This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Heads Up!

Since November, I’ve been compiling notes and comparisons on the subject of HUDs.  I’d like to take a few moments of your time to discuss the subject of HUD addons for WoW, the merits of each available, and what, if any, recommendation I can make.

This is part 1 of a five-part series.

  • Part 1: Introduction – What they are, what my methodologies are, and a brief recommendation for the attention-span-impaired.
  • Part 2: The Lightweights – I look at the low end of the spectrum in terms of size, but not necessarily, as you will see, short on usefulness.
  • Part 3: The Middleweights – I compare the various virtues of those apps that try to ride a line between features and efficiency – and how well they pulled it off.
  • Part 4: The Heavyweights – I look at the big guns, the ones that bring it all to the table – hopefully!
  • Part 5: Summary and Conclusions – Here there be charts! I also take a shot at naming what I, personally, consider to be the best of the three categories, and why.

So, let’s get started!

Aircraft HUD in actionWhat is a HUD?

Glad you asked.

HUD is an abbreviation for HEAD-UP DISPLAY (often called “head’s up display”) and is taken from military parlance, particularly fighter aircraft.  Basically, certain status information is projected into the field of view for the pilot so that he or she does not have to constantly go back and forth between reading the ‘dashboard’ and tracking whatever is interesting up on the windshield (usually something that wishes them dead).

Early on in Avionics history, a HUD consisted of gauges placed above the line of the dash or control panel. Less than optimal, but better than crashing. These days, the average HUD looks to be as complex as video games from the 90s.  A lot of information is right there where the pilot needs it, without having to break contact with his or her objective. It gets projected right on the windshield.

HUDs in WoW

A sample WoW HUD Sadly, we don’t do much aerial dogfighting in WoW right now, but HUDs have other uses and implementations. The most prevalent, and the implementation I will be focusing on, is to place things like health and power (mana, focus, energy, rage, etc) in a place where you can keep track of them without having to look off to the corners of your display area.  With today’s larger displays, this is especially important, as finding your health status might mean breaking eye contact with your opponent completely, for a moment, and then spending time re-acquiring him or her after you do.

Circular arches around the center of the screen, where your opponent is, is the most favored idiom, though not universally embraced, as you will see.

What I’m looking at

Here's looking at you I am comparing the addons on the following criteria.

  • Feature set – This is an overview of just how feature-rich the app is.  More is not necessarily better, but it is a place to start.
  • Memory Consumption – Not just, how much memory does it consume, but some sort of feel as to whether it is appropriate – i.e., a feature-light addon shouldn’t need a lot of memory, whereas a feature-rich addon that doesn’t consume more than needed is unusually good.
  • Layout – How do the elements lay out? Is it ugly? Is it useful?
  • Configuration – How easy – or hard – is it to configure the addon?
  • Customization – How easy – or hard – is it to set things up to your liking?
  • Alt Support – How easy is it to switch around between alts without encountering issues and annoyances?
    Stability – Is it prone to crashes?
  • Extensibility – Can you add things to the HUD that aren’t normally there?
  • Class Support – Are the special needs of each class supported? Rogue combo points? Warlock shards? Eclipse?
  • Issues – Are there any serious issues, and to what extent do they detract, if so?

I’ll also call out particularly obvious issues or advantages as appropriate.

Note: Throughout I may use the term “ring” to refer to one of the HUD “bars”, since they appear to be fragments of a tree ring. Sorry if this confuses; it comes natural to me, at least.

What I’m NOT looking at

Statesmenship is exciting! I will not be addressing issues related to any unit-frame-ish features each has. I have a strong opinion on this, based on the following:

  1. Most people that use HUDs probably also have elected to go with a custom unit frame replacement. Ergo, any unit-frame stuff that a HUD might do, is pretty much wasted code, ergo memory bloat.
  2. HUDs are display system; try to make them interactive, and you might as well just get a good unit frame addon that lets you put you and your target down at the bottom (as I have done in the past).

