Tobold's Blog
Monday, January 25, 2010
Could you play WoW without addons?

We have become so used to the addons in World of Warcraft that it would be hard to imagine playing without them. I think the leveling game would still be playable enough without addons. But could you imagine raiding without addons?

Although this appears to be a different subject, it actually links to the discussion of last week on the difficulty of WoW. Blizzard could make WoW, especially raiding, significantly more difficult in one stroke, by simply disabling addons. Several readers here commented that the kind of "hard" they want is the one requiring situational awareness and fast reaction to the events around you. That would obviously become harder if you hadn't got an addon warning you that the boss is about to launch this special attack, or even tells you to step out of the fire. And can you even imagine healing and removing debuffs in a raid without addons like healbot or decursive? My warrior significantly improved his tanking by using an addon called Tauntmaster, showing him which other group member got aggro. Take all these addons away, and grouping and raiding would become significantly harder.

Isn't it somewhat embarrassing if you are loudly shouting how easy it is to ride a bike, and then somebody points out that you still have the training wheels on?
Not being able to click heal would severely cripple my healing abilities in groups and raids, there is no question about it!
Player generated addons are a brilliant idea.
Just like with the i-phone!

Sure, there are some that make the game less fun, but in general the addon community probably is responsible for 50% of the success of WoW.

To disable addons were one of the most stupid ideas there are.

If anything, Blizzard could restrict them a little bit more. But even then I am not sure if it is a good idea.
Isn't it somewhat embarrassing if you are loudly shouting how easy it is to ride a bike, and then somebody points out that you still have the training wheels on?
It's as embarrassing as using two hands to steer. Perhaps a more apt metaphor would be rally. Rally drivers use custom tires, better engines, weight-reduced chassis, more reliable gearboxes, improved suspension, more sturdy shock absorbers and so on. Sure, all of those make it easier to reach faster checkpoint times, but they also shift the challenge from fighting the car to negotiating the route itself.
The wow default ui is inadequate for alot raiding tasks, such as healing, and certain dps specs. It is that way because the default ui has to appeal to everyone, and it can be customized to the player's desire.

The default ui works fine for new and casual players, which is good because they aren't likely to download addons to siginficantly modify their ui anyway. High end raiders are, however willing and able to siginficatnly modify the ui. This means that blizzard doesn't have to cater to every need of a high end raider because they can modify their ui, and so what you see is blizzard maximizing dev time by essentaly crowdsourcing the ui when it comes to raiding.
I don't think AddOns really help you as much as people may think. I've raided for about a year with no AddOns, and my efficiency is no different than when I raided with AddOns.

Sure, it's a bit of a different play-style, so going from playing with AddOns to playing without them would definitely take some adjustment time, but all the same, it'd take me some adjustment to play with AddOns.

The only AddOn I use is a raid frame, and the reason for that is simple: the default raid UI has no lock feature, so you often click and end up moving the frame.
I like the addons because it makes the game feel more like an RTS and it makes me feel more connected to what is going on in the game.

Disabling them would certainly be a way to level the playing field and a valid way to increase the challenge posed by raids. On the downside Blizzard would need to retool all of their raids both for difficulty and the kinds of effects that come from mob attacks.

On the downside for addons, I have lots of friends that hate my interface because it looks so busy to them. As it stands currently, their dislike of addons means they have no chance of significantly contributing as a healer for major raid.

Another negative is I'm taking all of my cues from the interface and not from the games graphics.

Overall I like addons, but I can see how eliminating them could result in content opening up for a lot of players. I would guess the vast majority of players don't really use them (or use them effectively).
I level with as few addons as I can. The ones I do have arm mainly dealing with Profs or maintaining my bag space. But as for raiding w/out add ones? If I didn't have Dominos I'd keel over and die, not to mention Countdowns or Xperl. Gimme my addons!
I think you've got the idea that the solution to difficulty is playing stupidly.

