Saturday, February 14, 2009

Raid frame challenge Part 1: Grid

Once I began to write everything up, I realised how much information there was to share - even though I'm really only writing about the parts of the mod that I personally make use of. I think I will need to break it up into the following format:

Part 1a: Grid    What can Grid do? Where does it let you down?
Part 1b: Healbot - impressions as a new user    What's great about Healbot? What's a pain?
Part 1c: Grid & Healbot side by side    How do they compare - can Healbot do what Grid does?

For simplicity I will add these parts to my sidebar so that they're easy to find later.

There are features and modules that I don't use but many people do, for example showing tanks, using dynamic layout, etc. I can't possibly go through all the different options because it would take forever (and I would undoubtedly miss a bunch anyway), so instead I'll be going through the common things that I personally need to see on my raid frames. I'll assess the common things such as aesthetics, ease of use, HoT tracking, buffs.

Obviously that means that this won't be a comprehensive comparison of the mods, comparing every feature; but that would just be too massive a task. So I won't be able to tell you everything that the mods can and can't do, but hopefully I will be able to give you a decent comparison of how easy they are to set up and show the basics like buffs, debuffs, hots, and general layout, and how useful they are for a resto druid.

And once again, the final goal will be to be able to assess whether I could disable Grid and be satisfied to use one of the other frames instead.

Throughout these posts I'll be using visual guides and symbols to help make it a little easier to see what each mod requires to get them working to my satisfaction (legible, useful, and attractive).

Note that the green check marks come in two flavours: ready to go, and ready to go (but you can adjust the display).

Some features are ready to go by default, but are usually set up in a way that isn't very attractive or just isn't quite what I want. For example, poisons will show up, by default, as an icon in the center of the frame, and a corner square also. I don't like that - I prefer my frame to turn green to indicate poisons. I could certainly get by using the icons, but I prefer to use different display options. So, technically I could install Grid and have poisons showing just fine - but the options are there if I want to make things a little more attractive or to suit my tastes better.

A plain check mark, on the other hand, means that the feature is ready to go and presents in a way that is nice and easy to read, and doesn't need tweaking to be attractive, and can be left as-is.

I hope this makes sense!

Part 1a: Grid

Grid has been around since 2006, and was designed to present as much information that healers (and decursers) would need, while taking up minimal screen real estate. Grid is famous for its (somewhat overwhelming) abundance of display options and the fact that users can freely change the look of their frames to suit personal taste and available space. It is equally famous (or infamous) though for the fact that it isn't particularly user-friendly "out of the box" as other raid frame mods are, and that is seen as a big negative for new users or for people who don't want to invest much time in configuring their frames.

Here are some guides to setting up Grid: - Unkicking Butt - a Grid Story
Resto4Life - Grid - Thinking Within the Boxes

plus my own guides for copying my Grid layout or setting up HoT tracking.

Again, I can't possibly go through every feature of the addon, but I will try to give a good overview of the features that I use on a daily basis and consider important (if not essential) for a resto druid raid frame display.

1. Aesthetics

When you first start it up, Grid looks terrible. I’m not afraid to admit that. The boxes are tiny, drab squares that only display part of the player’s name, eek. It's hard to think where to start to turn it into the frames you really want to see.

You can see why new users feel a little lost at first..

I think Grid's creators should perhaps consider having Grid install with more of a horizontal, bar-shape, so that it's not such of a shock when you fire it up and you're looking at these tiny grey squares. But honestly, if you can get past the initial bewilderment, and spend some time setting Grid up, you will end up with an extremely powerful frame mod that will show you anything you want to see, and in any way you want to see it.

Let's rate things properly, though.

Default Grid settings are probably fine if you’re a dps class and you just want to see who has your buff and who has aggro, but for a healer, it’s not very good “out of the box”, and this is what turns many Grid-newbies away – the scary prospect of having to take those tiny grey squares and turn them into something that you can actually read and use.

