UI Mods

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From yesterday’s Warhammer Online Devchat:

“The UI will be totally customizable in terms of appearance and utility. For folks who understand what it means: It’s all Lua-based, so experienced modders will be right at home in WAR. We actually have a super-select handful of beta testers playing with it already.” – Josh Drescher

Unfortunately it is what it is. UI Mods will be in Warhammer Online and from what Josh says it appears they are aiming this one directly at the enormous UI community we saw in World of Warcraft. I don’t hide my blatant dislike for UI mods but I should clarify that the majority of my UI angst is directed at the little word in Josh’s quote: “utility”. That’s a scary word when referring to mods. In WoW the UI was so overly customizable for the sake of “utility” that it corrupted a great deal of the game.

Mods can corrupt gameplay

A few years ago there was this real handy mod called Decursive – anyone remember that one? With the press of a single button you could cleanse anyone in your group of raid of any ailment they had (corresponding with your class’ abilities). It was such an advantage since you never had to target anyone or really even be aware of what was going on in the fight that it handicapped anyone who used it. Over a very short period of time it became a requirement (at least of my server) in every raiding guild that you had this UI mod. How about the infamous CTRaid? You weren’t even allowed to join the raid if you didn’t have it! The basic experience of the game was altered to such a degree that these UI mods were required to play when in reality players could get along just fine without them. CTRaid was a hand holder and an ezbutton that automated too much gameplay.

The game should be designed to accommodate all the foreseeable UI needs. Since it’s foolish to think you can cover all the bases from launch it’s reasonable to assume that the UI team, devoted to the UI, should stay on and continue to evolve the base module to meet the growing needs of the players. The bottom line though is that there should never be enough ‘customization’ that a mod becomes a requirement – that means the devs have failed.

Mods in a RvR: Recipe for Disaster

Warhammer Online’s central focus is PvP (RvR). The introduction of UI mods that are allowed to alter utility and functionality to the extremes that we’ve seen in WoW should be prohibited. Mythic needs to take a stance right now and declare that their game will not allow outside influences such as UI mods to corrupt the gameplay. Can you imagine with me for a moment the ramifications that a “Decursive” would have in RvR? A group without Decursive would not stand a chance. How about reactive mods? Can you imagine how detrimental it would be to have mods in play that will use abilities for you when someone else uses a triggering ability? It nears the point of automated gameplay.

It’s taken Blizzard years to correct many of the heinous atrocities that plagued WoW’s gameplay all in the name of “UI Mods”. If WAR releases and makes the same mistake it will be a nasty stain that might never come out. I would be very interested in hearing from Mythic on this one.

Not all UI Mods are bad!

There are actually some really neat things to come out of UI modding that aren’t just cosmetic. In EQ2 there is this mod called EQ2 Atlas and although it arguably “spoiled” the adventure and gave away the location of everything in the game it was still a really handy tool for players who (like me) get lost easily when trying to do quests in large zones. I also really like and support mods that change the look of the basic UI, provide a more interesting and accommodating use of hotbars, and make gameplay more comfortable for the individual by eliminating some of the clunkyness standard UI’s tend to have. I think the ability to customize what you’re looking at when you play is a fantastic idea. There are some really creative people out there who made some fantastic looking mods for WoW and EQ2 and I used those mods. I think the limits of appearance customization should be nearly limitless.

If done right UI Mods can be a really great asset for Warhammer Online.

  • Had to look twice to make sure *I* hadn’t written it. CTRaid made raids so boring, what with its telling you what to do, the buttons that healed and cured people — I don’t think it is a stretch to say that CTRaid killed my interest in WoW entirely by draining all challenge from it. Thottbot had already ruined the game entirely for me way back in Beta, such that I chose not to subscribe when it went live.

  • I think you are correct is pointing out Decursive as a mod that went too far in its utility but it is also an example of the devs screwing up in design (at first) and then not addressing the issues that caused people to create the mod in the first place. Decursive filled a valid need, removing the repetitive and mindnumbing task of debuffing players during a PvE encounter. Once people began using it in PvP the devs had a valid reason to make changes as Decursive completely negated the offensive capabilities of certain classes but in so doing they removed Decursives (and mods like) utility in an area that did not affect other players.

