Saturday, February 27, 2010

Are mods getting too good?

I've been pleasantly surprised about how sophisticated some addons have been getting recently (and throughout WotLK). Healbot, through the last couple of it's own patches, has gone from tracking your own buffs to tracking anything you can think of - tank cooldowns, healer cooldowns, healer buffs, who's not ready, etc. When moused over, the Healbot tooltip shows the duration remaining on the buff and who cast it.

While this might be information overload for some, I'm using it as an opportunity to learn more about what the people in my raid are doing. Now I know when the DPS are using survivability cooldowns, and I also see what my tanks are doing. It's prompted me to ask questions, especially to my warrior tank sitting next to me. "Hey that thing you just did, what's it do? What's it called?". He's happy to oblige me (who doesn't like talking about their class mechanics?).

Deadly Boss Mods has always been a great helper for raiding, but it's latest installment of announcements for heroics is as thorough as can be. Fights with waves of adds have a list of with quantities of each type of add and timers. We're told to interrupt.. the trash! I was blown away the first time I saw DBM remind me to get out of Commander Kolurg's Whirlwind (and subsequently watched all three melee dps eat it).

With WoW being as popular as it is, it's also made these mods popular. And by extension, they get more development time and show more sophistication. They bounce back quicker if patches break them and are constantly looking for more ways to help us players out, as well as stay competitive with other similar addons. We're getting more options, more customization, more features, and more information.

One of my favorite features of DBM is the countdowns for boss abilities. Knowing when the next Spore is coming helps me plan cooldowns for Festergut. Knowing that the next ability the twins are doing is going to be a "change color or die" helps me know how long I have to get in position. Knowledge is power, and DBM puts that knowledge in bullet-point form with countdowns. It's like a PDA for my healer.

These modules are fantastic to help your game, and are invaluable for me when learning an encounter. I sometimes wonder, though, for those less willing to learn, if they can be a crutch. We can come to the encounter with the mindset that DBM will tell me if I'm standing in a void zone, so I don't need to be watching my feet. DBM will tell me when Anub comes back up, I can daydream for ten seconds or grab a handful of chips. DBM has the potential to be a poweful enabler if you are a good player, but it also has the potential to carry players.

Sometimes popular mods will find their way into the standard UI. Many of the features added in through the last few patches were mods (or features on websites) to begin with - gear sets emerged from Outfitter, we got the option to look at talent builds before officially spending them thanks to Wowhead and other sites, and the "show iLevel" option from, uh, somewhere.

With all the buzz for Cataclysm, I can't help but wonder what new mods (and what new features to the mods we already know and love) we will see. Knowing that Ghostcrawler has had some open discussion over at the WoW healer forums about the standard UI and what could be improved for healers, I half-wonder if we'll see some healbot-esque options show up as options in the base UI. As we approach a new expansion, are developers going to be designing encounters based on the assumption we're running DVE or DBM because they are considered 'mandatory' for raiders? Will healing in raids be tuned with the assumption we're running decursive (like they pretty much are now), or will we see new options to highlight debuffs as standard? Please, Ghostcrawler, can you give me a standard ui Bacon timer? I understand you can't give my priest a pony. But my paladin doesn't like Bacon when it's fallen off my tank.

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