Tobold's Blog
Friday, May 28, 2010
 
When is an addon cheating?

I mentioned the Augmented Virtual Reality addon in a recent post on user interfaces. The addon allows players to communicate by "painting" the virtual world around them in World of Warcraft. Thus a raidleader can put green, red, and blue circles on the ground and tell his raid "healers in the green circle, melee dps red, ranged dps blue", and add an helpful arrow to that telling people which way to run when the boss does his special ability. Now Blizzard announced that they don't like this addon, and that they are making changes to WoW in patch 3.3.5 which are deliberately targeted at breaking AVR and making similar addons impossible.

Reactions are mixed. A commenter on Kill Ten Rats remarked that if the ability to point at a spot on the floor breaks raiding, there is something wrong with raiding. Others had already greeted the announcement of the addon as being somewhat of a cheat. But the most important question here is posed by dorfeater: Where exactly does Blizzard draw the line? It isn't as if other addons, like Healbot or Decursive, or DBM, aren't also making raids a lot easier for their users. So why break AVR and not the others?

Blizzard says "it removes too much player reaction and decision-making while facing dungeon and raid encounters. While some other mods also work to this end, we find that AVR and the act of visualizing strategy within the game world simply goes beyond what we’re willing to allow". But that is only their second reason. The first is: "The invasive nature of a mod altering and/or interacting with the game world (virtually or directly) is not intended and not something we will allow. World of Warcraft UI addons are never intended to interact with the game world itself." So the line appears to be somewhere between altering the user interface, and altering the game world, even if that is only by painting it with spots and arrows. If you want spots and arrows, you need to go to the animated guides of Bosskillers.

So what do you say? Is that line Blizzard draws right? Should they have allowed AVR? Or should they have banned even more addons?
Comments:
AVR is very useful for what you described but it can do more than that. What it can do is that it colours the ground red during the boss fight for places to avoid (e.g. malleable goo in putricide).

If all AVR did was allow raid leaders to draw circles and arrows on the ground, I don't think Blizzard would've broken the addon.

But you did raise a good point about why this addon was broken and not others (e.g. DBM).
 
"if the ability to point at a spot on the floor breaks raiding, there is something wrong with raiding"

That's how I always felt about the timers provided by Deadly Boss Mods etc. If a boss uses a special ability every 60 seconds precisely, and DBM provides a timer bar showing you exactly when the ability will go off, and that trivializes the fight.. well, obviously the solution it make it not happen every 60 seconds precisely!
 
I wrote a similar addon for Warhammer that attached an icon above enemy targets heads (and which could be seen through walls/terrain).

The exact reason I wrote it was to show that the mechanic was broken.

Because you SHOULD NOT be able to attach UI elements to Game Objects.

The UI should act as a pane of glass that separates you from the Game World. Addon authors should be able to place things on that pane of glass -- but not THROUGH the glass and into the Game World.

This is obviously a mistake on Blizzard's part because as of the time that I quit WoW a year ago, such things were impossible.

I wouldn't be surprised if they hot patched a change which made some things protected functions.
 
If it were random though, then you get happenings like a big boss ability firing twice in a row. Just for one example.
 
To add to that last post, the best way to think of the UI is as a sheet of glass. That glass is more or less your monitor.

It's OK to put up alerts and shinies all over the monitor glass. But the UI should NEVER EVER reach through beyond that glass to the Game World.

For the most part, this is an easy problem to solve if you don't have any way to reference where something IS in the Game World.

And as of a year ago, there wasn't anything in the user allowed LUA functions that let someone derive or attach a UI element to the Game World.

So it doesn't come as a shock to me that if this is possible now that Blizzard would work to make it no longer possible.
 
There's basically 3 parts to AVR

1 - You can do strat pictures - I've never really used this feature but I can understand this making the game too easy.

2. You get a mod called AVR encounters which has a bunch of triggers and pictures set up already. This really does making raiding all too easy - it becomes a case of pressing your buttons whilst making sure you avoid the bad colours. It basically relieves you of the need to have any form of situational awareness.