However, I will not gig an addon for having these features unless they get in the way.

Recommendations: TLDR version

recommendation I will have additional recommendations in the conclusion of this giant glob of text, but here’s the gist of it.  I will also link directly to the various addons – once – in the concluding chapter.

I found myself liking MetaHUD the most due to its simplicity, look and feel, small footprint, and focus on the things I was most interested in. DHUD had a similar idiom going on, and if MetaHUD failed completely, I’d be perfectly happy with the MADCAT variant of DHUD.

However, if you want to get more than the basics up there on the HUD, IceHUD is a better choice, because it has the most features of all of the contenders. UnderHood2 comes close in that regard, but I found its interface a little bit on the annoying side.

If you’re just in the mood to go crazy, FusionHUD offers you complete control over everything, though some of the controls will appear a bit on the obscure side – but that won’t stop a true power user.

Almost all were usable, so you really can’t go wrong with most of these – except sHUD, which is for very advanced users ONLY. Seriously, don’t use it if you don’t want to hack your own LUA.

Special mention and a gold start to CircleHUD – which I almost touted as my favorite due to its unusual design choice. I didn’t however, because it is also quite austere in feature-set.

In the next installment, I discuss the lightweight addons – small in size, the authors eschew feature bloat in favor of speed and agility. Hey, it works for rogues!

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This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Heads Up!

The lightweight HUD addons generally have the focus on getting basic information in front of your eyeballs without overloading you with a lot of fluff. They are prized by the true minimalist.  In almost every case, these addons were so small that I had to guess at the memory footprint.  The smallest I could see was around 33K, so that’s where they would end up.

This sort of addon is ideal if you have other addons covering the parts that these do not. In many cases, you get much better use of your memory without putting up with things you have no use for.

For purposes of this discussion, I am terming anything under 100K in size a “lightweight”. I present them to you know in alphabetical order.

Ascii: HUD

Ascii: HUD This addon is an unusual take on the concept. It does what it says on the tin – it provides an ASCII representation of player health and power, opponent health and power, pet health, and one other bar which I will come back to.

I really wasn’t able to get into it. All the text used really confuses my eye and makes me think I should be able to read it, instead of seeing an image.  No color is used to highlight things, either, making for a HUD that is more novelty that useful. It’s the kind of HUD you’d put up when your friends come by so they’d see how nerdcore you are, and then swap it out with, say, IceHUD after they left.  I don’t mean this to be mean, but, really. Add color and the display will be 1000% more useful.  And if that happens and somebody pokes me, I’ll go have a look and revise things here.

One innovation that I like is that other bar I was referring to. It shows the balance of the fight.

  • In the center, you’re not winning but you’re not losing.
  • To the left, and you’re losing. Heal, or … kill harder!
  • To the right, you’re winning, so keep it up!

This feature seems ideal for dedicated soloers or PvPers.

There is no configuration option, nor is there a file like config.lua to edit. What you see is what you get.

My final word is ont he subject of memory consumption. For such a spare addon, it consumes a huge amount of memory. I’m sure there’s some debug stuff in there that is causing this, but be wary if your memory space is tight. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Yo Grimm, didn’t you say this was a lightweight?”  I did, indeed. In this case, I’m putting it down here with the lightweights because it should not be a middleweight. Not for the level of function that it provides.  Hey, it either fails as a middleweight due to lack of features, or it fails as a lightweight due to memory consumption. I chose the latter. Leave a comment if you disagree.

CircleHUD

CircleHUD This one has me the most excited as to design, as it takes a very different approach to getting the data where you need it. It is extremely lightweight (less than 35K!). It’s so different I almost excluded it, but then decided, what the heck, I should have an open mind on the subject.

CircleHUD eschews arcs or rings in favor of two small pie-chart-ish things to either side of your toon. It is very easy to get used to, no matter how unusual it is. Kudos to the author  for thinking outside the box, and getting away from the Fighter Jet paradigm.

