Tobold's Blog
Thursday, December 08, 2011
SWTOR addons

I haven't seen much written yet on addons for Star Wars: The Old Republic. There is no LUA language support for people to write addons for SWTOR on release. And I kind of hope that they won't add it later. Or that at the very least SWTOR doesn't provide a lot of data like combat damage which is usable for addons. Because if there is one thing I've learned from 7 years of WoW addons is that the overall effect of the addons tends to be negative for the community and the game.

The most anti-social addons are things like Gearscore or various damage and performance meter addons. I wouldn't mind if SWTOR had a built-in functionality which would somehow show my performance, but only to myself, with the goal to improve myself. But in WoW these addons were primarily used to point a finger at people who for some reason had a slightly lower level of gear or damage output. They were exclusion devices, with people organizing raids asking for "minimum Gearscore 6785", which happened to be exactly their GS, so they could be carried by people with better gear. These ePeen measuring devices in my opinion did more harm than good to the community of World of Warcraft.

Another type of addon commonly seen is the performance-enhancing addon. A healing addon like Healbot makes group/raid healing a lot easier than the standard interface. And addons like Deadly Boss Mods give advance warning of incoming special abilities from boss mobs, which make the "dance" a lot easier. So what could be wrong with that? What is wrong is that by making these functionalities dependent on a third party addon, you can't be sure that everybody is at exactly the same level. Performance-enhancing addons are like performance-enhancing drugs in sports: You might consider them "fair" if you assume that everybody uses them, but as soon as you consider that some people for some reasons don't use them, it becomes obvious how distorting they are. If Healbot is strictly necessary to beat an encounter, then why isn't it part of the standard user interface? Performance-enhancing addons make balancing encounters very difficult, because developers will have to decide whether they balance the encounter with or without the assumption that these addons are used. And if you balance the encounter assuming that everybody has the addons, then you'll get the occasional case where somebody is unable to beat the encounter because for some reason he didn't have the addon he thought he had. Again, if an addon was necessary for an encounter, it should be part of the standard user interface, not a third-party addon. Fortunately Blizzard at least put legal measures in place which prevent people from selling their addons. Imagine there was a must-have raid addon that you had to pay an extra $20 to get.

The least harmful addons are those which allow players to customize the user interface. But frankly, in this day and age complicated games should have customization options for the user interface built in from the start. I don't see the advantage of doing that with addons. In the end all addons are just crutches for functions that the developers were either too lazy to build into the game itself, or for functions where the developers thought that the game shouldn't have them in the first place. Blizzard made theirs far too powerful, leading to addons that you can't perform without, and others which are mostly used to stroke ePeens and separate the community into "us" and "them". In the SWTOR beta somebody was joking "6K GS required" in general chat when he was looking for a group for a low-level dungeon. I so hope that this remains a joke and doesn't turn into reality in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Preventing Recount or GearScore from existing does not prevent the functional demand for these sort of metrics. If a group is wiping because XxHanSoloxX is not contributing enough DPS to an encounter, lacking the ability to pinpoint the problem does not make you wipe one iota less. Similarly, for all the negative press GearScore got, all it did was streamline the process of screening pugs, which would otherwise occur with a visual /inspect.

Bottom line: if the designers include things like DPS checks in encounter design but prevent anyone from checking their DPS, that is simply bad game design.
Right now (well, as of the weekend betas) the UI is crippled for people using a surround setup. I really, really hope they let us move the UI elements around - having the minimap in the bottom right corner of the right side monitor is bad, bad, bad.

Another reason to not allow addons is that it will require Bioware itself to continue to improve the UI - they can't depend on mod authors to patch their shortcomings. Hopefully they're looking carefully at the most popular WoW mods with an eye to incorporating the best features.
Addons are one of the reason I like WoW and have ditched many other MMOs the last 5-6 years because they didnt. It will probably be the reason why I ditch SWTOR after a while too :(

Addons do so much more than DBM/Healbot/Gscore for me (having more than 100+ active addons). Changing the interface is a big part of it for me.

And about healbot, missing that kind of functionality would make it easier for me to decide not to be a healer atleast.

I really just like to tinker with addons removing some and trying out some new ones :)
Nice post Tobold, I agree completely.

I wouldn't mind some kind of function where you can better see peoples health and easier to target them for healing, and of course the ability to move around the UI objects as I wish. But beyond that I would be happy with what Bioware would implement themselves.

I have read that Bioware is going to add macros later, and if they do that then addons probably aren't that far behind. :(
In addition to agreeing with Azuriel, I also have to point out that for whatever reason, a lot of companies aren't interested in making decent interfaces, and my years in WoW, with heavily modded interfaces have made me a person who just cannot stand most shitty default UI's. I totally agree with you with regards to the fact that basic UI customization should be built-in and supported to the game, but it seems to me that most developers simply don't care to do so. It's just another thing to build, it's more work, after the UI is already "done". In the absence of good UI design by developers, then I think you need to open your game to add-ons and mods. It's obscenely lazy design, absolutely, but it's more beneficial to the game than forcing everyone to keep forcing square pegs through their round user interfaces.