3. The 3rd part is the part I actually like and a lot of people are arguing to say in. Its basically a visual range check. You get a big circle around you that shows you visually if anybody is within 10 yards of you. Range checkers are very common place but the problem is at the moment they are pretty crap to review - you look at range check mod to see somebody is within 10 yards of you then you have to look at your screen - identify where that person is standing and move away from them. Range checking is such a vital part of Blizzard pve encounters that there should be some built in visual method for it imo.
 
I agree with Blizzard on this, though I think that a lot of add-ons are ridiculous. Especially considering that they are "required" to raid (DBM, decurser, Healer add-ons).

I would prefer that they got rid of those add-ons, by making them pointless, because the default interactions improved. The game itself has to improve.

I remember when they made combat automation no longer possible. I hated the decision at the time, because I was using an add-on called Warrior Button, which allowed me to play a warrior by spamming a button (I hated playing warrior because I didn't understand them). By taking the add-on away, I was forced to learn how to play a warrior. Ultimately the game was more fun.
 
This is the infamous Decursive change all over again. Automated actions via addon were ok, until the mods became so advanced, that they oversimplified any obstacle Blizzard built. AVR only does one thing, it makes visible what the game tries to hide, in a way Blizzard can not counter it without breaking the mod.

The first time i saw AVR in action i could not believe what was happening. This is Decursive 1.0 in a different way but i thought Blizzard would tolerate it for the last phase of this expansion. I'm suprised of the ban.

The ban is an overreaction for my taste. Blizzard would be wise to learn from this addon. AVR is the best "tutorial" tool the game ever had. Think about this. Make AVR a standard UI function that triggers or blocks normal/heroic mode. AVR as a concept is the most valueable help for less gifted players. It's another powerful tool to make raid content more accessible.

Most of the facts have already been said. AVR "breaks" current content, wich is proof of how weak some of the encounter design really is, but it also shows how you can make WoW even more accessible. We are way over the tipping point for addons. Without addons, the boss design in this game would still be very tank'n'spank. Mods changed the endgame big time and AVR will do the same in the long run. The ban is Blizzard just trying to protect their current content a little longer.
 
Silly when an in game item lets you place pillars of light on the floor that persist for a short while.
 
I imagine you could do some pretty evil things in pvp with an addon that lets you draw in the game world.

Must admit though, griefing same faction Rogues by putting a big red arrow over them as they sneak around does have a certain appeal.
 
Honestly, if Blizzard can learn anything from AVR it's that the gameworld really needs more and clearer visual cues for player beyond boss yells and chats. How many bosses now have had void zones or similar mechanics that are barely visible in the spam of melee attacks and the like, or even barely visible against the background? (Frex, the void zones of Sarth+3 before they changed them to be bright blue).

I mean, is it really that bad to have a circle around you saying where other players shouldn't be standing in? It adds difficulty otherwise, yes, but is it difficulty really worth having? Isn't gameplay based on full contextual understanding better than forcing players to do guesswork?
 
I've posted about this at my own blog - distance in a virtual space is not an easy thing to judge, and some elements of AVR would be awesome if they were implemented at low levels to help new players really understand what yds represent in the game world.

I was always okay at running away from malleable goo, AVR made me better. I uninstalled AVR after this announcement, and now I'm still better at judging Malleable goo than I was before I had it enabled.

I also had comments on my blog from a Hearing-Impaired player who raids, and how AVR enabled him to adapt to new strategies from his team mates when they were arranging things over vent that he couldn't here. I know it's very easily abused, but some sort of accessibility toggle that would allow players with disabilities to use this mod if they wanted to would be a big boost to the accessibility of the game.
 
i love this addon... not for screaming at me that i HAVE TO MOVE THE FORK OUT THERE... but for the "paintpart".

it makes explanations much easier for all in the raid...

when i played guildwars i loved the function to draw things on the minimap... love to see something like that. the rest of avr is not important to me... just give me ingamepaint or something like that
 
My first thought when I saw the mod originally was, "I wonder what other mods will then come out that alters the game world." I think that the real issue is that it allows users to change other players' experience. Blizzard wants to be in control of these things--I see it as less a raid issue and more of a capability that Blizzard doesn't want to allow
 
if the ability to point at a spot on the floor breaks raiding, there is something wrong with raiding

Well put :). Even though it is a strawman, as Blizzard never stated that it does break raiding.

