The puzzle of add-ons

I read with interest a post by Rohan on a puzzle boss in Final Fantasy 14. I’ve no experience of this myself, but imagining it I doubt I’d be able to do the maths quickly enough to stand much chance of success at the mechanics. His comment that such a boss in World of Warcraft would be implausible, given the likelihood of an add-on being produced by players that would make the fight trivially easy, did set me thinking though.

Add-ons are available in many MMORPGs but I rarely use them outside of WoW anyway. In WoW I wouldn’t have dreamed of playing without altoholic, auctioneer, deadly boss mods (DBM) and similar extras. In other games, the only addon I can think that I’ve made much use of is the excellent AI Research Grid in Elder Scrolls Online.

I’ve certainly never used an addon like DBM to simplify boss mechanics in any other MMORPG. If a fight is tough in Secret World or Dungeons & Dragons Online, we may well read up some tactics, but the first thought isn’t to reach for an addon to shout the dance moves at me via on-screen prompts.

Add-on shouts “hide in 10 seconds…”

Addons could potentially simplify / spoil certain puzzle missions in Secret World, I didn’t look long enough to find anything, but there is one to warn you if a hidden lore is nearby. That’s a step too far for me, the thrill of discovering lore as we (re)explore the zones is part of the gameplay experience I feel.

Lore hunting is a fun aspect of SWL gameplay to us

I feel that having addons as optional helpers to gameplay are a good idea, certainly they are usually quite a boon to sharpen up the often lacklustre default UI design in these games. Extra features like altoholic are a real boon to gamers who play alts too – having to log in and out of characters endlessly is not a desirable gameplay feature in my book. I guess the danger is that the game’s community will start to pressure for addons as mandatory features – anecdotaly I’ve seen this many times in WoW over the years.

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7 Responses to The puzzle of add-ons

  1. Meznir says:

    I wonder what raids would be like in wow without addons like DBM. Removing radar and similar location functionality from addons a while back, had a moderate effect (though not as much as I thought it would).

    The trouble is that 90% of raiding in wow is now about learning “the dance” and those dances are choreographed with the assumption that most people will have DBM/Bigwigs. Thus the fights have to be made even more complicated to compensate. I suppose, on the plus side, it’s meant that the designers could get very inventive (to a point) with some mechanics. But seriously, some fights have a stupid number of mechanics to master. Without addons, would they be simplers? Maybe only slightly.

    As a healer main though, I appreciate a vocal “BEWARE!” shout when a mechanic is about to fire, as you’re so focussed on health bars. Without that, you’d have to be watching the animations even more closely or hope that someone in voice chat did the shouting instead. (That said though, sometimes I even tune that “BEWARE!” out on fights when it’s shouting it in 3 different voices at all times!)

    In other news, I could never never live without Altaholic. Please never take that away from me!

  2. tithian says:


    “I wonder what raids would be like in wow without addons like DBM. ”

    During vanilla we raided mostly with CT_Raid, which was more of a raid management addon rather than a boss fight spoiler. Everyone needed to know what to do (and what NOT to do), you had to keep your debuff/CC target in your sights manually (no raid markers, and definitely no automatic marking like now) and there was no handy addon for range indicators and the like. We also had Threat monitors, and that was it. Some classes used Decursive to quickly remove curses, Palladins used addons to track the Blessings, but it was mostly class-specific things that were popular.

    People say that vanilla raiding was simplistic, but quickly forget that there was no handholding back then.

    “The trouble is that 90% of raiding in wow is now about learning “the dance” and those dances are choreographed with the assumption that most people will have DBM/Bigwigs.”

    The dance became a necessity specifically because the addons trivialized the typical boss fight mechanics. Even up to BC the boss fights were pretty standard: adds, getting hit by what seems like a truck, maybe a few hazards on the ground. When the likes of DBM cuahgt up, raids had to become harder. Naxx was essentially trivial if you used the proper boss mods (and most did).

    • Meznir says:

      Yep – I think we’re saying the same thing. The fights have become more complicated and dance heavy as the addons trivialised / simplified some mechanics.

      I meant a more rhetorical question – I wonder either A) what wow raids would now be like if raid addons had never been allowed or B) What would happen to fight complexity in the future if the addons were suddenly blocked now. Would they then design fights differently? Or would everyone have to learn lost skills (and new ones) to keep up with the current complexity? It’s an interesting thought exercise.

  3. I’ve never been a fan of addons personally. I find them immersion breaking, and they feel like a bit of a cheat usually. In my entire MMO career, I’ve used a grand total of three addons.

    In WoW, I used to run Recount back when I actually cared about maximizing my performance, but I gave up on that years ago. More recently I was using Epic Music Player to let me customize the soundtrack in Legion zones (whose default soundtracks are pretty bland, IMO).

    Finally, in ESO, I use an addon that adds the locations of skyshards to the map. That definitely feels like cheating, but I’m always so starved for skill points in that game I really don’t want to be turning over every stone to find skyshards. I just wanna grab them and move on.

  4. bhagpuss says:

    I always say I dont like Add-Ons and like Tyker I tend to feel they are verging on cheating. That said, I have used a few here and there. I used to use a couple in EverQuest long before the term “Add On” was even in use. I don’t know what we called them back then.

    The main one I used was a very simple, incredibly useful program (we didn’t say “App” back then either) which just parsed the chat log in real time and played a sound sample when it found a keyword. It was great because you could set any keyword or phrase you wanted and link it to any sound sample you chose. I used to have it set to blare a klaxon whenever the “Your invisibility is about to wear off” message ap peared in chat. Saved my life so many times.

    I use a handful in WoW, mostly the ones that make WoW look as much as possible like GW2 but by and large i try to avoid them. When I played WoW as my main MMO for half a year I don’t believe I used any Add Ons at all.

    As for boss fights that are designed around the expectation that player swill be using Add Ons – FFS! That is insane. If the utility is that essential then build it into game as part of the default UI. If it isn’t then label it an exploit and ban it. Don’t let 3rd party software designers or – god forbid! – your players dictate your game’s design ethos. That’s madness. And embarrassing.

    • For what it’s worth I think the necessity of add-ons for high-end content in WoW is more a matter of player perception than actual design. You’ll get lots of people saying you can’t possibly raid — even on LFR! — without DBM, but they’re usually the same people who won’t let you in their group unless your gear is better than what even drops from the place they’re planning to run.

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