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In the Blue Circle: Interview with GTFO author Zensunim

April 11, 2011

You already know that I’m a big fan of GTFO. I love the addon because of how it sends what is by default visual information and routes it directly to the ears.  As a healer raiding in Cataclysm, an expansion with an overabundance of ground spell effects, GTFO’s sound alerts were a godsend.


The addon’s author, Zensunim, stopped by the Blue Circle for an interview over the weekend.


Congratulations on reaching half a million downloads on Curse.
Why do you think GTFO is so popular?

Think of first person shooters: when you get shot at, your screen shakes, gets red, flashy, and bloody and your character grunts and cries in pain and breathes heavily the more hurt you get.  If you’re playing with a controller, it vibrates violently.  You can’t mistake it, even in the middle of an Omaha Beach firefight.

In WoW, getting pounded on is part of the game when you’re leveling up.  By the time the player gets into the higher-end dungeons, a lot of them don’t realize what damage is avoidable and what damage isn’t, especially since there are times when you have no control over it.  Some enemies randomly pelt everyone in the group with unavoidable attacks so healers have something to do apart from just healing the tank all the time.  New players are conditioned that getting hurt during a fight usually doesn’t matter and the only feedback they get is a small green bar in the upper left corner the screen…or death.  The sounds of your character getting hurt are a whisper among dozens of other sounds of spells and roars and grunts from everyone and everything around you.

Now let’s move on to the experienced players who know how to play: tunnel vision happens to the best of us when looking at enemy and party health bars, debuffs, cooldown numbers, enemy cast bars, boss timers, boss emotes, and so forth.  It’s very easy to get hung up on trying to do the perfect DPS rotation or concentrating too much on preparing to interrupt a critical enemy cast that you don’t realize your feet’s on fire.

GTFO provides that feedback your character needs to indicate that you’re getting hurt by something that’s within your power to avoid.  It also requires little to no effort with configuration and just works, providing immediate results at improving your reaction time as well as your situational awareness, and it’s especially helpful for players unfamiliar with new dungeons or people with old computers that have trouble seeing spell graphics.  Hearing the sound eventually trains your brain to associate the sound with doing something wrong or standing in something bad.  After a while, going through the motions becomes second nature and the addon will make fewer and fewer sounds as you learn to anticipate and avoid the bad stuff.

I actually think GTFO isn’t as popular as it probably should be and I realize this almost every time I do a random heroic PUG.  People are always standing in stuff without realizing it and can’t even bother to read party chat when I tell them to move.  That’s why I’m very appreciative of bloggers like you helping to get the word out.  I imagine that the revamped Zul’Gurub instance in 4.1 is going to prompt a lot of frustrated healers to ask their fellow party members to install this addon.  (By the way, the mod is already working for the new 4.1 instances if you install it on your PTR client.)

Once people give the addon a try, many end up loving it and are impressed by how quickly their game improved since installing it.

Zensunim the Priest


What kind of a player are you?  What occupies your time and attention in World of Warcraft?

My favorite characters to play at the moment are a feral druid (tank/dps specs) and a priest healer (disc/holy specs).  I get to do a little bit of everything and get to see the dungeon and raid encounters from all perspectives.  It keeps the game fresh for me!


How did you first get started writing addons?

I started getting into it when I tried my hand at two-boxing during the vanilla days and looking for ways to make it easier.  The best way I learned was by taking apart other people’s addons and seeing how they implemented things.  The resources at WoWWiki/WoWpedia have also been invaluable for learning Blizzard’s API.


What was the first addon project that you worked on? 

My first add-on, SmartPriest, allowed me to control a priest that would follow my warlock character around and heal 40-man raids.  It was pretty awesome: it had a built-in priority system, picked the best spell to use based hp/mana calculations, stopped casts if the target got healed up by someone else…it was a really good game-breaking add-on that I kept to myself.  Blizzard completely broke it in Burning Crusade’s 2.0 patch by removing an addon’s ability to select spells to cast in combat, so I cannibalized parts of SmartPriest to create two new addons: SmartError and SlaveGirl.  Since I couldn’t keep my eyes on the 2nd computer, I relied heavily on the audio prompts.

