Bye-bye range finder

Leave it to me to complain about a lack of communication from Blizzard Friday, only for us to be almost buried with information coming out of Gamescom a few hours later. Specifically, Ion Hazzikostas spent literally hours in interviews, answering questions about nearly every facet of Legion. The two I actually watched were the Fatboss interview and the Slootbag one. You can check them out for yourselves, both the raw video and the text summaries, on MMO-C in the links I just provided, but if you opt to watch the videos, be prepared to spend a lot of time at it.

Obviously, today’s post is not going to comment on everything covered in the interviews, but over the next few days I do want to pick up on a couple of things that especially got my attention. Today’s topic is addons.

The big news dropped by Hazzikostas in the Slootbag session was that, beginning in Patch 7.1, the game will no longer allow addon access to unit positions in dungeons, raids, or any competitive area (presumably such as PvP arenas and BGs). (If you want to hear the actual discussion on this, fast forward to about the last 10 minutes of the video.) Hazzikostas tried to downplay the announcement a bit, claiming it does not rise to the importance of, say, flying or camera distance, but trust me, this is potentially huge. He also said that the change will not affect positioning addons out in the world, such as Gather and presumably addons that alert you to the nearby presence of a significant NPC.

I am not a LUA programmer, so it’s a little hard for me to grasp the full range of ramifications of the change, but as I understand it, any addon that gives you, for example, an arrow or a mini-picture of boss or raid member positions, will no longer be available. Off the top of my head, the things I am familiar with that do this include many DBM functions (see the initial list here) but most especially /range and some of the useful “nearby” warnings (like if a player next to you has a Bad Thing). Useful healing addons like Healbot will almost certainly lose their GPS arrows indicating the direction of an out-of-range player, and I don’t know if they will lose their entire ability to show out of range players differently than healable ones.

I don’t know what effect this change will have on raiding. I suspect it will have little or no effect on top end raid teams, where every member of the team has close to godlike raid awareness and reaction synapses, as well as access to in-house written guild-specific macros, ElvUI configs, and LUA scripts. But I think it could have potentially terrible consequences for the majority of casual and semi-casual raid teams, and indeed for many pugs.

As an example, think about Iskar and how it would change without Iskar Assist. Yes, yes, I know many raiders did not use it, but not using it almost always required a  mouseover macro that hot keyed the Extra Action button, along with fairly customized raid frames that clearly indicated when each and every player had the wind debuff. (Just to use the simplest example.) Without such “automation”, most people just took too long to toss the thing to the player needing it, leading most times to a wipe. And I know that many of my readers do not consider macros to be challenging at all, but trust me they are beyond the reach of the majority of players. Addons just make the process easier.

Just selfishly, I know I will be at a loss without the range finder function. For some reason, I absolutely stink at estimating distances in game. I am decent at it in the real world, but I have never been able to grasp the wild proportions of WoW, thus I am robbed of perspective as a range estimation tool. And the graphics, for as good as they are in most things, do not in my opinion render distant objects — even middle distance objects — reliably.

The addon functions that will be disabled in 7.1 will not kill the game, but I think their removal will make it much more frustrating for many players, especially the raiders who never go beyond Normal raids, who tend to run each week with a small core group of raiders but have to supplement each week with either some guild or outside pugs. Even with the addons you can end up with one or more of That Guy who just doesn’t grasp certain mechanics, but at least until 7.1 you could ensure they had, for example, the range finder to show them when they were too close to someone else in a given phase. Or tell them to go download GTFO so they won’t stand in fire all the time. I don’t think GTFO will be affected by the 7.1 change, but it is just an example of an addon some players would look down their noses at, but which makes raiding attainable for many teams who do not have the luxury of picking and choosing top level players.

Turning to the possible fallout for healers, in my opinion it is unreasonable to require visual recognition of individual players by name just to be able, for example, to find them and heal them. If Dumbottom the gnome hunter has gotten out of range of healing in a 15 or 20 man raid team, the healer should not be expected to scan the pixels on his screen to visually locate the player, especially if Dumbottom is someone the healer never runs with and does not automatically recognize by transmog. And no, nameplates are not the answer, they become way too cluttering in large groups to be used reliably. Finally, for players who are visually challenged, the “arrow” addons of the past few years have been what have enabled these players to perform well in raids, when they never could before because of disability.

I hope Blizz takes on a certain amount of responsibility with this move, and gives us raids with reasonable movement mechanics and visual cues, the kind that do not require average players to resort to automation just to make it through a boss on Normal. Save the full range of ridiculously-complex mechanics for Mythic raids, put a few into Heroic, and leave them out of Normal. Blizz has recently reiterated their fairy tale that Normal is for “friends and family”, Heroic is for progression teams, and Mythic is for the pros, so I am asking them to put their money where their mouth is on that.

And while they are at it, Blizz needs to take care that there are no more Normal raids where one screw-up by one person wipes the raid. Human nature is such that regular players will from time to time make mistakes. Maybe the same player will not make the mistake every time, but it is almost a certainty that with a group of average players, at least one of them will make a mistake in the course of a boss kill. If Blizz is going to remove some of the aids Normal players use to help remind them of the times to be especially cautious, then I think it is incumbent upon the game designers to either provide the addon function within the game, or to make encounters that are tolerant of normal human error.

Next up tomorrow or Wednesday: What we learned about class balance in Legion.

 

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

7 Responses to Bye-bye range finder

  1. Grumsta says:

    This has to be primarily about preventing botting in instances. If it throws a spanner in their collective works I’m all for it.

