fortress do—they offer control over the display in a variety of ways:

Fortress configuration

There are option in there I'm probably never going to use, but I like knowing that I could adjust them if I wanted to.

Data Broker and Other Addons. If you peer at the screenshot just above, you'll notice that Fortress has entries for Omen and oRA2. If I enable them in Fortress, I get more lil' individual buttons that give me pop-up access to configuration options, just like with Titan Panel or FuBar. LibDataBroker (LDB) support is something that's apparently easy for addon authors to include, a lot are, so that a Data Broker display addon can handle a whole lot of stuff.

Yes, But So What? A more responsive system, that's what! Dropping Recount, HavocCoords, and a few other odds and ends in favor of these has cut my load time for Dalaran in just about exactly half, and I've picked up 5-8 frames per second in boss fights in heroic instances and raids. I am noticeably better protected from timeouts caused by network lag.

This makes me both a happier player, and a better one. If you'd like to be fooling around with addons but don't have the capacity (or interest) to handle a high resource look, check out the Data Broker world.


Ian Watson said...

Unforutunately, one of the things I want most out of a coords addon is the ability to display both my coordinates and cursor coordinates on the world map.

Other than that, great finds, and thanks for posting!