An extremely nice feature is that the target pie chart will have a little wedge in it that represents the targets last “x” percent of health, which will vary on your class. For example, Kill Shot becomes usable by a Hunter when the target is below 25%, so there is a wedge that represents the last 25% of the target’s health. Nobody does something like this, outside of IceHUD, and even it requires that you configure it yourself.

The only reason this has not become my immediate favorite are the things that are missing. Surprisingly few things are deal breakers, but among those are:

  • No means to move the elements in any way, not even a LUA file to hack (well, you can, but you’ll have to dig!).
  • Only player and target. No focus, no pet. Pet is a deal-breaker for me, obviously.
  • No class abilities. Combo points, Shards, none of that. These are not frills, they are vital to playing your class properly.

This is one I intend to keep an eye on, keep installed but disabled, and re-enable it when I see an update come down. If it ever attains the level of usability I need, I’ll be a very happy guy.

sHUD

sHUD sHUD advertises itself as “same as IceHUD but without all the features.”  Cheeky. And yet, that’s exactly what’s in the box. It does health and power bars, and configuration is done by hacking the LUA file.

I cannot recommend this addon for the average user because of its hackish behavior and some amazing assumptions on the author’s part.  I can overlook the lack of config options in favor of the LUA approach – that’s an honest design decision. Forcing global changes to the UI, however, I cannot, and that’s exactly what this addon does. If you start it up with the assumption that it will do no such thing – a valid assumption – you will be unpleasantly surprised.

Honestly, I initially disabled this addon  as soon as it changed my UI scaling because I thought it was a bug. Upon more reading, It became apparent that this was intended behavior – not good.

Configuration of the app was done via direct manipulation of config.lua. Most of the settings were self-evident, kudos for that.  This part was tricky:

bars     = {

{‘power’,  ‘player’},              — inner left

{‘power’,  ‘target’},              — inner right

{‘health’, ‘player’},    — outer left

{‘health’, ‘target’}    — outer right

– {…}, you can add more bars for instance for focus

}

That is to say, the configuration setting keys were not clear once they were disassociated with their default values. Hey – live by the .lua, die by the .lua. If you wanna make an associative array your main config mechanism, that’s all right by me – but at least assign clear meaning to the default values.

Performance-wise, it worked OK. If you are not comfortable with the vertical-bar idiom, you will not like it. If you don’t mind that, then aesthetically, it won’t be a bother.  In many ways I like it. It gets the point across, clearly.

TuttiHUD TuttiHUD

The first thing to point out about this addon is that it is self-described as a work in progress, thus any criticisms should take that into account.

The second thing to point out about this addon is that it hasn’t been updated since 3.3.5. I will give the benefit of the doubt and assume the author is hard at work on getting this addon updated.

Still, for what is defined as the goal of the project, the app is in pretty good shape.

What you get by default is a horizontal bar representing the player’s health/power, and a vertical bar that represents the target’s health and power. If you have pets, you also get pet bars, and if you select a focus target, you get a bar for that.  For Soul Shards, Runes, and Holy Power you also get some fairly attractive bars for them, as well.

Additional bars can be added for *any* quality you wish to monitor. Unfortunately, you need to know an underlying pair of functions to call in order to get the current and max value for that bar. i.e. if you want to monitor Threat, you would need to call a function such as GetThreatValue() and GetThreatMaxValue().  Obviously, you need to know which functions to call for what values.  The author intends to smooth this out in the future, I believe, but in the interim this is a fairly clever approach to extending the software.

Thus, while the software is missing things like (de)buffs, casting bar, and pet target health, you can just add them in if you need them, and have some idea of how to do it.

 

That’s it for this installment. Join me on the next installment when I’ll discuss the middleweight candidates.

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This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Heads Up!

This is part 3 of a five-part series.

