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Addon Spotlight: Blizzard's built-in raid profiles

Each week, WoW Insider's Mathew McCurley brings you a fresh look at reader-submitted UIs as well as Addon Spotlight, which focuses on the backbone of the WoW gameplay experience: the user interface. Everything from bags to bars, buttons to DPS meters and beyond -- your addons folder will never be the same.

Welcome to Magical Mat's Addonitorium and Fun Palace, where all of your user interface and addon dreams come true! Gaze at the mystical River of Lua. Treat your eyes to the unbridled spectacle of the Profile Forest. Enter, if you dare, the dreaded Cave of Errors ... Actually, I lied. There isn't an Addonitorium; it's just my living room. The Fun Palace is a closet with a vacuum and a Swiffer. The wet kind of Swiffer.

This week's addon really isn't an addon, but I think that the functionality that this feature provides -- and provides for everyone regardless of what you download -- has changed a great deal for the better over time. With patch 4.2, Blizzard introduced a new Raid Profiles interface option for players to tinker with. Customization on a Blizzard feature? Say it ain't so! Credit where credit is due, kind readers, for Blizzard is on the path to perfection with these additions to its new raid frames.

Not a new story

This is not a new story; Blizzard has been steadily updating the built-in raid frames over the course of WoW's life to achieve better default raid frame functionality. Raid frames have always been regarded as domain of addons like Grid, Vuhdo, and CT_Raid, where better customization and a better "understanding" of the players' needs shone through the flimsy first attempts at making raid groups manageable.

As time went on, pieces of the addon community began to find their way into World of Warcraft, and the clamor never died down for better raid frames. Eventually, Blizzard's default raid frames began to resemble Grid, with a unique UI pop-out side raid interface that contained a menu of options, including flares, role checks, ready checks, group toggles, and much more. This was lofty progress.

It was a treat to see Blizzard take this angle with its very own raid frames. In the past, Blizzard has been adamant about not stepping into certain categories of addons and including its own versions of these popular additions without either good reason or to not promote a certain type of behavior in game. For a long time, players wanted a GearScore equivalent to stop the gear score social issue that crept into the game during Wrath of the Lich King. With the new ilevel system, Blizzard's own gear number, the problem still exists somewhat.

Players have also been asking for in-game Recount, a Blizzard take on DPS meters, which have been denied due to the fact that while DPS is a factor and a design element Blizzard uses to build encounters, it's still a feature that makes the game too reliant on numbers.

The new raid frames

We've come a long way in regards to the raid frames. CT_Raid showed us that things didn't have to be the way they always were. Grid and other similar addons gave us better debuff monitoring and a smaller footprint on the screen. Blizzard's raid frames get us most of the way there, and the new raid profiles get us even closer.

To access the new raid frames options, hop into your interface options from the main menu and select Raid Profiles. You are greeted with a window of options that will allow you to set and save profiles based on character, specialization, or anything your imaginative mind can think of.

The top-most check box allows you to use the Grid-like raid frames as your default party frames. Rather than using the bulky party frames, many players prefer the slimmed-down box style of the raid frames. The Auto-Activate check box under this option allows you to set when the box-style raid frames will go into effect, including options for all types of group sizes, your two talent specs (you might not want the raid frames when you are DPS but only while healing), and whether you are in a PVE or PVP zone. Just click the check boxes for all that you wish to apply.

Made with healers in mind

Really, the group of players most affected by raid frames and the options they provide is healers. Raid healing has become more challenging since the days of CT_raid and old-school Decursive. Dispelling has become mana-intensive, and healers work triage instead of topping everyone off at all times with spammable Chain Heals. The raid frames and the options they allow you to tinker with must take away some of the guesswork with healing.

Blizzard's raid profiles allow you to set the frames to display incoming heals to minimize the amount of overhealing or double-up heals you will hit on targets. Displaying Power Bars will let you see other players' mana, energy, rage, and all of that good stuff to gauge when to use a mana cooldown or mana restoration ability for your raid. Displaying the main tank and assist will help focus tank healers without having to whack-a-mole their way through the raid frames to find their target tank. Finally, healers will want to have debuffs shown on the raid frames to accurately be able to work with dispels and can even set the frames to only show debuffs that they themselves can dispel. These are all excellent features healers should have by default.

Showing health is also a tricky subject for healers, as some prefer seeing health levels as deficits rather than full pools, which can help gauge what type of heal is needed at any specific moment. The built-in raid profiles allow you to set health as health remaining, health lost, or a health percentage, giving most types of healers options for their preferred way of viewing health and health-related numbers.

The basics

Allowing you to set the frame's height and width is a no-brainer, but it's fairly new for Blizzard. Usually, UI elements are static things, with a very defined motif set up around the average player's needs. With addons and UI mods, this obviously all changed, and Blizzard has been slowly adding into the game more focus on customization.

There are still some basics missing from the Blizzard raid frames/profiles that Grid and healer-focused frames like Vuhdo and Healbot feature, like making it easy to bind spells to mouse clicks, but Blizzard is upgrading the basics to what is under everyone's hood, regardless of what you've installed.

Profiles

The last thing I wanted to say was that I am extremely happy that Blizzard has created a profile system for raid frames, because it signals the beginnings of a profile system for most of the in-game options. Currently, you can create profiles for which addons to turn on per character, but each addon requires its own, personal profile system in game. I am hoping that one day we get a much more streamlined profile system that maybe even Blizzard leads the charge with. Saving and creating profiles for gear with the built-in equipment manager has become a much better experience, and the new raid profiles system will hopefully lead the way to bigger and better things.

Can you tell that I like when Blizzard makes such awesome changes to the interface? While the Blizzard frames will not be replacing my Grid setup just yet, new players and addon-lite players have a capable and feature-rich raid frame built in to the game that is getting progressively better and more useful. No matter what else you have installed, we all now have this basic quality-of-life feature that has evolved through the game's lifespan through the community letting Blizzard know what they want.

Download the Blizzard raid profiles at [it's already installed].

Addons are what we do on Addon Spotlight. If you're new to mods, Addons 101 will walk you through the basics; see what other players are doing at Reader UI of the Week. If there's a mod you think Addon Spotlight should take a look at, email mat@wowinsider.com and follow him on Twitter @gomatgo.

Filed under: Add-Ons, AddOn Spotlight

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