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Addon Spotlight: A UI primer for returning WoW players

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.

World of Warcraft experienced numerous cataclysms over the last year and a half as Blizzard, the community, and everything in between had a weird hiccup moment. Mists of Pandaria seems to be shaping up to pull many lapsed players back into the World of Warcraft ranks, and the Scroll of Resurrection is a none-too-subtle way of facilitating that goal. Old players who thought WoW was down and out have been pulled back because of instant access to a lot of the features once reserved for the especially dedicated.

Last week, I gave you some tips on what to install on your brand new player's game in order to facilitate a smoother first-game experience. This week, we're going to address old players from all past eras of WoW's lifespan and help them get back into the game without too many bumps along the way. It's a very different game, but the core components are exactly the same. Blizzard correctly pointed out that when WoW's got you and your character's boots on the ground, the game works the best.

But first, before we begin with the article proper, I wanted to proclaim victory for the WoW community with regard to AoE looting. Blizzard has announced that AoE looting will be making the release of Mists of Pandaria, and I could not be happier. I've been championing AoE looting for some time now, and I want to send the happiest thoughts possible to the dev who got this feature on the launch list. You have no idea what types of quality of life changes that this will bring to everything from old raid farming to time spent waiting around in dungeons.

The addon community and the addons we use

For players who were active in the Wrath of the Lich King days, addons and the addon community have not changed too drastically. The basic layout is similar, with new improvements to Blizzard's own default UI actually taking center stage over any one particular addon. Addons just got better, smaller, or more efficient. Your old favorites are most likely around. Some addons like AVR were outright disabled by Blizzard, whereas Poison Swapper by Antiarc forced a rogue gameplay change that had some significant DPS ramifications.

If you were active in classic or The Burning Crusade, things have changed radically since you last played. Many improvements to the UI, including the brand new Finder systems, raid frames, and more are concepts and features once only relegated to addons.

In fact, I recommend that old players begin from the very beginning -- as in, don't install a single addon. Get a feel for the new UI and features that come with it. Form up a raid with a friend and just get somewhat accustomed to the new feel and the new look of some of the UI elements. Target things and see what happens. Do new screens or windows pop up? Just let yourself get comfortable. Don't worry about setting up your UI compilation pack yet.

Inventory has only gotten better

One of the biggest advancements in the game's addon lineup has been bags and inventory management. Back in the day, new bag mods were all about one-bagging it (not what you think it means, pervert) and text search (exactly what you think it means, pervert). These days, the Blizzard bag system hasn't really changed much except for the addition of easier to attain bags and a search feature. Bag mods, however, have become an entire new beast all together.

Addons like AdiBags, ArkInventory, and others have changed the inventory game significantly with complicated sorting rules, auto-combines on stacks, one-button inventory clean-up, and built-in item location based on character. Adding on a ton of functionality to your inventory is a good way to slip back into the addon game and understand how to go about things again. Get back up on that bicycle, and all that.

New UI and game play systems in Wrath and Cataclysm

Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm were two of the most important expansions in WoW's life because of the introduction of the Dungeon and Raid Finder tools. These tools allow a player to queue up for a random dungeon or raid, removing the complicated time commitments and logistical elements of the previous generation's hardcore raiding. Now, all players can experience the same content at varying difficulty levels with appropriate rewards and challenges based on how dedicated you want to be.

While many say these systems have attacked the local server community, new communities have sprung up to quickly replace a dwindling of the numbers in the town square. The naysayers were wrong; Blizzard reported that an exponentially larger number of people have been experiencing, enjoying, and completing raid encounters, and more content has never been available to so many players.

Using these features is quite easy. To open the Dungeon Finder, the default key is I or the Dungeon Finder icon on the menu bar. To open the Raid Finder, press Ctrl+I or look for the Raid Finder icon in the menu bar. Remember, in order to participate in the Raid Finder or Dungeon Finder, you will need the appropriate gear. Open your character pane with C and look at the stats under the General drop-down. Your average ilevel will be displayed here so that you can keep track of your gear progression and new dungeons and challenges become available.

Many new types of gear vendors

There are a whole bunch of new ways to purchase gear in Cataclysm that are markedly different from the ways you acquired gear in the previous expansions. Well, not really. Tokens are points, badges are points, gear tokens are still tokens, and your currency tab will probably still scare you. Whatever. Get AtlasLoot.

Yes, AtlasLoot. Every piece of gear from sets, vendors, and their associated costs are all within this addon. Sure, it runs big, but it has to when it's jam-packed with information goodness. AtlasLoot is like a soggy, overflowing cream puff from Beard Papa's that closed on Broadway a while ago ... and now I'm sad and want a cream puff.

Everyone asked if AtlasLoot would stay relevant after Blizzard put together the Dungeon Journal, a guide that shows off boss abilities and loot tables, and I think we have the answer. With gear lists, wish lists, and tons of information for the new-old player, AtlasLoot is one of those addons that just isn't going anywhere.

Download AtlasLoot at [Curse] and [WoWInterface].

If you've got any tips for returning players who are coming into the World of Warcraft with a whole new outlook on the interface and addon scene, post them in the comments for all to see.

See you guys next week.

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.

Filed under: Add-Ons, AddOn Spotlight

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