I'm not even sure why Blizzard removes it, to be honest. Perhaps some RP maniac thought that red circles on the ground break immersion in WoW raiding. That freak will soon be fired, don't worry :)
 
All add-ons are "cheating" (not a term I'd use).

The default UI in any MMO should include everything the developers wish to have included and anything else should be blocked.

If 3rd party hacks appear and become widely used (e.g. EQWindows) the developer should consider incorporating the application as part of the Default.

Of course, allowing players to develop and apply their own mods saves the developer money, so it's not surprising that it's become popular.
 
I think Blizzard allows any add-on which they perceive as being a solution for a default UI shortcoming.

Decursive was fine up to the point where it decided instead the player which spell to use, if I remember correctly.

This add-on seems to trivialize raiding as it is now since that removes the need of being aware of what's going on in the raid as a whole:

"healhealhealheal, cuegoredcircle, healhealheal, cuegoblucircle, healhealheal, cuegoredcircle, healhea.... oh, it's dead? YAY!"

Disclaimer: i haven't set foot in WotLK and what I know from WoW nowadays comes from this blog although the author thinks i don't read the WoW articles... :P
 
If painting the ground trivializes a raid, then raiding probably wasn't all that complicated to begin with.
 
I've not seen this thing in action, but it does sound pretty cool imho.

I must say, Guildwars has always had this "collaborative" mini-map "whiteboard" feature on which the entire team could "draw" . Sure it doesn't show on the actual game's ground, but it sure as heck helped with organizing and coordination.....even though most of the time players would instead opt for drawing rude signage on there.

Would Blizzard have a problem with something like that?
 
I like the glass pane analogy.

There are a few other addons that break this, though:

- The TomTom/waypoint arrows that are used mostly by gathering mods. I'd like to see this get removed as well, let gathering be about (random) discovery, not following lines on a map.

- Nameplate addons. These only really work by modifying existing UI elements, probably no big deal.
 
AVR points to the biggest issue in raiding: Visualizing the strategy.

Once upon a time, being able to mark mobs in WoW was regarded kinda gamebreaking, and completely changed the pace of grouping and raiding - now it is a incorporated feature.

Hopefully a whiteboard alternative for WoW will show up so that we easier can explain when rogues need to run to "the other left...."

Can anyone also please clarify the hate against Healbot and similar addons?
Decursive was banned cause you could program it to decurse in a priority order. Such as "decurse Tom (who was a tank). If not cursed, then decurse Jane (whos a healer). If not cursed, then decurse Bob (whos a rogue)" and perform it by pressing one button.
Healbot, Grid (and any other decent Unitframe) doesn't tell you who to heal or with what spell, so whats with the hate?
 
Good for Blizzard! To be honest, I even think add-ons like TauntMaster and the healer equivalent are cheating. If a player can't heal or tank the game using the tools that are naturally provided then there's definitely something going wrong somewhere.
 
"Can anyone also please clarify the hate against Healbot and similar addons?"

My hate comes from the fact that they are needed.
 
AVR is a great idea.

*What it can do is that it colours the ground red during the boss fight for places to avoid (e.g. malleable goo in putricide).*

Well, just add randomness so the addon can't work like a clockwork.

But WoW is Blizzards world. If they don't like your addon you can forget it (remember the one click decursive?). Sad for the developers as creating such an addon takes tons of time and with one click Blizzard destroys all that work.
 
Disclaimer: The only raid healing in WoW I have is when Strat and Scolo were the places to raid.

