Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tobold's disturbing question

Tobold wrote a short but yet thoughtful post a few days that sparked an interesting discussion. I just wanted to highlight it in case anyone missed it.

He asked the seemingly innocent - but at the same time sharp and provocative question: Could you play WoW without addons? And I couldn't help loving the conclusion of the post:
"Isn't it somewhat embarrassing if you are loudly shouting how easy it is to ride a bike, and then somebody points out that you still have the training wheels on?"

Pros and cons
The comments are pointing in different directions. Some readers take the opportunity to express their dislike for the huge assortment of addons and a few give testimonies about how they manage perfectly well to play without addons. As Gellor says:

"Addons really take alot of the learning and thinking portions of games like WOW out of the equation"
Others argue that since the addons are around it would be silly not to use them. After all they're there, and for many players competition is a huge part of the enjoyment of the game. If you're fighting to a nice, impressing achievement record, a nice position on the progression charts or a skyrocketing gearscore, you're probably prepared to do anything it takes to get there. Why gimp yourself when the only incentive for it is your own vanity?

One advocator of this view is Crucifer:
"If you were in a bike competition where everyone could use training wheels in their attempt to win first place, would it still be embarrassing? No, because it' s a clearly posted advantage that you can gain. You could remove advantages and make the competition harder by competing on a unicycle but you would probably get bigger laughs."
Or as Callan S puts it:

" If those raid add ons weren't allowed/weren't part of the challenge as presented by bliz, yes, it'd solve it. When it's valid, it's as stupid as ignoring your knights or rooks in chess."

Different sorts of addons
So what's my view on this? Well, I think you need to distinguish a bit between addon and addon.

There are addons that basically just automates non-thinking-required actions, as Carra expresses it. The dressing room addons (nowadays partly built into the default UI) is a typical example of this. It saves you time and some boring clicking, but it doesn't give you any clear advantage in beating the content. No harm in this and I haven't much to say about it. The less stupid mindless mass clicking we can get the better. Buffing 40 people with a single-target-buff like you did in the old days doesn't make anyone happy or show any particular sort of skill, so let's make it more convenient.

On the other hand there are the bossmod addons, such as DBM, BigWigs and Deus Vox. And those addons definitely change the level of difficulty radically. And I can't but agree with Tobold on this: it really doesn't make sense that the same players who complain about dumbing down the game are using this kind of addons. They don't only cover your screen with warnings and orders about which button to push next - in some cases they even go as far as to add a little arrow instructing pointing you in what direction you should run to be safe.

Being old, a slow learner with a dodgy situational awareness and reaction times that are getting longer and longer as the year passes, I have every reason in the world to use those addons for my own bart. Just like Tobold does. When he revealed his personal addon list, his comment on DBM was spot on:

" The "You Idiot, you are standing in the fire, get a move on!" addon, which replaces whatever situational awareness skill I would otherwise have needed to play in dungeons and raids. ;)"
That's exactly how it is for me. And I'm old enough not to be perticularly ahamed of it! (Although I honestly still have to struggle a little to act quick enough on the addon instructions.)

The way I see it, the bossmods are the equivalence of the handicap system in the golf sport. Thanks to those addons, even an average Joe player like me can get along decently well in higher raid instances. We can play in company with more skilled players. and everyone will obtain success, challenges and happiness in their own manner. We can use the addons and perform a little bit better than we would otherwise.

I've been raiding without bossmod addons in our blind raids recently, and believe me - the difference in level of difficulty when you raid without addons or access prewritten strategies whatsoever is HUGE. And the imba players on the other hand can just leave the addons alone, getting the challenge they're looking for, while they still can rest assure that their not-so-situation-aware fellow players will get the message that they're standing in fire and act accordingly. Each one to his own.

It's all about the e-peen
So if so many players want a more difficult game (at least if you judge from the forums and the debate in the blogosphere), how come that there are so few that actually take action and toss away the training wheels?

I think it has to do with competition. Even if not so many will admit it, it's a huge part of the game. And even though I'm sure there are exceptions, most of us can't be motivated to make things harder for ourselves then they need to be, if it doesn't come with an opportunity to show off a bit.

