WoW Add-on Apps

I was listening to the Game By Night MMO podcast the other day (vacation put me behind on many podcasts), where I learned about a new World of Warcraft add-on, AVR (Augmented Virtual Reality).  AVR is an add-on that further simplifies the complex cat herding of raids by allowing a raid leader to mark locations in-game.  Then everybody in game will see in their client the spot that the raid leader marked regardless of where their characters are standing.  The big hooplah is that this add-on stupifies the raid puzzles to a ridiculous degree.  I think this is a tad subjective considering the amount of “required” raiding add-ons, but I can see how this might be one of the straws that broke the camels back.

Anyway, Blizzard is breaking AVR in the next patch by removing camera coordinates or something.  Yet, the damage was done.  The add-on was created, used, publicized, and will now die in an explosive death.  What if Blizzard could have preemptively stopped or limited AVR?

I must attest that I was listening to Game By Night on my iPod Touch while playing a bought app that plays Kenken.  The idea was practically staring me in the face.  Why not monetize add-ons officially through an Apple App store knock-off?  Take a bit of the ease of the Curse client, the business model for iPhone/iPod apps, and Apple’s review process, and I think it could be a winner for World of Warcraft.

Blizzard could protect their raid difficulty by refusing add-ons that break whatever systems they have in place, but also protect customers by only allowing quality add-ons.  Blizzard and the add-on developer can make a bit of cash.  The developer can use this cash as more incentive to create a higher quality add-on.  Blizzard can use the cash to hire people for the review process and hopefully also profit.  And, players will have an official [easier] route to further customize their game as they wish.

There are downsides of course.  The obvious is that players are currently getting a free service that would become a paid service, but honestly I think this is the weakest argument against this idea considering how much money players will spend in addition to the monthly fee.  I would definitely pay for the convenience of having an official, supported route if I played an add-on heavy MMO.  The bigger downside, in my mind, is the absorption of add-ons into the official game.  Blizzard have taken add-ons, or at least the ideas behind them, and simply incorporated them in to the game so no add-on was required for the feature.  With an add-on store there is less incentive to add these “free” features to the vanilla game.  However, it is their game to begin with.  They can incorporate, destroy add-ons on a whim anyway… so nothing is really different.

I definitely think that the positives outweigh the negatives in the end.  By having an official route for add-ons the population aware of add-ons will only grow giving more feedback and money to both the add-on developer and Blizzard.  The quality of add-ons would increase across the board, and touchy issues such as the life and death of the AVR add-on could be avoided.  I doubt this will happen in World of Warcraft, but I think as MMOs become more monetized through various means, this might be somewhere in the future of the add-on market.

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22 thoughts on “WoW Add-on Apps”

  1. I would rather stop “apps”, “add-ons”, “third-party applications”, “mods” and all that stuff than make them official in an “app shop” for ANY game.

    1. Indeed. But, then in LOTRO with no API like add-ons we get “puzzles” where you have to watch for an eye to pop up thats like 25 pixels big. Add-ons can definitely smooth out bad puzzle design.

      1. But on the other hand the availability of the add-ons are an excuse to leave that 25 pixel eye in the game rather than fix it, or worse, design the next encounter with the assumption that everyone has a certain add-on (decurse anyone?)

  2. Uh, Bliz…

    If people are coming up with these addons it’s (largely) because the type of encounters you make greatly benefit from this sort of thing in which a big part of the ‘teamwork’ involved is spent in positioning.

    The “straw that broke the camel’s back” point is very well taken, for sure, but I can’t see anything wrong with this particular type of add-on existing.

  3. Blizzard has had situations many times in the past where the developers make a change because a certain buff or a certain potion was too necessary in order to win a boss fight. In order to make the fight difficult enough they had to assume the buff or potion was active, so groups that did not have access to said buff/potion were unable to win.

    This is, I think, what led to multiple classes having carbon copy buffs during the “bring the player, not the class” era.

    Extend this to add-ons and I think selling the add-ons through Blizzard becomes a dangerous idea. Sparkleponies are one thing, but if blizzard has to design fights assuming your group has a certain add-on, and then they charge you for said add-on…yeah. I would not want to be the developer who had to tread that line.

      1. No. I do think it probably causes design headaches, though. How to make the content challenging enough that add-ons don’t trivialize it and yet no so hard that a person without the add-ons has no chance.

        When I played WoW I did not use anything like Deadly Boss Mod or whatnot and, while I can’t say I was the greatest raider, I managed, so I guess the devs found some way to navigate the mod variables.

