I went through last week’s Devil’s Advocate after some time away from obsessing about how my article looked, and I found myself pleasantly surprised by the manner in which people responded.
The Devil’s Advocate piece on add-ons was not one of my favorite things to write. In the process of writing it, I began contradicting myself so badly that I scrapped my original draft and reworked my writing. Instead of forming a dissenting opinion or anything resembling coherence, I felt confused by my attempts to discuss add-ons.
I was stuck on the premise that add-ons were positive, and that attempts to argue them as being useless would be foolish.
If they were to be defined solely as things that literally add on to an experience, it seemed to hold water. Then you guys chimed in with enlightening thoughts for me.
Quizzical’s comment about my point of view beginning from a logical fallacy seemed interesting to think about. Other comments in the post gave me more ideas regarding how subjective add-ons are, not only as a term we define, but also as something we experience and choose to love or hate.
Today’s Devil’s Advocate then is about add-ons once again and exploring some of the ideas you guys posited. I’ll be writing about World of Warcraft and my thoughts on three add-ons as a result of discussions last week: GatherMate2, TradeSkillMaster, and Pokemon Trainer: The Pet Battle Mod.
GatherMate2 is a mapping add-on that indicates potential locations of ore, plants, fish schools, archaeology artifacts, and chests on the map and minimap. My personal experience with this add-on has varied, from seeing it as a useful outline of potential ore spawn points on my map to a completely annoying due to it obscuring other points of interest.
The breakdown of people who find it useful, however, is probably harder to pin down. Some of you might argue that the add-on itself defeats the purpose of exploration and trivializes the hard work some people go through to find and mine ore in the game without the help of map annotation.
That assessment is valid, and one I didn’t think about originally because of my own inability to see a bigger picture.
Pokemon Trainer: The Pet Battle Mod
Unlike GatherMate, this Pet Battling add-on is a godsend for people like me who have a hard time playing Pokemon because of constant self-handicapping using Pokemon that suck against the the current set of enemies.
This add-on basically places indicators on the left and right of the screen that indicate if the attacks lined up in a round will be effective or weak against your pet or the enemy. It also lets you mouse over pets in the wild and learn about their general levels and how many of that pet you’ve already collected.
Now, out of all the discussions on add-ons in the prior Devil’s Advocate post, one thing stood out for me: there was a noticeable difference in seeing the good and bad of an add-on. Those who were against add-ons seemed to think they unbalanced the game or gave certain people an edge.
In the case of this Pet Battling mod, I unbalance the game in my favor by getting better information on my NPC and PVP (Pet Versus Pet) enemies before I fight them. At the same time, if I’m a horrible Pet Battler or if I’m fighting someone who’s modified his pet battle setup so he has an unbalanced team for PVP Pet Battling, no amount of information is going to save me from doom.
On the other hand, those in favor of add-ons remember the times when add-ons were both good and bad. This was because the game didn’t have certain features in place to make a game system less frustrating .
add-ons in their earliest incarnations could also be gimmicky (A Fist of the North Star monk mod, anyone?) or filled with malware due to its coming from untrusted sources. While we do have mod repositories now, the Wild West of add-ons back in the early days was proof of the popularity of customizing one’s experience and the dangers of trusting easily.
The Pet Battling mod, for example, is proof for me that without the mod, I’d be functionally useless as a battler. I’d be hoping I run into a rare spawn, and be the type who’d find I’ve already captured the limit of one pet type and can’t capture any more. While some will enjoy the add-on-less challenge, I personally prefer having this add-on to lessen my frustration with pet collection.
TradeSkillMaster is, I think, the single best set of add-ons I’ve ever had the privilege of having on WoW that I’ve never been able to use properly. TradeSkillMaster is an add-on that helps players to earn money through the auction house. It doesn’t really automate any processes by itself, but it gives everyone enough information to make informed choices on the buying, selling, and stocking of items for later sale.
There’s one caveat though: you have to know what the hell you’re doing.
Despite going through a number of video tutorials, I have yet to master the basics of this add-on. I still manually watch the Auction House and post information relative to immediate pricing. If I understood the add-on better, I would be able to find good bargains on the AH, as well as sell my own wares for a price that fits the relative ups and downs of the realm’s market.
TradeSkillMaster brought to mind one of my earlier Devil’s Advocate columns, which dealt with metagaming. In itself, earning gold in World of Warcraft is something assured, but the metagame of increasing the rate in which you earn gold through good business sense is appealing to me because I have no business sense.
Referring to discussions from last week, some of you would call TSM an extremely advanced cheat for mastering auction house gold-making. At the same time, because TSM and other add-ons exist in this day and age, I concede the point that trying to play competitively in certain spheres without certain add-ons is going to make things more difficult.
Then dolts like me sort of ruin the argument by not being able to use TSM well enough due to its perceived complexity
The Bottom Line
Here’s the thing about add-ons. The people who code these modifications work hard to provide a functional improvement or cool new look or funny gimmick to a game they care about, even if the nature of that “improvement” may be debatable.
I respect coders for the time and effort they put in, and while I do personally wish Blizzard thought of these add-ons before others did, I’m happy that Blizzard and other companies are smart enough to allow users some leeway to enhance the game in their own way.
Whether or not you use add-ons, you at least have to give props to coders for adding practical and not-so-practical extras to MMORPGs.
You can follow Victor Barreiro Jr. on Twitter at @iamstillwater.