Ideally, I'd love to get to a place where what you're talking about is the reality, but I just don't see it happening. And in those games where I don't have the ability to modify my UI, having been trained by WoW for 6 years to do so, it's very hard to handle or accept that, and it certainly increases my frustration or results in a lack of patience with what could be an otherwise good game. Maybe it's not right, but the expectation has been created for an awful lot of us to be able to modify our UI, because of the conditioning we got from WoW.
One of the nice things about playing modless Rift is frequent patching. Ask anyone in WoW about frequent patching and they'll look at you with a wince as they think about add-on spring cleaning.

Woo! Patch day! Let's see which of our add-ons are screwed.
[1. General] "WTF patch?! DBM n recount broken? FML! Fucken GG Blizzard."
(One of the scarier things to contemplate is that people who type those words above are a) real, b) can vote, and c) their vote counts for as much as a sane, reasonable, intelligent person's does.)

In RIFT, patches herald the arrival of puppies and kittens riding unicorns over rainbows, sprinkling candy and chocolates over all, after having spent the night hard at work leaving specially gift-wrapped presents under everyone's pillows.
...By comparison, anyway.
Healing UIs and MMOs:

As to me, the main point is that these addons only exist because the standard interface does not provide what feels to needed.

I started Healing the "old" way. Click on a target, use key, click on the next target. The main issue that I miss is that I'd like to bind these Keys to my mouse. If a standard interface would provide me this feature, I probably wont use an Healing Addon.

This is the way Blizzard goes by adding the new raid frames to the game though I still miss the option to bind Heals to my Mouse and still keep the 1-9 Keys free for stuff I dont use so often.

So for SW:TOR if there would be an addon to bind spells to my mouse, I certainly would use it. But do I need a "full" Healbot/Voodoo/Grid?
I guess no.

I have to agree. A great mmorpg needs to be the game its players want it to be. PvP, PvE, crafting, economics, rp...addons are a fundamental part of why WoW dominates market share and why other games a resistant not to offer them.
Blizzard made theirs far too powerful, leading to addons that you can't perform without, and others which are mostly used to stroke ePeens and separate the community into "us" and "them". In the SWTOR beta somebody was joking "6K GS required" in general chat when he was looking for a group for a low-level dungeon.

We are hyperboling today, aren't we? WoW would not have been as successful without the ability to heavily mod the UI. Raid design was enforced to leap foward just by mod designers. Completely stupid mechanics were flat out killed by mods and improved the game. Remember early Lucifron raids? Remember how "fun" it was to dispell the whole raid manually. Awesome design right? Expect those glory days coming up for TOR. It's easy hating WoW addons and while some were nasty and still are, the game's evolution would not be possible without such an open API. For sure Blizzard made the game too transparent and early UI possibilies went too far but going back to a fully closed system, where you can't even move truely ugly mid 90s Photoshop panel design UI elements, isn't progression either.
"If a group is wiping because XxHanSoloxX is not contributing enough DPS to an encounter, lacking the ability to pinpoint the problem does not make you wipe one iota less."

The other side of this coin is that the fun of games relies largely on *not* having perfect information. Tick-Tac-Toe becomes very dull, when both players have learnt the perfect sequences of moves. A strategy game loses it's strategical meaning when it can be worked out tactically (viz chess software).
totally agree with this post. There has been a lot of discusion in MMO-Champion Guild wars 2 thread wether it should or not allow addons and hopefully the majority was against...

couldn't say it better than you. And the problem of course are humans and how the use addons, not addons themselves. Funny I was just reading an article about atomic energy and the debate was the helped humanity as a powerful energy but it also destroyed it and we have much to see in future as of destruction..and they wondering if this discovery was good for humanity or not :P again here is the humans that don't use atomic energy for good and use it for destruction...In general, we make things bad or good, bad from my experience we always do bad things

The only addon I should think "fair" is the Power Auras and I think every game should have that build within the game interface. If you use keybinds to fight you have to stare in your action bars and lose all the game/environment..
Addons are there as an answer to the problem that the basic interface does not provide information or functionality which is either needed or useful.
Sorry, but after using an addon like VuhDo for healing, you see that this is the way raid frames should be FROM THE START.
Interface-changing addons are also fundamental: the difficulty of the game must not stem from the fact that I need to notice a 16x16 debuff icon barely visible on my 1600x1200 screen. So either the developers provide a very configurable interface, or they should at least allow me to "mod it out of hell".

As an example, the LotRO interface is absolutely atrocious if you have to keep track of buff/debuff uptimes (warden says hi).

And I agree 100% with Azuriel's post about GS/recount.
Have the dps checks as solo instance encounters that players have to complete solo to attune themselves to the group instance.
the game's evolution would not be possible without such an open API

I'd say that if WoW had not had the open API, it would have forced Blizzard to make a better interface. Which then would be the same for every player, wouldn't break down at every patch, and wouldn't require you to get nagged by Curse how you should pay them for their addon update program.