The only thing that could motivate players to drop the boss mods (apart from banning them) is that there was some extra incentive in it, apart from the personal feeling of overcoming a challenge. If you somehow could display in Armory that you've downed the boss using only the default UI, or if the use of addons would be punished on the progression charts of your guild, I bet it would be an entirely different issue.

You see: The e-peen still rules Azeroth.


SlikRX said...

For me, the questing is where the addons have the most utility. I enjoy it, and enjoy the movement and much of that. BUT, if I had to figure each quest out from the little text blurb provided and wander around aimlessly for hours to find the quest objective, I'd quit. All the shaded areas, "X" marks the spot, etc make the questing SO much more tolerable.

As a RetPal, I use Omen, DBM Pally power and Recount.

Recount & Pally power really don't have much "in fight" use, so I could easily lose them.

Omen helps, but then again, I can get that same info from the health bar of my enemy in the OEM UI.

DBM is nice, but I am often so tunnel-visioned that I don't always notice it. In some fights I have to train myself to watch for it. If I didn't have it, I would simply have to learn to watch/listen to the boss itself, which isnm't that much harder.

Then again, I am hardly a progression radier. *shrug*

Fremskritt said...

Personally I can't live without addons, they are a way to express myself, even if it's only I who get to see my UI.

I actually did heal a whole ToC10 normal on my shaman though, not realizing until after the raid that I didn't have DBM enabled on that character. I still managed to die in a fire though, but that was due to it being my second time healing a raid so I was focused entirely on my raid frames. I learnt my lesson though.

On my main I use DBM to learn bosses though, I don't read up on them beforehand. Why should I, when DBM tells me 90% of what I need to do anyway and the last 10% will be given by my raid leader?

Azryu said...

I agree entirely, it is hypocritical that one should want a harder game and yet be unwilling to help themselves reach that state of play.

But again, I also understand why they don't. Many guilds even require you to use the addons, so sometimes it's not even a choice.

Magma said...

Not speaking of things like DBM, but the actual default bar UI is terrible. Bartender 4, if it wasn't for this, I probably wouldn't play the game. It's invaluable, and doesn't change the game for easy or harder.

Michael said...

I remember a massive guild arguement back in the day (early MC) about whether or not decursers/dispellers had to have decursive installed. Some said that they didn't believe in it. Others said it wasn't helpful. Others said it was the best thing ever. Others used it, but felt unclean afterwards.

I used to use it on my priest a heap and basically spammed decursive for 5-10 seconds every time an AoE fear/dot/something occurred. This was particularly useful in 40 man raids where boss AoEs had a 40-50 yard range so you could have a healer or two outside of boss range (and therefore tank healing range) who's job it was to heal/decurse the healing and ranged dps.

Tessy said...

Haha I have a post in drafting called "To BossMod or not to BossMod" - guess what that one is about :-)

Dw-redux said...

"I want the game to be harder"
"turn off your screen and play, that'll be hard"

Tobold has a weird definition of hard, at least in my book. His earlier post on how to make the game hard - follows the same train of thought, and i do not agree.

Having addons that help you make healing more manageable -or make bad game design easier to handle, does not constitute training-wheels.

And it is only very poor game designers that choses to deal with difficulty by implementing changes that makes it harder for the players to do what they want to do.

If I had to push five different keys in the right order and at the right time, in order to cast a flash heal. The game would not be hard, the game would be badly made.
Simple as that
(expect a long rant on this)

Larísa said...

@SlikRX: I'm really not opposed to addons at all - I've got tons of them myself and they halp me a lot. But still I agree with Tobold that it doesn't make sense when people complain about the lack of difficulty in game while they're still relying so much on addons to make it easier.

: a way to express yourself? Wow. I never thought about it that way. In that case I'd better not publish any pic of my UI. It's so messy... and by the way it looks a bit like my desk at work so... no wonder maybe.

@Azryu: Yeah, some guilds ask for it when you're applying. Yet you could see it the opposite way - not seeing the use of addons as an asset, but rather as a sign that there is a problem... "Do you know the raid encounters well enough to perform as good without using any bossmod?" I wonder if we'll ever see someone with that approach.

@Magma: oh yeah, I love Bartender too. Deffo. And I don't think it's a cheat thing as the bossmods are.