If those raid add ons weren't allowed/weren't part of the challenge as presented by bliz, yes, it'd solve it.

When it's valid, it's as stupid as ignoring your knights or rooks in chess. They are a legitimate part of the challenge and should be brought to bear.

But if you want to talk about Bliz making stuff that warns you of upcoming attacks outside the challenge, okay, please go on, it's a good subject.

But cutting yourself off from it is as stupid as...say you not talking to another guild member because lorewise your race has a conflict with the race of his character. Sounds stupid?
I could play WoW without addons, also healing seems doable with just creating enough mouseover macros. But I prefer using addons, it's faster for me to set up, looks nicer and some of them are just very convenient. For example I have an addon that sells all grey stuff to vendor when I open vendor window, and I love it.
The problem from my point of view is that once Blizzard handed it over to the AddOn writers, they appear to have pretty much crossed "UI" off their agenda. I migrated to WoW from another game (LotRO) and was pretty much shocked at how unwieldy the WoW default interface is and how limited the configuration options are, especially considering that this was the game that "brought MMOs to the masses". I began using AddOns not because I wanted the game to play itself for me, but because I wanted my action bars to look and act in a way useful to me, rather than wasting screen space showing me dragons. And once there, you know, one thing follows the other...
depends on the class. With my dps, i can play perfectly well without addons (lack of DBM could hurt thou)

As a healer, i would have serious trouble without a frame and assigning clicks to spells.

But overall, if the blizzard raid UI was better, i could play wow without problems. The Bosses would be more challenging. Like, mmmh back in MC?
If I had to go back to the regulard GUI with all the add-ons disabled and start anew, I'd definately just stop playing and quit. It's not just making the game a little easier to play, it's making the experience more tailored to my liking with customization of the UI and cutting down on repeititve/redundant crap like figuring out how to squeeze all my druid abilities into one accesable bar.

Addons are what lets Blizzard get a solid idea of the inadequate areas of their interface and game through the development and use of player addons. When an addon reaches critical mass they can then evaluable it and then if deemed core to making the game better, build it into the game interface itself letting non-addon users who may not be so savvy gain the benefit as well ..

Personally I think blizz has done a very poor job at that so far, or at least only half way good job.

Now I will say that ever since coming back to the game I have been pairing down addons to the essentials only installing ones deemed absolutely necessary and for specific characters.
I successfully raided EotS back in the day on my Mage with no addons that really helped in a raid environment. Just a bag-addon and bartender. When I switched to my Shadowpriest as a main I realized that the debuff-visibility on the built-in frames is just horrible. For dps-classes that rely strongly on debuffs, the blizzard UI is just not viable. And cluttered. You tend to stand less in the fire when you see the fire..

On my current main, a resto druid, I wouldn't want to heal without Vuhdo. I can configure which buffs and debuffs are of interest in the raidframes, with one glance I can see where my 30+ hots are ticking. The blizzard UI doesn't do that. I strongly doubt that a resto druid without any UI modification whatsoever is able to heal as effectively as if he had an addon such as grid or Vuhdo which he has expertly configured and customized to his needs.

Mouse-over healing via macros may be an alternative for other healing classes with less buffs to watch (paladins), but for druids the raidframes just don't convey the information needed for quick reactions.
I'm confident that I could play as well without addons, my interface would only be much more blocky and I would see much less of the actual boss. Oh and I would ruin my eyes staring at those tiny healthbars.
However Blizzard won't disable addons. The addition of addons was a masterpiece that simply took all strain from the default interface. Blizzard could simply throw an abomination of an interface at you and then lay back and monitor what addons would rise and how widespread they are. Then judge if those addons break the game. If they do, disable them, if they don't, add them to the standard interface. Congratulations! You just went from a devastating interface to an acceptable interface without costs.
Been raiding without addons all through vanilla and tbc and just started using Vudo for LK raiding. Don`t think raiding is harder without addons, just more painful.
The problem with voluntarily abandoning add-ons is that at the moment you get no credit for it. This is also the problem with other "voluntary" means of increasing difficulty (for example soloing elites).

