Divine Intention

Breathe easy Ano, it’s “intention”, not “intervention”!

Apparently there has been a big blogger war recently on the subject of the usage of (healing) addons. I say “apparently” because I only read the Orbs’ take on it, nodded at most points made and went on with my life, without bothering to look at comments or even the original post that provoked it. But I’ve been told that it became a Really Big Deal (well, proportionally).

I’m not really intending to join the discussion, so why am I writing about it at all? Because I want to point out that if the original argument hinges on “the way Blizzard intends the game to be played”, then there is, in fact, no argument at all. Huh?

History

Once upon a time, Blizzard released a game called World of Warcraft. You may have heard of it, since it became a huge hit mostly thanks to its ability to deliver instant fun in a way that, by the standards of its genre at the time, was really highly accessible. As a lot of UI designers will tell you, instant fun and accessibility often go hand in hand with a lack of customizability and an abundance of simplification. If you are a geek, you will viciously protest (I did when GNOME turned to that course), but sadly there’s lots of truth in it. Seeing as for every given sector there are more non-geeks than geeks on planet Earth, you’re kind of better off making sure people will be able to use your product without a 3-week orientation course. The human brain takes information in at a limited rate, and if you leave people too far behind they may decide just not to bother. Both factors being rather personal, of course, as well as strongly influenced by experience – your mileage may vary.

So, WoW’s stock UI was really rather rudimentary and unspectacular, and severely lacked configuration options. Once people got into enjoying the game with (and partly thanks to) that UI and started delving deeper into things, they said “listen Blizzard, this WoW game you have here is really sweet, but the UI is really rather shit”. Keep in mind, we’re not talking about what the stock UI currently looks like, as it features many improvements and additions to what was seen in the beginning. So, back then, it was even more shit. And Blizzard thought about it and said “know what guys? We use LUA for UI scripting, here’s our API – just make it better if you want!”

What to take home from it? It was Blizzard’s conscious decision to open up the UI for third-party additions. They didn’t say “this is how we intend it to be”, they said “do it yourself”. Fast forward to…

Present

Coincidentally, there have been a few discussions recently about how the default UI may or may not change in Cataclysm. Blizzard’s responses have been quite clear. While they do want to improve the default UI and expand its functionality in general and with regards to raid frames in particular, they are strongly committed to leaving it simple and straightforward. What they say, quite directly, is that they intend the default UI to be a good entry point for the newcomer and/or peripheral gamer and fully expect the more advanced and/or discerning gamer to seek out addons. They are deliberately not making the default UI too sophisticated as they consider it the scope of addons to deliver on special desires.

Furthermore, it’s not like the addons are a somehow irresistible force that mysteriously made its way into the game, plaguing and torturing the “pristine vision”. It is Blizzard who made the creation and usage of addons possible, it is Blizzard who release information on API updates and are, in fact, working on improving the ways they afford the creation of addons. And, last but not least, it is Blizzard who have the power to disable addons if they don’t like the functionality, as recently happened with AVR. If Blizzard didn’t want you to use addons, you’d know.

Conclusion

Blizzard wants the default UI to deliver you the basics, but they intend you to turn to addons should you desire more depth or detail. This is their (current) “design intent”. And thus when the anti-addons argument is based on “playing the game how Blizzard intends it to be played”, it falls apart before the end of the first paragraph.

Also, when you find a Holy Grail, keep in mind that, to paraphrase Andrew S. Tanenbaum (or possibly Grace Murray Hopper), the best thing about holy grails is that there are so many of them to choose from.

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One thought on “Divine Intention

  1. theanorak

    Damn, I wrote a comment to this on my Blackberry, but evidently it didn’t work. *grumble*

    The gist of it was that the default interface/game is plenty complex enough for new players already. At level 20, my new-to-WoW other half’s priest has more than two full bars of spells, abilities and items already (although that could be a peculiarity of priests), bags full of cryptically- and often identically-iconed items some of which is junk and some of which is gold dust. Presenting her, or indeed most new players, with threatplates, meters and other additional elements would turn the intimidating into the impenetrable.

    Also, I think I might have huffed a bit at the opening line 😉

    Reply

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