@Michael: I don't think there's much debate going on about this those days. People take for granted that you use any available addon if they help you perform better.

@Tessy: haha... The duplicate minds strike again...

@Dw-redux: looking forward to that rant! But don't you agree that the bossmods are different to other sorts of addons? You can hardly say they're compensating for bad game design.

Holly said...

In Ragnarok Online, if you'd asked me I'd have said add-ons are there, they're allowed, blizzard is obviously okay with what they can do, the last time they weren't (autocasting mods in vanilla wow) they broke the code that let that work and implicitly said "You can't do this."

These days though, I have to admit I'm getting more annoyed with them, when everybody has an add-on for nearly everything then expects -you- to have them. "You don't have auctioneer? lolwtfbbq noob" (actual quote from this morning in fact) it gets annoying.

The other thing is, during Ragnarok Online, I used a healling mod, beautiful beautiful basically 'raid frames' showed hwo much my heals were landing on the temporary hp I gave them etc. . . showed their 'guessed' rate of damage, I mean overall one of the most beautiful healing interfaces I'd ever seen then it was discontinued.

I was suddenly left there holding a bag I didn't know how to hold on my own. I don't mind add-ons making things a little easier but if you can sit back and say you literally -can't- do the job without your add-ons that feels like a line that shouldn't be crossed.

I've found I enjoy most just aesthetic mods, I use x-perl set up to act exactly like the wow frames just with pretty 3d pictures and a better font. I use dominoes but make sur eto only use the amount of bars that the blizzard frames would do. I use sunnpoint viewpoint art which is of course entirely aesthetic, I avoid deadly boss mods and big wigs and have been mocked ruthlessly for not using them. I don't sit here and go "I want a challenge" or "haha you make things easier" I just don't want to become reliant on an add-on to play.

Kobeathris said...

The thing with addons is that many of them take care of functionality that is just poorly implemented in the default UI.

Look at any class that relies on recasting a buff or debuff, or reacting to the same. The default UI is just terrible for letting you know if something is up or has fallen off without hunting around for it. Does that make the game harder? Yes, in the same way that finding your keys in the dark is harder than finding them with the lights on, and that is a stupid kind of hard, not a clever kind of hard.

As far as boss mods go, I can see where they have more of an impact, but realistically, I think that impact is over stated. If there were no boss mods, you know what would happen? 4 or 5 people in a raid would be selected who have very good awareness, and they would be calling things out on vent just like the boss mods. Hell, everyone runs with boss mods, and we mostly do this anyway, so I don't really think it would be much of a change. The handiest thing they do is put up raid markers.

One other thing too, I recently upgraded my computer, and I can tell you that the biggest single advantage you can have is being able to turn up the graphics settings in the game. Prior to the upgrade, I knew that the Rogue in TOC5 put poison on the ground, but I never had any idea where it was, because I literally could not see it, so I would just move around randomly from time to time and hope I was avoiding it, now I can see it just fine.

Gronthe said...

I've seen people with DBM stand in fires anyway, so I'm not sure what impact some addons actually have. I know a couple make my life easier when I heal, but maybe Blizzard planned on outsourcing much of the UI in the first place. If they didn't want addons they would never allow them.

I only use two or three addons, inlcuding DBM, but most of the time I never notice the warnings. I still enjoy relying on my group, RL and my own situational awareness and knowledge of the encounter. It's fun for me and I don't gimp the group.

River said...

Could I play without Addons, yes, and have for years. Could I raid without add ons. No. There are too many things that needs to be done that addons makes life easier..such as decursive.

Hatch said...

It's not about difficulty for those people at all, Larisa. It's about social comparisons.

They do not want the content to be hard for *themselves*. They want the content just hard enough that other people can't do it. Then they get to feel special.

The specialness of being a raider is gone now that everyone can do it.

So for these people, the fact is that if they drop the addons, their problem isn't solved because the addon is still making the game easier for others. When they complain about how "easy" wow is, they are complaining about how easy it is for other people to accomplish the same things they do. Not how easy it is for themselves.

lonomonkey said...

