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3 makeover suggestions for WoW's default UI

The default World of Warcraft user interface has undergone some excellent changes over the last few months. After the Shattering and Cataclysm, loads of new UI features were implemented and improved upon. In the future, even more tweaks are being added, with the addition of enhanced dungeon maps and other goodies for lore buffs. I can honestly say that right out of the box, the WoW user interface is better today than ever.

However, there are still improvements that could be made, most of them in areas that just haven't been updated in a good long while. I've got a list of three pieces of the UI that I believe could use a makeover.

Battlegrounds

Everything about battlegrounds has been changing for the better lately, with the absolutely awesome Battle for Gilneas (Nordenwatch 2.0) and Twin Peaks. For some reason, however, we are still left with the old, original battleground menu, complete with scroll bar. I am under the impression that scroll bars are nasty design, mostly because I do not have all the options present in front of me without having to do a little digging for information.

What can be done? One of the ways that I think the battleground selection menu could be improved would be to make it a little bit more like the archaeology menu, in which each battleground has an icon in addition to a plain text name. You could keep the window the same size but use icons for the battlegrounds, which open into the bottom window area to display the story, lore, and mechanics of that specific battleground.

Inventory

The bag inventory has been one of the mainstays of World of Warcraft since the beginning and hasn't changed much at all in the course of the game's life. Inventory in general is a hard nut to crack, and Blizzard has done a pretty darn good job with its inventory system. For a long time (and it is hard for me to confess), I never used a bag mod because I could easily arrange my items bag by bag on my own, never letting an addon do the work for me.

Right now, the inventory system that comes default in WoW is satisfactory. It gets the job done, but addons have been bringing some much needed customization to the party.

What can be done? One of the biggest concerns that I have when using the default inventory in WoW is that quest items are sometimes hard to find. ArkInventory, my addon of choice right now for inventory management, allows me to create a bag that places all of my quest items into it. I think the WoW inventory system would benefit greatly from a bag for quest items only, much like how Warhammer Online kept your quest items in a separate place. Not only does this cut down on clutter in your main inventory, but it allows players a little wiggle room when accepting or completing quests with a full or near full inventory. I know that I have had to drop things from my bag when picking up quest items because I forgot to sell.

The second thing that I wish the default inventory system had is an auto-combine feature -- one little button that could be pressed to auto-combine disparate items into stacks. Sometimes I have lost a ton of inventory space because I had no idea some items could be combined because they were hanging around in different bags. Auto-combine would be real nice and probably an easy addition.

Health and mana bars

Something that has always bugged me about the default player frames is the thinness of the health and mana bars in relation to how important they are as well as the size of the unit frame. Addons solve this problem, of course, but a lot of players love the Warcraft look of the default player and unit frames. I have to agree -- I still think the art is classic, and I used the defaults for a long, long time. However, having the actual plain text number on those thin bars always frustrated me, and in these days of mana conservation and watching those meters even more carefully, things might need to be thickened up.

What can be done? Give players a few options for their user frames. Maybe offer a default, then add in a thicker health/mana bar version for players with less-than-perfect eyesight or who just like a more manageable health bar. I know that Blizzard can purposefully leave out a lot of options due to the prolific number of addons out there that serve this purpose, but the default player and unit frames have always been a sore spot for me.

What do you think is ready for an overhaul on the default WoW interface? Every expansion has granted us some awesome new features for what many consider the best and most flexible user interface in MMO gaming now. I always look forward to new interface additions.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Add-Ons

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