The Curious Case of MMO Add-Ons

Why are MMO add-ons a thing? Why does it seem like when some people go back to certain games they spend more time researching their add-ons and installing up to date versions of them than actually installing the game? Are add-ons a failure of the game?

 

Guild Wars 2

I don’t use any add-ons for Guild Wars 2. I am not sure of any of my various guildmates who do. I’m certain if I poll long and hard enough I will find people who use out and out add-ons. They certainly exist as the wiki has a list of applications that use the API. I’ve also made great use in the past of Guild Wars 2 Efficiency. It needs my information, after all, to tell me what I am missing in my latest crafting or how much my character is worth in terms of skins used. Personally, I think Guild Wars 2 Efficiency is a fantastic tool but it is something I use when I am static when I am at the crafting stations or in between harvesting nodes.

Guild Wars 2 MMO Add-Ons

It gives a benefit to me, certainly but I have never found that it is necessary, just really useful.

My day to day play of Guild Wars 2 doesn’t need any add-ons. It doesn’t need anything popping up to tell me what skill to use or what attack to dodge. The UI of Guild Wars 2 is quite lovely and does everything I could possibly want it to. The design is clean and there’s plenty of space left on my screen. Perhaps though that’s a function of the design towards more active combat.

Food and utilities are nice little bonuses to stats, not something that requires precise management. Inventory bags and “Collect all” deals with most of those issues so long as I keep on top of my salvage. Everything on the screen is kept clean and I am left to enjoy the game.

 

World of Add-OnCraft

Admittedly this whole musing on add-ons came from a conversation with a friend. She and I were reminiscing about City of Heroes as she went through all the preparatory work to get back into World of Warcraft. In those days, in that wonderful city, there wasn’t any need for add-ons either. Again there were limited powers available to any given character and consumable Inspirations were easy to use or spam as required.

For someone who came in through Everquest when I was too young to really get hardcore about it, through the likes of City of Heroes, Rift, Neverwinter, Guild Wars 2 and TESO, maybe I have been lucky or naive. Hearing that she needed to use an add-on to change the UI to something more palatable is alien to me in the current era of MMOs with their action focus and clean interfaces. I’m looking at you there Secret World Legends.

Hearing that she needed an add-on to give her the tells and prompts from a dungeon was equally odd. I know that complexity adds to a game and gives people a sense of satisfaction when they win through, but is it still complex when something flashes up on-screen to warn you and tell you exactly what to do?

I suppose we must applaud those brave denizens of Azeroth who go into new raids and dungeons without a clue of what is ahead of them. For the hordes who follow after though, jumping through the virtual hoops an additional piece of software they put in dictates, I wonder where the joy comes from.

 

Ragequit

Do add-ons bring an unfair expectation to games that make extensive use of them? I can’t imagine being in a group in Tyria and being booted for not having the right extra programs installed to tell me how to react to things and what my optimal use of skills is.

It may well be that I am being unfair to the whole ancillary market that is the add-on community. Certainly, there is work and passion being applied to what people see as problems. There are clever people out there creating little applications to make the game experience that much sweeter for people, or easier to cope with.

Certainly, there are also developers who have their way of doing things and damn the dissenters. Add-ons clearly offer a way around some design decisions to make the experience better. It’s still strange to hear though for someone who has never had vast experience with them seeing as they are usually focused on one of two areas: Fixing something “broken” or ensuring people can be “optimal”.

Optimal has its own issues all over the place. If you don’t put out the optimal damage, you’re a bad player. If you don’t follow the optimal rotation you don’t understand your class and should quit. If you aren’t doing everything to maximize the reward and minimize the time spent in the Skinner Box we call our games, then you are bad and should feel bad.

Which is obviously idiotic.

Similarly, if there is a push from fans to correct what they see as flaws in the game, should the developers not take steps to address it? If the UI in, for example, World of Warcraft is that bad or crowded, do they not owe the players a potential revision of the whole interface? Or have we just grown beyond the problem and it’s something that comes about in older games that rely on a different approach to gameplay?

Personally, I am not sure. I just know that the visual clutter and noise I see every time a friend shares a World of Warcraft screenshot is hugely off-putting. How can they make sense of that noise? Maybe they need to install a new clean UI add-on and then several others… at which point I ask whose job it is to make the game playable?

Developers, or players?

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About Shannon Doyle

Shannon first discovered MMOs in 1999 when she picked up the newly launched Everquest. This started a lifelong love affair with online gaming that has taken her around the world and brought her to MMOGames.com. While she still pines for the streets of Paragon, the City of Heroes, today she spends most of her gaming time walking across Tyria in Guild Wars 2, roleplaying with anyone who says hello.