Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Response to WoW.com Breakfast Topic: Are boss mods cheating?

Are boss mods cheating?

In a word, yes.  Post over.
Just kidding.  Late April Fool's and all that.  The following is a picture of my UI in action in Halls of Stone (where I'm not going to wipe the group taking screen shots).  Don't laugh too hard, it works for me.  I'm a multitasking fiend.

As you can see, there's a lot of junk there.  Got my VuhDo on there with the health and debuff status, Dominoes with pretty much every spell in the book, ForteXorcist with some cooldown timers, Tellmewhen to time my Serendipity and remind me to push my cooldowns once in a while.  MSBT so I can brag about my big heal crits.  And of course, DBM.  Run away little girl, run away.

It's all about expectations.  Blizzard expects me to be able to heal a tank through things like XT's Tantrum  where if you don't have your Flash/Flash/Flash/Greater rotation down to a science, it all goes to hell.  I expect my reaction time to be fast enough to dispel 6 targets and still anticipate damage so my assignment doesn't die.  My guildies expect me to perform to my full potential, and not get hit by the slime.  Could I do it without DBM?  The way encounters are designed, no.  But I really wish I could, because as cool as interface mods are, boxes are still more boring to look at than the battle.

Blizzard tried really hard to make it so you can anticipate what the boss will do based on aural and visual clues.  There's usually a cast, a shout, or a color change when something bad is about to happen.  There are bars you can float over people's heads to see their health.  And of course the glowing patch of "dont' stand here".  The problem is that no matter how hard we try, games can't be completely immersive.  Not yet.  It is impossible to keep track of all spatial input in a flat 3d environment.  I can't keep my eyes on the tank and the boss, yet still know that the mage standing behind me pulled aggro with his big crit and is getting bombarded by a caster across the room.

As a healer, I can only pay minimal attention to the boss.  Text, audio, and simple graphics can be processed in a tenth of a second.  Spatial visual input takes longer in a flat environment.  I would love to be able to just bounce my attention from the tank to the boss to the melee, then glance over my shoulder, see the mage getting hit, and follow the spell back to the offending mob.  If we played in a true immersive environment, we wouldn't need boss mods, with very little change to the way the game is actually structured.  I think Blizzard knows this.  If they really thought DBM was cheating, they'd cut off the API.  Instead, they design the encounters knowing the way raid addons work.

So is it cheating?  It cheats on the the way the game SHOULD work, but it's necessary until technology catches up to WoW.

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