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Addon Spotlight: Mists of Pandaria Beta UI upgrades

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.

As one of the fortunate few with a Mists of Pandaria beta invite at this time, I have been excitedly snapping screenshots of some of the UI changes coming in the next expansion. While we still have not yet seen the Pet Battle system interface, arguably the biggest UI reveal this go-around, there are still a few tweaks to the game that are deserving of being pointed out. More quality of life improvements than anything, the changes to WoW so far in the Mists beta have been straightforward and welcome additions.

I figured that since this is the beta process that we as a community can provide some feedback even if you haven't had a chance to see these tools in action. Since the tools are mostly quality-of-life improvements and not "boots on the ground," experience-dependent changes, these changes are something we can discuss and hopefully make better before the launch.

Since this is the beta, things can and will change dramatically. This is only a quick look at some of the features and changes coming in Mists of Pandaria. As new features open up, like the aforementioned Pet Battles, I will be more than happy to show them to you. If you are in the Mists of Pandaria beta and want to help me out with some UI testing and screenshots or you're an addon developer looking to talk about your new Mists of Pandaria addons in the works, send me an email at mat@wowinsider.com.

Dungeon and Raid Finders share an office

Having two windows for both the Dungeon and the Raid Finder was a quick fix for the time being, but we knew it could never last. Blizzard has smashed together both the Dungeon and Raid Finders into one interface element and tacked on the Scenario Finder and Challenge Mode interface. Now, if you want to do random PvE content, be it groups, raids, scenarios, or challenges, you only have to press one button.

I feel like this is a long time coming for most of WoW's systems. Since I've never been a fan of drop-down menus because they hide information from you, I've always wanted WoW to move toward this type of tabbed window approach for these elements. The character pane, while not the best example, is a better example than nothing. The tabbed browsing makes each section unique, while still letting you know that all of these window options are available to you. One of the biggest reasons I love the new reforging interface is because the drop-down menus are gone and now, in plain sight, I have every one of my options available to me.

Temporary verdict Anything that gets rid of multiple windows and frames is good in my book. Pressing I on your keyboard, by default, is the new "Let's do some random PvE" button. You'll be pressing it often.

Active and passive spellbook listings

The spellbook has a new layout that clumps all of your skills together into two categories, active and passive. Active skills are those that are triggered or activated through a click or action bar press. Passive skills are those that you get from talents or specialization that change the way your character interacts with stats and abilities, but you don't have to activate them -- the game will. When those Blizzard notifications pop up that an ability is ready because you did a special crit or another ability refreshed a different active's cooldown, a passive has done its work.

Blizzard has split these active and passive abilities and spells into two catgories to alleviate some player confusion about which abilities go on the bar and which stay in the book. I'll be honest, it's very hard to get people to read stuff in this game sometimes.

I think the spellbook needs to go further. I wouldn't mind seeing active spells and abilities broken down further into offensive and defensive abilities. The spec tabs are gone, meaning all of your abilities (that are defined by spec more so than talents or class now) are fewer and more manageable but still daunting.

Temporary verdict Go further with the spellbook. Active and passive is a good first start, but more categories could help a lot of players who just want to know which buttons hurt and which buttons help.

Vendor filters

Discovered only recently because of the new beta patch, Blizzard has implemented a vendor filter system that allows players to sort through the various items a vendor has available for purchase. Players can search by their spec to only get the gear that has stats pertinent to that role, or by Bind on Equip, making searching for items on heirloom or valor point vendors to send to alts easier than ever. This quality-of-life type of upgrade has been in game for some time now via addons, most notably Gnomish Vendor Shrinker and Goblin Vendor Filter.

Temporary vedict WoW has the unique advantage of players being able to fix issues like this before Blizzard can. Players want to fix these issues because they want their community and game to grow. Blizzard gets more hands on deck, as it were, for the little things, and players get to exert control over the world they choose to be a part of. Win win. There is no temporary verdict here -- this rules. Expand it more, please.

New buffs interface

Ghostcrawler's insightful blog post detailed the meat of the matter: Mists of Pandaria will pare down the number of buffs players can bring to a raid to eight. These eight buffs include:
  • Stats (+5% strength, agility, intellect)
  • Stamina (+10% stamina)
  • Attack Power (+10% melee and ranged attack power)
  • Spell Power (+10% spell power)
  • Haste (+10% melee and ranged haste)
  • Spell Haste (+5% spell haste)
  • Critical Strike (+5% ranged, melee, and spell critical chance)
  • Mastery (+5 mastery)
These eight buffs make tracking buffs easier and makes it simpler for groups to provide for the raid with a great variation of group composition. The new interface provides slots for all eight buffs and is easily accessible just by hovering over the consolidation box. No more will your player buffs be unconsolidated -- the option is even removed from the interface options.

Below the consolidation box is a counter letting you know how many of the eight buffs you currently have cast on you. If you're still sitting at six of eight when the pull is called, you better let your raid leader know he gets to fire someone tonight. (It was probably a priest -- let's be honest.) More combinations of classes will be able to provide the full spectrum of buffs, making fielding raid groups a bit more forgiving.

Temporary verdict I like the simplicity of the new buff design and especially the UI element for it. "There are empty places on this UI element where there should be things," says the player, "so I shall strive to fill them." The new interface says, "You should pay attention to this" without hard, confusing lingo. Also, the addon potential for these eight buffs and the little window seems good.

The beta has only just begun, and more is on the way. As new interface elements sneak their way into the beta, I'll be sure to show them off for you guys. Until then, if there is anything you'd like to see from the Mists of Pandaria early beta test and content, please let me know in the comments or by sending me an email to mat@wowinsider.com. I'll try my best to accomodate as many requests as I can, potentially as an Addon Spotlight column.

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, Mists of Pandaria

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