  • Part 1: Introduction – What they are, what my methodologies are, and a brief recommendation for the attention-span-impaired.
  • Part 2: The Lightweights – I look at the low end of the spectrum in terms of size, but not necessarily, as you will see, short on usefulness.
  • Part 3: The Middleweights – I compare the various virtues of those apps that try to ride a line between features and efficiency – and how well they pulled it off.
  • Part 4: The Heavyweights – I look at the big guns, the ones that bring it all to the table – hopefully!
  • Part 5: Summary and Conclusions – Here there be charts! I also take a shot at naming what I, personally, consider to be the best of the three categories, and why.

The middleweight HUD addons generally focus on giving good value for their size. They don’t push hard on being all-encompassing, but they usually bring all the needed features to the table. With that in mind, it comes down to execution, style, and efficiency.  The winner is one that does the best in these three areas.

ArcHUD ArcHUD

500K represents a pleasant trade-off between features and efficiency. The difference between this and one of the more feature-rich addons is huge considering the incremental increase in features that they offer. The author has made some informed choices that really pay off in execution.

The elements of the HUD are in the form of exaggerated rings around the center display.  Pet rings are smaller versions of the main rings, but are fixed in location, unless you wish to unbind them, in which case they go from being smaller rings (very distinctive) to full sized rings (not so easy to pick out). 

Configuration was pleasant enough, with the controls all making sense. However, rather than offer one configuration pane with three tabs or sub-panes, you actually have to invoke the three different panes direct from the command line. ‘/archud config’, ‘/archud modules’, ‘/archud custom’ actually looks a lot worse in aggregate than it feels in the moment.

Elements of the HUD can be varied to some extent. Rather than provide high levels of variability, certain sensible presets are offered, such as “all health to the left, power to the right”, or “player left, target right”.  The available options should suffice for 90% of the users of such apps.

Each ring can also be moved around relative to the center. You CAN overlap rings, which can be confusing, but this also offers intriguing possibilities. Additional (non-standard) rings can be added, but as of this writing, only (de)buffs appear to be available.

Profiles are not supported, so you cannot easily have a special configuration layout for each alt. For the typical user, this won’t be an issue. For the power user, it will impact on special setups per user or class.

DHUD

There are actually two DHUDs out there, "DHUD 4", and "DHUD for 4.0". They vary slightly but also share many similarities.

I’m very taken with DHUD’s interface look and feel out of the box, and it has a lot to offer. The styling is compact and extremely functional, with just enough flexibility to make most people quite happy.  Rather than give the user full freedom on where everything goes, some reasonable decisions were made that will fit most people.

DHUD for 4.0DHUD for 4.0

This variant is “owned” by one MAD1111CAT1 who has retained the more traditional look and feel of the addon based on its 3.0 base.

Its assets: a lighter weight than its sibling. More complete UI feature-set. Familiar look and feel.

Its liabilities: clunky configuration interface. Features that belong in beta (to be fair, warning is given). Profiles are rather odd.

Let me explain Profiles. In this case, setting a toon to use the “default” configuration should, in practice, result in all toons using that profile to inherit the settings of that profile. In other words, I set things up once, and never have to tweak again.

What seems to be *actually* happening is that several config settings are being reset between logins. Not enough to force a lot of annoying backtracking, but enough to cause pauses during the “getting used to my UI all over again” phase that follows every single login.  I was never able to nail down exactly what was happening, but it was very confusing.

DHUD 4 DHUD4

The great thing about this version of DHUD is that it is fully integrated with the Blizzard config panel. I figured this would result in a smaller memory footprint, but in fact this addon has a much broader butt than its cousin.  I have no idea what to attribute that to.

But, moving on – the design of the config panel is very nice. Everything is clearly labeled, and there is virtually no “I wonder what that means” when you look at the controls and tooltips. Very nicely done.

Unlike most, this app supports a “config mode layout” that mocks up an interface so you can see the effects of your changes. The previous version of this addon errored out when I used that feature, but this one seems to have fixed it. I did not have the opportunity to exercise it as fully as I wanted.

Config bar textures can be change between two existing ones.  The software also supports a “custom texture” feature, where you can name the filename (I guess?) of the texture to use directly.  In the case of DHUD4, “texture” also includes the shape of the bar. Not knowing what I needed to make this work, I left it untested and filed under "Cool story, bro."

