Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Perfect Combo Points

Updated for Cataclysm!

The way Blizzard has positioned combo points in the UI is just horrible. Well, actually, the positioning of the target frame is horrible and thus the positioning of your combo points is horrible by extension. A friend of mine rolled a rogue and was asking me where the combo points were. I told him that they're on the target frame, and this caused him to exclaim, "you gotta look up in the corner of your screen all the time!?" to which I said, "yup, pretty much, unless you get a mod." So I thought it would be a good idea to discuss mods that provide you with a movable combo point frame, and tell you which one I like best.

The "mod" I was talking about, at the time, was UIM:Combo Points. I used this for a very long time. It did exactly what I wanted it to do, it allowed me to center my combo points so I didn't have to constantly crank my head to the top left portion of my screen, but there were a few things I didn't like about it:

1.) It's extremely basic visually. Each combo point is a short bar surrounded by the Blizzard Tooltip border. The insets are all messed up so there's a noticeable gap between the bar and the border, and there's no easy way to change the bar's style or the border style so good luck matching it to anything else in your UI.

2.) Positioning. In order to position the combo points you must drag them to the center of the your screen or wherever else you might want them. It's a rather inexact method of positioning the frame, and I've been spoiled by other mods that allow me to position UI elements down to the pixel. Simply eyeballing it feels crude and archaic.

3.) The damn thing resets! I wouldn't care about positioning options so much if I didn't have to position it so fracking often! Every time I turn off the mod for any reason, and then turn it back on again it does this. Many times, I've accidentally reset it before a raid and found my CPs gone from the center of the screen and hiding amongst the party frames. Stellar. Great coding there buddy...maybe you should find a way to actually save my positioning variables? No? Okay.

I used to update UIM constantly...hoping one day the author would revisit the project and make some improvements. He never did. So I ventured out in search of a new addon to display my combo points.

The first thing I knew was that I was tired of having little rectangles for combo points, I wanted to hearken back to the Blizzard UI which represents combo points as red orbs. This effectively nixed any mod that might display combo points in a numerical fashion. Other mods where a bit too simplistic, and some where just hilarious, but still not what I was looking for. I wanted red orbs! Not plain-looking red circles or Hello Kitty faces!

Finally I found my quarry in the form of ccComboPoints. There they are! Orbs! Just like I wanted! The green rings around the orbs are stacks of Deadly Poison, which I didn't really care for so I knew I'd have to find a way to get rid of them, but the basic idea of red orbs was there. I downloaded and installed the addon and....it didn't work.

It turns out the addon is defunct, and probably abandoned by its original author. Luckily someone made a "patch", which you can get here. I say "patch" because it's not really a patch at all, it's the entire mod with updated code so that it will work with 4.X because apparently there were issues with Deadly Poison (ironically a feature I don't even care about). So if you're looking to download the mod, download the patch version, because the original doesn't work.

Unfortunately, ccComboPoints is one of the those mods that has no in-game options. There aren't even any slash commands let alone an options interface, so don't waste your time trying to find one. Now you have two choices: use the mod as is or find out how to modify the XML file to customize it to your liking. I took the second route. I suppose if you want to take the first then simply skip to the end of this article and click on the ccComboPoints download link and use the default version.

If you've never messed around with addon code this task could seem a little daunting, because what you're doing is irrevocably altering the mod itself, but it's actually not a big deal. If you end up breaking the mod somehow, you can simply delete the entire ccComboPoints folder from your AddOns directory and install a fresh copy to get the addon working again. So don't be afraid to mess with all the options until you get it just how you want it.

An explanation of how to modify the XML file can be found here, which is the comments page of the addon on WoWInterface. It explains how to reposition and re-size the combo points. To begin editing the XML file first you have to find it. If you've ever installed an addon then you probably know how to get to your AddOns directory. If not, it's probably somewhere like C:\Program Files\World of Warcraft\Interface\AddOns. Once you're there simply open the ccCombopoints folder. All the files in this folder say "ccComboPoints", but the one we want to edit is the XML file.

Try double-clicking the XML file. It will most likely open with Notepad by default, but it might look like a garbled mess. If you experience this problem try opening the file with WordPad. Right click the file and then select "Open With" and WordPad should be an option. If not, click "Choose Program" and find WordPad on that list. Once you've opened the file with Wordpad you can then save the file immediately, close it, and then when you open the file again with Notepad the garbledness should be gone. Now that you've got the file open, it's time to edit it.

Luckily, unlike some addons, the code isn't a gigantic, indecipherable mess, and by following the instructions I was able to modify my own XML file and put my combo points in a straight line and scale them down a bit. What wasn't explained was how to get rid of the Deadly Poison rings, but I eventually found out how to hide them. I noticed on line 46 there's a portion of code that says "self.glow:SetAlpha(sinpulse);" I took this, placed it on a new line underneath line 41, and altered it to read:
This will make the DP rings disappear! After you're done, make sure to save your changes to the XML file then fire up WoW to see your new combo points. It will probably take a bit of trial and error to get the combo points exactly how you want them, so it's important to realize that changes you make to the XML file don't occur in real time. You must reload your UI for them to take effect. You can do this by either restarting WoW or, more simply, typing the slash command "/reloadui". This is my end result:

As you can see, there are no DP rings (I don't have any DP up, but I promise if I did they still wouldn't be there). The combo points are in a straight line, and are scaled down slightly because I thought the initial size was too big. They're also redder than they were...this is because I modified the TGA files in the Image folder, but I won't go into how I did that. The frame is positioned exactly in the horizontal center of the screen and disabling/enabling the mod won't reset these parameters (as they've been hard coded into the addon).

So there you have it: ccComboPoints. It's a little extra work to set up if you're not happy with its out-of-the-box appearance, but in the end it's worth it. It's a very simplistic and lightweight addon, it does what it's supposed to, and it just looks cool! And if you're wondering, here are the meanings of the Chinese symbols from left to right (the Chinese characters may or may not display properly depending on your browser):

- Earth
- Sky/Air
- Sea
- Sun
- Soul/Spirit

Finally, this long-winded article is over! I'm sorry that you had to read so much text. Here's some links to make up for it:

Download location for ccComboPoints. (it says it's a patch and you need the original addon, but just ignore that. This is the complete addon.)

Instructions for modifying ccComboPoints (it's a comment by avngr, sorry there is no way for me to link to the individual comment).

My XML file. Updated for Cataclysm! Replace the default XML file and with this one to get my configuration (the one in the picture above). If you want the DP rings back simply delete line 42.

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