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!


Posted on March 24, 2011, in Addons. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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