Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Addons and you - picking the right path

A few months ago I had a problem with my truck that took some diagnosing. I couldn't figure out exactly what was going on, but I lost the power-steering. It wasn't a belt, the pump, or fluid - something just wasn't working right. While I was troubleshooting it, I wound up losing the power-brakes as well. Again, not a problem with the lines or the master cylinder.

While I was troubleshooting all this, I still had to get to work, so I just drove it like it was. I grew up learning to drive an old farm truck that didn't have power steering or brakes, so it was kind of just like going home again. I had to anticipate turns and stops a little more for sure, and I certainly couldn't turn by just palming the wheel any more. I felt like this made me a better driver though, so I've kept with it like this.

I mean, let's face it. Power steering and power brakes really just make you lazy. You don't have to react as quickly, because the vehicle will do part of the work for you. This is even worse if you use the anti-collision/proximity warning devices that you find on some SUVs and minivans. Same thing can be said for the blind-spot mirrors I added onto my truck. If I can't merge in traffic without hitting someone with my trailer, I probably shouldn't be driving.

As a way to help other drivers around me, I've also disabled my blinkers and brake lights on my truck. Part of being a heads up driver is paying attention to what everyone around you is doing, and to anticipate their next move by watching their body language, your surroundings, and what their vehicle is doing. I guarantee when you don't use brake lights and turn signals, folks follow that two second rule and stay the heck out of your blind spot.

Of course I don't see everyone around me following this type of driving thought process, but maybe by being out there, I can influence others to follow my lead. When I get a ticket, I just chalk it up to me being a better driver than others, and this is the cross I have to bear in order to show others what they're missing.

Sound idiotic?

It really kind of is. While it's true I don't need any of those things to be a good driver, and folks probably would pay more attention if suddenly there were no brake lights or turn signals, they do make life easier and safer for others. While you can't draw a direct corrolation (simply because there's that added "law" factor) between this story and the one Codi told here, I think the abstract point should be pretty clear.

Tam and Chass over at Righteous Orbs already had their own spin on this type of nonsense, but I think it bears further investigation here. I certainly don't begrudge Codi her choice in running addon free - after all, play the way that makes you happy. Just don't expect me to be happy when your play-style impacts mine.

Are addons cheating?

First, let's knock this silly theory right out of the discussion. Addons are available for one reason, and one reason only - Blizzard intentionally opened up the gaming interface to allow them. They have specifically stated (on more than one occasion) that they WANT people to be using and writing addons. Anyone who has played the game for more than a few major patch cycles has seen addon after addon rolled into the base UI.

Remember Wardrobe-AI and the other gear swapping mods we used to have? Notice those pretty map shading areas in your quest log now? How about something as simple as a boss emote?

All of these things have been rolled into the base design of WoW. While you can certainly argue that they aren't as good as an independent addon, obviously someone at Blizzard recognized that these features were in such high demand that they should be part of the standard game package. Blizzard also recognizes that their tools aren't as good in all areas, which is why they opened up more of the code for threat - allowing tools like Omen to work more accurately. Guessed absorbs in Skada and Recount don't work just because they're well designed, they work because Blizzard recognized that their combat log wasn't getting it done - and that the need was out there.

They play the game for you

If this was true, every guild on the planet would have cleared H-ICC 25m in a PUG by now. Even AVR (which was broken by Blizzard) couldn't make your toon move out of the "Giant Big" in time. DBM can't fire your cooldown when you're about to eat an Soul Reaper, and Vuhdo/Grid can't cleanse your targets for you.

All these addons do is give you the information you need, in a way that you can most easily process it.

Let's go back to my truck examples above. Look at the dash/steering of a car that is 15 or 20 years old. What do you see? On the steering wheel you'll probably see a button for the horn, and that's about it. On the column you'll have your wipers, turn signals, cruise control, and maybe your hazard lights. Your dash has your environmental controls, your radio, and your various dials and warning lights.

Now look on a modern car, especially one that isn't a stripped down model. Environmental controls? On the wheel. Radio controls? On the wheel. Hazzard lights? Big button on the dash. Depending on the model you might even have a computer readout to tell you your tire pressure, radiator coolant levels, and how far you can expect to get on your current fuel level.

Do these things make you a better or a worse driver? It's hard to say really, because we have so many other things that can influance our driving. The thought behind them though, is that the more time you spend with your hands on the wheel and watching the road, the less time you'll spend fiddling with the radio and running into someone.

Of course if you're watching the in dash DVD player or playing Bejeweled while raiding - you're pretty much doomed to failure regardless.

My point

In the end, the addons and tools that are available are just that - tools. They can help you do your job better, and let you focus on more than one thing at a time. Just like a carpenter who uses power tools and a nail gun can build a great house (or a bad one), so too can the Amish guy who cuts everything by hand and drives every nail. Neither one is necessarily right or wrong, it's just a different style.

It's certainly smart to keep your skills honed to the point where you can perform without addons, but it's not the end of the world. I've had to heal with the standard frames before, and while I can do it, it's not much fun. Sure, it's important for me to know that someone has a curse or effect on them (like Mortal Strike) that I can't cleanse - just so I know they might need extra attention - but it's not something that should detract from what I'm doing.

It's also smart to check your addons before a raid starts. You know that on Tuesdays there is a greater than even money chance that something has been broken - especially when you download a new patch. Most addon developers have their respective tools updated within a few hours on patch day. Sometimes there's several releases in the span of a single day. It's your responsibility to keep up with that though.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put the fuses back in my truck.


  1. Well said! When I run into this argument (I'm a talkative addon lover/tester even with a crappy machine) I often say "addons simply let me put the info that's already there into a place I can easier see it".

  2. Very well said. A great response to the earlier threads.


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