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?

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20 Comments on Does SWTOR Need Player-Made Mods?


On December 28, 2011 at 10:08 am

Look at player generated content for older class games and learn from history. It’s a catch 22, you have good things but majority is just crap to be completely honest. Typically 90% of said content is garbage and doesn’t meet a standard level of quality. Most things are subpar at best. People don’t have to like that Bioware is keeping a close eye on it’s product but it sure as hell beats all the crap the internet shoots out. Same with WoW. You don’t need half your screen filled with UI bars, argo bars, DPS bars, enemy target reticules, and all that other crap to enjoy a game. You can’t even argue skill because it’s a freaking MMO. It’s not hard to press a key. See beauty of pvp warzones is people get buffed to 50 stats so majority of all players are on level playing fields.

Why over complicate things that should be simple and accessible to everyone. ToR is NEVER going to be SWG or a successor to SWG. It’s a Bioware game and it only discredits Bioware when you try to hover other games and their mechanics/functionality over ToR as if it has to meet another companies standards. This is Biowares chance at an MMO. Instead of rehashing the same old arguments and stories, look to the future and think of ways of things that work WITH the game. Not just crap cut and pasted from DAoC or UO.


On December 28, 2011 at 10:58 am

Basic mods such as DPS meter and agrro meters are almost essential for MMOs.

The reasoning behind this being that i’d love to know if i am preforming well or not, Without them people will be confused because they have no refrence to know if they are doing well or not which will lead to unencessary balance debates and misconceptions about classes being useless.

PvP balance is where they (bioware) stand to gain the most from DPS meters as they make it very easy to monitor classes/specs damage based on more accurate player feedback backed by actual data.

I’d also say that the TOR interface could use a facelift to fit better in with the game (but then again so does the combat..).


On December 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I’ve never understood the argument against mods. Mods don’t destroy a game because they don’t have any effect on the game itself, only YOUR game play. If you don’t like them then fine, don’t use them. No body can make you use them. If your in a guild/group that “requires” you to have it, then leave. Again, you are not forced to do it.

Not even in WoW did 100% of people use mods/addons. Yes, many if not a majority did but doesn’t that just tell you how many people WANT to use them?


On December 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Only thing i want is the ability to move things around on the UI and maybe scale it down a little bit, other then that, no.


On December 29, 2011 at 8:34 am

Many people, if not a majority, pirate software and steal music.

It is obvious that companies should stop SELLING stuff and just give it all away for free because that’s what the MAJORITY does.

People WANT to get an advantage over others… even if that advantage is cheating.

In MMOs, what other people do directly affects you. More so, if the end-game people use macros extensively, then end-game content will be made to cater to those people. But wait! People also run bots now, and are driving the economy to hell! Now you’re at a disadvantage to buy gear and are poor by “typical standards”.

What Others Do Affects You! Learn this ;P


On December 31, 2011 at 10:18 pm

I’m indifferent about mods. Though I would like roleplaying ones, but that is about it.

Oh, and mods didn’t kill my favorite MMO, a poor sequel and bad timing killed my favorite; Endless Ages.

Steve Peeve

On January 4, 2012 at 10:24 am

Anyone who argues against mods in an MMO imo is a complete moron. If you’ve never healed or lead a raid before maybe I’d understand. As a healer or raid leader you will want mods. It’s all but guaranteed.

PS: All the healers in WoW that told me they “didn’t need an addon” sucked big time and got laughed out of any guild they played in. Some people like to say they don’t need addons and that’s fine, some people don’t. The majority of people who claim they don’t are simply minimizing their effectiveness by stubbornly refusing to use a mod.

How can you be a better healer when your other raid healers have actual unit frames, can see all buffs and debuffs, can see from the color of a box if you’re in range or not, etc? I never understood some peoples unwillingness to use mods for healing and other aspects of the game it can help. I’m not saying use a rotation macro/addon as clicking 2 3 4 4 4 5 repeatedly isn’t hard, but yeah if I have to click on a guy to heal him or his frame and it tells me nothing, and if I’m inserting an extra click in there when a proper addon like healbot allows me to do it in 1 click… you’re only costing yourself effectiveness by not using addons in some areas, healing is the most painfully obvious though.