However, if you take the time to set it up, Grid has incredible flexibility in terms of appearance. You can change the squares to be bar-style (by changing width and scale), change fonts, font size and text lengths, change the colours and assign custom colours to different classes, use different gradients, backgrounds and borders to taste. When it comes to displaying buffs, debuffs and other visuals, you can choose between text indicators, border colours, corner squares (in various colours), center icons, frame color, and opacity. With additional modules you can add extra corner squares, texts, and icons – to display any number and combination of buffs and debuffs as you see fit.

You can also use Grid as your 5 man party frames; I have mine set to only show one row of frames when I’m in a 5 man; in a 10 man it grows upwards to become two rows, and in a raid it grows upwards further to be 25+pets or 40 (for BGs). This is something that I really value because I don’t like using standard party frames for small groups and then switching to raid frames for larger groups.

The ability to change the overall look of the frames is by far one of Grid's biggest selling points, and a major complaint against the other raid frame mods in the past.

2. HoTs and HoT tracking

HoT counters are not built into the standard Grid addon. You can assign your HoTs to corners and assign them colours (for example, I use purple for Rejuv, green for Regrowth, and yellow for WG), but this will display a corner square if that target has any druid’s HoTs on them, not just your own. While it is helpful to see if there is any HoT on your target, it’s much more important to know when your own HoTs are up so you know when to refresh.

Installing the GridStatusHots module (and GridStatusLifebloom if you prefer), plus the GridIndicatorCornerText module will allow you to put HoT counters in the corners of your Grid frames. Personally I like to have Rejuv and Regrowth in the top left and right corners, with Lifebloom as my Center Text 2 (bottom middle). Apologies for recycling this image for the third time, but this shows how great GSHoTs, GSLifebloom and the indicator corner text addons are:

Setting up HoT tracking is one of the more complicated tasks in Grid, and may cause you some frustration if you’re new to the mod – but it is definitely very valuable to have actual counters and not just an icon or dot telling you that there is a HoT on your target or not.

3. Buffs and debuffs

Although buffs such as Mark/Gift and Thorns are not set up by default, they are very easy to assign to corners and color them appropriately (I use pink/purple for Mark and brown for Thorns). Grid’s menus can be a little confusing and it takes a little while to get used to the fact that you need to first assign the buff to a corner under Frame and then choose the appropriate color under Status > Auras. It would be good if you could instead configure everything inside the Auras area; set the color, set where/how you want it to display, the priority, etc. Aside from being ugly out of the box, Grid’s menus are definitely one of its big drawbacks, even for experienced users.

You can also set up custom debuffs that you want to track (but will not necessarily be able to remove). For example, I used to have Felmyst's Encapsulate set to colour the frame bright pink, so I would know in an instant who was encapsulated, and to either heal them fast, or if it was my group, run. The ability to set up these custom debuffs is something I find extremely valuable and would not want to give up. The fact that I can set them up as a frame colour means that I don't have to watch for dots or icons; instead I can keep healing and as soon as something turns bright pink, I can react without thinking. This is extremely valuable to me.

4. Other

There’s not much to say about these other items that I like to have on my frames, aside from the fact that if you want mana/rage/energy bars to show, you’ll need to install the GridManaBars module. The rez monitor also requires an additional module.

Other things such as aggro alert, low mana, offline warning etc are all enabled by default and will show up out of the box (but you might want to pretty them up a little from the default settings).


I'll go into better detail when I put Grid side by side with the other mods, but for now, my super brief summary would be that Grid:

- is definitely ugly and overwhelming when you first open it (where on earth do I start changing things??)

- doesn't show mana by default, which is annoying, but it's easy enough to install

- has FANTASTIC HoT display options but you'll need a couple of extra modules first

- has great options for size, bar orientation, display, colours, etc - meaning you have tonnes of flexibility to change the look of your frames to suit your UI - but this will take you a while to set up and perfect

Overall, Grid basically shows you every buff, debuff, HoT or state that you ever want to see on a raid frame, you just need to put in a bit of work to arrange them just-so. It will take you probably an hour or two to get running, from scratch, but the results are well worth it. I'm really looking forward to putting the others to the test to see how they measure up.

Stay tuned for the next installment - Healbot: first impressions.


Averna said...

Ok, wow, awesome post. I thought that Phae had covered most everything about Grid, but your article is a great companion to hers.

