Tobold's Blog
Thursday, October 23, 2008
 
Can't rely on addons

Not having played World of Warcraft for a while, I used the opportunity of the patch 3.0.2 to clean up my addons. I deleted all the old addons, deleted the WTF directory with the saved variables as well, and then reinstalled some patch 3.0 compatible WoW addons manually. Finally I downloaded the Curse Client to help me keep my addons up to date in the future, because I don't want to repeat the same exercise next month. But I noticed that several addons I used to have either weren't supported any more, or had changed substantially.

The one I'm missing most is CTRaidAssist, which isn't supported any more. It was my main utility for raid healing. I tried to replace it with Ora2, but that one apparently doesn't display the health of all raid members, so I'll need another addon like healbot. I'm also annoyed about the new version of Auctioneer, which I used in the past mostly to post auctions 5% under the current price. That pricing model doesn't exist any more, there are several statistical models based on histograms and standard deviations and 95% confidence levels. I have a rough idea about that sort of math, but frankly it isn't of any help if you just want to shift your glyphs quickly. Statistical price models aren't any good in periods of rapid price shifts. You'd be a complete idiot to e.g. sell herbs right now based on historical prices.

As we interact with our games through a user interface, and addons change that user interface, we get very used to playing with specific addons. But you can't rely on addons, they aren't made by Blizzard. When a major patch makes old addons not work any more, there are always some that have been abandoned by their authors. Which isn't very surprising, because usually the authors didn't get paid anything, and didn't receive much recognition either. And of course the authors are usually players, and when they quit the game, they stop supporting their addons. Blizzard has a history of implementing the functionality of the most popular addons into their standard user interface. But that takes quite some time. And I don't think there are all that many people out there playing WoW without any addons at all. There being so many good addons programmed for free enables Blizzard to slack on improving the standard interface. I just wish Blizzard would stop modifying the LUA language of WoW, so old addons could be used indefinitely.
Comments:
Bah, I had almost this exact post sketched out... but now Tobold as done it. Time to find something more obscure to write about.

Still, too true! I had to heave all my addons and went with the Curse client, but I still haven't found all the little functions I miss. And the list of WoW addons is so long....
 
I used to use X-perl for raid windows, in a similar fashion to CTRaid, but x-perl is a huge (delicious, but huge) can of worms if you're just looking for "better than vanilla" raid windows. I also used Clique for healing on my druid, where I could hover over a raid window and click various mouse clicks (alt click for Rejuv, ctrl click for Regrowth, etc etc) to actually cast heals. The most recent patch was kind of refreshing, just thorwing out ALLLLL the addons I used, and settling on the three or four I really wanted (bongos is now called Dominos, Omen, X-perl, auctioneer, and SmartBuff). I've been playing on a warlock for a bit, so I'm sure if I began using a healer again the list would expand.

Unrelated to WoW, but on the subject of addons... two addons I'm telling everyone about that make life in WAR livable in relation to the mailbox: Branderic's Letter Opener, and Bulk Item Mailer. You can probably tell what they do by the name, find them on Curse.com.
 
To replace CTRaidAssist, use ORA2 plus sRaidFrames.
 
Disagree entirely. I love the way blizzard manage addons, and I totally understand that they want to keep upgrading their addon language. Buyer beware!

I thought you were going to write about how you cant rely on addons to play the game for you. So many players look to raid addons like deadly boss mods to tell them what to do, when all you really need to do is pay attention. THAT is something I hate.
 
There is an excellent site I've been using lately, wowinterface.com . Has all sorts of updated mods, and you can sort the mods by what you are looking for.

Also, try out healbot. Spend about 20 minutes screwing with it changing settings, it is a great healing mod.

BTW...its late for me, but did you just totally change your site layout? All of a sudden everything looks all different.
 
eeks, don't use the curse client. It totally screws up your addons. It retrieves very old ones or double ones. Now that wowace is gone, you better unzip them in your addon dir yourself.
 
The curse Client doesnt support all add ons. Try wowmatrix.com, its small, fast and supports more than one add on website. So far my favourite add on management system
 
I couldn't disagree more with you on this one. You probably haven't thought about all the implications of your last sentence, but stopping to change the API would essentially mean that there would be ENTIRELY NO MORE ui improvements, not even in the standard UI, as Blizzard uses exactly the same API that's available to addon devs. Even more, it would mean that there could be virtually no gameplay improvements too, as those usually require UI changes at some point (think of an achievement system without the achievement ui, or battlegrounds without a ui to join them, or PvP arenas without the necessary ui to form arena teams).

