One of the coolest game update 1.2 additions is the ability to finally customize SWTOR’s player user interface (UI). This feature has been asked for since early beta, and it’s easy to understand why. Most modern MMOs all have ways to tailor the UI to meet a player’s needs. A good UI is helpful for so many reasons, and can be crucial to all types of gaming playstyles.
In today’s MMO world, options are important. This is especially the case when it comes to a player’s UI. Luckily, BioWare finally got the hint and gave us our customization options. The feature is available for player testing on the PTS server currently. After playing with it a bit, I decided to write a basic primer on some of its features and options.
The system is fairly simple to use, overall, and players familiar with RIFT’s customizable UI will find SWTOR’s system quite similar. A new button called “Interface Editor” has been added to the options menu. The editor is separate from the Preferences menu, and some of the old UI options that were in Preferences have been moved to the Interface Editor instead. Here’s a screenshot of what the editor looks like (click the image to bring up the full-size version):
The center unit is the editor’s main menu. All of the colorful units around it are the customizable UI elements. In the main menu is an option to turn some of the elements off, to make it easier to display which units the player wishes to focus on. There’s also the option to save and load configurations. Also in this menu are the options to adjust the entire UI’s scale, and toggle which set of units to display. The displayed units are organized in four different ways, each with an appropriate color:
Green: Primary UI element (not shown above, since the Target of Target unit is secondary)
Blue: Secondary UI element (these can be toggled off to work with just the primary elements)
Yellow: The currently selected unit
The displayed units can also be organized by the type of gameplay they are used during, chosen via a drop-down box. There’s a way to display only the space combat interface, warzone interface, operation interface, party interface, and conversation interface, as well as the main HUD, which is the combination of all the UI units shown during most solo and group situations. There’s also an “All” option for displaying everything at once.
I found the ability to organize units in a multitude of different ways quite refreshing. Oftentimes, the task of customizing a UI can be pretty confusing at first, even daunting, especially to a player who isn’t familiar with the process in other games. The different colors and options for displaying units in SWTOR’s version of this system is extremely useful.
Now, back to those colors. Upon clicking on a unit while in the Interface Editor, the unit will turn yellow. This means that the player can then drag it anywhere on the screen and adjust options for that unit on the main editor. The options displayed on the menu will depend upon the type of unit selected. In the example shown to the left, the unit selected is the Target of Target frame.
Yes, we finally have a target of target frame! To use it and the corresponding cast bar, first both must be enabled. While in the Interface Editor, select the frame, and check “Enabled” in the box toward the bottom. Many of the UI elements can be enabled or disabled in this fashion, even frames that used to be enabled via the Preferences menu. All three of the optional action bars must be enabled this way, and are disabled by default.
While a unit is selected, it’s also possible to adjust that unit’s size, or scale, and alpha transparency level. Units can also be flipped horizontally. For unit frames such as the target frame, player frame, focus frame, and target of target frame, an option to “select effects on bottom” can be chosen, which basically places the row of buffs and debuffs below the frame instead of above it. There isn’t a way to disable unit frame portraits right now.
The option to “show information text” is also in this area, which are the little numbers over a unit frame’s HP bar that give the actual and percentage HP numbers. Some unit frames, like the target frame, can also be toggled off if a target is not selected. Casting bars are separate units from all unit frames, and can be moved, resized, and adjusted uniquely.
For action bars, some of the options are different. The sizes for action bars can be adjusted, as well as the alpha level. The borders can be shaved off to create a less “clunky” look by deselecting the “show background” option. For the primary action bar, the little buttons that page through different quickslot menus cannot be hidden, although players have found a way to adjust this in the game’s XML files.
The number of action bar slots and slots per row can be adjusted, which is great for players who disliked the horizontal style for the 3rd and 4th bars. The maximum amount of slots is still 12, and it’s not currently possible to have more than four action bars. Along with the new numeral cooldown countdown and flash options, SWTOR’s action bars are finally starting to look pretty damn awesome.
The same can be said about the entire customization feature. Most of the essential options are there, and the whole system is simple to use. It’d be nice to see a few more options added, such as the ability to adjust the location for error and game messages, adjust the overall UI color, and the ability to make adjustments to the miniature nameplates. But like all new UI systems, this one will only become better with time.
There’s some fun potential here for UI creators, of course. If you’d like to see some examples of the finishing product, here are a few samples of some quick UIs the Force Junkies crew threw together on the PTS (click for full-size versions):
All things considered, the addition is fantastic, and will make a lot of players happy. It’s not enjoyable to play a game where the player UI feels like another opponent on the battlefield. Now we have the power to finally do something about that clunky beast, and get back to the real action.