To addon, or not to addon?

Last week saw some very heated arguments around the WoW blogs on the subject of addons.

Codi presented her ‘no healing addon experiment’ and explained why it had become permanent, as well as her philosophy on addons. Tam was one of many to respond.  As was Miss Medicina with a thoughtful overview  (Sorry for bringing the subject up again, guys, but those are all excellent posts.)

At the same time, there has been a wave of discussion among LOTRO players who are now facing the prospect of addons being introduced into their game for the first time. Hawley explains why he’s worried about what this means for LOTRO.

I’m quite sure that one of the main reasons LOTRO players are wary is because they want to avoid the sorts of arguments about “addons make you a worse player”/”good players use addons” which have been raging in WoW ever since they were introduced.

Once the addons are in, the arguments will inevitably follow.

All True Healers use/don’t use addons

I think part of the reason the healers get so wound up is because this so easily turns into the No True Scotsman fallacy. If it is possible to have a favourite logical fallacy, this one is mine. It goes like this:

Scotsman1: No Scotsman wears pants under his kilt.

Scotsman 2: I’m Scottish and I wear pants under my kilt.

Scotsman1: Well, no TRUE Scotsman would do that.

So if you make a generalisation and find a data point that doesn’t fit, you tell the naughty data point that it doesn’t exist or doesn’t count.

In this case, the implication that using addons makes you a worse healer (no good healer uses addons) – even though that’s not what the poster said – was enough to raise the rafters with people arguing the exact opposite (all good healers use addons! Only bad healers don’t.).

From a tanking point of view, I don’t really care what the healer is doing with their UI as long as the heals keep coming. However, it is absolutely true that it is harder to heal with no addons. Addons give a big advantage to users, and also make the game more fun and less stressful. This, after all, is why people made them in the first place.

Not only that but healing is the raid role which can most benefit from addons. Healing via raid frames is clunky at the best of times (in my ideal world, I’d want to be able to do it just from looking at the actual raid, not at a grid on the screen.)

It is also likely that players with well optimised addons will top the healing meters. Meters measure things like reaction speed, which is helped massively by a well laid out UI. Meters do not necessarily measure who is a good healer, but people who take the time and effort to optimise their addons will probably also take the time and effort to be good healers.

So one reason not to use them is because you’re deliberately doing it for practice. (Who knows, maybe you’ll be asked to heal a raid just after a patch broke all the addons. Or maybe you’ll get to play on a PC which has no addons installed sometime.) Or maybe you want to flex your healing muscles and decided to build your UI again from the ground up, adding in elements as you need them. Or maybe you want to experience the game as it was back in ye olde days.

My only conclusion is that if you’re really keen to be a good player, at least make sure you know what all your addons actually do. Practicing without any of them might be a part of that.

How addons change the game

There is no doubt that having addons in WoW has absolutely changed the game. If only because Blizzard occasionally nick ideas from the popular ones and include them in the base client. This has happened since beta, when cosmos inspired the in game auction house – yes, beta WoW was going to ship with just a trade channel.

Raid designs in WoW are now built around the assumption that players will be using addons. This is very obvious when comparing WoW raids to LOTRO raids. The latter feature far simpler mechanics, they’re still fun and can also be very difficult but the complexity doesn’t compare. I am quite sure that this is because WoW raiders lean very heavily on addons to tell them when various boss abilities are due, when to get out of the fire, and so on.

LOTRO raiders need to be able to estimate timers and distances in game – that’s a big skill of being a raider. You also have to keep your eyes peeled for animations and effects  if you are on interrupt duties since there are no mob cast bars. Finally, although there are often poison/ fire effects to move away from, they aren’t signalled quite as obviously as in WoW.

Not only that but buff and debuff icons are quite small in the LOTRO base UI. Again, raiders have to become good at spotting these things. So paying attention to the surroundings is a huge raider skill in LOTRO. Beating the damage meter? Not so much. Although there are ways to record damage and good dps players work very hard at maximising their damage output.

In WoW, by comparison, the addons help with that in many ways. Your important buffs and debuffs will probably be highlighted in huge text at eye level (or wherever you choose) on your screen. You will have accurate timers showing when any of your dots or debuffs are about to run out. If you play a class with a complex dps rotation then you probably have an addon telling you when to press which button. None of these things make raiding easier in practice. Blizzard just make other aspects of the raid more demanding to maintain the challenge level.

Change is Scary

I don’t have a conclusion to the addons vs no addons argument.

I think that on balance, addons have made WoW a much better and more fun game. I think that they will have the same effect on LOTRO – there are aspects of the base UI which I hate, and look forwards to seeing modded.

I also think that damage meters in particular do make the game more stressful and more focussed on metrics.

But once the addons are there, they are a part of the game. There will be an expectation that good players will want to modify their UIs to suit their specific needs. You can choose to ignore them and will probably learn more about your class/role by doing so – or maybe you’ll just get a squint and a headache. Sometimes base UI elements are not the pure game design utopia of ‘how things were meant to be’ but actually shoddy pieces of design that never should have gone into the game like that in the first place.

For all that, I do admire anyone who can heal raids in WoW using just the base UI. You may be mad, but I salute you :)

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10 thoughts on “To addon, or not to addon?

  1. LOTRO raiding sounds rather interesting – I like the idea of having to be much more aware of your surroundings and what the boss is actually doing. Mind you, I only like the IDEA of it, having never played the game, so perhaps if I did try it I might not like it. But then maybe I’ve just become too used to how WoW does things. Carebear am I.

