Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Situational Awareness!

Lissanna at Restokin posted about this a couple weeks back, and it was moved over to a Blog Azeroth shared topic across the blogs. I figure I'll flesh out the comments I made to her original post with some additional details and formatting that a comments window can't easily do :)

While back in the days of MC and BWL, it was generally okay for a player to get tunnel-vision while playing whack-a-mole or flailing at a stationary boss. There were a few exceptions, like not standing in the lava, or by Onyxia's tail, or in the cleave range, or in the bombs being thrown by the goblin trash, or in LoS of Firemaw as a healer, or the odd dance that was done for Chromaggus, but those bosses had NOTHING on Sartharion+Drakes, Heigan, Thaddius, KT, Hodir, Mimiron, Vezax to name a few!

Contents Quicklinks:

Your UI

Your UI is one of the most important pieces for situational awareness. What makes a mod useful is how much more easily it will provide you important information; thus, how you set up your mods and UI really determines how well the mods do their job and get you that information without making things distractingly worse. Sometimes, adding mods can make your job more difficult than it was when you were running an unmodded UI, if they aren't set up well!

Key things to consider are:
  • Can you easily see your raid frames?
  • Can you easily see your own character?
  • Can you easily see the debuffs?
  • Can you easily see raid warnings?
  • Can you easily see your surroundings?
For example, here is a screenshot of my UI from back in the BWL days.

You can see how I made an effort to organize my action bars, and this is even before the days of "needing" a spot for a threat meter! I was very proud of this UI, though I gag at it now :) It slowly morphed over time to what is now my current UI:

Between expanding my screen size, cutting down on the number of action bars, switching my raid frames, and killing the visible "combat log," I have really cut down on the amount of clutter on my screen while increasing the amount of important buffs/information I can see! At the same time, it feels "smoother" and more comfortable to work in.

My Methods for Awareness:

- Mods -

  • Grid raidframes to reduce bar size and clutter
...and put them on the bottom of my screen under my character, with enough room for my own cast bar/latency timer (and eclipse proc timer). I like them to be small, squarish frames so that they are as space-saving as possible, and each of the icons and corners and even the frame's border tells me something about what's going on in the raid that I need to know about. Intro to Grid can be found here, and links to my settings and recommendations on debuffs to add.

  • Use a HuD addon quickly glance at my own health/energy and target's health (as compared to some players who stick the entire target frame in or near their center screen). I use IceHUD and it also includes a GCD timer for myself, a redundancy with Quartz but I find the GCD timer easier to watch than Quartz's. I include the range finder for my target, which will tell me in yards how far away my target is from me.

You can turn off any modules you do not want to use, and depending on the HUD, you can add extra timer bars of buffs you want to watch. A Combo Points counter comes standard, as well as a Lacerate Stack counter!

I chose to be able to click through my HUD bars so that they do not interfere with target selection.

  • Debuff Filter and Power Auras
I use these mods to pick out the important buffs/debuffs on both myself, focus target, and my target, and place near center-screen. The most important alerts go to Power Auras; lesser ones or trinket stacks are simply made to be icons that show their countdown/stack. Even tanks can use these mods to watch debuffs that occur on each other if they make the other tank a focus target. More details on my Power Auras setup can be found here.

  • Sexymap reduces Icon Clutter
As a minimap mod, it's not only pretty, but it also can hide all of your addon widgets/icons and time/mail/BG icons from around it, and only show them when you mouseover the minimap. It really rocks. This is one good way to cut down on the visual clutter around your screen!

The skins are all customizable, with gentle animations.

  • Rely on DBM and raid warnings
These will alert me to fire walls, etc. Place the warnings in a very noticeable place on your screen, one that you will not miss from combat text clutter. DeadlyBossMods' (DBM's) timers are great as you can have them scrolling along off to the side, then move to a more noticeable location when they come close to ending/going off!!

  • Cut the spam
...from scrolling combat texts by filtering the size of ticks and choosing not to show things like energy gains and replenishment ticks, or small DoT ticks such as would appear from "Vampire Spam" on a shadow priest. These things aren't really necessary to see, and removing them will reduce interface clutter.

- Screen -

  • Widescreen monitor
Not everyone can afford one, but these are becoming much more the norm than before. Having a widescreen monitor definitely increases your screen real-estate, and widens how far you can see peripherally.

When adapting your UI to a widescreen monitor, however, remember that the peripheral sides are just that: peripheral. Don't stick things that you need to watch constantly off to the sides of your screen. My corners and sides are the place for: tooltips, minimap, bags, chat, threat meter, and personal health (I have IceHUD too!). All of my click-actions and Grid are clustered closer to the middle of the widescreen so that I can have them near to my own character.

  • Removed the majority of my action bars
Since my actions are mostly keybound, I don't need them on my screen to click. I shaped/scaled the few action bars I did need using Bartender4 so they’d be closer to the center screen, or else hid them in menus that open/close on a click (bags/professions using LunarSphere).

To the left you can see my LunarSphere with all three submenus open. The actions within the menus are used rarely or out of combat, or are keybound for use in combat.