Quick question: Not sure why, but I've been having trouble enabling that second line of center text. Where do I go to enable that?


Keeva said...

Have a look at this picture.. can you see this option with your version?

erumel said...

Excellent post as usual! =)

I thought about writing a comparison between X-Perl and Grid during tbc as we were working on Illidan and I started thinking about switching to Grid. I never did write that post but I'm glad that I made the change! Your previous posts helped my setup become even better!

Anonymous said...

The more I think about it, the more I want to change. Not only because change can be good and because it would look pretty on my UI, but because I hear so many good things about it. I almost don't want to heal to see the Healbot comparison >.>

I'm sure that I'll need help figuring out how to make it pretty, but your comments surely helped there too.

Averna said...

@ Keeva - No, actually I don't see that =( I can change the 4 different corner dots, and change the center text, and that's about it. Is there a Grid add-on that I need to make it more expansive?

Keeva said...

I'm fairly sure center text 2 comes with standard Grid, it's not an extra addon (although you can get other modules for more text and corner indicators).

How old is your version of Grid? Perhaps the menus are a bit different.

Anonymous said...

Oh lord. I just START reading this and I flail.

I'll stick to my idiot-friendly X-Perl + Clique, I think. :D

Anna said...

First of all I am curious: Since I love your setup and shamelessly copied it (sooooorry!^^) where do you put Wildgrowth?

And secondly: I dont see any problem in being overwhelmed as a newbee for Grid. Thats why you download excellent guides like yours for doing for learning. So that for mr is really not an issue!

Thanks again for an excelent post!

Nancy LC said...

I have to commend Grid as it has gotten a LOT easier to configure over the last year.

The reason I like grid a lot is due to the fact you can eliminate information you don't need that can be distracting. I think a minimalist display really helps the healing a lot.

I added the mana bars to grid and I'm finding it's a bit distracting. I think I might do something like make a border that lights up when mana is low, put it at a lower priority than aggro. Then if I feel like I can be generous with my innervate, I could do that.

Flynx@Bronzebeard said...

Great post Keeva.

I personally make my grid border work a bit harder than just display who has aggro.

When out of combat, using 'GSMissingBuffs', the border will display in green whose GotW has expired.

When in combat, the border will become blue for caster/healers that have dropped below 25% mana. Aggro (red) is set with a higher priority so that it always takes precedence.

This works very well for me and I hope some of your readers may find this useful. :)

Averna said...

Keeva - I figured it out! Under Frame, go to Advanced, and at the top there's a check box: "enable center text 2 indicator" =)

Keeva said...

Anna: I currently just have WG showing as a corner indicator, but I'm finding sometimes I need to see the CD because I need to hit it again shortly afterwards (rare, but it does happen). So I may change it to a corner counter.

Nancy: I started off with just the border showing low mana, but I kept getting frustrated that I couldn't easily tell which of the healers needed mana (I give my innervate away freely). When you first install GridManaBars they are vertical and (from memory) quite big.. perhaps make them thinner so you can still see them if you look for them, but they're not so distracting?

Flynx, I love that idea for the missing buffs, I might have to swap to that. I'm happy with the way I currently track buffs, but occasionally someone will have their Mark/Gift expire and I won't realise - a bright border might be a better idea. I absolutely adore having bright pink custom debuffs to grab my attention in a hurry (along with green frames for poisons, purple for curses), because you just can't miss it when someone's frame turns a different colour. I think a border would be great for missing buffs.

Averna: that's the picture I linked to you, sillyhead ;) I probably should have been more clear where to look though, sorry - I thought it was highlighted. My fault for not checking the picture properly before I linked it to you. Glad you found it, having that second text is so useful.

Averna said...

Lol Keeva I totally missed that. When you said "can you see this option" I thought you meant the entire page, and I looked at the left and saw all those options listed there (like center text 2) and I was like I don't see those options!!! /weep

Glad we're on the same page now ^^

Maria said...

Thanks for telling us how to set it up to look viable....My big question is how do you heal with it? I click on the corner squares and nothing I missing something? My spells aren't going off.

Anonymous said...

And this is why healbot owns.