As a raid healer you’d have to be a god damn fool not to use some kind of addon, it makes healing a chore without one and it doesn’t add to the difficulty so much as it adds to the tediousness not having one.


On January 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm

If you don’t like add-ons then don’t use them. Period. The functionality should still be there for those of us that do. Add-ons do not in any way break the game for players who don’t use them. They simply provide additional functionality over the things that you can already do. In SW:ToR I have nowhere near enough action bars. I’m only level 30 and I have more skills/medkits and other crap that I would like to have on an action bar than I have action bars. I also refuse to heal because of the lack of add-ons and mouse-over functionality and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one because I see groups looking for heals all day long. They are simple things that alter the game dramatically, not by making me better than you, but by allowing me to play without the tedium of some poorly thought out abomination of an excuse for a UI. If you think that add-ons and macros are an unfair advantage or are not readily available to anybody who wants to use them then you are delusional. Anybody can use them. Anybody can write them. I love add-ons, I love being able to customize my game to my style of play. I love being able to use macros to change the functionality of how I use my abilities (mouse-over, focus, target of target etc). It contributes to my enjoyment of the game. If you are honestly telling me that you have an argument against mods and you actually believe yourself when you speak… I’m sorry to tell you that you are a whiney douchebag who wants to withhold enjoyment from others that does not affect you in any way other than to point out how terrible you are at your hobby in shiny graphs and charts.


On January 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I think things are needed more for Look and Feel vs Mechanics. The majority of helpful mods I have found in the past were all about re-skinning the interface to provide a better perspective for combat (showing more so I can avoid things and so on). I played WoW in the days before Threat Meters, DPS Meters, and Boss Mods. We figured it out back then. I understand making it easier for everyone to know an ability is coming so you know what to do but before it was something the boss announced via a yell or something else. If threat was an issue you yelled at the Hunt-ard or yelled at the rogue to vanish and to stop being a dumbass. I can’t tell you how many times we wiped on Vael in BWL back in the day from him spinning around to someone who pulled aggro….it was something you dealt with and you made it a point for people to build threat drop time into their rotations….you paid attention to crits cause if you had 2-3 in a row you were like maybe I should just auto attack for a few seconds. What ended up happening was that people made mods which forced Blizzard to respond with game elements (threat system) or by up tuning the fights because everyone could do this now. Instead of tuning the encounter to the players you tuned it to the mods.

The things I want are similar to what others have said. UI Scaling or flexibility, mouse over ability on unit frames (I have played for a long time and this is the first time I have had to put a heal spell back on my bars and click someone then press a button). Some bag sorting abilities to help manage where my crafting materials are. Things I like but could live without are completely reskinned UI elements. I am a minimalist with maximum value when I layout a UI. I like to isolate my UI elements to sections of the screen so I don’t have a lot of lost screen real estate.


On January 5, 2012 at 5:52 am

SWTOR went live without any modding system in place… So I think this question is pretty far-fetched and pointless.

EA is very well known to do things ITS WAY don’t giving a damn about what other companies do. And Bioware doesn’t have either a history for making games that are particularly mod-able.

So this argument is like discussing about if we should call the color blue with the word “blue”, actually…


On January 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I would like some mods. I played WoW for 6 years and some mods I found made the experience much more enjoyable. I don’t want mods that make the game easy mode, but I want some that allows me to tweak existing features, like bar mods and mods to let me move and rescale the UI.

And yes, SWTOR did go live without any modding system in place as Abelius said, but the developers also clearly stated that they were going to allow mods, just not at launch. I think they wanted people to see it without mods before deciding to clutter it up. Many would have modded it up at level 1 if they could have, but the game is pretty well designed and you shouldn’t need a lot of mods.


On January 7, 2012 at 9:28 pm

What? Can’t I run a bot on swtor? THIS SUCKS, HOW CAN I MAKE A LIVING?


On January 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm

i want a busty companion mod. let’s enhance mako, then we will worry about damage meters.

interesting articles

On January 25, 2012 at 10:32 pm

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On January 26, 2012 at 3:32 am

The real value of mods, to me, is game longevity. I see mods first and foremost as an invaluable extension of the development team – trying out ideas, new function and interface tweaks almost cost-free. It’s no coincidence to me that most of the “best” changes made to the WoW interface over its lifetime have been in-house implementations of things that started out as user mods.

