This week I’m going to look at something I’ve been meaning to cover for a long time – user interface (UI). UI customisation is a very personal thing and there’s a wide range of setups which will work well for different people, but there are some good general principles that you should think about. I’ll discuss some of these principles and go over my personal setup which might give people some ideas. The main areas of UI customisation are toolbar layout, plugins and screen layout and I’ll look at each of these in turn.

Toolbar layout

I believe that an effective toolbar and hotkey layout is one of the most important things to playing a successful end game character. Being able to hit your skills quickly, indeed automatically, while being able to process what’s going on around you in the rest of the group/raid is vitally important. I know there’s some mixed opinions about whether to use mouse or keyboard to activate skills, but from my perspective there’s not much of an argument; while it takes a little time to learn, using keyboard shortcuts for all commonly used skills is clearly superior.

There’s a few reasons for this. First of all it’s simply quicker. Yes, it’s only a question of fractions of a second but it all adds up (particularly for instant skills such as mezzes, self-heal panic buttons and interrupts) and the simple fact is that moving a mouse around takes time whereas hitting the keys that are already underneath your fingers doesn’t. Second, it’s more accurate (once you learn your hotkeys) – there’s no danger of a panicked misclick once you’ve got the muscle memory in for your hotkeys. And third, rotating your camera and moving around the screen is far faster with a mouse than a keyboard, so if you’re using your mouse to click skills then it’s going to be harder for you to multitask movement and skill use. I’m not saying it’s not possible for you to be a good player if you don’t use keyboard shortcuts, I’m just saying that using the keyboard for commonly used skills (once you’ve learned it) is always going to be an improvement. And it’s not that every single skill needs to have a shortcut key, just the core ~10 or so that you regularly use.

As for lore-master skill layout, you can see my setup above. Essentially I will use keyboard shortcuts for the first 5 or 6 skills in each of the four rows, and click everything else – except for a few key skills such as sop:r and share the power which I’ve got specific hotkeys setup for. My primary debuffs are from 9 to = on the keyboard, given they are only cast every 1min I will often mouse click these, but can also run my fingers along the keyboard. I won’t go into this setup in too much detail, other than to say that as a general rule I find it’s not necessarily a good idea to group all of the same kind of skills together, which is the natural temtation. The most important slots are 1-5, because they’re the easiest to hit, and so these should be your most common skills which for me are blinding flash, staff strike, sop:c (which I like to use on landscape mobs as I run into them), burning embers and LoTRD. On the second toolbar, I have sop:wf, pet attack (it’s very important to hotkey this one close imo), pet skill #1 (this will be swapped around depending on the pet – I pick the most important one for each pet, eg. benediction of the raven, fan the flames, flank, taunt), staff sweep and then pet skill #2 – I don’t think any of the pets have 3 skills which you really need to manually activate. This screenshot is slightly outdate, I’ve subsequently put the sage’s set clicky in place of the house summon there (although I actually don’t use the pocket in raids, as I have a ToO recipe pocket which has a huge chunk of morale which I find more useful than the extra will).

I also have toolbars 5 and 6 vertical and to the right of my screen – on there I put a bunch of things that I don’t use as much or which I’ll manually click (or which have specific hotkeys like potions). This includes alternative LIs, pets and summoning skills. I recommend putting extra toolbars like this verticlaly, as otherwise you lose a lot of key screen real estate to toolbars.

Plugins

Again, plugins can be something that people have mixed feelings on and again I have a pretty simple opinion on them – using relevant plugins correctly will always make you a more effective player. The most important plugin type is a debuff notification. Buffbars is the gold standard here, although Palantir can do a similar job quite effectively – while it won’t show you what debuff you have, the potion cure lightup in the middle of the screen is usually a good enough notification. Palantir has the additional benefit of giving you the useful health/morale brackets in the middle of the screen which I personally find quite handy.

The key to using plugins is to set them up correctly so that they tell you what you need to know when you need to know it. You can see how I’ve got mine setup in the screenshot to the right. I have two buffbars notification for pottable effects – a popup bar to the lower middle of my screen which ONLY has debuffs (buffs are in a window to the side of the screen which I usually only look at out of combat), and an effects slider to the top. I also have the potion popup on in both buffbars and Palantir. So basically my screen lights up like a christmas tree if I get hit with something I need to pot. This is a Good Thing. My raid group has a pretty shifting list raid with a lot of newer raiders and occasionally pug people. I can say from a lot of experience, that reliably potting negative state effects is one of the least common skills in the game. And in a fight like Saruman, it means that every time you take a new person in there you either better be confident in your mic skills or get ready to wipe a few times because of bombs going off. That’s not surprising in a way, the default interface (ie that tiny little square under your character portrait) does an unequivocably terrible job of notifying you that you need to do something. So do yourself a favour and setup Buffbars and/or Palantir to help you with this skill.

The other plugins I use are Combat Analysis, which can be seen taking up far too much screen real estate in the above screenshot. I don’t use it much in combat but it’s a great out of combat review tool with a lot of powerful features nowdays. I also love Raid Rolls which I use when handing out loot at the end of a fight. It looks through the combat log and sorts out /rolls (you specify when to open and close rolls for the data capture) and it’s a wonderful tool for raid leaders. I highly recommend it to anyone using master looter. I’ve also in the past used Kragenbars, primarily to have a scrolling pet toolbar button, but something broke it in a past update for me and I haven’t got around to updating it. I’ve also been meaning to setup LoTRO Alerts which scans your chat log for specific phrases, eg. “[player name] has freed [mob name] from a daze” or “shock [playername]” and pop them up as a text billboard. You can also set it up to popup timed alerts, eg. for reapplying debuffs or mezzes. It seems like a really good idea, but I just haven’t yet got around to using it.

Screen layout

There’s a few key principles you want to keep in mind when setting up your screen. First is that it’s easiest to see stuff in the middle of the screen, so try to keep that area for very important things. Second, you’re a lore-master so you need to be able to easily scan your group and raid for morale/power levels and curable effects. The most important thing to help you do that is to go into the UI options and on the social options (under combat, strangely) there’s two options which should both be ticked – “show dispellable effects only” and “show effects cast by me”. The former will clear off all the junk that fills people’s buff/debuff bars in a raid and only leave behind curable effects. This lets you both see what you need to cure (wound/diseases) as well as any fears or poisons which you could either cure with a salve or tell the other person to cure over a mic if you’re using voice software. The “show effects cast by me” option is mainly useful to let you keep track of your stun immunity.

As for what to put in the middle of the screen, as shown above I like both the christmas tree lightup of pottable effects and the palantir health/morale bars brackets. For a long time I also had both my and my target’s portrait, along with my pet and the “target of target” portrait in the middle, as you can see on the screenshot to the right. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do. These portraits certainly have a lot of relevant information (what debuffs are up on the mob, has the hunter pulled threat, is your pet dying), but I’ve moved them recently to the positions in the above screenshot mainly because they were obstructing my view of the Great River too much :). They do tend to add a bit of screen clutter in the middle, but it’s something to think about if you want.

Finally, there’s chat bar setup. One tip I’d give there is to have /say text (where most boss callouts appear) in a highly visible colour on your active chat window (I use bright red). That can help you notice certain important callouts.