June 6, 2011

My Personal View on UI Mods

The past week or so I've been debating which topic to hit on. I was going to talk about healing, but then I realized nothing but a nice juicy topic about game modules/modifications (aka mods) would actually be interesting. Why? Because I've never had to use them in my life since most MMO encounters are designed around big idiot warning lights (even way back in the day when Baron Ghedon would make you the living bomb, you still had an obvious warning light to get the hell away) but the simple fact of the matter if you are in a serious raiding guild, one of the pre-requirements to join are obvious modifications to the game designed to play the game for you.

Now, before we get into the meat of this argument, I am not 100% against game modifications, when it concerns quality of life things, like extra bars if a game has too many buttons but not enough hot key space, or things like scrolling combat text (two things that Blizzard didn't include in the main client for a year and a half mind you). I personally have a mod to give me a center screen HUD and makes the text more legible for me, as well as one that combines all my bags so I don't have to open every bleeding one of them to be able to do anything important in the game. Maybe even a few art tweaks to the UI since stone gryphons aren't exactly my pallet, but that's me, looking for taste and substance over dreariness.

But that's where I draw the line with mods. As a long time gamer, and having been gaming longer than I care to admit, the challenge of a game was always doing things yourself. I've been listening to the complaints lately of how new content is so easy from the vocal minority, and knowing partly that reason is because Blizzard can only make the same encounter with the same gimmick so many times before people realize they've done it before, and partly because most of the raiders were already well over geared by the time they added the heroic Zul's, the other fact I look at is how many of them use even a basic mod that tells them the obvious thing to do like DeadlyBossMod? And it doesn't stop there, because I know there are mods out there that do the cleansing for you, or auto heal a target as long as you push a button and mouse over, or even spell interrupt for you.

These type of mods are pre-requirements for raiding guilds and I have to ask, why? It's epicly tragic to because in my mind, if you have skill and are good these are things you do not use and actually pay attention to what you are doing, not listening for the chime and the big text a mod throws in your face to tell you what to do like a well trained terrier. And these are the people that call other's baddies to, mind you, and for me that's just epicly funny, because honestly, if you need a mod to play the game for you, then to me that's no better than throwing the god code on in Doom 2 or clipping and claiming you beat the game on its hardest difficulty. Sure the mods won't keep you from dying but half the challenge in these fights is doing the actions and paying attention to the world environment yourself, and that's part of the challenge that I think a lot of people rob themselves of.

I've made it no small thing to state that I am happy that The Old Republic will not allow modifications at the beginning of the games launch. I know they've stated that the future can always change and such, but I really hope that one of the things they do is put a limit to what can be modified, like basic UI elements to get QOL things for the people that need them. Otherwise, allowing mods like DBM and others to run the game for you is asking for the same stupidity virus syndrome that kicks in where people claim things are too easy.

And before the honking begins, I play a tank and a healer. This means that I have to pay attention to things that are happening around me as well as threat and all the other things there. Of course, if you are a smart tank or healer, or even DPS in this case, you've already pushed the V key (default) to bring up enemy health bars. This wonderful little tool lets people not only see the health of their enemies and target enemies in a pool of diatribe if they happen to lose their target, but also lets you know if you are in danger of getting enemy threat on enemies. It also has the handy little feature of letting you see enemy cast bars which lets you counter them or get ready to do something to avoid the flak of a major attack. Plain and simple.

Now, being the tank is probably a lot easier than being a healer, depending on who your tank is as a healer, since life can be boring or hectic either way, but healers have a bit of extra work, most of the time. Most of the time healers are not focused on enemies but rather party health bars and any possible threat they've generated. This means they rarely see cast bars for enemies. However, the beautiful thing is, most enemies have ridiculously obvious charge up animations that basically tell even a healer to get ready to do something.

Now, I know the major argument will be healers are the ones in need of mods like DBM the most, but let me digress this. Again I don't use any mods that are designed to play the game for me, I use everything that's inherent in the system and actually use that skill to look for myself. So let me take an encounter in Stonecore, from the healer perspective as an example.

There is a giant in that dungeon that every half a minute or so will do a ground stomp attack. Now for melee they get a cast bar. The objective is to jump before the foot hits the ground again to avoid AE damage from the attack. Melee have it easy and it's just a matter of watching the cast bar. As a healer, this is not the case, however, the animation for this is an exaggerated and 2 second long foot stomp thing, and if you are paying attention you can easily avoid this damage just by jumping at the height of the foot stomp animation. That's probably the simplest one to understand but many of the avoidable damage forms in the entire game use similar and overly exaggerated animations. And this is speaking from the perspective of a healer.

In the end though that's to me what separates those with skills from those that are truly pretending. If you need a mod to tell you about the obvious warning lights that even Blizzard put in the core game, then you are definitely doing something wrong yourself. I do enjoy being called a baddie though because I think relying on mods to play the game for me is the most epic form of demonstrating how bad you are. I've ran into several dozen people the past few weeks who were incapable of playing the basic game without a UI mod to either dictate or play the game for them, from a healbot mod to DBM. To me that's sad.

And again, I am not totally against mods. I am all for UI art tweaks or positioning changes to make things familiar and comfortable, or even custom art design for the UI. But some of the mods I dig through on sites like Curse just boggle me. I've seen some mods that are just cluster fucks with the self proclaimed title of easy mods and such, but when looking at them there is less visible screen space than if you decided to cover up 3 inches of your outer screen monitor. And these are suppose to be simple, efficient modifications for UIs, and it only leaves me asking questions, "why?" Some of these mods add so many blasted buttons to the interface I keep wondering what do you need it all for? You cannot possibly have so many spells that you need 5 dozen more trays for buttons. Hell, using two bars alone is a miracle since most of the time, unless the fight is really a clutcher, I only use one tray of all the buttons  I have out.

But whatever, in the end, it still a matter of taste I guess. Some people are comfortable seeing buttons they will never, ever use I guess. But that still leaves the fact, if you need a mod to play the game for you, you might want to re-evaluate facts when you call someone a bad. Of course, the people that say they use to do these things back in the old raids before Blizzard started putting warning buzzards up is laughable, because a few of them I remember, and they were adamant about using the earliest forms of DBM and such for things like the living bomb with Baron Ghedon. I remember those mods well, and the stupid annoying 15 tells I would get while I was already running away from the raid group before I exploded.

Hopefully, next blog I will actually write that healing one and maybe have a few pointers to those who are interested.

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