It is BECAUSE the players could improve the interface that Blizzard never made a decent interface for raid healing and decursing.
I agree with the first commenter, Azuriel. Gearscore was the symptom, not the problem.

The problem is having encounters which rely on a minimum standard of gear, and more importantly, on reward structures which encourage repeated farming of content (for instance, rare loot drops, or token farming).

This might be good from the point of view of content development efficiency, but in terms of player behaviour, it gives players a strong incentive to optimise (minimise) their run times, hence being very picky about who they run with.

It's really eye-opening to watch developers bend over backwards to try to make the player base fit their own content-production preferences, but it never seems to quite work to the degree they hope. The Dungeon Finder in WoW was great, but it was also an obvious attempt to lure more players into group content. I think at some point the penny will have to drop.

I honestly believe there's a fundamental limitation on the proportion of players who desire to be involved in that kind of inter-dependent, cooperative group play. I believe this limitation is inherant in the demographics of a mass-market MMO like WoW, which by definition includes a huge number of older players (i.e. late twenties upwards) with real-life committments. Group content of this type is intrinsically problematic for such players, because there are large social and time costs to being interupted in real life.

Adding better grouping systems effectively tweak the edges of the problem, in my view. WoW have made inroads into tempting people into this content by making grouping as easy as possible, and through things like winged dungeon design, attempting to lessen the requirement for long play sessions. But it's just not enough, nor, I think, will it ever be.

I'm confident that in 2020 we'll be playing games we call MMOs that allow even single players to complete group-style content with AI companions.
Nice post Tobold, I totally disagree with you.

Some points:

1) Everyone wants something different in their UI; providing UI addons allows that infinite customization
2) I honestly believe that their wide-open addon support from the start was a major reason for WOW's phenomenal growth
3) Note that WOW used addons as a testing ground as well; many addons were incorporated into the actual WOW UI after their innate goodness & appeal had been demonstrated
4) When addons crossed a boundary, WOW was diligent in reigning them in i.e they didn't sacrifice their vision of the game just because sophisticated addons were allowed

I think not allowing addons would be a major mistake for SWTOR. They should see how addons helped WOW as opposed to mistakenly thinking that they hurt WOW.
I feel like you're objecting to the solutions for problems instead of the problems themselves.

Gearscore exists because WoW has a lot of weakest-link style group encounters. If person 4 or person 7 or person 17 can't carry their weight the whole group fails. On a good day this leads to good group cohesion, but on most days it leads to drama. Going to a sum-of-parts model would remove most or all of that drama.

Healbot exists because raid healing is irritating without it.

Deadly Boss Mods exists because the interface is inadequate. You should know exactly what a boss is doing (or what he's going to do) just by looking at him. In WoW you're stuck looking at your chat log or combat logs or your buff or debuff bar.

I haven't played WoW in a while -- all I've been playing lately is Gears of War 3, and my favorite mode is a 5-person co-op mode called Horde. Gears doesn't have addons, but it also has none of the problems that require WoW players to have them.

Group strength is the sum of the parts of the players, so there's very little drama concerning bad players (unlike WoW). Healing is rarely needed, and when you do need to "heal" anyone can do it. And you don't need Deadly Boss Mods because bosses with special attacks visually and audibly telegraph those attacks.

Even without those things co-op is extremely challenging -- much harder than a 5-man in WoW. I don't mean that Gears is necessarily harder than WoW, just that in WoW you are meant to beat a 5-man instance, while in Horde in Gears you're generally going to lose a 5-man Horde match (but get a bunch of XP along the way).
Tobold, when talking about spending money in free to play games, you liken it to buying a nice set of golf clubs if you are really interested in golf. Sure, you can play with a cheap set, but if you want to improve your performance, you drop the money on the nicer set.

Why should it be any different with addons if a game allows them? In the case of WoW, they are free, everyone has access to them, but not everyone needs them to play. But, if you are interested in top performance, you take drop the time (instead of money) to set them up so that you can perform better.
I would add that add-ons are not the same as UI configurability or even full UI replacement. Lots of games offer the ability to completely reskin and rework the UI--EQ2 would be an example, but even Ultima Online does these days. But WoW is the only game I know of that allows active add ons that essentially make decisions for you.

There's a big difference between having icons that are more pleasing or resized or an easier way to bind spells to a mouse button and something like Vuhdo that calculated exactly the break even points on chain heal's mana cost and amount of damage healed and told you when and who to cast it on or which lit up decurse buttons only when the curse was curable by you and was of a type that was needed curing rather than healing through. Those are gameplay decisions the player should be making. That's the tiny bit of player skill that's actually in MMOs. You have similar issues with DPS and tanks choosing where to spread aggro and how much DPS a character can do before pulling it off the tank--in WoW this was all automated--no player skill.

BTW the prep for that dance? I think one of the reasons WoW needed to create gimmicks like dances is that with computer aid, everyone was playing their class at 100%, so gimmicks were the only way they could add challenge.