    (When the devs modified LUA to remove the capability to target and execute specific commands during combat I think they chose the easy way. Personally I would have prefered they had originally designed encounters to be more interesting but that is a whole other discussion).

    Bottom line if a mod does negatively affect something like a basic core game mechanic then it does need to be addressed. Perferably before it becomes a common and accepted practice by the community and I would prefer the devs to take a look at why people used it to begin with and make changes that include something positive.

    As for CTRaid, I can only say “eh”. I could take it or leave it as raid encounters are no longer my thing (BTDT, see my comment before about poorly designed encounters).

    To me a good solution would be to allow the scripting aspect to be flexible enough that mod developers can create what they want on the test server but to use them on the release servers the devs have to digitally sign off on the mod for it to be loaded by players, This way the mods can be flexible enough to fulfil the shortcomings of the default UI systems but still be restricted by the devs should they feel the need. Sure it means a review process but it could be streamlined such that basic mods that make purely cosmetic changes can be automatically approved but those that us specific scripting elements would require some review.

    Tipa, to me raids are boring… period. 🙂

  • Sounds like you like mods which automate the part of the game you don’t like (PvE questing) and don’t like mods which automate the part of the game you do like (PvP). Now you may argue that the whole point of WAR is Realm PvP, and thus mods which trivialize PvP are bad. But I think you should be aware of how you are responding to your own biases.

  • UI modders help point the way to needed interface changes.
    No matter how stubborn a developer may be about the elements of the game or the UI, if 80 percent of their users are using a UI to get around it they’ll listen.

    Decursive is a good example of a useful mod, I used it a lot on my mage. Honestly, who plays a mage so they can play whack-a-mole with decursing? This mod let me focus on DPS and decurse only when necessary.

    On the other hand… the health bar mods for healing are great arguments against modding. Talk about trivializing the game experience!!

    But when you take a step back… wasn’t the real problem the gameplay, not the mod that tried to make the gameplay easier? Is playing a whack-a-mole healer that fun? Apparently that’s never going to happen in WAR, and I’m glad… the healer will be up front beating on the enemy with everyone else, so they won’t be able to stay back and whack moles.

    My point is, don’t blame the UI mods and modders, blame the crummy UI and gameplay that forces these mods into existence.

  • @Anonymous – This is the key driver behind the Mod war, pardon the pun. Everyone has different opinions on the best UI layout or add on crutch and people have come to expect customization. If you want to compete with WoW, you have to offer a lot of what WoW offers, and arguably, one of the biggest support groups for WoW are the mod-squad (modders and mod-users).

    DAOC offered UI customization so it’s basically a given that EA Mythic will bring that into WAR. Add ons, macros, and the like are the next evolutionary step. Fortunately, with LUA, the EA Mythic will be able to control what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. I don’t think they’ll let many, if any, exploitative add ons since their game is so PvP focused.

    We’ll just have to wait and see. There’s no point in freaking out too badly yet, IMO.

  • @KingMob – Are you seriously FOR Decursive and AGAINST a health bar that shows numbers and percents instead of a simple green bar? 😛

    I would argue:

    If you play a mage purely for DPS then you are gimping your group. The character was designed with additional utility so that you could offer more than just DPS to your group, and if you lose, it’s your own fault for neglecting such duties. Decursive takes all the effort out of providing debuff removal utility to your group. Would you support a mod that instantly targeted the lowest HP enemy in your vicinity and cast the ideal spell to kill him, without overkilling him (using Frostbolt 3 instead of Frostbolt 5)? That mod would basically be the same thing as Decursive, but for an offensive purpose rather than defensive…

  • @ Anonymous: Let me clarify. I’m against any and all UI mods that automate any form of gameplay. I’m for mods that offer a change in “Look”. For example the hotbars I like are the ones that I can arrange any way that I like – not the kinds that offer all sorts of information or auto clicking/queueing/etc.

    @King: I agree with you. It’s the devs fault for allowing it. You can’t blame the UI modders for making an allowed mod nor can you blame the people who use it. You have to blame the devs for allowing it. 100% correct. I think it’s the responsibility of the devs to disallow these mods.

    That said, I still dislike the mods even if they are allowed. To me they corrupt the gameplay.