If these multi-player games have taught us anything it is that people are reward driven.

What if people were rewarded for playing the hard way? Imagine if completing a raid without any add-ons gave you better loot? I think gamers would go for that. I could see whole threads on elitist jerks devoted to it. In fact I don't think you would even need to change the loot - just giving people a fancy title would probably be enough.
WoW? No chance. Every part of my interface is customized exactly how i want. There is no part of it that isn't modded. I wouldnt go so far as Nils and claim the addon community has played such a large part (seriously, look at even the most popular mods and compare the download numbers to the number of people playing the game) but they are almost a game in themselves for some players.

Makes it all the stranger that i can play LOTRO just fine, despite their interface being locked down tight. I might gripe now and then, but i manage, yet if i was forced to use the default WoW almost quit the game completely.

I've ONLY played WoW without Add-Ons.

I did try two at the beginning. They were to disable duel messages and disable guild invites. Both of them broke at the first patch and I didn't replace them.

Other than that, I have never used any Add-Ons. Mrs Bhagpuss has never used any either, and even though I have mentioned them to her once or twice she wasn't ever even interested enough to read upon them.

I generally don't even use In-Game functions in most MMOs. I don't generally use Macros or keyboard shortcuts. I use the arrow keys to move and the mouse and hotbars to play. I've found that to be more than adequate in all MMOs I've played in the last ten years, and certainly enough for WoW.

I have no objections to Add-Ons. Other people can use them all they want. I find I can already do pretty much everything I need to do just with the basic controls.

And moreover, most of the things that Add-Ons automate are what I consider to be the gameplay I am paying for. I LIKE searching for nodes or quest hubs. I LIKE managing my own inventory by hand. I LIKE managing my agro. Etc. Etc.

The only bit of MMOs I could really do without is the fighting part. That could be done with an Add-On while I just watched. But apparently that's the only bit that isn't allowed to be automated.
No, it's embarrassing not to use them.

Sure there were a few people who ran without addons in my raiding days. It's asking to make mistakes. Automating simple tasks removes the error margins.

A fire heavy fight coming up? No problem, I clicked on my "equip fire set" and was done. Without addon? Go through your inventory and pick it piece by piece. Only to find out you forgot to put on your Onyxia cape.

Having to buff 40 people? No problem. Click smartbuff 40x. And if someone doesn't have your buff he or she gets marked. Without addons? Good luck trying to figure out who needs a buff.

I could go on for a while. But the bottom line is that these addons fill in a gap that Blizzard created. All these actions can be done without addons but they're just no-thinking-required actions which are far better off automated.
No for disabling addons, as there is no way I could go back to the standard UI and no way I could AH without addons.
Blizzard doesn't balance the raids for a vanilla UI.

Let that sentence sink in, please.

Now what was the question again? :)
A lot of addons have been directly integrated into the game since 2004.

So if you count some of the UI modifications that have been made over the years as addons then no, no one can play without addons.
I have played this version of hard WoW before, it was called "1 sec latency WoW" or "patch day WoW".

I think what most people are thinking when they ask for a harder version of WoW is Rewarding hard with one actually implemented example being hard modes for raiders.

My pet peeve on this is that there is no rewarding hard for:

- leveling: attempting orange/red quests your XP/hour goes way down, and the massive resist of higher level mobs is not a particulary enjoyable way of harddening things up.

- 5-man dungeons: even heroic mode dungeons were easy way back when we were on blues and dungeon epics. Now they are simply boring

It has been mentioned that you can select a difficulty level when you play single player, maybe a way to keep MMOs casual friendly and hit the moving target that is perfect difficulty, would be to give us options on what difficulty we want to attempt and reward people accordingly. Even if you can get the same rewards investing more time on the lower difficulty setting, which is the current design for badges and raiding.

