Recently, I became aware of a new game called Rift which is set to launch on March 1, 2011. When a new game comes out, the very first thing I do is check out its community forums to see what people are saying about the game. Sure enough, there’s a large group of people that blame WoW for all the problems that creep into new MMORPGs. One of the biggest threads on the Rift forums is the debate about Trion stating that the game will not have any addons of any kind, therefore no damage meters. I find this to be a detriment to gameplay simply because addons themselves don’t hurt the game, it’s how people use them. For example, Outfitter saves me a lot of trouble when switching gear, rather than having to do each piece at a time. There are seventeen pieces of gear in WoW, and if I need to switch between PvP and PvE gear, Outfitter can do it in one shot. Players see this as people wanting to soften the game and I strongly disagree with that. MMOs are games, they’re meant to at most entertain, and switching seventeen pieces of gear several times a day isn’t entertaining.
Remember, addons don’t kill toons, players kill toons.
This thread here which is now almost three hundred pages long debates whether or not a damage meter of any kind helps or hurts gameplay. Everyone on the side for keeping damage meters out of the game seem to come from the old school Everquest days when we would run 72 or 144-person raids and didn’t have voice chat; everything was done using the keyboard which made playing the game very difficult. If you think about it from a role-playing point of view, nobody in a 72-man raid would type their commands to people standing right next to them, they’d talk to them out loud. A side note: my grandparents used to walk uphill in the snow both ways to school. Things change, and if a game creates the use of damage meters to help a raid, then it’s up to the guild and its players to use it properly. If your guild uses the meters in such a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, maybe that guild isn’t for you.
I was in a high end raiding guild when Recount was first introduced. While it did cause a lot of drama, mainly because Recount didn’t report accurately at the time due to how WoW presented data based on distance, it did give good players the ability to improve themselves and it sparked discussions about ways to improve. Blizzard added target dummies in major cities so that players could practice their rotations and specs and see which worked better for them. Over time, and to this day, damage and healing meters still cause trouble, but in the end it all comes down to whether or not someone is pulling their weight or watching television while playing.
What amazes me is how people in that thread claim that they can tell that someone’s not performing well while watching. I have to say that keeping an eye on 24 other people while trying to do your own job is nothing less than impossible. If you don’t have damage or healing meters and the tank isn’t getting healed, do you blame the healer(s), or the tank for having bad gear? The fact is, both may be at fault, but without hard, immediate data, it’s impossible to tell. Rift will have logs that can be parsed outside the game, but who wants to wipe fifteen times and then look at the data afterwards? Meters give relatively accurate, immediate data so that you can fix up your strategy on the spot. Wiping for three hours only to find that healer #2 should have done one simple thing differently doesn’t sound like fun to me.
Having damage meters available to me while practicing on target dummies in WoW helped me determine the best spec and spell rotation for my mage while on downtime, I didn’t have to wait for raids to see if how I was doing was good enough. I could confidently go into a raid knowing that I did the best I could to help the twenty-four other people and not waste their time and then fine tune my gameplay as needed while in the raid.
Games evolve, as do the players. I raided in Everquest but felt like I was flying blind, and just because that game was a challenge doesn’t mean we shouldn’t evolve with the times. WoW helped raiding in several ways: fluid, accurate animations which no game has come close to doing (Aion came in as a close second), a customizable UI, and in-game voice chat. I’ve gone back to Everquest several times since my account is still active and I can’t believe how clunky the gameplay is. There’s no way I would ever want to raid like that again, just like I wouldn’t want to drive my ’72 Dodge Dart anymore. Addons are tools just like anything else, it’s just a question of how they’re used or abused.