WoW Wednesday: The Mod Squad
By Meredith Watson, OnRPG Journalist
Blizzard, since the release of the World of Warcraft, has given its players the tools to create addons for their game. Addons, or mods as they are interchangeably called, are small standalone applications that add to the existing game. Mods are written with a scripting language called Lua that work with the WoW API (application programming interface).
The ability to mod the game is one the best features of the World of Warcraft and adds an immense amount of customization. There are mods for every aspect of the game with popular categories being action bars, PvP, class specific mods, auction house, bags and inventory, and role specific mods to name but a few. The WoW standard UI is, or was, rather simple. Blizzard has expanded upon it considerably by incorporating popular mods such a threat meters. Tailoring the UI to the player’s individual needs is still the most common reason to mod.
Currently, the most wanted mods, aside from UI customization, are for boss fights, gathering and damage meters. The two main sites for downloading mods boast, between them, over 8,000 standalone mods.
Almost every player in Azeroth uses some form of addon. However, there are a few purists who consider it cheating to use mods. Mods are not meant to change the mechanics of the game but essentially are used to make aspects of the game more efficient. Mods like Deadly Boss Mod are what the purists have issue with. DBM informs the player of when certain boss abilities will occur so that the player can take appropriate action. A purist would argue that bosses emote to let the player know what is going to occur and DBM is not needed or that, in fact, makes the fight too easy. With that in mind, most raiding guilds now require DBM. It isn’t just boss fights that mod-free players take umbrage with. Healers nowadays rely heavily on mods. Healing is one of the more stressful roles in World of Warcraft and mods for healing can cut down on that stress by making healing more efficient. That being said, every healer should know how to heal without mods to begin with.
The game has progressed to the point if you don't have certain addons you’re not playing it correctly. We, for one, insist everyone has DBM if they want to raid-Sociallydead, GM of Praestantia (Mazrigos EU)
Give a player a foot and he will take a mile. As of May 19, 2009 Blizzard implemented its Addon development policy:
AddOns must be free of charge.
AddOn code must be completely visible.
AddOns must not negatively impact World of Warcraft realms or other players.
AddOns may not include advertisements.
AddOns may not solicit donations.
AddOns must not contain offensive or objectionable material.
AddOns must abide by World of Warcraft ToU and EULA.
Blizzard Entertainment has the right to disable AddOn functionality as it sees fit.
This policy, especially the last rule, would come into play with patch 3.3.5 when Blizzard intentionally broke AVR.
The above mentioned AVR (augmented virtual reality)was quite controversial in that there were players that considered it a hack while others thought it was fair play and not too dissimilar to the above mentioned popular Deadly Boss Mod. AVR allowed the player to draw on the 3D world creating diagrams and the like for boss encounters. These drawings could be shared with other raid members taking strategy to a whole new level and, for Blizzard, too far.
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. If we find that the AVR mod (or any mod attempting to replicate its functions) are usable after 3.3.5 we will take further, more drastic steps.-Bashiok, Community Manager Blizzard Entertainment
GearScore (now known as PlayerScore), towards the end of Wrath of the Lich King, was also a very controversial mod and led to a lot of exclusion and elitism. GearScore calculates the gear level score by creating a numerical value based on gear stats. Supposedly, it is the maximum potential of a player’s performance. Many equated that the higher the gear score meant the better the player. However, GearScore didn’t take into account things such as gems, enchants, glyphs, spec, or personal knowledge of the game. It was only ever meant to be used as an initial assessment. Though why that assessment was needed remains unclear. To say this mod caused a bit of a furore was an understatement. One could argue that it did, in fact, break policy rule by negatively impacting realms or players. With patch 3.2 Blizzard introduced ilevel which has essentially negated the use of GearScore/PlayerScore.
With patch 5.0.4 on the horizon, and soon thereafter Mists of Pandaria, there will be some grumbling from the community as expansions always break mods. The players will disable their mods grudgingly but will happily continue to play through the new content without them until their favourites are updated. Some mods will never get updated and others will take their place. The writers of the community’s beloved mods are all volunteers as they can’t charge for or accept donations for their creations (see Addon Policy). Currently, because so many are playing in the Mists of Pandaria beta the mod authors are already writing. However, if a player can’t play without their mods, they probably shouldn’t be playing.
Whatever your opinion on mods, love them or loathe them, they are a permanent fixture in the World of Warcraft with no threat of disappearing anytime soon. There is only one opinion on mods that matters and that is Blizzard’s. For all we love to customize our UIs and make everything just so, it is their game to do with as they see fit. Blizzard has its limits. AVR taught us that.