I'm 100% for replacing that ugly neon blue interface 100%, but I don't want the interface to play the game for me.
Gearscore was the symptom, not the problem.

I'd call Gearscore the band-aid used to by the players to overcome the problem, without actually solving it. And I believe that because that band-aid exists, developers are led to believe that there is no need to cure the sickness any more. So, yes, Gearscore is not the problem. But it also doesn't help, and ultimately hinders solving the problem. Plus it has significant negative social consequences.
It is BECAUSE the players could improve the interface that Blizzard never made a decent interface for raid healing and decursing.

My experience with playing games would indicate this is false. I played Final Fantasy XI both before I played WoW and again earlier this year. The interface hadn't changed. I played a healer in that game both times and there was no way to tell if my friendly buffs were on someone. If you wanted to know if someone had a debuff to remove you either had to have them tell you or you had to recognize every combat move for every monster in the game.

Healers in that game also debuff the monsters. There was no indication on a monster what debuffs it had on it. You would get a one line message in your combat log when the debuff wore off, but only if you were the one who put it up. If someone else in your party thought they were helping out by putting up a debuff for you then you were screwed. You had no way to know if it was still there and when to recast it.

They've had 9 years and have been constantly updating the game with new content and such. They've never enhanced the UI to add the things WoW modders added to the WoW UI. Why not? Well, if you're 'good enough' and can pay proper attention to the combat log, the enemy animations, and have proper communication with your group you don't need any of them. Just like the default WoW UI.

There would be no pressing need for them to make the UI better. So they wouldn't.
Tobold writes: It is BECAUSE the players could improve the interface that Blizzard never made a decent interface for raid healing and decursing.

Actually, they have, in Cata. Raid frames finally provide everything you need to heal a raid, including incoming healing, highlighting important debuffs to dispel and various information related to encounter quirks (vehicles and such) They're not as elegant and ergonomic as many people's custom UI, of course, but they most certainly work. And, personally, I've been using mouseover macros instead of healbot/grid/etc. to heal with, for years.

I can agree about leaving the UI standard and unmodifiable in order to level the playing field, but have to disagree vehemently about the game withholding combat performance information. I feel I have a right to that information in order to experiment and improve. And I will get it, one way or the other, even if it means painstakingly testing against enemies in the world.

Crippling access to data is not the solution to social woes. People will always find ways to be jerks, elitist or otherwise, to one another. Probably through /inspect, as was said, which is less fair than a dps count to someone who might have been able to squeeze adequate performance out of bad gear. And those of us who would use the numbers to the good suffer needlessly.
No user interface that Bioware comes up with will ever be perfect to all people. It'll never even come close to perfect. For raid leaders, information is very important in order to succeed. Without any kind of information, your guild is more likely to fail repeatedly.

Bottom line, information and the tools that provide that information is not a bad thing. It's a good thing. You seem to be arguing that providing damage and gear data is a bad thing simply because some people take it to the extreme. Those kinds of people will always find a way to exclude others who they don't think are good enough.

I guess I just don't get this kind of argument. Is the Internet and the information it provides bad because some people use it to learn how to build bombs? Maybe that's an extreme example but information, in itself, is a good thing. The more we have, the better decisions we can make.

Personally, I don't want to rely on Bioware to fix its UI constantly. They simply won't do it in a satisfactory or timely manner. They just don't have enough time or resources.

I don't like having to guess which gear is good for me. I don't like hitting two buttons when one should be sufficient. I don't like being asked to perform a job and not having the information needed to do it correctly. I don't like having some vital piece of data in a tiny spot in the corner of my screen where I have to hunt for it and take my eyes off the action. I don't think I'm in the minority on this.
Have you ever looked at UI threads on forums and the like? Players' UI preferences vary wildly and a lot of players actively enjoy modifying their UI.

I love the fact that I can make an icon pop up on my screen if someone in my group does not have a certain buff. I love how Grid allows me to make the raid frames tiny (I don't need them much, being DPS), but still allows me to easily see if players are dead or have important debuffs.

You say that the developers are being lazy, but there's simply no way they could ever have made a UI that appeals to so many different players. On top of that, I think you underestimate the development effort involved in maintaining such an extensive API. If allowing addons was the easy way out, I bet we would see a lot more MMO's with them, but this just isn't the case.
While I did find many of the interface options in WOW to be quite limited, I tend to lean towards standardization in gameplay. It is the same reasoning behind stock car racing. You want people to be judged on their merits as a player not on who can download the best mods and configure them in the best way to artificially boost performance.

When something other than the player is enhancing the player's performance it takes away from the feeling of real accomplishment.

What if a tennis player from today played a tennis player from decades ago. A player with a lightweight engineered-to-perfection graphite racket vs. a heavy old wooden racket. Or you can take golf clubs for that matter. Not exactly a fair matchup.

A lack of standards in "equipment" makes it so that while skill is still very important it can be compensated for by something not directly skill related if the player is so inclined. In otherwords, I want to be judged on my merits not on my ability to download and configure mods.
Agree with your post 100%. I really hope that SWTOR does not go down the path with addons that WoW did.