  • Keybound abilities
Removes the need to click around the screen with my mouse. This means that my eyes are free to look at the health bars AND what's going on around me, without having to look over to locate an action I need to click. Full details on my keybinds can be found here.

  • Turn on enemy nameplates
Do this by pressing the v key. I do this so I can easily see by the big red bars what baddies are close to me; these bars are much more noticeable against the movement of players and mobs than just looking for the mobs themselves, and trying to judge their distance by eye. I *do* turn this off when there are tons of them and they prove distracting (such as a swarm of little bugs, etc). Mods such as Aloft can skin and customize these nameplates.

  • Zoom out that I can easily see the ground my character is standing on. It's important to know if there's a fire under your feet, or a void zone, or some evil seal of death, or the targeting crosshairs of some airborne rocket! Or a giant wall of lava coming for me.

  • Position myself!
Face my camera a direction where I can most easily see a wall coming at me, or position myself where I can most quickly just press the w key to move out of a shadow crash without running into the melee or out of range of healing the tank, etc. Don't paint yourself into a corner; mind where you are, and know the quickest exit route to a safe spot.

- Strats -

  • Know the Bosses
If it’s Yogg, those clouds in P1 are more important than nearly anything else, cuz I don’t like trying to clean up around the extra shadow volleys an add would create if I clipped a cloud :) If it's Ignis, I know that the add tank is going to pick up mobs and run them all over the room, possibly out of my heal range. If it's Hodir, I know I should find myself a campfire and/or beam of light for DPS. If I'm melee on XT-002, I know I need to kill that heart asap if we want to do hardmode. Look up the bosses, or ask the raid leader for what details you need to know to perform your best as healer, tank, ranged or melee dps. Know what sorts of AoE are going to happen, and how to avoid them if possible.

I do this by running in circles, jumping, etc, and it forces me to keep my surroundings in mind. I’ll stop moving when casting or the environment (lava, adds that might get pulled, etc) forces me to, but very often, I’m bouncing all over the room. Sometimes this translates to me jumping up in melee and punching the mob around spellcasts (and having to move to stay in melee range, avoid cleaves/whirlwinds, and not parry-gib the tank by punching from the front!). Side benefit of this increased awareness is noting the positions of other players, which helps in casting Wild Growth.

  • Practice!
If worse comes to worse, drop yourself into Alterac Valley as a healer to break that pesky tunnel vision/gridlock. Keep yourself behind the front lines, and keep an eye on the ever-shifting front lines so that you can keep up with them and not find yourself suddenly dead to a wave of enemies breaking through. Use your surroundings to hide yourself from view. It's great practice!

Inside of raids, you can have the raid leader pretend to be the "boss" before a pull, and have the raid arrange themselves where they need to stand. Practice calling out "flame waves" or similar environmental occurances so that you can get a feel for what you need to do before you're actually in combat, and where you'll need to stand. If the raid really isn't getting it, you can have an attempt where no one is allowed to DPS, everyone simply must practice the movements of getting out of Blizzards or void zones or fire or lightening blasts!


Anonymous said...

I think your last recommendation is the best, at least for a healer!

Of all the classes, I think healers get tunnel vision the worst and to add to that often forget to heal themselves. When we have a healer that struggles on just basic movement fights, or doing lots of things all at once, I often recommend that they spend a weekend or two in BGs.

While PvP may be the bane of PvE, it is an extremely useful tool for learning situational awareness and how to deal with things in an "oh shit!" situation in my opinion, (you that loose add beating on you is just like that rogue that has been camping you for 10 minutes!). It is kind of a trial by fire method, you go in and either you figure out how to pay attention or you die...a lot. Regardless it is quite effective! =)

Kae said...

I got off of my raid-healing training wheels running battlegrounds for a Marshal team; running WSG flags teaches you a LOT about situational awareness, not to mention some idea of the CC capabilities of other classes ;)

When I switched to feral, I jumped right back in there and learned how to tank the mobs in AV. When I finally agreed to learn how to play treeform, it's again where I turned!

At least you get a quick res and no repair bill when fighting against other players :)

Anonymous said...

I am especially fond of your last tid bit of advice. You know, the part about having your main tank situate themselves like the boss, call out different boss abilities and have everyone else move accordingly.

I sometimes suffer from tunnel vision my first attempt or two at a new boss, no matter how many times I've read the strat or watched the vid. It's not so much that I don't recongize when to move, I tend to get too absorbed watching for boss cues (aside from DBM) to tell when there's going to be a spike in damage. As soon as I get those figured out it's smooth sailing.

Kae said...

A friend of mine did the whole "I'm [Illidan, Kael'thas, whatever], position yourselves!" when he was raid leading for us, and it was a learning tactic I much appreciated. He'd put a raid icon on his head, go bear form to be extra noticeable, and stand where he wanted the boss to be positioned so that all of the tanks and dps and healers could organize themselves around him. He'd then be able to correct any positions, comment on people too close to each other or too far apart, and get people used to the commands that would come during the actual fight.

Granted, you can't always do this inside the actual terrain you'll be fighting in, since that would sometimes aggro the boss, but it did still help!

Sylly said...

good stuff, Kae! I found myself nodding and smiling all the way through this post. Helpful advice at every turn =)