    I do think there’s a difference though between addons that make healing easier, and ones that make surviving easier. I wouldn’t mind so much if things like DBM got banned because I think it is a bit of a crutch which reduces encounters somewhat to watching and reacting to timer bars.

    I realise this is not much dissimilar to healing, which is all about watching bars anyway, and I can’t really justify the disparity between wanting DBM and its ilk to go away, yet wanting to keep Grid or Vuhdo or whatever.

    • You’re right, there is definitely a difference between addons which are mostly cosmetic (ie. present info which is already on your screen in a different way) and those which really affect how you play.

      And there’s also room for a discussion about whether you should be fighting the UI or the actual mob (ie. what does it really prove if the debuff icons are really teeny and hard to see?)

      But mostly I think you’re right and I should write some more about LOTRO raiding. I’m very lucky in that the guys I raid with there have the patience of saints and are generously running raids to some of the easier locations (imagine raiding Naxx) for newer raiders and alts. Which means I have had a chance to get a feel for the pace of the LOTRO raid game. As another bonus, the raid leader is french and I love french accents :) The main thing to note is that WoW raiding used to be much more like this before addons really took on.

      I don’t in any way claim to be an experienced LOTRO raider, I may see if I can persuade Arb to write a little about the more cutting edge side of things.

  2. “in my ideal world, I’d want to be able to do it just from looking at the actual raid, not at a grid on the screen”

    People have done that in the past (in wow), enable friendly names with health bars and click away (or have a mouseover macro)

    As to the true-scotsman analogy: Imo healers without addons aren’t bad healers… They just are not as good as they could be. That is not to say, that they are worse than every healer who *do* use addons, because that is not true.

    It just saddens me, that good players, through some distorted sense of either “what the right way to do things” or “I’m am actually doing better this way” chose to handicap themselves, by not being all they can be.

    • Yup, that’s how I learned to heal in PvP (it was before everyone in a battleground was automatically in the same raid) and it was how you had to heal the priest epic quest in vanilla too.

      But what I mean more is that I’d like to see healing based more on area effects, cone effects etc, so you’d actually look at the raid to decide where to go heal rather than at a grid on the screen. It would be quite a different design for raid healing, with much less emphasis on healing a single player quickly and accurately.

      • Wish granted! paladins get a cone of heals:

        “We also introduced several new heals for Holy Paladins including Healing Hands (an AoE heal-over-time that is applied to all players standing near the paladin), Light of Dawn (a cone heal with a 30-yard range)” (this was taken from world of matt)

      • I think the cone heal sounds great. Shame I don’t play a paladin and can’t be arsed to level one :) My latest attempt got stuck at level 40 because I was so bored.

        Now what I really need is for them to give something similar to druid or priest (cos I have both of those either at 80 or close by.)

  3. It is quite some time that I played WoW for the last time, even longer that I healed with my Paladin.

    Paladins were said to be one button healers. Well, actually two. The bigger heal Holy Light or the shorter casting time minor heal Flash of Light.

    I had a mod that turned me into a proper healbot.
    It decided based on an incoming damage prediction and health level of the target which spell to cast and which rank of the spell to cast to minimize overheal.
    This had some drawbacks, there was a chance the mod screwed up royally and the guy died. But most of the time it was much more economic with mana preservation than me.

    I am against Addons and would only allow heavily restricted restricted macro use in any MMO. I am also opposed to anything more than cosmetic UI / skin modding.

    Game companies must provide a proper and working interface for their games. It cannot be that players of said game depend on external addons for maximum performance. The chance of cheating, abuse and exploitation is just too high. And it can also take the fun out of the game through too much automation.

    I bet there would be a boss mod for LOTRO’s Sammath Gul that tells me exactly when I have to hit the “clobber” or “punch” button to interrupt the boss from casting his devastating spell.

    But I think preserving a “pip of fervor” for clobber while still using other skills and doing damage and not just sitting there only doing clobbers on cooldown is a player skill, something that has to be learned and mastered. An Addon could take that away or make it easier. Still, it would not be nearly as bad as the “Healbot” addon! :(

    As Andy said, I also would miss Grid… but does this not tell something? Namely that Blizzards Raidframes are PURE SHITE and need and overhaul, something they totally ignored and left the field entirely to modders.

  4. Just wanted to say I’ve always wanted to use the No True Scotsman in an article, but have never had a subject where I could use it. Well played. =D

  5. Since LotRO is thinking about introducing LUA-based scripting, I’ve been worried about what this means for the game. As you said, it’ll be letting the genie out of the bottle, and it will be a pretty radical change for the game.

    The one thing I really don’t like about addons is if you don’t pick the “winner”. Interesting that you mention Cosmos, because I used that for a long time. I had everything set up just the way I liked, then it wasn’t supported anymore. *sigh* Then I had to go through the pain of finding the “improved” versions of what I used previously.

    However, the worst for me was EQ2, where the game is almost unplayable with the base UI. Patch day was not just a pain, but it also meant that my preferred UI (Fetish Nightfall) was probably not updated yet.

    We’ll see how it goes for LotRO. I’m hoping that the impact will be minor, but my experience tells me it will be otherwise….

  6. Regarding addons and the realization that a raid healer healing without an addon is doing more work for themselves – my question is this: If there’s an easier way to perform the work you already do, would you at least try it? If it in fact makes the work you do easier and is proven to make life easier for hundreds of others, why not use it?
    Why make things harder for yourself?

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