If the UI sucks so badly or an encounter is designed so poorly that an optional addon is necessary to make part of your game playable, your game is broken and needs to be fixed. Letting players crowd source solutions to broken design elements is really just applying duct tape to the real problems.

Further, players tend to have a pretty myopic view of any MMO they play. Even if you are going to fix things with duct tape, someone with a broad view of the overall game design goals needs to be applying it...not some player that wants a new tool to stroke their e-peen or wants one button healing in a raid encounter.
It is BECAUSE the players could improve the interface that Blizzard never made a decent interface for raid healing and decursing.

My experience with playing games would indicate this is false.

I would go one step further and say that despite the abundance of 3rd party mods, Blizzard has made more core UI changes in the current run of WoW than any other MMORPG developer before or since.

I can agree that I don't want to get to the point of the game playing itself, or competitive playing relying on mods; but MMOs pass the player so much information that the ability to organize that information in a usable way has become a necessity. Right now SWTOR just isn't providing that.

The default UI for SWTOR is atrocious and Bioware will need to spend a lot of resources continuing to work on it to make it better. The ability to do some simple modification can do nothing but aid the game's success.
Wall o' Text - Part 1

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the fact that a game developer can't predict the needs and wants of everyone, and while they should still aim for a decent level of native customization options, no amount of time and effort spent will please everyone.

Looking at purely interface related functionality, is it reasonable to expect a developer to design several different sets of icons optimized for people with vision impairments ranging from cataracts to fifteen different flavours of colour blindness? Absolutely not. Certain built in options that help address common vision related makes sense, but leave it up to addon developers to solve the niche problems.

Can the developer provide enough flexibility and customization options to fulfill the needs and wants of people playing at any functional video resolution resolution, with anywhere between 1 and 5 attached displays? Arguable, and while the ability to move and individually scale individual UI elements may go a long way, it's not going to please everyone.

Looking specifically at action bars and buttons, is it reasonable to expect developers to give us the ability to independently control the position and scale of every single button on the screen? Sure, allowing you to add extra "bars" and move "bars" where you want them will appease "most" gamers, but there are many gamers out there that have very unique wants/needs. For instance, I use a Logitech G13 gameboard and a Razor Naga gaming mouse. While I could certainly bind all those buttons to seemingly random fixed action bars, its my personal preference to actually recreate the layout of my gameboard (which is oddly shaped) and the thumb buttons of my mouse in my UI. Sure, I memorize keybinds, and I eventually get the the point where I could pretty much hide my action bars entirely, but when I'm creating a new character, or I'm in the "optimizing" process for my character, I really do rely on having my UI set up just the way I like it.

Sure, nobody will argue that damage meter or gearscore type addons can help foster some less than friendly behaviors in the game, but that's not really the fault of the addon. People are just looking to optimize their gameplay experience, and taking away those resources would just turn that into a more arduous and unfriendly process. Think that that guy was a complete %&^$! when he laughed at you after the first wipe? Imagine how friendly he'll be after spending 3 hours wiping and pouring through the combat log only to find out that you've been wasting everyone's time by wanding the baddie with your agility stacking mage all night.
Wall o' Text - Part 2

Obviously restrictions need to be placed on what can be accomplished through addons and macros, and aside from a few brief situations in the distant past, Blizzard has done an amazing job of making sure that macros and addons can't play the game for you. They can provide you with certain information more efficiently, and certainly streamline the decision making process in some situations, but under no circumstances do they create "keep pushing this button and win" type scenarios. Anyone that tell's you otherwise doesn't have enough experience with the features and limitations of the API and the addons in question to really have an informed opinion. Blaming the use of addons and macros is much easier on the ego than admitting that someone is either more skilled, or has a better understanding of the game/class/encounter mechanics than you do. For many of us, the optimization meta-game we play by tweaking our gameplay with addons and macros is just as much or more fun than the actual game itself.

I just don't see a convincing argument against addons and macros, as long as the game's API places sensible limitations on their functionality to avoid bot-like or one-button-to-win type gameplay. Even if you spend more time developing your interface and customization features than you do the actual game itself, not allowing the use of addons is simply placing unneeded restrictions on those that have unique wants and needs. Why unnecessarily punish those people who statistics likely show spend more time and money playing your game?

If you were to look at the number of development hours the addon community spends working on stuff for a game, it would dwarf the amount that put forth by the team that actually made the game. The end result is a game that is more accessible, and addresses the wants and needs of many more people than a closed system would have. And all that extra work? Totally free, aside from the amount of time invested up front to iron out your API. Think of the money you'll save in research and development when trying to figure out what improvements you're going to make to your next expansion. All you have to do is go to an addon site like Curse, and look at the most commonly downloaded addons are, and how their being used.

That's what Blizzard does, and as a result, their game (from an interface standpoint) is lightyears ahead of where they started. Show me any closed platform that has made half as many improvements over the years.
BTW the prep for that dance? I think one of the reasons WoW needed to create gimmicks like dances is that with computer aid, everyone was playing their class at 100%, so gimmicks were the only way they could add challenge.