  • EQ1 cheaters used to insist that programs like ShowEQ that showed every mob in the zone, allowed you to run to them automatically when the popped, showed you what the mobs were holding and kept track of spawn times, were just adding the things that should have been in the game in the first place.

    It’s an old argument modders (both legal and otherwise) used to automate their gameplay. I wouldn’t have minded them so much in WoW if they hadn’t been mandatory — so I *had* to use them for raiding.

  • So I guess you’ll just remain in PotBS and let the rest of us enjoy the corrupt gameplay in WAR. Goody, more realms for me to conquer!!

  • I use a number of different addons which help to make certain elements of game play less annoying for me.

    For example, my main character is a Resto Shaman. I use an addon to display bars for my totems and remind me when my earth shield is expiring. With 25 people to keep up, is that cheating?

    I also use “Shamans Friend” to display which buffs I just purged off, or to group my windfury hits together into one big number. Is that cheating?

    I also use healbot, which replaces my raid frames and allows me a unique interface to healing, left click on someone does lesser healing wave, right click does healing wave, ctrl+left does max rank Chain Heal etc – is this cheating?

    It’s the same thing as clicking on the raid frame and then hitting the healing button, but it helps to make that aspect of my job slightly cleaner and more user friendly.

    I agree that the old decursive took things too far, you should never be able to mash one key and do every single dispel / cleanse available. If they made an addon which targeted the lowest health person in my party and healed it with one button press I wouldn’t use it – 1, because it would be retarded and tanks would die a lot, and 2 because it wouldn’t be fun.

    The point of the addons is to provide the user with a more enjoyable experience, not to bypass an element of the game which was meant to be experienced by everyone. No one should have to stare at 5-40 raid frames and try to pick out the one person with a curse or poison, etc.

  • @Snafzg:
    I play a mage (or used to) to add DPS and crowd control to my group. I’m pretty sure Blizz (we’re talking about WoW, right?) has a design doc filed away somewhere that says that’s what mages are all about, DPS and crowd control.
    Decursing is an afterthought, it’s just one dinky little spell with no complexity whatsoever. When I have the opportunity to automate that dinky little spell (and I think the post-expansion Decursive is a little more complicated than one-button, but who cares), it makes it easier for me to focus on the stuff I’m supposed to be doing.

    On the other hand, healers are supposed to be focused on healing (in that game, anyway), so if they use a mod that turns the game into a bunch of bars and percentages it means there’s a serious problem with either the game interface or the way they’re being forced to do their jobs.
    This is not an attack on raid healers – lord knows you have it rough! By all means, use whatever mods you need! But my point goes beyond this – it’s that either Blizz should offer a ‘raid healer’ class with a messed up UI for you and the tacit acknowledgement that some people like to do that, or else they should fix the stupid game so raid healers don’t have such a boring job to do.

    Anyway WAR won’t have these problems…. right? right?

  • you know i was gonna ignore all of you with your comments even though Kingmob seemed to make more sense than any of you and being as though this is Keen’s site he is only going to be biased to his own opinions. But there is much more going on here that you ALL seemed to have missed and that is your playing Dungeons and Dragons, no matter how it looks the mathematics of WOW is based on D&D which was not created around a GUI or any type of Graphics at all this “gameplay” that i hear you ALL talk about is bs at best you say Decursive ruins gameplay oh really and who decided that gameplay is based on like Kingmob said mole whacking for 1-2 hours is that fun no its not fun its fucking stupid, should it have been designed like that well that a matter of opinion the only real fact hear is that there is NO true correct style of gameplay for a system that wasnt created to be played with the eyes anyway there should NOT be a system of healing ppl by hitting the mouse button over and over. Decursive SHOULD have been a default interface for WoW. Mods and UI dont mess up ANY game they are created out of NEED gentlemen. Im pretty new to WoW but not to RPG’s and WOW has a lot going for it but you must all understand blizzard is at grips with itself trying to make a pen and paper system work on screen. and before i go i want to say how dare you all even you Keen speak of WOW as some sort of example of MMORPG’s or even talk of its gameplay of being ANY sort of standard for anything RPG. WOW has only been successful at making money from the D&D system but they still havent and probably never are going to do it right. And yes i love run-on sentences