And please Blizzard remember there is a majority of WoW players that do not raid at all.
If it came down to it, yes I could go without them. Thing is, the level of customization available is just amazing. My UI looks nothing like original WoW, yet it's clean and functional.

When Wrath came out, all of my addons broke, so I just set my keybinds on the default UI and went without for the first 3 levels. Really wasn't that bad but I do prefer my custom UI.
I was going to write that I couldn't live without grid/clique but...
This gave me something to think about, I switched over to using many mouse-over macros for healing months ago. And now, I feel the only use I get out of grid is showing hot countdowns and debuff icons. I could probably use the real basic raid UI for healing no sweat.
Blizzard doesn't balance the raids for a vanilla UI.

What proof do you have for that statement?

I would say that Blizzard created perfectly balanced, hard, challenging raids, in which people had to both use their reflexes to react to the situation, and their brains to react to the tactical challenge. And then the players came, destroyed both of these challenges with addons and published boss strategies, and THEN complained that the game was too easy for them.

You say that making the game more challenging for yourself by not using all available tricks to make it easier is "stupid". But that is like me saying that mountain-climbing is "stupid", because I can use a helicopter to get to the top of the mountain. It is destroying the challenge and then complaining about lack of challenge that is stupid, not the refusal to circumvent the challenge.
"What proof do you have for that statement?"

Have you healed in TBC raids pre-nerf? Do that without an add-on please. The same with consumables. Besides, as someone already pointed out: some add-ons are now standard UI. Wnat more proof than that?

Your example is, pardon me, also stupid: the game equivalent to a helicopter would be an ability that would insta-kill the boss and get the loot. Besides, weren't you that was also complaining that the leveling game was too easy a few posts ago? Did you gimped yourself or are you going to gimp yourself to make it more interesting? So I don't know who are you answering to...
The main issue with any game or 'challenge' is what exactly you are testing. If you are in a debate competition you are testing people's debate skills and requiring them to juggle balls while debating makes it a completely different challenge and tests something much different.

So the question is what exactly are we trying to test in any WoW encounter.

With only the default UI the difficulty in a fight often comes down how well you can shift yoru eyes from one side of the screen to the other and one corner to the opposite corner. If this is what you want the fight to test then you definetly should not allow addons. However, if instead you want to test situational awereness and ability to react to tactical changes then the more streamlined and customizable the interface is the better the challenge is since you are removing all the clutter that make your 'test' unreliable.
WoW supports an usually large number of difficulty levels.

Professor Putricide without addons is hard.

Firefighter achievement in Ulduar is just hard.

Yogg - keepers is hard.

VoA is a faceroll.

Violet hold is easy.

Anyone who says the harder modes of larger Raids are not difficult has a poor grasp of what the word difficult means.

I don't understand where the WoW is easy thing comes from.
Did you gimped yourself or are you going to gimp yourself to make it more interesting?

Yes, that is EXACTLY what I did, I "gimped" myself to make solo leveling a bit harder. I leveled my warrior in protection spec and my priest in holy spec, in spite of everyone saying "level as arms / shadow and switch later". All I got for that was people laughing at me. Now the same people are moaning that WoW is too easy for them. So what exactly do you want? Hard or easy? And if you want hard, why do you use every trick in the book to make the game easy? If heroics are too easy for you, why don't you do the harder raids instead instead of grabbing all those "welfare" emblem epics?
This is a little off the beaten track of the conversation thread, but Tauntmaster - omg!

I will definitely be installing that later!

Thanks for the heads-up Tobold - I'm hoping that this helps to improve my tanking from now on :)
Tobold, my character up until Sunwell Plateau was Anroth and I always played him as a healer but I did leveled as balance until lvl 40, pre-tbc.

If that counts as nerfing myself so I did it as well.

Bottom line is no matter how you look at it the game is easier than before, period. With or without add-ons, it's easier, period.