Everyone playing the class at 100%? Have you even tried a random dungeon any time in the past? I've topped damage meters with me 50%, and the other three players the rest. And, I was tanking.
The whole "interface playing the game for you" meme is complete crap, as it can be seen by the fact that the progression of players varies enormously.
I also agree with commenters that state that addons are a solution to a problem and you should blame the problem not the solution.

You do actually need a certain gear score - Blizzard admits it themselves - otherwise a certain encounter is very difficult.

The problem is that these games are extremely simplistic and require almost no mental effort. Time is the resource that has to be converted into some type of static measure. Therefore it has been chosen so that time is converted into gearscore.

It is the existance of this measurable concept that gives the game longevity (for those that enjoy this type of advancement) - saying that gearscore makes the game less social is an overly narrow view from your own perspective that is very likely not representative how most of the population feels.

Perhaps gearscore makes the game a lot more social by allowing people with similar gearscores and therefore priorities and goals in the game - to recognize each other and group. One outlier (your particular experience) does not change the fact that this addon may actuall make the game more social.
Blaming addons or cross server auto matching dungeon tools for a bad community always annoys me. If it wouldn't be for addons, I would have stopped playing WoW during TBC on my level 30 Mage cause of boredom.

I did stop playing Rift and LotRO because there are no proper healing UIs. If Grid/Healbot/Vuduh appear to make healing "easier", that is because the default UI is so bad that it actually poses a challenge to players, instead of the actual game content posing that challenge, as it should be.
"Everyone playing the class at 100%? Have you even tried a random dungeon any time in the past?"

Those people aren't raiding cutting edge content, which is where the challenge is. They're doing PUGs.

And I'm sorry, but if the interface is accurately measuring the amount of damage and range of other players and determining whether or not a group heal is optimally mana efficient and will not overheal, it is taking over decisions which should make up part of "knowing your class" and "being a good player."
You've already had a ton of comments, so I'll keep my relatively short (from a blogger's perspective, at least).

First, I totally agree with you. Addons in WoW were a problem, and the result was a evolution towards a type of gameplay that was not suited for a majority of the players. They were divisive, they made encounters too easy, and they focused information on single date points. As a result, WoW's community is largely split, the encounter design was forced to become more and more convoluted, and all people care about is dps, not damage done, interrupts, defensive cooldowns, or any of the other slew of important things to do during an encounter.

I was recently saying to my wife exactly what you said here, that I hope like heck that EA doesn't allow addons in SW. Only time will tell, though, whether the noisy minority or the slightly-less-noisy (but far from silent) majority is to be catered to.

It is BECAUSE the players could improve the interface that Blizzard never made a decent interface for raid healing and decursing.

This is completely backwards. Almost every good UI change in WoW was done by an addon first. Blizzard was smart to incorporate features from some of the best mods into their base UI, and it was BECAUSE of those mods that these changes were made in the first place.

Addons spur innovation, allow players greater freedom in determining how their game looks and plays, and are a tremendous benefit to this kind of MMO. RIFT pulled a bait-and-switch in regards to addons, and that's why I ended up leaving. TOR not allowing addons is a major black mark, and one of the reasons I'm probably not picking up this game (at least to start).
I see several people saying they left particular games because the games didn't allow addons, and personally I find that ridiculous. If you don't like a game, fine, you quit, but I have a really hard time believing that allowance or disallowance of addons would be the single most important factor in deciding whether you stay in a game or not.

It may have factored in to the decision. Lack of data might have made it harder to like a game if you're a data-driven player, but I simply don't believe anyone would quit or refuse to play a game because it didn't allow addons in the face of all the millions of other reasons out there to like or dislike something.
Addons are for patching up the design mistakes that the developer makes.

I find it funny we are discussing the merits of even allowing addons when we should be discussing why (after all this time) there are fundamentally broken interfaces in all MMOs and how to fix them without resorting to crowd sourcing the interface.

The SWTOR interface is beyond bad, but maybe our standards are so low that the majority doesn't notice?
Like others have said, I do not think withholding performance information helps the game. If content is to be challenging and gear improvement is to offer progression through content then you'll need to know if:

1) The players in your raid are performing at a level where you can beat the encounter or if it is just pointless and you are wasting your time.

2) If the players in your group are appropriately geared for the content being attempted.

If we remove these two things, how can the game be balanced to be challenging yet offer progression?

As for addons, everyone has different UI preferences. You can have people with multiple monitors, very high resolutions, color blindness or other visual problems who need different UIs playing the same game. The same UI will not cut it for them. While you can make your UI customizable, you can't possibly offer all the possibilties having addons opens up.

Do you really want to heal a 20 man raid or battleground by selecting nameplates with your mouse and then pressing a hotkey? If no one had addons, I agree it would be equally challenging but I would not find it "fun".

There are thousands of people writing addons for WoW, all who come up with some rocking great ideas which Blizzard often rolls into the game.

