Customize your AO HUD GUI

27 06 2009
OUr old AO HUD GUI, click for larger view.

Our old AO HUD GUI, notice the distance between player health and team health bars, click for larger view.

Anyone can have a high performance, minimalist heads up display graphical user interface in Anarchy Online and it does not require coding, deleting existing GUI files, or installing additional third party software.  Babaoroody the enforcer, and his alts, Tireen the trader, and Babaente the NT, have relied on the Notum/Darktech Dark Mini as their custom minimalist HUD GUI in Anarchy Online for quite some time.  When the most recent patch (18.1 ) from Funcom refused to install, a number of things came together, like a perfect storm, that made us want to customise the classic AO HUD GUI.

When we logged in for what we thought would be a fun time surrounding the eight anniversary of Anarchy Online, we were greeted with the need to patch message.  This was one of those huge patches, that took over a half hour to download and unpack.  When that finished, it gave us an error message, that was of course pretty much useless.  Another hour or so later after searching both the official forums and the AOFroobs forums, it became clear that our problem would not go away until we had completely removed the Notum/Darktech GUI directory and files.

Once this was done, up came the shiny new game, and as we went about our business with Baba and friends, we noticed that several things had improved immensely.  The most obvious new change was that the time from hitting the login submit button till Rubi-Ka was before us and Baba could start walking around, had been halved or better.  It only took about 20 seconds.  Previously it would always take 45 seconds to a minute to accomplish the initial log in.

The next pleasant shock was when Baba made his first post 18.1 whompa trip.  Stepping in the Whompa door, he found himself walking out at his destination a within 15-20 seconds.  Previously zoning was like the initial log in, taking 45 seconds to a minute or more.  This really caused game play issues in places like the Temple of the Three Winds and Biomare, two places where teams have to negotiate numerous zoning type apertures ranging from doors to teleporters.   Very often Baba would step into a portal in Biomare with his team, and exit on the other side a minute later, with his team far ahead out of sight.

This left us wondering just how much of this performance improvement is due to 18.1 and how much is due to using the original classic HUD GUI.  We have heard several reports in the forums that 18.1 has split the item database into several chunks where the database used to be one huge file.  It might be that on older PC’s like mine, loading several smaller files is faster than loading one huge one.  We not seen wide spread reports of other players seeing these improvements, so we suspect that it may appear only for those with older machines.

We do not want to give the impression that we think the Notum custom GUI caused poor performance.  After seeing that we could get a HUD we liked using the classic components, we saw no need anymore for the Notum skin.  It may very well perform just as well with the new patch.  We simply are not interested in having to perform a number of extra intricate steps each time there is an AO patch.

Our next quest was to see what we could do to get the most out of the old school classic AO HUD GUI.

For inspiration, we turned to YouTube videos of AO gameplay and specifically AO Battlestation PVP.

We did this not so much to watch the players technique or to pick out specific details of their screen layouts, but more to spot some overall trends and similarities of the screens used by several hot shots.  Looking for videos of players cleaning up in Battlestation we spotted several things common to the screen layouts of these masters of mayhem.

One common trait was to move the team panel towards the upper right corner of the screen along with the health and nano bars of the player.  This allows one to see both the health of the player and team mates with one glance.  In team versus mob and team versus other human team combat, it is very important to keep situational awareness of the relative health levels of the entire team.

We also noticed that many players relied on only one or two hotkey bars plus an open actions panel.  The number of buttons included in the actions panel seems to depend on profession and types of attacks.

The other main take away from looking at both Battlestation (PVP) and dungeon videos (PVM) was the absence of menu bars or the wings of the classic GUI.  We did a little reading up in our dusty printed copy of the AO manuals and found the keyboard commands to open any of the menus or panels.

Here is what we found:
AO-PANEL KEYS
CTRL +
1    WEAR
2    ACTIONS
3    KNOWLEDGE
4    MISSION
5    TEAM
6    MAP
7    FRIENDS
8    PROGRAMS
9    STATS
0    NCU
MORE:
Y    TOGGLE hotkey bars
Shift + #      Select hotkey bar layer
CTRL + #        Select active hotkey bar
1-0            Activate hotkey
I            Inventory
U            Skill (IP POINTS)
F10            Options Menu
|            Cycle layout ???
Shift F        Team Search (LFT)
Our new custom HUD GUI using classic AO, click for larger view.

Our new custom HUD GUI using classic AO, click for larger view.

All we needed now was a way to remember the 10 control key combos.  One way to approach this is to rename our utility backpack, the backpack we keep open in order to use items during missions or combat, like rings, stims, etc.  We re-named the backpack WAKMTMFPSN from the first letters of the panel names.  This provides a small easy to spot aid for remembering which key combo to hit to pull up a needed panel, so no more need for the menu wings of the classic GUI.  The wings can be disabled from within the F10 options windows.  We also used the F10 options to set the agg-def bar and the experience/NCU bar to fade out within 2 seconds of not being used.

We also took advantage of another AO feature that has been around for ages, and combined our multiple chat windows into one by using the tab function.   Simply right click on the title of a chat window, and then drag the title and drop it on another chat window.  The title will now appear as a tab in the second window, so you can get rid of the previous window.

The only thing left that we really wish could be changed is the placement of the ‘action’ or ‘swing’ bar(s).  These appear during combat and animate the progress of either casting nanos, shooting and reloading, or swinging melee attacks.  There does not seem to be an option to move these and they resist dragging with the mouse.  Let us know if you have found a way to move them.

It would be ideal if these could be moved to the right so as to be just left of the drop down panels.

Take a look at the pictures of the old layout using a custom GUI and our new layout using our tweaked out classic GUI.  We are very happy with our new arrangement using our tweaked classic HUD.  We wish continuing Notum users well and good luck with thier extra post patching activities.

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2 responses

30 06 2009
BlackMaze

Hi,

Just stumbled across this blog while searching for some old school Anarchy-Online things on the web.

I played back when retail came out and lasted until Notum Wars. Used to participate with a lot of roleplay but for some reason it vanished more and more. I left soon after but came back when the Shadowlands where first introduced. Had a blast there and played for quite some time.

Again I left though, I missed the original game too much. Just Rubi-Ka with everyone stuffed together in Tir, Omni Trade and Omni Entertainment.

I’d love to go back all the way back there.. Woudn’t you?

BlackMaze

13 10 2009
Metafly7

Hey, pretty nice post, just to clarify tho the “|” key u see mentioned as hotkey numer 21 is the key above the “Return” key atleast on my keyboard. To activate it however i need to combine it with the “Shift” key. The normal feature for the “|” key without shift is: “\”. Ofcourse this is different per keyboard since theres a few differences here and there, but the function of the key is to toggle the hotbars, healthbars and compass on and off. I use it to take screenshots that shouldnt include anything i have in my hud.

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