As an experienced addon developer who has created and maintained numerous addons over 3 years now, I like Blizzards way of handling changes. They try to keep compatibility as good as possible, but they don't completely sacrifice the desire for a clean and logical API structure for this goal. Any API developer can tell you that there are two goals you usually try to achieve: best possible backwards compatibility and a clean, small, fast and logical API. As time goes by, those two goals get further and further away from each other, which means that you as a developer have to find a suitable balance between them. You simply cannot get both at the same time. And Blizzard doesn't generally do a bad job in keeping that balance.

I really am a little bit confused about the fact that complaints about addon-breaking API changes usually come from players which have to invest a maximum of one or two hours in updating their interface and getting it back into a working and acceptable state, while addon developers which often have to invest days or even weeks of work into their addons to adjust to the API changes generally tend to like the way changes are done (or at least they don't complain as frequently about them as the players).
 
Why shouldn't it be possible to *add* things like achievement UI functions to the LUA language without breaking all the addons that existed before and don't have anything to do with achievements?
 
I have used healbot but now use grid. I have heard great things about sRaid Frames. Mostly sRaid Frames seems to update debuffs faster and have a great interface for white/black list on boss fights.
 
With the death of the WoWACE updater I too had to cope with add ons for the first time in a long while. Really though, being able to customize your UI to fit your needs makes the game so much better. I don't think I could deal with the vanilla UI again. I'm really hesitant to trust the Curse client though so I've cut down on the number of mods I use from about 120 mods to around 5 now just to make life easier. Clique, Grid, Bartender, Ludwig, and Auctioneer are I all use now. Oh yeah, and Closet Gnome. And Elkano's Buff Bar. And possibly a few more. It's worth it though,
 
Yeah sRaidFrames is the one that is closes to ct. I use x-perl though it has a huge memory footprint.
 
How is X-Perl's memory footprint compared to Pitbull? Just curious.
 
I'm an addon addict myself and have experienced the "addon blues" that come with any upgrade. Hopefully, the expansion changes have already made it into the client and we won't be seeing (many) issues when it hits.

re: wowmatrix - they don't give me anywhere near enough info about their mods (what version? you're at their mercy on whether you updgrade or not).

re: Death of WAU: I use WUU ( http://wuu.vagabonds.info/menu.php#gettingstarted ) along with Curse (which is horrible but necessary if you play WAR as well. You can turn off WoW updating if you like.)

Not sure anyone noticed, but Cosmos ( http://cosmosui.com/ ) has called it quits. (They were apparently on life support - I only used a couple of their mods but still sad to see them go as they were pretty pivotal to addon development.)

re: breaking mods every release: if the API was solid, you'd not do it - but Bliz mostly a) doesn't care as no one will leave the game just because they can't get an addon to work and b) they are plugging gamebreaking (to their minds at the very least) holes.
 
I too am concerned about Blizzard over reliance on these 3rd party sites for UI mods. There was a huge thread up on EJ about how WoW ace was being turned into a developer only site and that Curse was developing a version of the WoW Ace Updater that would offer some basic functionality for free and then charge for premium features.


I wonder how Blizzard is going to react to someone else making money off of their game.

It's even worse to see how reliant players are on certain mods. I can remember raid days being canceled because key mods were broken by a patch and the default UI was just simply not functional enough to get by for a progression fight. For example, the default UI may now have a threat meter that warns you when you are pulling aggro but many fights REQUIRE players to have additional information. If a boss has an ability that will always target the second highest threat target then players need to know who that is before the boss starts one shotting raid members.

As for the just pay attention comment by someone about relying on boss mod timers, depending on what job you are doing that may just not be possible. Healers in particular, depending on the fight, will be extremeley focused on healing and clearing debuffs. If they have to stop and watch their chat box for an emote from a boss or something like that then team mates will die. Also this would turn guild chat on raid nights into silent mode as players would be told to stop talking in guild so as to allow the raiders to see any chat messages that turn up.

Also remember that not everyone has a high powered computer with the graphics set high in a raid environment. Many players have to turn them down to avoid lag so they may not even see a certain boss ability being cast.