If it weren't for these addons, these ideas wouldn't be getting limelight and we'd certainly be further behind. The handful of UI specialists a company can hire can in no way compare with the masses for idea generation.
@Pent: The thing you're missing is that a lot of different people with a lot of different preferences play these games. Personally I used the default WoW interface for most things and this completely baffled my friends that were really into custom bar mods and all these other things. But I was happy with the default! If Blizzard made the interface look like what my friends liked then I wouldn't have liked it and vice versa.

Neither is actually a design mistake on the part of the developer, either. Both the interface I used and the ones my friends used were fine but drastically different interfaces.

The idea that the developer should be able to build interfaces that every player likes is absurd. Allowing add-ons like Blizzard did allows a ton of external 'developers' to work on building those extra interfaces to make everyone happier.
I agree 100% Tobold, Addons ruin a game. The best times I had playing wow were the times i didn't have addons. I quit playing about 3 months ago and i didn't use a single mod probably 6 months prior to that point. If Addones are implemented people will only become dependent on them like you said above, and that could ruin the game.
@ Azuriel
No what you said is stupid.
Why is it bad game design if there is no DPS check?
Heck, DPS causes more wipes than anything because of people like you. Raid Leader: DON'T STAND IN THE FIRE!.....You: Sorry, I couldn't take my eyes off of DPS meters, lets try again so i do the same exact thing.
I never enjoyed the Add-on wrangling aspect of WoW. It felt far too much like an unrewarding mini game unto itself.
Oh no, addons used as a metric to measure performance so you can't be silent fail in the party...

Gearscore has always been a baseline for entry. Not a measure of skill. At least intelligent people look at it that way.
Full ack.

If I remember the first days of raiding molten core, it always makes me kinda sentimental. Everybody was just all out about having fun rather than about beating some numbers (although it's its own kind of fun, I must admit).

Overall, the raiding experience lost its fantasy component as it transitioned to more of a sports game.

I mean, I like both playstyles, but we're not getting to choose, which is sad.
I completely disagree with Tobold's post. And yes i did make a google account just so i could post this. MMO's separate people regardless of age into two groups: People who play for fun and people who play to excel and compete against other players. In my experience people who play just to have fun are the ppl you see just running around doing quests and caring very little if at all about how well their toon will perform in a group/raid. In MY opinion thats what single player games are for. Now dont get me wrong im not bashing those people...ive spent 5 years in WoW alone and several years playing other MMO's(L2, EvE, Guild Wars) Ive tried my best at assisting people in improving their playing skills all because some random player a long time ago did the same for me. As far as the "negative" aspects that come from these addons...theres a little label on the websites and boxes of all MMOs your buy that says "online interactions not rated by the esrb". Now sure there were people that miss used the GS addons setting raids exactly their GS, now on the other side of that coin theirs thousands of people who used it correctly. Which brings me to healing addons like healbot and Grid. Being my second favorite roll in MMO's let me first say that A. Nobody wants to to it and B. Most of the people that do arnt as good as they think. Healers are more often then not the first thing an inexperienced raid blames for wiping. Tho personally found healbots click to auto cast function VERY annoying, i used the healbot and grid purely for identifying debuffes faster, LoS issues and for a more clear display of ALL the raid members stat bars. I dont think wow would have kept such a huge fan base if they didnt allow so many addons. And i REALLY hope that SWTOR carefully thinks through this whole addon buisness. Though it no longer holds my interests WoW was still an ice breaker and the world of MMO's it will be very hard to match it. Wow did alot of things right and they have the fan base records/awards to prove it. Theres lots to be taken from it.
I'm mostly with you on this, yet I can't wait for addon support. Not because of performance measuring or enhancing addons, but because I personally look forward to write addons that enhance the UI. I currently find that it lacks in a lot of areas. Also it often happens that I get an idea for something I could implement. Rather than having to wait for BioWare to patch it in, it would be neat to be able to do so myself. Again, I'm hoping SWTOR gets addon support because of the UI - and strictly UI - enhancement possibilities.
Please allow UI customization AddOns. It makes no sense at all to force us into this silly box. I played WoW for over 5 years and the first 2 were default UI. When I finally downloaded XPERL and then PitBull it was like I was playing a brand new game. It's a lot of fun to tweak your UI and only improves overall satisfaction. I can say this I will hand's down quit SWTOR if they don't have UI AddOns in the next few months. Just my 2cents.
And that is why after i will lvl up all the possible classes and experience a wonderful story telling game (unlike wow) i will consider very much raiding. Addons helped in many aspects yes. But it also ruined the game for many ppl that werent there on the EXACT day of patch release or expansion to hardcore lvlup and gear so their GS could match the lowest GS of the raid +500.

Addons overall ruin the game experience. Luckily enough swtor has a fun story until now. So i will make the most of it. Untill addons start ruining everything again.
I see a lot of people here saying that addons in SWToR would ruin the game and that is utter nonsense. As a couple of people have mentioned its the people that use the addons and people, even without addons, will happily still become eliteist fools regardless.