I come from EQ raid healing where macros were to announce when the next cleric should begin the heal in the chain healing. My brief experience with raid healing in WoW showed me that even then, lots of healers used addons to automatically target who needed healing and what was the most efficient heal to use (also back then you could use lower rank spells.) The one loved by my guild took all the thought out of healing and basically made me a healbot in every sense of the word. I uninstalled it after the second raid and went back to the original UI.

I definitely feel that there is something wrong with WoW's raiding if healers need addons to play their class. What happened to healing because you liked it? Do healers nowadays like being healbots? Is that the feeling for most healers?

Because I don't use these heal addons, I realize that I'm at a disadvantage, even in some of the WotLK instances. I don't like healing anymore, after 12+ years of healing in MMOs, WoW has broken it for me.

I don't think lesser of someone using addons but I can't help but wonder if they get less fun out of the game because the addon is doing most of the "work" (play) for them.

Short version: Yes, I think all addons are cheating. But I'm old and old fashioned. =)
 
I think a lot Wotlk instances were designed for young players who reflexes and internet connection are fast.

I love and strongly approve of any addon that minimizes the importance of reaction speed. Knowing what to do is skill; clicking fast enough is just twitch.
 
To clarify for those who havent been using healing addons for a while:

None of them will select what spells to use or choose what target to heal.

(Healbot can choose most approriate spell when out of combat to top off other players, but thats about it).

What unitframes such as Grid and Healbot does is
a) Makes it easy visible who is taking dmg (such as a red ring around all unitframes with aggro)
b) Shows incoming heals (so that you can estimate how much your heal will land for, and if they are being healed by others)
c) Shows debuffs/buffs (including hots)

It's not about having addons think for you. It's about addons showing game information in a clear and readable way to enable you to do your best.

I agree with Fake Nils that there is a problem for needing these addons in the first place. But isnt that an issue with the Blizzard Unitframe (which leaves much to be desired from a healer perspective), rather then the addons?
 
(some one agreeing with me! with time I'll replace Nils with the smart trolling remarks - beware, Nils, or you'll have to change or name to 'Used to be Nils')

There are 2 kind of addons (that matter for this discussion): the ones that simplify your job, like Healbot, and the ones that stupidify your job, like AVR and DBM.

Example: if you're a doctor (or healer) you have to have some tools to treat your patient. Some of them aren't real necessary but help you a lot, like a cardiac monitor or an X-Ray. In this case, AVR would put a red circle on the body part you had to amputate or operate and DBM would say when. That's turning you into a scripted player. AVR is more intrusive because it paints a red circle on the patient's body while DBM doesn't touch him at all. It's understandable why Blizzard will ban it.
 
Fake Nils said:
"There are 2 kind of addons (that matter for this discussion): the ones that simplify your job, like Healbot, and the ones that stupidify your job, like AVR and DBM."


What about threatmeters? Questhelper? There are lots of addons that have completely changed the way we think and play the game. The line Blizz have drawn over AVR could just as well have been drawn for any of the other addons mentioned.

Many say that bossmods are ruining fights, as they are effectively timekeepers, coordinators and instructors - but do you really think raidencounters could stay at current level of complexity if majority of players didnt have bossmods?

I mean, in alternate universe where no bossmods were made, I think its more likely that the average bossfight were of a tank-and-spank design, as otherwise it would be too hard for enough customers to see and defeat content to keep paying/playing.
 
"but do you really think raidencounters could stay at current level of complexity if majority of players didnt have bossmods?"

Yes, of course. They just have to implement better indications of what will happen and give players some reaction time. If a boss casts something that has to be interrupted or dispelled (you can see it even today with the enemy cast bar, for example) don't give just 1.23 seconds to react before something catastrophic happens.

As for the addons, I'll keep my definition: there are the ones that help you do your job (threat meters, healbots, etc.) and the ones that tell what to do in order to do your job (QuestHelper, DBM, AVR).

But hey, as you said: it's their game. They can do whatever they want to do. I'm sure that the developers also spend many hours scripting a boss just do discover that the encounter has became trivial by using an addon.
 
