Monday, September 14, 2009

The Unadulterated MMO

Do you use any third party software for your games? How about Wikis and databases? Do you have any UI mods or quality of life adjustments that didn’t come in the box?

Should you have to?

Two comments around the blogosphere got me to thinking recently. Also the fact that the spell checker is at home with blogosphere but not “mods” amuses me. Anyway, Tobold is asking where you would like your database. He gives examples of how many and varied sites there are for WoW that document the game outside of it versus Luminary that contained a database with all he could want for that game. Syncaine installed X-fire and Ventrilo before DarkFall.

Now I’m not saying things like that are bad, far from it. I occasionally hop on Teamspeak to chat to friends I’ve made in CoH. Saves loading Skype or any other voice chat program. It’s nice to chat to them. When I played Warhammer, I would frequent the Vent server for the Sentinels. It’s an enjoyable thing and really, it makes connecting to people easier. Context can be lost in text which is easier to convey by voice. How many of you have dealt with drama in the game because of a misinterpreted sentence? I use ParagonWiki to look at future powers for some of my characters and on occasion to re-read old fluff that I may have forgotten or otherwise enjoy going over again.

UI Mods I have no experience with whatsoever. Anything I ever did in Warhammer I did on the strength of the default interface. No fiddly bits of software to make my mail easier or to square away the warband for optimal healing or suchlike. Maybe I could have been a better gamer for having used them, but I like to think any good impressions I made stand because of what I did myself, rather than relying on what may or may not be written for a game.

That all said, when was the last time you played your favourite game, unadulterated? No mods, no third party programs floating in the background, no wikis or databases with the optimal numbers for grinding that loot you think you want and no additional soundtrack. Is it a dying practice? Yes sooner or later people will pop on their own music (I don’t, I’m strange), hop on TS to discuss privately the idiot they’ve picked up on the team or install a mod that gives them that slight edge.

I suppose my question is this, should game interfaces and the atmosphere of the game leave room for modding? Should the game present itself to you in such a way that anything you change is merely cosmetic and to your own preferences, like key binds and window positions, as opposed to absolutely needing a certain tool to get by?

Should we play an unadulterated game or are they improved through mutability?

For added irony, I wrote and posted this via Windows Live Writer rather than Blogger.com

6 comments:

Ysharros said...

"Now I’m not saying things like that are bad, far from it."

But you are, really, or that's how the article reads. When you add that you like what you do to stand for itself, what you're saying is that mods are cheats.

That's rather inaccurate. A mod that renders the ridiculously slow and frustrating WAR mail system a little more responsive so I don't have to spend 15 minutes by the mailbox isn't cheating, it's fixing what the people in charge of that particular system failed to do.

When I get a mod that lets me change the size of hotkey banks or bag windows, that's not cheating, that's letting me do something that should -- in this day and age -- be native in any halfway-decently designed client.

Sadly, most MMO developers don't give a stuff about the interface. As you can tell, I do. And the implication that mod = bad only perpetuates a mistaken stereotype.

For the record, I've never used a mod to give me any kind of an egde in a game, or do anything for me.

You're well within your rights to not like them and think a game is more "pure" without them, but please consider that said view might be somewhat narrow.

If games were designed with decent interfaces to begin with, your question would be more valid. As it stands, the UI is the last thing they tend to think about, and it often ends up being whatever gussied-up piece of cack makes it through beta. Mods aren't *all* a desire to "cheat" (or adulterate): many of them plug holes that should have been filled from the get-go.

Ardua said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Mods aren't cheats and I am sorry if I came across like that.

The fact that some mods are considered "necessary" like Squared for WAR is where I have a problem. Or as you say, the mail server. It should have been usable in its original form with the mods being cosmetic changes.

If you want to change the colour or size or arrangement of things, more power to you. I'm just holding up the idea of needing X, Y and Z third party programs to be a functional and efficient player as bad.

I probably should have phrased myself better to begin with but to me the ideal "unadulterated" mmo UI is one that is functional and pretty from the start and doesn't need to be modded to be bearable.

As for the Mods as Cheats concept, some mods will make you more efficient, but the player still has to work. Being quicker on the draw isn't cheating it's working smarter rather than harder. I just tend to be stubborn and do it the other way around.

In conclusion, yes more time should be spent on UIs. As games integrate more programs from the get go (Twitter, Raptr, Facebook, X Fire) the UI needs to be spiffy out of the box.

Though by all means, modders keep working. You invent some clever things.

Ysharros said...

Oh hell yes. If I ever find a client that works nicely right out of the box, I'd probably get on my knees and kiss the ground. ;)

Fortunately (given the state of my floors) that's not likely. I still think (with little evidence except experience) that most software designers -- not just game developers -- think of the UI last, when they think of it at all. It's most often low-priority, which is a shame considering that a bad UI can actually turn one off a game. A good UI won't necessarily keep you playing if the game sucks, but a bad one can be one of those little things that irks you every time you log on, so that eventually you just decide it's not worth the time. I suffered from that in WAR, to some extent -- wasn't the only (or main) reason I stopped playing, but it most certainly contributed.

Jayedub said...

I don't think mods are cheats, but I don't like thinking that not have a mod makes me weaker.

There are some mods that I like to make life easier, like a mod that makes me have one bag instead of 5.

Flimgoblin said...

Started out playing WAR without any mods.

Till I realised there wasn't an RL clock window (so wrote a mod for it). That kinda opened the gates a little.

Nowadays I still have mostly unchanged UI (I don't use the 'must have' squared for example) but I did put together another mod (WARCommander) out of a desire to get a bit more of a Battlefield 2142 feel to ordering warbands around :)

Tried out a few (for swapping inventories and State of the Realm) but removed them in the end as they annoyed me more than I used them (and a lot of the stuff you needed State of the Realm for ended up in the native client).

shadowwar said...

I use mods extensively in almost every MMO I play. In EQ2 I used Profit UI, EQ2 Maps as well as some others. In WoW, I lost count of them all. In WAR I used Nerfed Buttons, QQer, NAMBLA, Target Ring, and many more.

A running theme with my blog, and with my life in general, is the quote "Options are good". Mods provide options. It's a resource provided by a huge pool of people who want to improve and optimize something created by a smaller pool. It's why I like programs that are open source (not in any practical way, I know squat about coding), let "the people" have access to something, and if they are focused on the same goal (a better game) then they will create powerful tools.

In competitive games like WAR, I can't imagine useing every legal tool available to me, and they are available to everyone else as well as they are free. Of course, I'm also okay with people useing cooldowns and pots in duels, so that take that for what you will.