What the current players are doing is like what happened in my guild. When downing Mags for the first time after the cube clicking nerf a new member just wrote "this was soooo nerfed" and immediately he got flamed for stating the obvious which, they felt, diminished the accomplishment.
I'd say for dps, playing with no addons is cake. i only use recount for FYI stuff and omen (which i don't use any more anyway).

i don't raid with my healer alt, but i would imagine, of all the classes, going addon-less would hurt the most as a healer.
The problem, for those that defend the use of addons, is that the programmers have to take into account the tools that are being used for a given encounter.

It would be far simpler if they were programming with jus tthe basic GUI in mind.

I suspect it is a difficult balancing act when they have a choice between programming for those who use addons at the risk of alienating those who do not. Those who do not use addons are then forced to get addons in that environment, which opens up the possiblity of viruses etc. On the other hand, balancing based on the assumption that the players have the basic GUI means that the fights will be more trivial for those with addons that predict and assist the player in getting through the encounter.
Folks should keep in mind that Blizzard has added a huge amount to the default UI over the years, all of it copied from/inspired by the most common addons. Things like extra hotkey bars or even autolooting were absent at launch.

So with the way they keep adding to the default UI, even "no addons" isn't the same thing over time.

Also, that comment by the LotRO player is funny. That game has a UI that is utterly derivative of WoW's and when I played it barely differed from the WoW UI... except for being clunkier and harder to personalize.
I seem to recall a post by a community moderator (iirc it was Ghostcrawler, but at this far a remove it is hard to say with certainty) around the time that TBC was announced and the change that disabled the original decursive that Blizzard was, in fact, taking the widespread use of addons into account when balancing raid encounters. Of course, just because I seem to recall something doesn't make it so, and I am far too lazy to dig through google archives to try and find the post.

However, I think we can consider some more substantial evidence that just my memories: (1) the disabling of the original decursive and (2)the addition of features that were first seen in community written addons to the vanilla UI.

With regards to (1), we can say that they may not have balanced the encounters in MC around the idea that people could use an addon to spam-decurse people, but they certainly became aware of it and didn't like the implications for the game. As a reaction, they made concrete changes to the abilities of addons. This, however, is not evidence that they balance new encounters around the use of addons, just that they refused to rebalance the encounter in light on them. But, since that time, the use of raid-wide debuffs has diminished (or at least it did through TBC, after which I stopped playing). This might be seen as evidence that they balance around addon use.

As far as (2) is concerned, let me begin by recalling to your mind what the original 'raid frames' were like. It was simply a list of names, in a menu and not display-able on the screen independent of the party window, that were colored by class. This, I think you will agree, was if not useless, the next best thing. At the time, there were few alternatives other than CT_RaidFrames. Since that time, Blizzard has introduced CT style raid frames into the vanilla UI, and I think they realized that the encounters they were designing were balanced around the idea that people would be able to take advantage of the capabilities. Again, I do not think this constitutes rock solid evidence, but I think it is highly suggestive.
Add-ons made the raiding game in WoW completely uninteresting for me. There is no sense of adventure to be had and puts everyone on the same basic skill level.

Just knowing that developers create encounters where players have to do X amount of "raid DPS" per second just completely kills the mystery, which most MMOs lack these days.
Yes, raiding without addons is possible and I did it in EQ2 for years. And compared to EQ2, WoW is way more visual about boss abilities and encounter mechanics, so addons are not really needed anyways. The only "addon" that would really suck to not use would be a stopwatch in order to call out timed boss abilties.

But if Blizzard had somehow decided to disable addons while I was leveling my first character in WoW around level 30-40, I would probably have stopped playing, because it was the addons that kept me going. Addons are just pure and simple fun and add tons of enjoyment to the game. You can fine tune your UI, make information show up in more convenient places etc.. But are addons required? No.
Part of my WoW experience comes from tinkering with addons, having them removed would make the game less interesting to me. Addons are a way I can make something that is truly mine in the game.