The obvious danger when designing the difficulty of raid encounters with addons in mind, is that no two players use the exact same set of addons. You end up with some customers being deeply unhappy and frustrated, just because they didn't know they were supposed to use addon X to make some encounter much easier.

Thus I am with Fake Nils in agreeing that everything which influences the difficulty of an encounter should be in the standard interface by Blizzard, and addons should be for things like rearranging your UI.
 
I really don't think "cheating" in raids was the real issue with this addon. The problem was that it effectively allowed people to leave graffiti all over the world and Blizzard probably doesn't want anyone to see Dalaran's walls decorated with wangs.
 
@Shintar

You would see it if you had the addon.
 
@Fake Nils

If Blizz did a 180 and banned bossmods in favour for more obvious ques from bosses I dont think too many would object...

As it is now we have a choice
a) Play without bossmods
b) Play with bossmods

If you go for b there are guilds that will raid without bossmods. Either cause they want the challenge or because they are in progressguilds.

On a side note: several progressguilds have thier own addon programmers in the raid, meaning they can upload combatlogs and get beta-bossmod functionality during attempts.
The game is now designed with bossmods in mind, which also leads to interesting fights made possible by them.
 
I think they should allow add-on for non-combat purpose, but disallow those that is for combat purpose. Thus, you're left with add-ons for convenience and no need to deal with cheating/not drama.
 
Out of combat, I think it's just fine. Having that during combat, not so much. We're adventurers, not super-soldiers with a digitally rendered overlay through our night-vision goggles which shows the exact battle plan.

@Sid: What about raid markers?
 
Something that people should keep in mind when they say "Well if Blizzard is going to break this addon, then they should have to break that addon too!" is that some addons are much more difficult for Blizzard to break. AVR is really easy because it is dependent on a handful of camera position functions, which are used by almost no other addons. Timers like DBM or DXE require only the ability to read the combat log. To break those you would have to break every addon that reads the combat log, which would affect a large number of legitimate addons.
 
@ the "if this breaks raiding then something is wrong with raiding":

Let's say there was a mod for tetris that showed you the best place amd orientation to put the current block. Or a mod for Super Mario Brothers that told you when exactly to jump by drawing a big blue arrow at that point of the level.

Can we agree those would make the game much easier (to the point of being less fun), but that those games are not inherently bad because this is the case?
 
"Can we agree those would make the game much easier (to the point of being less fun), but that those games are not inherently bad because this is the case?"

No.
 
I argued back and forth with a lot of people on wow.com about this very issue, and I think the number of comments proved my point -- Blizzard is taking very heavy handed, vague and ambiguous move here.

The way they are doing this doesn't tell us anything about what the problem is with AVR that give us any guidance on how to not cross this line (or smudge, or cloud, or however definite it is) in the future.

I ran ICC for the first time in weeks last night, and it was my first time with AVR-E. It was very helpful. Did it trivialize things? No, but it did help with information overload.

Really, I think this is a problem of game design. Blizzard has been relying more and more on "notice this very subtle ground effect and move in/out of it within 3ms or the raid wipes" as its version of difficult. What AVR-E does is remove the "very subtle" part. That's it. It makes what is hard to see easy to see.

The best indication of this is how little help you get from AVR-E in the first wing of ICC. An indicator on the bone spikes, an overlay for whatever the second boss throws out, nothing I noticed on gunship or saurfang. And then, in the "hard" fights, there were lots of overlays for ground effects in the plague wing.

Blizzard's real problem with this is that it highlights the gimmick that Blizzard is using. Virtually all of the "problems" arise for Blizzard using eyesight checks to substitute for difficult choices.
 
I feel like HealBot et al resulted in raid healing that required faster reaction times, and now healers pretty much have to have a "healer addon".

If AVR stayed, I suspect raid encounters would end up tuned to people having it, and I'm happy this didn't happen.
 
Its really AVRE that was causing all the fuss. The ability to see range circles around players or where goo zones are made encounters like Rotface, Putricide, Blood Queen and Sindragosa substantially easier so it had to go.

