The way I feel about UI mods in MMO’s has shifted around over the years. For many years in early MMO history they did not exist at all. When the option to alter our UI transparency came about in EQ it was one of those momentous giant leaps forward in UI design. DAOC trumped it by allowing you to alter opacity AND move things around — the madness! Then WoW completely changed the way players look at the interface by introducing player-made UI mod support.
I’ve used them all. I have experience with the CTRaid from the 40-man days of WoW, dercursive automating gameplay, and modern UI mods that survive on the claim that they alter aesthetics when in reality they alter our ability to understand metrics and provide an edge by altering the way information is delivered (or given on a silver platter) to players.
Instead of just taking the stance of anti-UI mod, I’ve grown more in the direction if wanting a revolution in UI design and functionality as it pertains to the fundamentals of the game. I would rather our understanding of how a UI factors into gameplay change. We need something new, something fresh, and something that will allow us to move away from the, albeit functional, rudimentary hotbar.
Until there is a UI revolution, new games being developed should integrate all of the functionality players want into the stock UI and continue to develop it by working closely with players to find out what is missing. The UI should be patched with as aggressively as any balancing changes — it’s clearly important to a great many. Can the UI ever be perfect? No, but if it can’t be patched to improve then it is a failure on the devs part from the get-go.
UI mods, in general, simply do too much. They may not automate the game but providing all of this information at peoples fingertips actually ruins the spirit of the game. Part of what makes playing a DPS class a challenge is managing aggro levels. If a UI mod can practically tell you everything about aggro, what’s the point of being skilled or attempting to learn? I think I can understand now why my teachers in high school did not allow us to use calculators. If you do not understand how or why something works the way it does then you’re just going through the motions and will never improve.
There is absolutely -nothing- wrong with a ‘pure’ UI that plays the game the way it was meant to be played. The problem? It’s starting to be turned upside down so that the games are designed with UI mods in mind. That’s the wrong direction that will certainly never lead to a UI revolution.