17 April 2009

Merlot reviews an addon ...and it's got pictures

I'm not very addon-literate. I don't understand how they work and struggle with the setup and management of some of the more complex ones. I like things that I can just load and forget.

But over time, I have wrestled with a few beasts like ag_unitframes, grid and auctioneer. I use the curse client to keep them all up to date (when it works) and even occasionally delve into the murky depths to see if someone somewhere has invented something to do that special thing I've been struggling with. That's how I found shacklewatch.

Recount has been my constant companion since I began raiding. But, like my computer, I am vaguely aware that is capable of much more than I use it for. I have no idea what a lot of the tick boxes do, and when it starts reporting strange numbers and randomly loosing data, I have no understanding of why or how to fix it.

Trouble is, I wasn't aware of any other options besides wws, which frankly looks even scarier than recount, doesn't deliver real-time information and requires all that fannying about afterwards.

But last night, while browsing curse, I saw "skada damage meter" in a list of popular addons. It promised something similar to recount in a simpler format (or words to that effect...)

So on a whim, I installed it to my paladin alt and set off for some questing in dragonblight to give it a road test.

Skada's report window is clean and smart. It uses a simple system of left-click to drill down and right-click to move back up the navigation. It's a bit disorienting to begin with, without a navigation bar, but it very quickly becomes second nature.

It provides many of the main top-level reports that you get in recount, but this main view shows you a useful overall summary:

Drill down — into damage, for example — and you get first the totals:

Then a summary of where that damage came from:

And finally a full breakdown of individual moves:

I like the recount pie chart, but doubt I'll miss it.

If skada records the minimum, average and maximums of each move, like recount does, I couldn't find it. I like looking at those numbers, but I'm not sure I need them for performance analysis.

Skada makes accessing individual fight data much easier than recount, as you can see from this view:

You then drill down to see your performance against each individual mob. This might rapidly get unweildy in trash pack scenarios, I'm not sure. But I assume it would come in very handy for boss kills and consecutive boss attempts.

I have yet to test skada in a raid setting — that's next — so I can't comment on its accuracy or on how it handles data for 25 people. It promises a low system profile, but I admit I don't really know how to test this claim or how it stores all this data without hogging at least some resources.

Skada is slicker and more intuitive than recount in many ways, while superficially appearing to provide close to the same level of data. But it is not as neatly packaged as recount. You do not set up and control skada from the report interface. In fact, there are two — yes, two — separate menus for doing this.

To configure what skada records and how you share it with other gamers, there is a minimap button with a simple but extensive list of expanding options, much as you get with, say, grid. To send a report to chat, you've got to go into several separate lines, check the appropriate options, then click a separate option to send the report. It's not hard, but it's not as easy as recount.

Then, to control the appearance of skada, and a few other things, there is a separate set of options via the in-game addon menu. These are fairly standard too, but resizing the report window could be easier than it is.

A lot of these limitations and frustrations may simply be down to the addon's immaturity. Over time, the developer may well improve and extend how it works. From what little I've seen so far, I believe they have a very strong foundation. I'll be taking skada into my next raid with Merlot and seeing how it functions with 24 other people to watch.

Have you tried skada? What did you think? Any hints or tips on getting the most out of it?


xxxiii said...

You've got your work cut out for you if you're going to try to steer me away from recount. From what I see here, Recount displays data much more efficiently.

My only complaint with recount is the always-available buttons. I can hide every other aspect of the Recount window to fit into my UI, but the buttons are always there.

xxxiii said...

At one time, I was inundated with addons that were thrown all over my screen and didn't work the way I wanted them to. It was a mess, and when I thought about cleaning it all up, I reeled.

So like any daunting task that must be done, I broke it down.

1) I got rid of all the addons with questionable utility. I uninstalled everything that wasn't mandatory. You can always pick them up again later.

2) Then I chose one (and only one) addon to learn how to use. I turned off chat and and systematically went through all the available options.

3) Once I did that, I got excited, and wanted to start messing with the others. IT WAS A SERIOUS STRUGGLE TO RESIST THIS URGE. Instead, I spent a little more time getting that one addon working just right.

4) My excitement held, and I moved on to the next addon and did the same thing.

Over the course of the next week or so, I had a good handle on the features of each addon on my machine. I can now say that I'm over the hump, and that configuring one addon at a time is no big deal.

Merlot said...

xxxiii, that sounds like a very good strategy. I wish I had the time. I could do it, of course, but only at the expense of actually playing wow. It's the same thing that holds me back from developing a blog that actually looks nice :P But still, if I ever find myself with some spare time and no interest in playing, I might try that.