    Raiding has seen an arms race between Blizz and add-on writers, and I think it’s the reason why we ended up with such ridiculous fight mechanics in HM, BRF and HFC.

    Iskar was the final straw for many teams. It reached its nadir with Iskar. When a fight justifies its own bespoke solution then it’s fair to argue that it’s all gone way too far.

    These 7.1 changes won’t affect me much. I do use GTFO, but I switched to Big Wigs as I found DBM too distracting with its Klaxon alarms and “helpful” stuff drawn over my screen during Archie fights. I only use mouseover macros and raid frames when healing. (If a dps is out of range of me it’s their problem not mine, frankly.)

    A you say, the key to all this is whether Blizz now ease back on the non-Mythic mechanics to the point where we don’t miss add-ons managing the fight for us.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Normal is out of reach to many casual teams again, at least until they gear up with LFR tier gear and trinkets. I think it was the lack of those key gear items, and especially the short time span between T17 and T18 that hurt most casual teams.

    • Fiannor says:

      I had not thought of the bottling aspect to this, but you are right, and I, too support anything that cramps their style.

      I use DBM a lot — never could get used to BigWigs, though I have tried it out — but there is no denying that it needs quite a lot of custom configuration to make it both useful and tolerable for most boss fights. As I am not a raid leader, I tend to configure it to warn me only of those critical mechanics I am responsible for, I usually just disable melee, tank, and other warnings that are someone else’s problems. And, since you can use custom warnings, I admit to actually putting some hints into them for myself, like, “Big Boss Booger incoming, STACK ON TANK!” or whatever. The addon change does not make DBM useless, but as I said I will definitely miss the /range function and hope my range estimation handicap will not be so bad as to repeatedly wipe the raid for some bosses.

      I am not especially optimistic about Blizz changing their ways on designing mechanics that do not scream out for, as you put it, a “bespoke solution” involving an addon. One reason I say this is Watcher’s comments on the subject in the third and final Gamescom interview with Slootbag yesterday. (http://www.mmo-champion.com/content/5924-Gamescom-Developer-Interview-Legion-World-Quests-Preview-Blue-Posts-DLC-548)

      Essentially Watcher said that there was no need for any change in raid mechanics because of the 7.1 addon policy, that the testing showed that all bosses could be downed without any addons. Well, sure, I don’t doubt that, but I would argue that the players who got so far as to do max level raiding in the alpha and beta tests were easily in the top 5% or higher of players in terms of skill and commitment to raiding. There may have been a couple of “average” players who got that far, but the overwhelming majority were very un-average. This, I think, underscores your point that raiding will become unattainable for even more players in Legion, certainly at the beginning. And one of the things I saw in WoD was that guilds that stopped raiding when BRF came out too soon and proved too challenging at the Normal level, never went back to raiding for the entire expansion.

      It is very difficult to reconstitute a guild raid team after it has disintegrated because as a team they were simply not ready for the difficulty of whatever level they were attempting. The better players who wish to continue raiding will have moved on to another guild, and the ones left in the guild remember only the cost and frustration of wipe after wipe, so are reluctant to take that on again, even if Blizz eventually nerfs the tier one way or another. Thus, for Watcher to blithely wave his hand and yammer on about all the Legion bosses being beatable with no addons really seems to be a bit of an elitist attitude, ignoring the reality of teams who may only raid 4-6 hours a week.

  2. Good posting! I think that if a raid boss needed an addon that it was a badly designed encounter. I think that the ExtraActionButton is the last resort of an uninspired designer. I think that (in WoD) that raids did not “flex” in that there was no shift on composition (R vs M) or size (always three Infernals).
    In fact, since these changes will come in 7.1, I’d sure like to see better Lucky Charms to have a consistent marking system; the designs for marking and columns are super out-dated.

    • Fiannor says:

      Great point about the lack of true flex raid balancing in WoD. In spite of Blizz’s protestations to the contrary, some bosses (Kilrogg comes immediately to mind) were clearly tuned for certain raid sizes and types, and teams attempting them with less than optimal structure had a very difficult time, even after they were reasonably well geared. This is one of the reasons, I think, that there seemed to be so many one-mistake wipes in WoD — if a raid team did not have perfect size and composition in a boss that was tuned for such, then downing him really left no margin for error and even the tiniest mistake would cause a wipe.

  3. demonnick says:

    I haven’t had a lot of time to really dig into this topic, but I find myself wondering how this may effect PvP addons. Will this effect the targeting/detection feature of addons such as “Battlegroundtargets” or “gladius”? Will this effect automated player marking such as what addons like “healershavetodie” do? My first response to hearing this information was “Ahh man, really…”, but since reading this blog and the comments I have come to realize that this may be a move to combat botting, in which case I support everything blizzard does in the war against botters. I guess I will just have to learn to adapt, not the first time as a hunter player 🙂

    • Fiannor says:

      As you know, I do not do PvP, but my understanding is that ANY addon feature that tells you where another player is will no longer work. So I think there will be a lot of addons that PvP players rely on that will no longer function in 7.1. As you say, if it really hinders botters, it is a good thing. (The worst case scenario, though, would be if it does not seriously impede botters, just regular players.)

      The good thing is, everyone will be dealing with it and adapting — and as you point out, that may give hunters an advantage, as we have had A LOT of practice adapting. 😉

    • Amen! If it is the war on botting, I’m in support of the changes.

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