Not to mention certain addons that make your life as a roleplayer more interesting. Blizzard really lacks in that regard.
[i]And if you want hard, why do you use every trick in the book to make the game easy?[/i]
Because hardness in itself is meaningless.

What people complaining about the game being too easy want is a challenge that tests them to the fullest of their abilities. Not just their hand-eye coordination, perseverance, mental multitasking, minmaxing, team-building, tactical planning, adaptability or the ability to use or even build tools. They want to be tested in all meanings of the word "ability".

Why? Because the thrill of success is inversely proportional to the distance between the players' full potential and the amount of skill required to prevail. If one uses a helicopter to climb a mountain it does test the ability to have enough money to buy a ride, but it skips testing everything else, and thus the skill required is nowhere near the full potential of the climber. But if you climb a mountain that is too hazardous for helicopters to even approach..
Leveling a warrior as protection spec is optimal in this expansion, the first level 80 warrior was prot. With all the buffs to our mobility and damage, not to mention the avoidance, HP and mitigation allowed for max kills and min downtime. AOE farming mobs was a joke. Gimping yourself by leveling protection is not an accurate statement, as you are buffing the hell out of yourself (arms would have more downtime eating and using bandages).
TBH I typically level characters with the basic UI. When leveling you change abilities and are still learning your class so it is overkill imo.

After max level I start to get a feel for how I would like my UI to operate and I download the addons according to that. 90% of my addons are pure cosmetic.

I do run Omen and Boss Mods when I use to raid. They are probably the two mods that make the game easiest too.
I think that WoW is still playable without addons, but it will be much harder to get end-game dungeons without them.

I think that the mostly affected would be tanks and healers, but overall, all would be affected.

If Blizz anywhere in the future disable them, I would greatly impact gaming experience. For me it would be the point to leave it.
The only addon I used while leveling was a map that gave zone info (level range, dungeons, et). I didn't start using more addons till I hit 80. I just didn't need them. But in raids I definately appreciate the flexibility some addons give to make my life easier.

Many leveling addons are a convenience for me, I just use my superior intellect to remember where nodes spawn or how much room I have in my bags. :)
I would definitely have stopped playing WoW by now if there were no addons. But not really for any gameplay reasons...

I mostly play WoW because I'm an addon-writer. For me the tinkering with addons is a big part of the game experience. I've never been a raider, and I sometimes get bored with questing... but the addons have kept me subscribing.

Funnily, I also get more tangible reward from this than any raider. Playing WoW is a profitable enterprise for me; I make ~10x my subscription fee each month from my addons. :)
I don't Raid, but I manage just fine in Heroics and Battlegrounds with only Auctioneer, Autobar, and a HUD.
i have about a year and 4 months playing wow, and never had used any addons, my friends have a lots of them, but in particular i dont find any of this addons necesary... i always have hated the quest helper addond that simply jumps the history in the quest (making all the pve content crap), and i found useless too the addon that tells u that u are on fire cuz u can see it clearly in ur screen, or when a boss is going to make a special attack... cuz always appears in the middle of the screen "onixia takes a deep breath" in example. so i think theres a lot of addons that are just there for lazy people i dont mind to offense anyone btw, but theres ones like the damage meter that i think its useful because in the game theres no damage meter or u can just know at the end of the battle who did the best dps, thats the kind of addon that works. just the ones that give an extra options besides the options in the game.
Though I don't raid, I've been healing 5 man heroics just fine without any addons. Just never bothered with them.
"You say that making the game more challenging for yourself by not using all available tricks to make it easier is "stupid". But that is like me saying that mountain-climbing is "stupid", because I can use a helicopter to get to the top of the mountain. It is destroying the challenge and then complaining about lack of challenge that is stupid, not the refusal to circumvent the challenge."

Actually I said that was stupid, but anyway...

Nobody made the mountain as a challenge - it just exists. You have to set up your own rules for it for any to exist at all.

