Do we really need UI mods?

Recount, graph window

Recount, graph window

When I played WoW, I used a lot of mods. At last count, I think I was around 35, give or take a few. They did everything from track my DPS, to telling me what battleground was earning bonus honor for the weekend. Just as important to me, they let me clear my screen off and move things around the way I liked them. I’m a minimalist for what I can see, so I’d shrink and slide, and everything in between.

Recount, DPS monitor

Recount, DPS monitor

Then, as always, patch day would come and then my most important mods would come clattering to the floor in a sea of error windows and sound bytes. I used WoWMatrix for a long time to ease the updating process but, once that got targeted for its shady distribution methods, I had to turn to the likes of the Curse Updater. Needless to say, it didn’t function as easily or seamlessly as WoWMatrix and the process of updating my mods became that much more of a hassle.

Fast forward to today and I find myself totally bereft of UI mods in the games I play. Before WAR came out, I was excited to see what the community would develop but, when the time came, there was very little I chose to use. Going forward from there, most other games didn’t even allow modding, so it wasn’t even an option. And, really, I think I’m happier for it.

One big thing that mods do is bring pressure into the game. In WoW, many guilds require you keep DPS and threat mods on whenever you’re raiding so you can track your performance and threat.

DeadlyBossMods, boss ability tracker

DeadlyBossMods, boss ability tracker

Well, not just you. So everyone can track your performance and threat. If you’re having a bad day, everyone else will know and, through the act of passive peer pressure, you’re pushed to give your best game.

I can see where mods like that have their place in high end raiding. When you’re playing through high stakes end-game and everyone needs to be doing their best, it makes the life of the raid leader a lot easier to pinpoint the weak link. Yet, for all the good these mods do, they’re revealing too

Omen, threat monitor

much of the game.

When you have addons that track everything you do, and everything bosses do, it leaves little to the imagination. On top of that, when you’re busy worrying about pushing out that last 500 DPS, you’re probably worrying more about your action bar and that little counter than the actual battle going on in front of you. Likewise, why should you worry about knowing a bosses attacks when DeadlyBossMods and some guy on vent will tell you exactly what to expect.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that when we’re handed all of these stats and trackables, it makes the game become something to be analyzed rather than enjoyed for what it is: a game. It lends to meta-gaming but, if the other MMOs that don’t allow modding have shown us anything, it’s that people are going to do that no matter what. And they probably enjoy it more since those players are being asked to input more from their own knowledge of encounters, rather than plugging in three numbers and a couple variables from that graphing mod.

And it looks like a lot of MMO studios feel the same way. Take LotRO for example. They don’t allow modding to keep more of the unknown in their game. What they do allow is skinning and rearranging of the UI, which is perfect.

Sure, some people, when not under the gun because everyone else can see their numbers will start to slack.  But, those are the people you don’t want in your raid anyways. Most players want to do their best because that’s what makes the game fun for them. They’re going to work for that whether they can see their numbers or not because, at least internally, they’ll be able to see the difference effort makes.

When SW:TOR comes out, I hope they adopt the approach of skinning rather than free-for-all modding. I’d even be alright with convenience mods. But, let’s leave the numbers where they belong. In the database.


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  1. Ferrel

    I am not a fan of MMOs that allow you to use UI mods. I’ve seen too many that take the skill out of a game (Healbot, decursive, etc) and force the developers to design around it. It also gets to the point where you have to have this mod or that to function.

    It is nice to let us customize to a point but some MMOs take it too far and it is really just lazy design. “Well… we didn’t make a good map system. Let the players do it.”

  2. Blue Kae

    I’m not a fan of UI mods either. It let’s developers be lazy about making a good interface, and I don’t want to spend more time outside the game finding/installing/updating mods than I do playing the game. LoTRO doesn’t allow mods and I’ve never found myself missing them.

  3. Andrew

    Interesting article.

    When I was a WoW player I enjoyed the metagame of modding my UI. It was immensely satisfying to come up with the best possible layout that presented all the info I wanted as optimally as possible.

    But since I’ve been playing other games I’ve not found myself wanting – or needing – to apply many mods. Perhaps I was drawn to messing with WoW’s UI so much because, in retrospect, the default UI in that game is frighteningly bad?

  4. Kromus

    I know what you mean, But I think Recount is great for observing DPS, and I love making the UI my own.

    As for things that do things for you, I don’t like them – I don’t want it to be easy.

    Overall opinion is;
    we don’t need them- but they can make the experience more visually enhanced and feel a little bit more like a home then a house, sorta thing.

  5. Professor Beej

    I do my best to keep my mods at a minimum. Generally, the basic UI is enough for me, and I only install mods like QuestHelper and DBM when they’re either useful or required. I heal with a stock frame, and I’m good at it. I live an easier gaming life for it, too. When a patch comes, I never have to spend hours reperfecting my UI. It’s already done for me.

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