Gadgeteers and purists

Last night as I launched a new sim on my Balance druid, it occurred to me that I rely a lot on third party sites and addons to play this game. I mean, really, a lot. Here is a sample, off the top of my head:

  • Over 20 addons — DBM, GTFO, ArkInventory, Weakauras, Bartender4, Healbot for my healers, Shadowed Unit Frames, Pawn, Tradeskill Master, Skada, World Quest Tracker, TomTom, Paste — to name a few.
  • Wowhead — my go-to site for guidance on where to find patterns and recipes, mats needed for crafting, various Legion guides, gear info, transmog ideas, and quest info. The latter is especially important to me. If I run into a problem with a quest, I immediately turn to Wowhead for solutions to whatever is stopping me. I am not worried about “spoilers”, I am just interested in finishing the quest and moving on, and I derive no satisfaction from figuring it out on my own after beating my head on a rock for hours or days. Thank goodness for the Wowhead users who unselfishly post their insights into quests as soon as they get them figured out.
  • Icy-Veins — I use this for class/spec info as well as for quick and dirty raid guidance. When I am coming back to an alt I have not played in a while, it is always my first stop to brush up on rotations, talent builds, and the order of stat importance. In Legion, I use this site to make my way through artifact traits and to get their list of BiS legendaries. The class/spec guides are always up to date and are written by world class players. I can’t imagine trying to figure out a rotation on my own for every alt by evaluating the various spell and talent and artifact interactions.
  • Sims. I use SimC on my own computer, and I also use web sites like Beotorch and recently Raidbots to run quick sims for importing into my Pawn addon. I know sims are only partially useful, but honestly I do not know of a better way to evaluate the complex factors in gear these days. (It would be interesting, I think, to compare the results for a player using all these complicated methods to select gear and talents versus selecting solely on the basis of ilevel increases and gut feeling for talents. I wonder if there would actually be much difference?)
  • Quest guides. I confess I use a quest guide to speed my way through leveling and also through dailies, profession quest lines, class hall quests, artifact quests, and even long achievement chains. (I am not going to say the one I use because it is a paid service and I do not want to plug a commercial product.)

There are probably a few more outside resources I use, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately. As I said, it’s a lot.

I know there are purists out there who are horrified by a list like this. I respect that point of view. Intellectually, I am even drawn to it, but realistically I am far too impatient to actually try to deal with a Blizz-only interface.

The native game UI itself, to me, is clunky, un-intuitive, and not responsive to player preferences. This opinion is reinforced every time I log in to the PTR and have to set up the Blizz-only interface. It just does not work for me, from the lack of raid frame options to the multiple-bar action bar setup and separate keybind interface, to the horrible bag space viewer, to the inability to set up reasonably-located spell cues and proc notices.

Additionally, the game flow — especially in Legion — seems confusing to me, possibly even deliberately vague. Blizz sometimes thinks they are running a puzzle game, not an adventure MMO, and they love to obfuscate in the name of “challenge”. Sometimes, for example, quests follow logically from one to the next, but equally as often you have to search for the next series without knowing whether or not it is a line you are interested in or where it might lead. And the “secret” quests — they are not my cup of tea. If I wanted to figure out puzzles, I would be playing a different game than WoW. I honestly cannot imagine a new player figuring all this out for themselves with zero outside help.

So I tend to go a bit overboard in third party assistance. I know this. I wish it were not necessary for my enjoyment of the game, but it is. In an ideal world, Blizz would provide a wide range of player options, permitting an approach like mine as well as the purist one. But even I know that is not really possible — they seem to have all they can do to keep the game from imploding without adding in a lot of complicating player-option code.

To be fair, periodically they co-opt some third party ideas and try to bring them into the native interface, but to my eye they usually do it badly. For example, there is the in-game Dungeon Journal now, a Blizz version of third party raid and instance explanations. It’s okay, but it falls short of most outside ones, in my opinion. The bag-sorting algorithm introduced in WoD is a slight improvement over what we had before, but it does not come close to the categorizing and display options in an addon like ArkInventory. I could give a lot more examples, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I do not think I would continue to play this game if I could not use third party resources to the extent I do. I like gadgets and gizmos and convenience and efficiency too much to give them up. Those of you who are purists, I salute you — try not to judge me, I am weak!

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.

8 Responses to Gadgeteers and purists

  1. Marathal says:

    I use most of your list. I do not fiddle with the UI, I tried once and made such a mess I spend hours trying to figure out how to undo it all. I utilize 1 through = for my 12 most used spells. Beyond that I have things located where I know they are intuitively. If I could add some to the list there is one for Treasures. The nice thing about it is someone has added notes, like, in a cave, entrance at x.x/y.y One for coordinates is almost a must have for finding things. And an old favorite Carbonite. If they could make the in game map using Carbonite I would be most happy indeed.

    • Fiannor says:

      I use Treasures, too, and Gather for herbs and ore and fish and such. Like you, I use 1 through = for my most important spells, but I also use a multi-button mouse and a keyboard with extra programmable keys. I try to keep similar functions for all alts in the same location — for example my interrupt is always the same mouse thumb button.