WOW is a game - or atleast it's a program. All it is is a set of rules.

Unlike the mountain, rules already exist in WOW. If your making up rules on how to play wow as if there are none/its like the mountain, you are silly.

They happen to be easy to beat rules as well.

(side note: If your taking on rules to wow play because you want to ignore regular wow play, that's a different subject - you've only talked about playing regular play wow - and in that ignoring add ons is stupid)
Also, that comment by the LotRO player is funny. That game has a UI that is utterly derivative of WoW's and when I played it barely differed from the WoW UI... except for being clunkier and harder to personalize.

I'm one of the two people who mentioned LotRO in this thread (although I am a WoW player - I used to be a LotRO player in the past), and I'm sorry we triggered your defense mechanism.

Yes, the LotRO interface is strongly based on WoW's, no on would deny that. However, fact is, that in the LotRO UI you can freely move every frame (with one single exception), things like action bars are actually designed to be compact, raid frames are very serviceable and sufficiently configurable (for what's actually demanded by the content), the zone map can display a multitude of points of interest, the minimap isn't locked out of showing you mailboxes only because your ore tracker is on (and, you know, has different icons for ore and mailboxes, rather than a uniform blip), I could go on and on.

You are right in saying that the AddOn-augmented WoW UI is better than the LotRO UI can ever be. The same cannot possibly be said about the default UIs. WoW is the better game of the two in many, many aspects (in my opinion, for my playstyle). Default UI is not one of those.
A further thought that occurs to me is that we could be conflating two kinds of difficulty. It could be that the kind of 'difficulty' that some people seem to be asking for is not the kind of 'difficulty' that is removable via addons.

For instance, it might be the case that an addon that flashes the screen when you are standing in the fire takes away the challenge presented by having that kind a mechanic in a fight. On the flip side, having lots of debuffs that need cleansing/decursing but without the ability to see this on one's raid frames is hard in a certain sense, but only in as much as the tools offered for raiding are inadequate to the task. I do not think that either of these are the relevant sense of 'difficult'.

Perhaps closer to the mark is a critique of the fight constructions themselves. For example, fights that are simple gear checks (can your dps'ers put out x damage in y time? or can your healers heal x damage in y time?) are not interesting or particularly 'difficult' fights. However, fights that require precise movement by different elements of the raid, or that require several distinct tasks to be being preformed by different parts of the raid (other than the standard "you guys do damage, I'll tank and they'll heal") might be closer to the kind of 'difficulty' being asked for or who lack is the source of the complaints.
"Isn't it somewhat embarrassing if you are loudly shouting how easy it is to ride a bike, and then somebody points out that you still have the training wheels on?"

If you were in a bike competition where everyone could use training wheels in their attempt to win first place, would it still be embarassing?

No, because its a clearly posted advantage that you can gain.

You could remove advantages and make the competition harder by competing on a unicycle but you would probably get bigger laughs.

On the other hand, are Addons really signposted by Blizzard? Not really, its up to the players to work out whats best for them, and the majority of useful addons are eventually folded into the UI.

Imagine though an Addon that reduced your gameplay to a single buttonclick. Insta-heal the entire raid? Buttonclick. Tank the boss successfully? Buttonclick. Hit top dps? Buttonclick.

At what point do "really useful addons that I just can't live without" reduce gameplay to meaningless peramble, and would players really admit to it?
I really don't like addons , Half the time they crash the client , and when there's a patch you gotta add all that crap again , In a lot of ways its cheating , Games are ment to be played with the design intended , yes this makes things harder , but is that not the point it is not a game without challenges . In pvp if you have a addon to help you generate better heals or dps , how is it fair to the person who does not have this . Addons really take alot of the learning and thinking portions of games like WOW out of the equation. which is just a i need it now gear grind . I dont expect many to agree with me but I figured i would get this out there .
5+ years on my Paladin(as Holy) and I've only ever used 2 mods: Decurse - which I used exclusively in my MC raiding days; and Recount - Which I currently use as my sole add-on.