        Once you charge for the add-ons you are using in your design, though, you are all but telling the player that the game, as purchased, does not contain all the necessary tools. That sounds like either a bait-and-switch, or the kind of “game advantage cash shop” that causes the internet to burst into flame. (Blizzard Store: “Psst…want to be the top raiding guild on your server? We can make it happen for the low low price of your gaming soul.” ;) )

  4. As we discussed on the show, I think this type of thing waters down content. At what point does the player cross the line between participation and just connecting dots? Raids used to be a bit more simplistic before add ons came around. I dont think things like DBM are solely to blame for the continued complications of raid encounters, but they certainly didn’t help. As the add on became more popular the raids became less challenging and likewise, more boring. Im glad to hear this type of add on is getting the axe. I like the idea of add ons, I just have a hard time with players that use them to make the game less of a game.

    To each his/her own though.

    At least now we wont have to see any 16 year old pug leaders drawing dicks on our screens.

    1. “At what point does the player cross the line between participation and just connecting dots? Raids used to be a bit more simplistic before add ons came around.”

      I’m not quite sure I agree with this. This implies raid complexity went up -because- of add-on proliferation and not the other way around.

      1. Perhaps not at first, but I think this is becoming the case. If deadly boss mods was axed by blizzard, raid progression would become way less accessible to the masses. I feel Blizzard prides itself on making the game accessible and without this add on, some encounters would fail this goal. Their content seems to reflect a ‘need’ for this type of add on. Plus look at all the add ons they have adopted into their official set. Things like Quest Helper and Carbonite are now mimicked by blizzard. These add ons in a sense changed the way questing worked and pushed Blizzard into adopting that change. Add ons have had a role in changing content within the game. For the better or worse is subjective to the individual’s experience.

        1. Agreed, but I’m thinking Blizzard doesn’t design -because- of add-ons. It’d be asinine.

          “Let’s make this more complex because people are getting timely warnings of events” doesn’t make much sense because, for example, “warning” add-ons emerged because of the lack of proper, rather visible warnings to conditions which -were already there-.

          Of course I agree that Blizzard takes add-ons into consideration, and your examples are very good ones, but I don’t think Blizzard is playing “catch up” to add-ons. What I’ve seen them doing (your examples are perfect for this) is setting up a system, watching the add-ons to see how they generally improve on that system and then folding in that functionality into the game.

          I see the situation more as a “Let’s see what players are using to get what functionality and bring that in” rather than making design changes because of add-ons; Quest Helper or not, the questing system remains the same. Dominos or not, the basic game UI remains mostly unchanged with the exception of additions for vehicle control and such.

  5. Blizzard does very well out of the addon system it has now. It doesn’t have to pay the developers, it doesn’t get any blame if the addons are crap or broken, it retains IP rights over the addons despite them being the work of outside unpaid developers.

    Creating an official addon source would mean they have to do a lot of checking testing and QA to make sure they’re up to standard. Also what if someone managed to slip a keylogger into an official addon?

    They’re better as they are, getting their game’s interface developed for them for free by fans at zero risk.

  6. To me, add-ons are a crutch for developers to produce shoddy interfaces to their games. Then on the player side, using add-ons is akin to “performance enhancing” techniques in sports. Not necessarily illegal, but at least against the spirit of fair competition.

    Though in the case of WoW, I put this more on the former. Instead of improving the interface to increase accessibility for all, they are pawning off to third parties that not all players will access. As a player, I fill cheated if I “must” install any third-party app in order to be competitive. That isn’t to say I have never used third party apps in games (“Clicksaver” for AO was a notable one), I just did not like I had to in order to get around a poor interface.

    This goes back to the whole “Macro” debate in UO and SWG. My solution was for developers to stop designing games that require multiple repetitive actions to progress. I want to play the game, not the meta-game.

  7. Ravious, I think this might actually happen, or something like it: they’ve said they want to create a sort of centralized clearinghouse or marketplace for Starcraft II maps and total conversions through their Steamalike service, so I think WoW mods are not out of the question.

  8. No thanks! Lets keep the “app store” for people that pay for useless stuff to run on a fluffy piece of hardware (and protests against socialist ideas – oh the irony) and away from my wallet.

  9. If raid encounters are entirely blown through because someone acquired the unnatural ability from beyond time and space to point at a spot on the floor, maybe their design philosophy needs more work than they’re willing to admit.

  10. I am, on principle, disinclined to favor suggestions by which the ability to design one’s own functionality is limited, whether it’s paid for or not. Being able to say, “Sure, Mom, we’ll try to design an add-on that’ll help me teach you how to play even though we’re 1800 miles apart, because I want you to keep having fun” (in not so many words) is a really nice feeling.

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