Monday, September 19, 2011

Streamlined Grid

I was asked about Grid the other day, whether I had written anything about setting it up. "No," responded I, "As I'm not particularly fancy in my usage of it, I've never had anything particularly unique to say about it, that wouldn't be covered it the set-up guide."

Then I looked at the set-up guide.

It's perfectly competently written, and covers everything. It just seems a bit...dry and perhaps confusing to someone who's never used Grid before. It's the geek's direct approach for how to geek it up (and I don't mean that pejoratively...why, I've been accused of geek tendencies in my lifetime).

After seeing that, I thought, hey, maybe this can be my contribution. Writing a guide to simplify the process of using Grid badly...just like me!

So let's dig in. (By the way, I'm assuming you have installed Grid already. Make sure you type "/grid" on the in-game command prompt to bring up the Grid configuration panel.)

Make It Look Like You Want It To Look

There are three main things that will affect the majority of the look. Make sure you're on the Frame tab.

  • Frame Width/Frame Height: Play with the sliders until the box representing a single player's health is just right. You want it to be large enough that you can comfortably discern the health and see various symbols in the corners or on the sides, but not so large that ten or twenty five of these boxes will cover too much of your view space. After all, you need to get out of the poison, too.
  • Invert Bar Color: This determines whether a player of full health will have a fully colored bar (check off Invert Bar Color) or a fully black bar (leave it unchecked). Does losing health drain the bar of color or fill it up with color? For practical purposes, they're equivalent but different indicators...but one may be more intuitive to you than the other for knowing at a glance where everyone's health stands.
  • Frame Texture: This will determine, essentially, the glossiness and pattern of each person's health bar. Some people don't care about that, some do. Try out some at random to see if it even makes a difference to you. If it does, go through the options to determine which look is right for you.
Make sure to add a few people to your party so that you can see what it looks like with multiple people. Fiddle around with it until it's something you're comfortable with...don't worry about perfection right off the bat.

Drag the Grid frames to wherever you want them to live long-term, then click on the Layout tab in the Grid configuration pane and check off Frame Lock. Now it won't move, you won't accidentally drag it while playing.

Okay, you're now set up in terms of the visual look, at a minimal level. There are many more options that I won't go can explore them at your own discretion when you have time and inclination. The above steps should at least provide you with something that doesn't make your eyes bleed. Hopefully, at least!

First You Get The Status, Then You Get The Power...

Here's the way Grid works to relay you information: you define the pieces of information you'd like to know about a player (these pieces are called, in Grid terminology, statuses), then you indicate where and how each of those pieces of information (or statuses) should be displayed on the player's frame (the "where and how" is known as indicators). Define your statuses, tell Grid how to indicate them to you. Status, indicator.

Let's start with statuses.

Click on the Status tab in the Grid configuration pane. Grid comes pre-packaged with a lot of useful possible statuses to be displayed (and you can get more with plugins, but we'll come to that later) and you'll see them listed in the scrollable list on the left-hand side.

The thing about Grid is that it actually is quite usable straight out of the box. So some of the statuses that would be crucial to track already are set up. Let's look at a class-independent status, for the sake of example.

If you scroll down the list, you'll come to a Health category, which (if it's not already open) you can open by clicking the red button. The crucial one in this is Unit Health. Raid frames, especially for healers, are useless if you can't track the health of each person. Click on it.

On the right side, you'll see options specific to this status. For most statuses, there will be a Color option, which will allow you to choose the color that the indicator for this status will use. However, in this specific case, there's an alternate coloration option that will supercede the Color option, which is Use class color. If you have this checked off, each person's health bar will use the color associated with their class (i.e. red for death knights, white for priests, light blue for mages, etc). This is a common choice, because it allows you to get an extra piece of information (the class of that frame's player) with no extra space taken up, but it's far from a universal choice. Some people prefer a uniform color (traditionally, green). If you'd like a uniform color, uncheck that option and click on the color swatch box next to the word Color and select the color you want from the color picker.

The other option that will be common to any status is Priority. The number you select for this option determines the relative importance for this status. This matters only when you elect to have two or more statuses indicated in the same place on a frame. When both are eligible to be shown (the conditions have been met for each) the higher priority status will be displayed. A common use for this functionality is for priests to indicate Power Word: Shield and Weakened Soul in the same place, with Power Word: Shield as the higher priority. You know for a fact that if you have either a Power Word: Shield or a Weakened Soul debuff on a target, you either can't or won't want to re-shield them, so there's no real value to knowing that Weakened Soul is up if Power Word: Shield is. Therefore, you use this priority system to display Power Word: Shield until it's gone and then, if Weakened Soul is still up, that gets displayed until it, too, is gone. An elegant way to save space without losing any necessary information.

Beyond that, you'll have statuses for common class-specific spells you put on other people, like Rejuvenation for druids or Beacon of Light for paladins. Each status may have its own options that are relevant for that particular piece of information. Make sure to look at those options and mess around with them a bit to make sure it will display in the most useful fashion to you. There are also statuses for common (in combat) buffs and debuffs. Explore them and start configuring any that you feel are important for you to know about while healing an encounter.