      I tried Carbonite a couple of years ago and was not thrilled with it. But based on your recommendation now I may give it a try again, I am sure it has improved in the intervening time. If I can use it, it would eliminate some other addons with duplicate functions.

      • Marathal says:

        During Wrath and Cata Carbonite was great. Even up through parts of Draenor. But I think they were overwhelmed keeping it updated. The best was being able to set a point on the map to go to and to be able to zoom in and out on the world without switching map tabs.

  2. Grumsta says:

    If for some perverse reason Blizz ever stopped add-ons such as ElvUI, BigWigs, GTFO and TellMeWhen from working I’d probably have to stop raiding outside of LFR. I guess they’re a crutch of sorts, and there’s probably a fair argument that Blizz continually make encounters more complex because add-ons otherwise make them trivial. But I remember the struggle I had raiding without them, and the contrast to my current ability to contribute is night and day.

    I’m constantly trying to find the balance between having enough information on my screen to help me do my rotation and stay alive, against getting information overload (the reason I switched away from DBM, as it was way too intrusive for me).

    I would love to be able to drop having to use tools such as SimC (via Raidbots) and Pawn. For one, I’ve found the stat weights are only useful for gear which has your main stat on it, so it’s hopeless for necks and rings. I’d like all gear to have an equal amount of all secondary stats on them so that it’s 100% obvious whether a piece is an upgrade or not. Only tier pieces and trinkets should require any thought or simulation.

    I have around 67 add-ons of various types installed. Many are small tweaks to the interface (e.g. quick looting), and larger ones like World Quest Assistant and Angry World Quests make doing and selecting WQs far easier. I could live without them, but they make the daily chores and just being in the game much more bearable.

    It’s easy to take the add-on writers’ creativity, energy, commitment and skills for granted but I’m extremely thankful for them.

    • Fiannor says:

      I have wondered myself if there is a vicious circle going on with addons versus encounter complexity — absent one, would the other still be present? All I know is, like you, I am a much worse raider without addons. Are they a crutch? Maybe, but their use also makes progression raiding feasible for a larger group of people who struggle with Blizz’s battle interface. I have vision problems in one eye, and honestly there are some “signals” from bosses that I just can’t see with only the native interface — without addons I would miss them every single time.

      I do find, though, that I have to take a lot of time with DBM to customize it for each boss in order not to be overloaded. I usually leave it on default the first couple of times we do the boss, then go in and disable the alerts that have nothing to do with my role in the fight.

      I suppose I could live without the “comfort” addons like quick looting, auto repair, scrap vendoring, TSM, and so forth, but they make life so much easier for me that without them it would “drudgify” much of the game. Some comfort ones, though, I rank right up there with my “must-haves” — here I am thinking ArkInventory and Bartender4. In fact, those two plus Weakauras and DBM are the ones I always try to make work first when there are major patches that cause addons to have fits.

  3. gnomecore says:

    Icy Veins – yes, it was useful when I tried a completely new spec.

    Wowhead – I’m a time-to-time guest there. Normally I’m checking some tricky achievements or quests. The website is pain though, overloaded with ads and all. It lacks usability in large scales, I don’t like to be there.

    I could be unique, but I don’t use any addons. None at all.

    I like my interface, I like how everything is put at the sides of the screen. I don’t need my panels in the center – after all, I’m not playing to click panels, I’m playing to see the world and how I interact with it. And I don’t need any extra panels too.

    I don’t want the game to become too dumb to play. I don’t need something yelling at me “Deadly Fireball coming in 3… 2…” – it’s already in game, the void zones and stuff. For example, Gul’dan speaks a very specific line before launching those super dangerous eyes – for god’s sake, listen and/or track his cast to switch to them. I don’t need TomTom to walk me by the hand like a small child where you can just switch your brain off. And so on. In other words, addons ruin my immersement at large.

    Not a single addon for me.

  4. I think the puzzle aspect of the game is fun with the qualifier that Legion is a very big game; too many puzzles and too confusing of a puzzle can make you feel bogged down with out the spirit of adventure.
    And, with the repetitive nature of the implied grind, I use Tom Tom for even the simplest of things sometimes, like mousing the coordinates of a rare and entering it in quick and following the crazy arrow to get me there — face it, I’ve done this “rare” daily for months.

    • Fiannor says:

      The only puzzles I have liked in Legion are the ones many players hated — the Kirin Tor “Enigmatic” and “Like the Wind” ones. (The other KT puzzles are just annoying to me.) I was very frustrated at first with the various “Like the Wind” quests, and each one took me far longer to figure out than I want to admit publicly, but once I got them I found them fun. (But they are not so much fun that I still do them — I use the flying shortcut to trivialize them now.)

      But a lot of players do like most of the puzzles, more power to them. It is a big game, as you say, and there is room for many points of view. I am just glad there are cheat sheets if for some reason you don’t want to grind through all of them all of the time.

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