Heads up! (Part 4: The Heavyweights)
This is part 4 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 heavyweight HUD addons Bring it all to the table. Generally speaking, if a feature is conceivable, you will find it here. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, however, so with features come bulk.
I’m drawing the line at 1MB to define the difference between a lightweight and a heavyweight. The first thing you may notice when you get a chance to look at the memory footprint chart later on is, "Hey, DHUD4 comes in at 1.25 MB! What gives!" Well, its counterpart, DHUD For 4.0, did NOT, and I wanted to compare the two directly since they’re essentially forks of the same code. But, yes, DHUD4 is essentially a heavyweight, albeit a poorly featured one compared to these next two.
Hail to the king, baby. IceHUD is the addon most people think of when they think of HUDs, and for good reason. It has a solid reputation for being a stable and full-featured package.
IceHUD comes in at a hefty 2MB footprint. It was in the top 5 memory users on my system. This is the price you pay for having the most robust and complete interface of the bunch. These things do not come for free.
You can control every aspect of the rings, including making them not rings (bar graphs instead? Yes.) or laying them on their side (!). You can change the color, alpha, positioning, and texture.
You can add cooldown, timer, and (de)buff rings as well, through a very extensible interface. Such new rings actually become part of the configuration interface.
Some of the settings were confusing. Scale, size, position, alignment … all these interact in sometimes unexpected ways, requiring a lot of fussing and tweaking. Additionally, getting the rings to look and nest right was seemingly impossible. I have no choice but to conclude that unless you are willing to accept the defaults, any deviations from the default layouts will turn out less than optimum, aesthetically speaking.
While most of the configuration interface was outstanding (it even has a config mode!), setting ring colors was really confusing, as color settings were on a whole different page from the ring settings themselves (except for custom rings). I’m not sure what the reasoning was for this, but I’ve seen plenty of other HUD addons tackle the same problem in much more intuitive ways.
Try as I might, there always seemed to be some portion of the interface that would get in the way of mouse clicks on the environment “behind” the interface. This is incredibly annoying, and pretty much one of the few unforgivable sins that a HUD can commit, in my book. If it’s not a bug, the config design needs to be overhauled to make it easier to get rid of this – or better yet, default to this and make the few that wish to interact with it, configure it themselves.
Overall, though, IceHUD deserves the reputation it has. If I had to recommend one as a starting point for a new user, this would be in the running.
Underhood2 is the new kid in town for the heavyweights. At well over 2.5 megs ((2.5 megabytes over several modules)) this addon packs a lot of features. It also sports some fresh new idioms not to be found anywhere else.
The default display is a pair of vertical bar clusters with one horizontal bar in between. These clusters consist of more than just health and power. A number of additional bars, such as pet, class abilities, focus, and so on, are tightly integrated.
Under the hood ((c wut I did thar?)), configuration is quite different from others, as well, albeit confusing to a newcomer. It took me a while to sort out, myself, and that was after I had been looking at these addons for quite some time.
Essentially, rather than move bars around individually, you first define one bar as an anchor, and then others are tied to it. Then the whole cluster can be moved and sized as a unit.
One other notable feature of this addon is that it is modular. If there are features such as, for example, unit frames that you don’t need, you don’t have to load them. There are a number of different things that you may not want, which can be disabled at the addon screen. This progressively decreases the memory footprint of this addon, though I doubt it will ever be pared down below a meg.
When configuring bars, some level of extensibility is allowed, but not an infinite one. Each bar is powered by a ‘provider’, such as "Player Health". In theory, one could create one’s own "provider" and run it that way. In practice, no interface is given for that sort of thing, though a great number of unusual providers are available, including "Player 1 Health" through Player 5.
Still, after playing with this addon for a while I didn’t warm to it. The bars ended up too busy, too distracting, and yet I was not getting the information I needed from them. I can’t say that that will apply to everyone. If you’re somewhat less … jaded than I am on these things, you may find that you click with this idiom in no time.
The upshot is this, however: aside from its novel design choices and modular nature, this addon just doesn’t seem to provide enough additional punch to choose it over IceHUD. Still, you may find it to be more pleasing to you than the other, and worth the extra memory. If I were to choose between the two, it would be IceHUD simply because it seems to offer the same feature set, roughly, and use less memory to do so.
That’s it for the Heavyweights! In the next (and final) installment, I wrap this up, give you some pretty charts to look at, and make a few vague recommendations.