My thoughts on a Mod-able UI

I’ve been going through the EverQuest Next website looking for all of the tasty tidbits of information I can find.  While doing so, I realized I haven’t been doing my due-diligence!  The beloved Round Table poses so many different questions, and I haven’t been properly responding to any of them.  These are the types of questions I’ve written about for years — questions I am very passionate about.

The most recent question is a doozy.

What are your thoughts on a mod-able UI?

MMO user interfaces have been destroyed over the years because developers have given players too much or too little control over their customization.  I’m not a fan of UI customization that adds functionality.  If the players have to (or can) make a UI mod that in some way changes how they interact with the actual gameplay mechanics then that has gone way too far.  World of Warcraft is a perfect example of UI mods gone too far.  Even something as simple as Grid — the healing mod — makes healing “easier” by giving shortcuts to dispells, hover to cast, and priority healing.  That right there, the “easier” aspect, is what I’m talking about.  If something can be made easier with a UI mod then it should be done by the devs and built into the UI.

UI mods should definitely allow players to make their interface look the way they want.  If someone wants a transparent UI then I think that’s absolutely fine.  I know a lot of people who really want a minimalistic UI because they have a problem with their screen feeling cluttered.  I think they should be allowed to condense as much of their UI as possible.

Taking a look at the poll and the feedback from the devs, I think I’m in the very small minority here.

eq next ui poll

I voted for “I want to have customization options in the SOE UI, but I don’t usually use third party creations.”

Again, I think it goes back to the difference between customization and modding.   Notice how the last question is very different from the second, and the first question is really compounded to the point where it creates a bias.  Technically, the poll itself may be flawed because I find my position represented in multiple choices.

In the end, I want my character and how I utilize his abilities to determine the output.  I don’t want a UI mod to stand between me and game mechanics, even if that mod is designed to supposedly make things easier.  I’m a purist when it comes to MMO UIs, and I feel that the true experience is the one designed around the interface options given by the developers, not the players.

  • I completely agree. Allow me to move things around and resize elements if I want, but no third party stuff. No added functionality.

    As you said, it’s completely out of control in WoW. Players do very little thinking in raids, everyone uses mods like DBM which literally tell you exactly what to do for each fight at each second. Then players have the audacity to complain that boss mechanics are too simplistic. In the end it creates this arms race between devs and players where developers create increasingly complex mechanics to compensate for ever increasing functionality of mods.

  • Yeah, pretty much what you guys said. It’s really important for the basic UI not to suck and wanting mods so you can fix it to be functional is a big warning sign. Your players shouldn’t be crying out for mods because your UI stinks.

  • I voted the same as you. I almost never use third-party UIs in any MMO and I feel they sometimes sail as close as possible to being outright exploits.

    In a single-player environment these things should clearly should be up to the player but in the shared world of an MMO it would be nice to think everyone is seeing roughly the same thing and using roughly the same tools, not effectively playing different games entirely.

    On the bright side, SOE don’t seem to be taking a blind bit of notice of any of these Round Table Polls. I’m sure they’ll just do whatever they were planning on doing anyway.

  • Limitations on gameplay are just as important as the freedoms allowed, this seems to be forgotten in modern games.

  • I understand your concern with player mods in principle, but in reality I find that many times WoW players were able to respond to UI needs and problems faster than the developers, creating mods that preceded official customizations that potentially would never been made without those ideas.

    It’s a difficult balance to strike, since with too much freedom it’s easy for players to create exploits, or sometimes things that provide one small benefit but with many drawbacks (damage counters and gear checkers come to mind).

    But I remember that just a couple of months ago I read a list of recommended addons for WoW, and was surprised to see a Spam Blocker I used years ago still featured. That’s a basic feature that Blizzard still apparently failed to address to this day, one basic quality-of-life feature that is only possible due to the extensiveness of WoW’s APIs. I know that if I got the crazies and decided to play WoW again, the first thing I would do is to download ArkInventory, the best bag manager addon I ever seen and to me still without parallel in any MMO’s official feature set.

    I want games with good interfaces, and good challenges that put those interfaces to use. But if there are things that could be done slightly better, I like having tools available to fix that.

    So… can I have ArkInventory for Guild Wars 2?

  • I think this issue is one of those situations where the players can’t really be trusted to behave in a manner that is beneficial to their ability to enjoy a game. That can be said of a lot of things, but it’s actually a fairly difficult thing to keep in perspective as a player.

    We use tools all the time to help us achieve our goals. It’s far more straightforward to perceive “defeating the dragon” as a primary goal and, in that light, use whatever tools possible to attain it. Because it is abstracted, it is too easy to forget that the real goal, to which all the others are subservient, is to enjoy the experience. UI modding seems to exist at an intersection where maintaining the latter is frequently at odds with the pursuit of the former.

    I suppose it’s at least partly subjective, as well. Binary success may completely trump the experiential fantasy for some people. Though, in that case, I’m tempted to suggest that there are more lucrative venues for their time and energy.

  • It really depends on the amount of freedom the devs can give regarding mods.
    I certainly had no use for recount or dbm in wow but i could not imagine playing it without Onebag, mobinfo (especially mobhealth back then), altoholic (just to know what stuff i have on each character) and all of those really made my experience better without breaking the gameplay.

    Blizzard releasing all of their api including the functions that the lua cannot be allowed to execute really gave a huge boost on botters imho, but such a rich api boosted mod development and gave blizzard devs ideas as well because the sheer amount of addon devs can almost definitely come up with fantastic ideas improving your game eventually.

  • I’m going to completely disagree. Strong robust UI modding is probably one of the most important features an MMO can provide. Crappy UI’s and lack of good mod support is easily one of the main reasons I stopped playing both WAR and The Secret World (and WAR even had some mod support, just very good support), and I suspect is a major culprit in why so many WoW-clones have failed.

    It’s especially bad as it’s something that hurts ‘support’ roles like tanking and healing disproportionately. A DPS class can run his rotation with almost any UI, but healing can be thankless enough without having to fight through bad group/raid frames.

    I can get my head around reservations about boss-mods, but ditching quality of life utilities because you think healers aren’t playing a hard enough game is just asking for a weak player base. If the game is only challenging because the UI sucks and requires extra keystrokes or ultra-precise clicks then it’s a bad game.

  • All I need is a “power Auras” type mod and nothing else. I keybind all my spells and I hate staring at my horbars down…I want to have important information on the center of the screen

  • With only 8 spells you won’t need a custom UI.

    I did enjoy the customisation Rift alowed, but WOW was retarded.

  • I like my UI streamlined and minimalist.

    Anything that allows me to get rid of unnecessary clutter such as portraits and hotbar frames is a good thing.

    The days of staring at the chat box for specific info are thankfully over as well. I like to have what i need represented visually on screen during battle.

    Anything beyond that which automates any aspect of gameplay is too much.