With the exception of recount I've been running addon free for a while. Most bosses have cues to what they will do next so its not so bad. I do believe it helps me as a raider since I have to really learn and understand the fights. I know addons can bug sometimes so I'm less likely to say stuff like "sorry my dbm is off on the timer.".

Rhii said...

Without a healing addon I couldn't heal.

It's as simple as that.

The targeting mechanism for your own party members isn't fast or responsive enough that I could target/cast heals without a mouseover macro of some kind.

I'm inclined to think that's a flaw in the game, honestly. Healers MUST be able to target their own raid members quickly, especially in the more upper tier raids. Otherwise their job becomes impossible. The fact that to heal at that level macros/addons are practically required strikes me as not the addons' fault.

I've been playing LOTRO a little bit lately (to keep my guild from driving me batty) and one of the things I really miss is VuhDo. I don't think my minstrel (healer) will survive to high levels... I think I'll wind up leveling a dps instead.

If there are healers our there who do high end raid content without, I'd be extremely interested to hear how.

Holly said...

I wouldn't say healling without add-ons is impossible, as I do it, I've just gotten good at mouse/keyboard combo, click a person hit the heal button click the next person and at the same time click the heal button. Raid frames all around my character so I can see whether I'm standing in fire, and tunnel visioning all the names around my character is okay. I don't use decursive, and just look for a name to light up bluish (magic) or greenish (disease) Most raid damage if people aren't standing in fire in sprays or have aggro is very very predictable, and for those instances I have faster heals and instant 'oh sh#$' buttons.

But it's comments like that that "without addons I couldn't x" that bothers me. It's good people are being honest, it's better than the ones that go 'with or without add-ons I am still the best" then when the add-on breaks for whatever reason they're the first eating the floor or 'accidently' disconnecting and forgetting things like we can see them on instant messnegers.

When you use an add-on to make things easier, easier to see, easier to do, but you know you can do it fine without the add-on, that doesn't bother me at all, when you say that if you didn't have an add-on you couldn't play the game.....that's another story. And I think sadly the only thing missing from the latter is just practice.

Codi said...

I actually decided not to update my DBM when ICC came out, to see what the fights were like without it. I found no difference in difficulty with or without it. *shrugs*

My add-ons are pretty much for looks, other than Recount. Healing add-ons are my bane and I will forever dislike them.

Codi said...

@ Rhii: I have healed with no add-ons at all for years and have only recently taken to using Pitbull (for looks). I don't use mouseover macros, either. How do I do it? I suppose it's about quick reaction times and a sharp sense of the fight. Really, you should try it! You learn about yourself when you take yourself out of your comfort zone. :)

Carra said...

I was thinking it before I read your last paragraph. Hang a carrot in front of people and they might do it. Give a minipet and an achievement to the guild that downs a boss with the default UI and you'll see the achievements popping up. Without the incentive I see it as driving your unicycle in a bike competition.

As I'm a programmer by trade I always try to look and think "can't we do this easier"? "Can't we automate this?" And if it's possible I go and automate that task that takes fifteen minutes every day. So it should be no wonder that I'm the kind of player that will be running with a dozen addons.

Bristal said...

As an older person, and newer player, learning how to download and use addons was a huge part of the learning curve in getting into endgame content.

I loved it. I've learned a huge amount about my operating system and file management.

And as far as I'm concerned, mods/addons make this game more interesting and unique. In a sense, I can play the game like nobody else does.

Mods may allow you to be better by degrees, but they also allow you to be DIFFERENT.

Verdian said...

I believe a major reason that people refuse to raid without certain addons is that other players have no way of telling that you challenged yourself. Gevlon picked upon this a few months back - unless there were better loot rewards or an achievement/title for raiding ICC without any addons, the socials have no incentive to challenge themselves, and spend their free time QQing on forums about how easy it is.

Certainly playing chess without your rooks is a needless, self-imposed challenge, but if you're complaining about how boring it is, maybe you need to up the ante a bit.

That's why they invented the 5x5x5 Rubik's Cube.

Larísa said...

@Holly: I definitely think it’s good to drop some addons occasionally and see how you can do without them. When we raid blind I have to look at the castbar of the mobs to see certain things incoming (like stop nuking on the huge adds in the first wing if ICC. And I realized I actually could do that as well – I didn’t need to see the letters covering all of the screen to tell me. But to be honest my UI is pretty bad normally – far from aesthetic, clottered with mods and well… messy. I don’t have any talent for UI designing. But I’ve learned to live with it.

