Does SWTOR Need Player-Made Mods?
Many players consider third party mods and macros a staple of MMOs. From spell alerts that notify you when to flee from a boss’ powerful attack, to extra bars and graphs that reveal otherwise hidden numerical data, a large portion of MMO veterans have come to rely on these utilities to enhance their gaming experience.
The fact that BioWare is currently not allowing mods for The Old Republic has its player base divided over the issue: on one hand, the lack of a combat log and UI customization begs for the permission of mods; on the other, permitting mods opens the floodgates to the kind of utilities that many players claim “ruined World of Warcraft.”
While BioWare has stated that they’ll be giving us more control over the UI, this may be too little, too late. The question then is: should mods and macros be allowed in TOR?
Let’s examine the pros and cons.
The Argument for Mods
Many advocates of mods and macros assert that they are indispensible for competitive play. Further, raid leaders need them to keep tabs on their guild members and ensure they are performing optimally — mods provide data that cannot be otherwise gleaned through observation, especially when dealing with large numbers of players.
Bearing in mind the threat of making botting an easier enterprise, many players feel that a basic level of customization is required, given the current state of the UI, especially with regards to healing. Without the ability to easily keep track of buffs and debuffs and the lack of basic mouse-over healing, healing can be a chore.
A business argument can also be made: damage tracking mods allow players to measure their progress against each other, setting the kind of quantifiable goals that drive players to invest hours — and continued subscription fees — into a game. Furthermore, the game’s longevity is extended by allowing players to mod and customize elements of the game they dislike.
There’s also a segment of the MMO player base that enjoys data crunching and optimizing character performance based on numerical analysis. Mods grant these players access to data they otherwise would not be privy to.
The Argument Against Mods
The brunt of the arguments leveled against allowing mods or macros revolves around the issue of lowering the skill level required to play the game. Macros can reduce complex battle sequences to the simple mashing of one or two keys, which reduces the difficulty of the game. A single macro can automate a series of actions with superhuman timing, something that would require a high degree of skill to accomplish without the use of macros. By reducing the amount of input required from the player, the game lowers the possibility of human error, thereby closing the gap in skill levels between players.
With mods and macros that think for the player and automate actions, a large part of PvP boils down to who has the better meta-game gear rather than who is more skilled. Mods then begin to define success and failure instead of skill.
A different argument leveled against third party mods is the belief that all players should be on equal footing and have access to the same tools. Third party tools may be disseminated only throughout a certain guild, or are otherwise distributed only through the will of the creator. Rather than allow third party mods, advocates of this argument wish to see greater customization arise from within the game, from BioWare, to ensure all players have equal access.
Another issue arises from the community, and what the addition of mods could imply for its health. While, ultimately, a player can choose to ignore mods if he doesn’t care for them, this could impact his ability to team with other players for Flashpoints or Operations. Should certain mods become considered integral by the community at large, casual players may be marginalized and flat out rejected by party leaders if they don’t keep up with the Joneses.
With players being forced to use mods or face discrimination, they then have to keep up to date on the latest versions of the mods, learn to use and configure them, and cede control and thought power to a script.
In other MMOs, mods have resulted in an arms race between developers and modders, with boss fights becoming increasingly complex in order to counteract the reduction in complexity they cause. Once again, the players who don’t use the mods suffer.
Ultimately, the issue is not clear-cut and depends largely on your opinion on a few key issues. How important is it to you that TOR be a skill-based game? Do you mind if other players have an advantage over you? Do you value convenience over challenge?
While some players have reasonable macro and mod requests — requests that even anti-mod advocates would deem permissible — the issue remains that by allowing third party utilities, BioWare would then be unable to realistically police the types of mods that spark greater controversy.
What’s your take? Are you for or against mods and macros?