For the HUD itself, you have two layout choices, plus the outer rings can be assigned to a number of special values, such as Focus, Target of Target, and Threat.

In general, DHUD4 is a very solid and useful addon.  Smaller footprint and more layout choices will make it a favorite of the mid-range fans.

Note: the author of this addon has dropped in to comment on part 5, so be sure to read the comments over there. I will also update that post as well.

He clears up the lineage a bit, and points out that DHUD4 represents the direct lineage of this addon (he also created DHUD2 and DHUD3). The memory footprint issue seems to center around the use of the DogTags library, which allows for fully configurable strings. This adds a feature to the software that DHUD for 4.0 does not appear to support. In other words, nothing comes for free, but this is a good tradeoff.

FusionHud with 6 bars FusionHUD

FusionHUD advertises itself as a lightweight, highly configurable HUD addon. This is not false advertising, as it turns out. With five “bars” on display, it was settled around 180K, which isn’t bad at all.

The “bars” themselves are ultimately configurable.  The addon comes with no preconfigured bars at all – you build every one yourself, as for general shape, size, type (health, power, or threat), and position. Everything is completely open as far as position goes.  On the other hand, color is not configurable.

Configuration of these rings (bars) is put together very well indeed, integrating smoothly with the Blizzard addon config panel and presenting a minimap icon.  The biggest complaint I have here is that you’re not allowed to change the ‘label’ of the bar in the config panel. the first bar you create is labeled “Bar1”, and that’s that. You can’t really figure out which is which from just looking at the labels. This isn’t much of a problem early on, but after a few days you may forget which is which by relying on memory, and have to spelunk a bit.

Class specific stuff is handled either via the generic ‘power’ bar (i.e. it figures out what it is for you) and a special “class bar” that supports some classes’ special abilities, such as threat, shards, runes, etc.  Eclipse was there, but I’m not sure what exactly was being presented.  It didn’t match up with other presentations I’ve seen.

Profiles are not yet supported, but they are on the author’s to-do list, as are timers and buffs and things like that.

My biggest complaint about this one is that the graphic rendering is very primitive. As you can see in the screencap, using the same layout shape for all bars resulted in some serious jaggies and non-interlocking pieces. I men, not to be fussy or anything, but it’s daringly close to ugly like this. Now, I realize that I’m to blame for this configuration, but it might be helpful if it came with a bit of a starter kit.

Functionally, it’s fine. Aesthetically, I’m not going to stare at this through a whole raid.

MetaHUD MetaHUD

I remember first hearing about this addon, and it almost immediately broke on the next patch, until Nukin picked it up.  The same seemed to happen again at the turn of Cataclysm. Fortunately, it was picked right back up. It’s hard to keep a good HUD down.

And it IS good.

MetaHUD very closely resembles DHUD in appearance, which I find agreeable. The display is compact and clearly understandable. Of the class-specific stuff, I really liked what was done with DK runes.

It is still a work in progress; not all power types are included, for example, though what are covered, are done well.

To further the similarities with the Mad111Cat variant of DHUD, the config panel for this one is likewise not entirely state of the art. It is functional, but not intuitive. You don’t get sliders for HUD size and position, for example.

The ‘default’ profile does not load automatically for toons that have no profile selected (seems to me, that should be ‘default’).  I’m not sure it’s a bug or just a poor design decision. It’s not fatal, and once you get each toon’s set-up finalized, it’s a non-issue.

When I used Fubar, MetaHUD had an icon it would put up on the bars. That icon did not migrate to the new “LDB” broker interface, and Fubar-to-broker shims don’t appear to be working.

This version of the software currently has a bug that only showed up during raids for me. I have, sadly, turned it off for now. I’m hoping it gets fixed.

 

That’s it for the middleweights! In the next installment, I take a look at the Big Kahunas – the heavyweights.


  1. Yes, the spelling is correct, plus or minus a 1 []

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