Better Know A Mod Type: Unit Frames

October 16, 2009

Excuse me *cough* a moment…

Crizzle!! What the fel happened back there? *cough* We are all going to choke on this smoke. I am afraid *cough* to ask what blew up. *cough* Aren’t you using the Isolation Chamber *cough* when testing new prototypes as outlined in *cough* the shop manual? *cough cough* What do you mean ‘what shop manual’?


Sorry about that *cough* folks. Not sure what the guys are thinking sometimes. Don’t worry, the smoke shouldn’t linger on your clothes too much. If it does though I think we have some Super Cleaning Agent produced by one of our partner plants I can acquire for you.

As you can see, we are having some issues with production. So I want to kick off our first installment of the ‘Better Know a Mod Type‘ series and talk to you a bit about a group of mods typically referred to as Unit Frames.

What are Unit Frames

Self_Unit_FrameWhen reviewing your typical Blizzard interface, the unit frames represent a concise representation of information about the different units in the world. This typically means your character frame in the upper left, your target frame also in the upper portion of the screen, and the different frames for other members in your party or raid. For pet using classes this can also be the frame that represents your pet.

The default Blizzard frames include things like a portrait, a health bar, a mana/energy/rage bar, some buff or debuff icons, perhaps the current hit points and mana/energy/rage of the unit depending on the type (enemy targets don’t typically include information about enemy hit points or mana other than percent of total).

Furthermore, with the default Blizzard unit frames, they really can not be moved or resized at all. They are stuck to the upper left corner of the screen for your own unit and your target, and down the left side of the screen for your party. The default raid frames can be moved around a bit, but really are very limited in their adjustment.

Improving Your Unit Frames

A first question to ask is, ‘why isn’t this good enough?’

Maybe it is. If you don’t have a need to display additional information and don’t have a need to move or resize the unit frames to a different location on the screen, then you probably don’t need a unit frame mod. However, if you have ever wanted to adjust these frame to appear different than they currently do, perhaps you should explore a unit frame mod.

A second question to ask is ‘what additional information can I display?’

To some degree, this is highly dependent on the mod you select. Different mods can show different pieces of information in different ways. Some examples however might include things like target of target, focus target, current spell being cast, percent of health, percent of mana, and a wealth of other things.

If you are unfamiliar with these terms, don’t worry. For someone first getting into addons it can be a confusing complex world of chaos. I will try to go into more detail in the future about what some of these things are. For now, know that target of target is the target of the unit that you are currently targeting. The focus target is a secondary unit you have explicitly set as your focus, almost like a second special target.

Target_Unit_FrameNot only do these mods allow you to sometimes show new information, they also allow you to display it in different ways. Perhaps the percent of health is the most important factor to you when you have a target selected. You can adjust the size and placement of that. Perhaps the debuffs on a target are more important. You can adjust the size and placement of that.

Displaying this additional information, or packaging it in a form that is more helpful or useful is one major advantage of mods and addons for World of Warcraft. You will see this trend throughout almost every useful addon. Unit frames are no different.

The goal is to provide the flexibility to display the information most relevant to you specifically. And to display it where it will benefit you most. As I noted in a previous post on user interface placement, different people are going to want different pieces of information at the center of their screen. Unit frame mods can be used to place important unit information exactly where you want it.

For those not as concerned with the availability of information, another reason to use a unit frame mod is to put your own stamp on the display of unit information. Some mods allow you to heavily customize the appearance of unit data. It is possible to create a highly artistic or aesthetically pleasing interface by implementing some of these mods.

I Want a Unit Frame Mod

A few examples of unit frame mods include:

This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, it does cover most of the major unit frame mods. Keep in mind that many of the mods listed above, as well as other unit frame mods often do much more than just present unit information. This is where each mod offers something a bit different.

In future posts we will attempt to review some of these different mods and go into further detail regarding the features and functionality unique to each. While each of the above mods can work for any class or role, some are designed to be more useful or helpful to different roles in game.

Does anyone know of any other frequently used unit frame mods? Are there other reasons why a person might utilize a unit frame mod to make adjustments to their interface?