On the flip side encounter designers are fond of putting in zones of certain death at odd ranges like 6, 10, or 12 yards and yet the game doesn't usually give any indication to the player where those zones are, big pools of fire withstanding.

As more developers take advantage of the 64bit multi-core environment i'd like to see proximity based damage systems in the future where, sure its certain death if your standing on something or someone but then damage dissipates over distance.
 
Just a remark about boss mods:
When I restarted playing WoW some months ago I forgot to download bossmods, for some reason.

I only realized when I eventually tried some '/range 12' command and it didn't work.

I was curious and continued to raid without dbm and found that it really wasn't necessary at all. That wasn't hc modes, but I didn't make any more errors than anybody else. I didn't even make any more errors than I remembered to do with dbm. It always takes some time to get to know a fight and then evrything goes well. with our w/o dbm.

So, I'd suggest to just turn off dbm and have a try. It really isn't all that hard on most encounters.


One last point: You should not agree with fake people. It makes you look stupid ;)
 
@Asbel,

I agree with you completely. I don't want to use a healing addon because I can think for myself. Of course, I don't have the reaction time that x healing addon has so I'm at a disadvantage. I no longer heal in WoW - I get my healing fixes in other games.
 
@ Nils

Agreed about not having boss mods. I raided throughout Naxx and Ulduar without boss mods and used the default raid frames as a healer. I still died way less and was a far more effective healer than most of the other players.

Many fights have immense telegraphing already if you actually peel your eyes away from your mods for a second.

Ignis would begin a casting animation when casting Flame Jets. Kologarn's eye beams would hold still for a second, giving you a chance to get ahead of them. Hodir had tonnes of telegraphing, from visible glowing for frozen blows, stuff falling from the ceiling before it collapses. Thorim you could see the lightning arcs before they actually hit. Vezax you'd see shadow crashes coming towards you. Icehowl would jump to the middle before crashing into you. Jarraxus would yell out when using certain abilities. Marrowgar stops attacking when he casts bone spike. You could tell how much tank damage and raid damage people will take on Festergut based on how much gas was in the room.

The list goes on and on and on. Yes, there are some abilities that are on a strict timer (Blood Beasts on Saurfang is one such example), and perhaps they really should be randomized a bit, but frankly the signs are there for anyone who cares to watch, and for the ones that aren't as easily telegraphed Blizzard puts up its own raid warnings (and has done so since WotLK started at the very least).

DBM is not required, nor should it be.

Does it make things easier? Yes, with all of the visual stimuli that occurs in a big raid fight, telegraphig can get lost, and zones are hard to see.

The question comes then is how tolerant is Blizzard when it comes to making things easier. They don't seem to have a problem with an addon keeping track of timers for you, or putting the normal warning signs up with extra neon and loud sounds, but drawing within the game world on triggers, or drawing in other people's game worlds depending on triggers (!!!) is too far. It's a hard line to verbalize, and they probably decided they would know the line when they see it crossed.
 
@Tobold

there isn't a significant enough difference between the different kinds of boss timer mods that it would affect who succeeds in raids better. It's more of a stylistic choice.

--

Mods are great because they let the user customize their own experience. If you plug it into the Blizz UI you run the risk of it (1) not being as good and (2) it gums up the game for people who don't need/want that feature.

The problem with AVR, as Blizz said, was its interaction with the game world; drawing crap in Dalaran, or reducing raids to near-zero effort. DBM is a bunch of stop watches. See the difference?

In the old days I used to have to alt-tab out of my game to start the windows clock to monitor the first blood from Hakkar. The current way is better.
 
Maybe Blizz should open some addon-disabled servers.
 
I think Blizzard are doing what they have to do to disable excessive add-ons without trying to make precise rules that barrack-room lawyers will try to circumvent.

With regard to bosses they have improved a lot over time. As DPS, I found that boss mods were completely unnecessary in Naxxramas, for example, although in BC they were important at times.

I know healers tend to have more need of mods due to the healing mechanics, but these are supposed to be changed significantly in Cataclysm.
 
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