Of course, to make a status actually display, we need the next part of the process.

All Indications Point To Standing In Fire

So let's put some of these statuses to use, via indicators. Click on the Indicators tab in the Grid configuration pane.

Indicators have two attributes. They're primarily identified by their location (Center Text, Top Right Corner, etc) but each indicator has only a limited number of ways it can display the information.

You'll see that there are a number of options, in the scrollable list on the left side, for where you can display information, and some already have statuses associated with them by default. The most common place to put indicators are in the corners of the frame. You can also use colored borders, the text in the center, the icon in the center, the four sides and the health bar itself to display information.

As for the ways in which these indicators can display the information, out of the box, you can display little boxes or numbers in the corners, numbers on the sides, text and/or an icon in the center, and colors on the health bar and border. You can also use the frame alpha (the frame's transparency, essentially) for statuses.

If you click on an indicator type, like Healing Bar, you'll see on the right side all the possible statuses you can display with that indicator with check boxes. Anything you check off, Grid will attempt to show on that indicator. Bear in mind that if you attempt to put a status that has a display type on an indicator that can't display that type, it just won't show up. Out of the box, you can't display icons in the corner, so if you attempt to put an icon-only display status in a corner, you won't see anything.

In the case of Healing Bar, Grid comes with Incoming Heals checked off. This will show a color overlay on the health bar, in whatever color you configured in the Incoming Heals status, whenever you or another healer is in the middle of casting a heal on that target, giving you a rough approximation of where that target's health will be once the heals land (helping you overheal less).

So this is the section where you put all those lovely statuses to work, arranging where you want them to be presented to you. Many of your class-specific spells will already be set up to show, so cast spells on yourself that put (short-term) buffs and debuffs on the target (like HoTs or shields or Beacon of Light) and see how Grid displays them. If you would prefer they get presented elsewhere, go into the Indicators section, uncheck them from the indicator they are currently on and check them off on the indicators you'd like them to be shown on.

Maybe you don't want Rejuvenation's duration shown in the upper-right corner, you'd like it shown in the lower-left corner. Maybe you don't want aggro shown for a target as a red border, but rather as a red box in the lower-right corner. These are the types of design decisions you can make.

Creating Your Own Statuses

So now you know what statuses are and what indicators are and their relationship to each other. Hopefully you now know these things, at least, assuming I wrote clearly. However, what if you want to display some information that isn't included with the default Grid?

As an example, Shannox, a Fireland boss, has two dog-like companions. One of them races around the raid, chewing the faces off of random people. Suppose you're a healer tasked with keeping these people's faces would be more than passingly useful to know whom the dog has targeted next for chewing.

You can do that. Rageface puts a debuff on his current target called Face Rage (not a very subtle dog). We'll set up Grid to make it obvious when one of your raidmates has this debuff, allowing you to quickly ascertain who's about to take a spike of damage.

Click on the Status tab. In the list column on the left side, click on the Auras category header. Once you do that, the right side should have two text input fields, one labeled Add new Buff and one labeled Add new Debuff. Click to put a text cursor in the Add new Debuff input field and type "Face Rage" (without the quotation marks). Then press the Okay button that should appear on the right side of the text input field.

Now, scroll down the list of Auras, until you see Debuff: Face Rage and click on it. The right side will now give you the options you can set for your new status. Make sure Enable is checked off (you should do this for any status you want to use). You can selectively enable or disable this debuff per class...if, for example, you didn't want to be notified when a druid acquired this debuff, you'd uncheck Druid. However, we want this debuff to show up for any class that gets it. So all classes should be checked off. Select a bright color that will be easy for you to see, since you want this to be obvious when it happens. You probably want to jack the priority up to's your number one priority to know about when it happens. The Show duration option is something that can be useful for a number of buffs and debuffs, so be aware of it...however, this debuff gets removed when one of your DPS crits Rageface, so it's not needed in this case.

You now have a perfectly functional Face Rage status. You just have to put in play. You'll do this in exactly the same way you use indicators for any of the other statuses. A user-created status is just as usable as one that comes with Grid. Your status can be displayed by a color or box indicator or, if you checked off the Show duration checkbox, by a number indicator.

If You'd Like To Do More

These are just the basics of Grid, getting you up to speed with how it works and the major tools. There are a great many plugins for Grid that will add new indicators (like being able to display icons in the corners) or statuses (perhaps you want to track the absorb effects on a target). Some statuses are so cleverly coded that they will even act as new functionality.

You can find a nice list of Grid plugins to peruse here.

I use some of these. They're quite easy to install them like any other add-on and they get listed in the left-hand column in either the Status or Indicators tab, and you just select them, set the options and proceed to use them just as we went through above.

I Have No Pithy Way To End This

So here's this. Enjoy (and hopefully have a long and productive career with Grid).