I noticed that several of your addons work particularly well for multi-boxers.  Do you multi-box?
I used to multibox a lot until 2.0, but after that point, I do very little of it outside of questing.  It’s not that I wanted the game to play for me, but I had a lot of fun developing AI and seeing it in action (without breaking Blizzard’s EULA).  Since then, I’ve turned my attention to other pursuits in the game.


How do you choose new addon projects?  Are you working on any currently?  If so, will they include an audible warning feature?

I think to myself “I wish there was an addon that did X” and try to find if someone already made it.  If not, I go make my own.

I do have several addons that I created but have never reached the point of being released to the public for one reason or another, usually because it lacks polish or it’s just plain hard to use because I really hate building UIs in WoW.  It’s already time-consuming enough keeping GTFO up-to-date and current anyway.


What is your favorite addon that you have developed?  

“The British Chick,” nicknamed by others in my guild, is my favorite, and yet it’s another one on the list of those that I haven’t released to the public.  It gives instructions to the raid by telling them to group up or spread out or calling out individual names to run away or move over there.  It lists off the names of people that AFK or not ready during a ready check, lets everyone know a feast has been dropped, alerts the raid when a wipe has been called, etc.  It’s an automated raid leader and what makes it unique is that it does all of these notifications over Ventrilo (or Teamspeak or Mumble) in a pleasant female voice with a British accent.

The amount of time it takes to maintain it is huge, so I don’t know if I’ll get around to releasing it.  One of these days I’ll post a YouTube video showing it off.


Which addons by other authors could you not live without? 

Power Auras … I use this everywhere for every character I play.

Also for everyday play: AutoProfit/AutoProfitX, Postal, Stackpack

For raiding: DBM and Omen

For healing: Healbot


What is the most challenging thing about developing an addon? 

Testing is definitely the hardest part.  It’s particularly frustrating when I code a bunch of stuff that I can only test by getting a random debuff on a raid boss that my guild has on farm.  If I don’t get the debuff or the addon fails, I either have to inconvenience the other raiders by calling for a wipe or I just have to wait until next week to test it.  Fortunately, this sort of stuff doesn’t happen too often.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to recruit dedicated testers for GTFO.  You would think this would be simple enough: play the game and if it beeps when it shouldn’t or doesn’t beep when it should, let me know.  I’ll give it another go when 4.2 hits PTR.  My raiding guild is also behind on progression.  We’re currently working on killing Nefarian on normal and haven’t been able to do any heroic raids yet.  The GTFO alerts you hear on heroic modes are the result of me reading up on fights I haven’t done yet, pouring over the combat logs of other guilds on World of Logs, taking educated guesses of what is useful, and crossing my fingers and hoping it all works.

Developing UIs for WoW addons has always been a pain in the ass for me as well. >:P


What is the most rewarding part about being an addon author?  

I love hearing stories from other players about how GTFO helped make them a better player.  I especially am happy to hear when I have made the game more enjoyable and accessible to people with disabilities such colorblind individuals or those with debilitating mental or physical conditions that slow their normal reaction time.


Check out Zensunim‘s Author Page on
Download GTFO on curse.

Also: (Mirror)

If you loved GTFO, you might also like to try SmartError .

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2011 10:15 am

    Hey Alacran!

    Great post! We have a good number of raiders that also love this mod.

    Completely unreleated, and I sent you a tweet on this, but I was wondering if you might like to be featured on the Twisted Nether’s Welcome Wagon. I’ve looked on the site for an email to try and email you some information about it, but can’t seem to locate one! If you are interested shoot me a DM on twitter, or toss me an email at


  2. April 13, 2011 4:08 pm

    I have never heard about the addon tbh 🙂 But very interesting reading!

  3. Hunaiam permalink
    April 15, 2011 10:30 am

    I have been using this addon for about a month now and next to healbot this is my favorite addon. I am one of those people with serious tunnel vision and GTFO keeps me out of trouble. I recommend it to anyone who will listen, and I don’t understand why everybody is not using it?

    • April 15, 2011 10:51 am

      I have a guy in my guild that plays with sounds off and ground effects very low. Maybe they don’t like sounds? If so, They should check out the feature of GTFO to give warnings visually with Power Auras if they don’t like sounds.

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