In many ways, UI addons are like the old system of flasks and potions. Progression oriented guilds(Pre-TBC) would test raid content on the player test realm buffed to the teeth and thus the boss fights were balanced assuming everyone was fully buffed. Foot and elixirs no longer provided a slight statistical advantage as the game assumed that you would have these buffs and adjusted content accordingly.


Blizzard has fixed the buffing problem by limiting the number of effects a player can have from elixirs and flasks. However, they are still having players test high end content with things like threat meters, modified raid frames and boss mod timers. Therefore content is balanced around players having these addons.
 
(reposting because authorization killed my first post)

http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2006/09/world-of-warcraft-keylogger-problem.html

Just found that yesterday in preparation for my podcast.

I find it odd that you have gone back to Curse instead of something less intrusive like wowmatrix.

Short story.
1. Installed Curse after patch because a friend said they changed.
2. Looks good but not all mods where covered.
3. WARDEN WARNING when I started WOW! O.o WARNING I say!!!!
4. Ripped Curse Client out of my computer and ran a full scan.

Curse still runs while your in game when it has NO need to. Getting a warning from Warden tells me they are attempting to modify some part of the game file system. Even if it was a fluke, re-read your old post, and ask yourself if you REALLY want to take a risk like this again.

AS for solutions. Wowmatrix.

Ora2 with Grid.
 
It is interesting to note as well that many of the API changes that Blizzard makes are actually requested on the UI/Macros forums by addon developers themselves. Mostly, they are asking for new and cleaner ways of handling function calls than they have had in the past which should produce cleaner code and lighter weight addons. I can't see how any of that is more than a minor inconvenience to the playerbase. Of course we have all been frustrated when our carefully sculpted UI doesn't work the way it used to, but as someone said above, all it really requires is some patience in resetting up some addons, or waiting for the authors to release an updated version. It is true that some mods may no longer be supported by their authors, but i think this is rather rare in the case of the major addons.

RE WoWAce site: There is an excellent forum post at wowace by Seerah that explains why the changes to the community there were necessary.

http://forums.wowace.com/showthread.php?t=14343
 
About the new Auctioneer: I've been using the Appraisal tab to post stacks of herbs. Sometimes I let the program determine the price automatically, and sometimes I set a fixed price. Depends on how many stacks and partial stacks are on the AH, and at what prices. The best feature about it is the ability to put up multiple stacks/items at once price, with one click (after setting your parameters like price, #stacks, and # per stack).
 
@tobold: Okay, the achievement system probably was a bad example, it was just intended to illustrate the implications of your suggestion. The achievement system is indeed isolated enough from the rest of the ui that it can be added without breaking much (and it didn't break anything significant, afaik). But that is not true for many other ui components.

Take for example the new combat log introduced with 2.4. It clearly was a huge improvement over the old log, especially for players who want to use addons to parse the log or services like WWS. This change of a deeply integrated ui component did break LOTS of addons, virtually anything that was doing something with the combat log. That could have been avoided by having two separate combat log systems in place - but Blizzard chose the right way, broke compatibility and replaced the old system entirely with a new one which is better than the old system in every way. That was the right decision in terms of performance, API and UI usability and stability - and the new system would have never been implemented if backwards compatibility was the holy grail.
 
@Slartibartfast: The 2.4 changes to the combat log are an excellent example. Most of the changes that were made were taken from long standing requests/suggestions from addon authors, and not just random improvements that Blizzard came up with on their own. These changes were much discussed on the ui/macros forums due to the outrage over Omen being temporarily out of commission at that time.

At any rate, I highly suggest that people who use a lot of addons, or feel that their gameplay experience depends on them to read those forums from time to time. Not only does it help you to avoid common issues with addons, but can also yield a lot of insight into the way in which Blizzard interacts with the addon author community.
 
I had been using Xperl and wowaceupdater and had been too lazy to tear things apart and start all over, so I was actually kind of excited to find out I was going to be forced to do just that. It really turned out to be a blessing. I discovered the aforementioned wowmatrix which filled the aceupdater void and I also discovered Spartan UI which updated my basic UI to look how I always thought the game UI should have looked all along.

Sure, I have a few other mods that I added on top of those (Auctioneer, Cutup for rogues, Omen, a handful of others) but for the first time in forever I love how my game looks.
 
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