: yeah, I guess you’re right. When we’ve been running without bossmods vocal and observant people have been calling stuff over vent instead…

@Gronthe: yeah, I’ve noticed that as well. DBM is most important when it’s still hard. When an encounter is on farm, you know pretty much exactly what’s going to happen without looking at those messages. They’re just in the background noise.

@River: yeah, honestly, decursing would be a pain if it wasn’t for addons. Unless they’ve made something for it in the default ui that I haven’t noticed since I haven’t been playing vanilla for a very long time.

@Hatch: Yeah, you’re probably right. Sometimes I wonder how real life is for all those people who are so desperate to show off their e-peen in the game. Exactly what are they compensating for?

: Wow. I haven’t heard of many players running out of addons. But yeah, probably it helps you keep alert.

@Rhii: Yeah, I can imagine it’s hard.. I haven’t yet managed to make a good ui for my upcoming resto druid, but just the use of grid+clique makes the work manageable. I don’t think I’d be able to heal through an instance without them.

@Carra: as a programmer, do you think it’s doable to make the lack of addons trackable and possible to reward?

@Verdian: Yeah, it’s still possible to get any challenge and level of difficulty that you want in WoW. All it takes is self discipline and the ability to resist silly social pressure mechanisms that makes you believe that there has to be some sort of reward apart from the feeling of accomplishing something you aimed for. Very few players have it I’m afraid.

hound said...

The first addons I ever used were simply so I could get more circles on the round minimap. I saw my buddy with like twenty of them on his map and he was moving them around and I thought it was totally awesome, so I found a bunch of random junk just so I could that.

I'm a bit more picky these days, but I still do it mostly for the little circles. I also like Metahud for the additional graphical stuff.

I use Bossmods if I raid because it's expected that we do so, but I don't even know what half of the features are for and I turn off the loud noises...

Dorgol said...

I use the default UI. Probably because when I started playing there was only ONE UI mod out there (Cosmos) and I wanted nothing of it.

For a long time I even healed using the raid frames in the default UI. I switched to Grid for 2 reasons: the default frames are WAY too big, and they don't show debuffs as well as I would like.

I went a long time without using PallyPower, but finally turned it on when other Paladins in my raid asked me too. Turns out, it really DOES make things easier.

The only addon I use that really makes a massive difference in gameplay is PowerAuras. As Kobeathris said, the default UI does a horrible job of letting you know when certain things proc. IF you play with sound on things work a little better, but if not you are likely screwed. Most procs have a very small graphic notification.

So I could play without addons. I could even heal successfully. My DPS, though, would suffer on all my characters as I miss things like Slam or Missile Barrage or Nightfall.

Tesh said...

Hatch has it dead on. That's why I ignore such weeping and wailing when it comes up.

Self-selectable difficulty really needs to be a part of any game that will have more than one player playing it, and even then, that one player might have moments when they want to play by different rules, as Beej notes over thisaway:

It's obviously going to be more flexible in single player games, but MMOs just use addons to accomplish much the same thing. As long as you're trying to cater to a lot of different people, addons are a great way to help doing so.

...and any whining about how it cheapens some other player's "achievement" is just static that can and should be ignored.

Elelereth said...

For most addons, I'd disagree with Tobold. Particularly with mods like Unitframes, sctrolling combat text etc, they take information that's available in the default Ui, and present it in a much more useful, clear way. That's not still using training wheels, that's making sure your tyres are the correct pressure.

There's stuff like Bartenders and Facade, which are the go-faster stripes.

And then you have DBM. I can't really disagree with that being the same as training wheels. But until your raiders can learn to GET OUT OF THE BLOODY OBVIOUS VOID ZONE OF PAINFUL DEATH YOU BLIND TWIT, I'd say that DBM is rather a good idea. Just like your kid who's still very wobbly on his bike, even with training wheels.


People who don't get out of voidzones is a pet hatred of mine. Especially when they've got heavenly choirs serenading them with warnings from DBM.