I’m longer in the tooth than some, and I spent the last twenty years working as a tester in IBM software development (different soft of software, but same principles apply). I worked on a lot of different products, developed in different ways, but two things I learned are constants: (a) development teams always have their slightly illogical prejudices about what “ought” to be in a product, and (b) they can be very hard to shift from those prejudices, even if an entire test team is telling them they’re wrong, until the customers also tell them in no uncertain terms. And designers are the worst; telling them something isn’t quite right is like telling them that their adored baby is ugly as sin and *really* needs a bath. MMOs, perversely, lack the customer feedback – or rather, have too much; sensible messages can easily get lost in the noise or ignored as just another rant. What mods do is allow the community, to a degree, to ignore those prejudices and explore what really works best for a game. And when it’s done so, there’s no better argument for what needs changing in a game (and by extension, what will help keep people playing) than the fact that a significant proportion of your customers are using a mod that makes the game do something in a different way, or something that you didn’t include in the first place.

Let your players mod, and, yes, they’ll give you challenges along the line – but at the end, more will stay around, for longer, and you’ll have a better game to boot.


On January 30, 2012 at 5:45 am

I’ll put it simple: After healing for 7 years in WoW and now giving it a try in SW:TOR. If the UI does not improve for healers. Either through mods or a more flexible UI, I will not continue playing this game.

Even keeping track of your own buffs (Tactical Advantage) is a chore with the current UI. A tiny icon on my character frame … seriously?

Selecting my targets before casting a heal from raid frames that show way too much information and too little at the same time. (Please tell me if I missed an option to change this)

The challenge should come from managing resources and deciding who to heal with what heal. Not from navigating the clunky UI.

As for melee dps, we need a better way to track cooldowns and buffs. But it’s not as bad as it is for healers. But playing with buttons hidden using KB shortcuts is not an option right now. At least it gives the keyboard turners less of a disadvantage I suppose.


On January 31, 2012 at 5:05 am

first off when you say “anyone who doesn’t agree is an idiot” you are proving your ignorance.

back on topic :D
the problem isnt UI mods. the problem is in macros.

if you need something smaller/bigger or to simply not be shown you should be able to change that.(they are about to applying this feature)

a mod (in a mmo game atleast) is designed to make the game easier. you dont NEED flashy bars or mouse over heals ect ect, you want them. this is not bad, but it cant lead to bad things.

the macro issue.
cooldowns + finishers + nonglobal cooldowns = hard to learn
cooldowns + finishers + nonglobal cooldowns + macro = easy mode

its human nature to look for ways to make what your doing easier
if whatever your doing becomes to easy it will soon become dull (this is obviously bad for everyone involved)

this isn’t the case for everyone but im willing to bet 90% of the people who want addons are people who played a MMO in the past and used them.

enabling addons that cant be “policed” by bioware will open a door that should not be opened.
enabling macros will open a door that will ruin the way the game was built to be played.


On February 8, 2012 at 8:13 am

I think they should keep mods out. People that are for modding keep saying “If you don’t want to use mods then you don’t have to.” Well try playing any pvp when everyone but you has some really cheap mod, It’s not cool when they’re at that much of an advantage. You shouldn’t have to cheat the game’s design to be able to stand a chance against other players. However, if they did some of their own updates to the UI, for example. I play a trooper, my high impact shot can only be used if the enemy is stunned or taking damage over time. If they added something to the UI that flashed or lit up to tell me when it was available, it would make things a bit more efficient. So far that’s my only problem, and it’s not even that big of a deal. I can actually do well at pvp since i’m not playing against a person who’s not even really playing, they’re just letting their computer make all of the most efficient calculations for them. That’s no fun.


On February 12, 2012 at 1:01 am

I just want a mod to make my lightning BLUE. All this purple Sith lightning just looks and feels wrong. Palpatine’s lightning was blue, give me a mod to make my lightning blue so I can feel like a Sith and not a pansy.

Mitch hater

On March 13, 2012 at 10:41 am

Mitch your an idiot it already does light up when its available for cast just like free action is and plus your a tracer missile spamer get outa here!