Lets take GS as an example: If I want to do a raid, I want to have the best chance of succeeding and that means grouping with adequately geared and class knowledged people, why is that wrong?? I also like to measure my own performance with the gear / talent tree that I have to see what choices lead to better success for me?

Especially if you consider that SWToR has a talent tree that is more akin to the original WoW talent tree (yes the cut down version does suck imo) there is the potential for a lot of customisation for charachters but if you cant tell how it effects your output, how can you tell which talents to take? also, how will I know in which way to refine my rotation if I dont know what output my current one is giving?

Ok setting aside gear / ui / performance type addons; what about all the other useful tools? like AH addons (GTN in this case) that helped you find bargains or a suitable sale price? The game has an eceonomy, so why shouldnt there be addons to help you play that economy if thats your thing?? Don't whine and say it gives unfair advantages, it only gives advantages to those who can be bothered to take the time to learn / use them, if you can't be bothered, then its your problem not the problem of the person who is using them.

What about addons that allow you to mouseover materials and see if you have any in your bank or on an alt? or crafting addons that build a list of items you need for your queue? or emote to your party members that you need a dispell?

Addons do not, in any way, if they are free and available to all, create an inbalance in the game. Granted, if someone is an a-hole to you because he can see your GS isnt up to his groups requirements, then it is extremely likely, no, make that definite, that that person was an a-hole already. The addon didn't make him one.

Also, those that complain that a dps meter meant people were kicked because of lack of dps, that only happened when it was the cause of a fail (or by the actions of an aforementioned a-hole) I have tanked, healed and dps's in enough groups that carried lower dps chars with no complaints providing that it was not effecting the overall success of a group. With no way of measureing who is doing what, people will still point fingers "oh, he wasnt busy enough, or he kept spamming the same thing or or"

ToR is an excellent story driven game, but once you have played through that story, your gonna want to do PvP / Raiding or whatever. So why is it wrong to have the tools available so that you can work on improving your own performance? This game is not EoB on the amiga; you dont have just a single attack button and your damage is more or less defined by having the best weapon: these are highly customisable chars, but whats the point if you can't measure what those cusomisations give you?

I have a level 26 smuggler, an 18 jedi sentinel and already I 'feel' like my sentinel does more damage. Logically I know that it cannot possibly do so, but equally without some form of damage data, how can I truly make a comparison?
I hope SWTOR allows us the OPTION of having Addons. If you don't like addons don't use them and I certainly wont force you to, but the important thing to me is that I will have fun playing the game the way I want to.

I'm not playing your game for you. If you have hours/days of free time and patience to sit and figure out your best skill rotation/priority list from the limited information the basic SWTOR UI gives you then more power to you, however I do not. I have a job, a family and a life outside the MMO which makes it so that if I had to do it the long way I would never get to any of the high end content. I don't think SWTOR should go with the whole Gearscore/ilvl requirements or anything like that but addons that allow players with limited time to be able to play on par with players who do spend all their time on the game should be allowed.

Its not like add ons are an instant god mode for MMOs. Raids made up with people using addons do still fail. Raids made up with people not using addons do still succeed. PvPers without addons will still occasionally kill players using addons.
While the "noisy minority" in WOW might make things like Gearscore seem very negative, I would think in the more common setting i.e: in a medium to large size guild where advanced players use it as a tool to help novice or even good players determain what progression they are ready for, and help them progress where they are ready. Additionally the addons I mainly used were ones that removed minor annoyances from the game like having 5 bags and having to open them individually, or placing my bars the way i want them, or moving my mini-map to a more convenient place. I would say that these things are far from game breakers for me but macros and key binding to a mouse were of paramount importance for me as a healer. I had a 15 button mouse and had the keys memorized and became very proficient at healing using the function keys, macros, and focus targets for healing. The third thing is that I agree with the people that say the add-ons helped game development rather than hinder it (in WOW) at the end of TBC i had 27 addons, right about the time cata came out (I quit just prior) i had around 13 because many of the addons i had were intagrated into the game via the UI.
You know the type of people that play an MMO for a long time are in large part the completionist. This type of player really enjoys getting every ounce of DPS out of their char, every achievement available and do every encounter in every possible way imaginable. These types of players experience is greatly enhanced by gear score and addons.

You will always have the elitist vs pug situation. Blizzard is doing it right. Allow elitists to do the same content in a different way that is much more challenging and allow addons and whatever else you want. On the flip side take that content and make it accessible to pugs in an "easy mode" if you will. You can't have your cake and eat it too!

If your an elitist you can enjoy your time with other "elites" and if you just want to enjoy the game with your friends and don't worry about addons.
People use addons because it makes the game easier then the developers wanted it to be. No more no less, and anyone saying otherwise is just trying to find excuses for themselves. It has nothing to do with "wanting something that should be there to begin with". It's all down to "making it as easy as possible because challenges are boring"... Addons remove what little skill you need in games that allow them to exist because in a way, half the time addons play the game for you.
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