I have never developed a dependance on healing aids of any kind, and I am tops in my guild for healing. Whether it be 5-mans or ICC content. I have had guild mates ask me in the past what mods I use, and when I tell them that I choose the no add-on approach, they scoff and tell me it is impossible to heal the way I do without the use of add-ons. I have a unique set of keybinds and macros by which I use to heal, and they serve me well.

It comes down to class knowledge, proper spec'ing/gearing and knowledge of the game where macros are concerned. I suspect the reason that players download and install add-ons is that they are streamlined and negate the necessity to learn complex macros and key bindings. I dont fault players for doing so, but I choose to make the game challenging for me in that respect. Granted, I'm a busy little bee when it comes to raid healing where keystrokes are concerned, but I have a real sense of accomplishment afterwards knowing I'm doing what others either cannot, or refuse to do.

I find it interesting that you can raid so well with no addons. Gratz to you.

I think you're in the minority in that you can pull it off. Most people need some sort of addon to keep track of 25 people, their health, debuffs, and range.

Most people need some sort of addon to keep track of 25 people, their health, debuffs, and range.

You are correct. Keeping track of 25 people -would- be a healers nightmare. But thankfully we have raid leaders and class leaders who make sure that healing assignments are made and adhered to. I pity anyone who shows up to a raid without this kind of leadership. Knowing your class and abilities is only half of the equation in a raid setting. Knowing and understanding your role, and how you fill that role, is the other half.
You compare the difference between raiding with and without addons to the difference between riding a bike with and without training wheels. But i feel like healing without Grid compared to healing with it is more like running with both legs in a sack compared to normal running.
There are intended difficulties - like monitoring 25 square frames that are close to each other in a bigger square, while debuff will be shown like red dot in a corner. While monitoring 25 frames that take half of your screen, and debuff is shown as little picture above the frame, is definitely more difficult just because the bad design of the default UI.
Keeping track of your dots on target and buffs on you is way easier if you can position trackers, say, near your character. Using default UI to play warlock you will have to glance from left top corner to right top corner, keeping one eye on the middle of your screen where fire may appear to run out of it.
Yes, it's harder to do anything when your tools are bad designed, but are you sure this difficulty will make the game more fun?
Do you think that assignments like "heal those who have the mutated injection" on Rotface or "shield those who get dot" on Saurfang are bad and show issues with raid leading? I think both of them are reasonable enough and generally will turn out better than "heal group #n" assignment for each of raid healers.
And i can't see how could these tasks be done without raid frames.
Not to mention that because of mana regen abilities it's usually better to move all healers to one group so that they restore each other's mana with their cooldowns. With this setting you find that most of the time healer needs to heal people that are in other group than him.
I could play without addons.

I wouldn't enjoy playing without addons.
@ Olga

With this setting you find that most of the time healer needs to heal people that are in other group than him.

One thing that I have found -lately-, is that the usage of strategy guides and video footage by guilds tends to put raid leaders and class leaders at odds over what is considered the best strategy for healing rotations, debuffing duties, tanking rotations and class selection for all of the aforementioned.

Most of the time certain class abilities that have utility benefits for the raid just arent used anymore - a well geared Shadow Priest can regen mana and health at ungodly rates - as an example, making healing a joke in some encounters...and not so well in others.

I dont need raid frames for any encounter in the game, regardless of debuffs or whatever. Paladins are no longer the cleanse bots and mages are no longer the only ones who can decurse effectively. At least 4 classes can heal, at least 4 classes can tank, 3 classes can decurse....each have their own beneficial utility aspects that make them better for a specific encounter....granted each encounter is indeed different, and there is no single -correct- method of tackling them. However, if you have good leadership, that is tiered and filled with people knowledgeable about their classes, then quickly laying out a strategy to overcome any difficulties is very easy....regardless of any perceived UI limitations.
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