Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Add-On Overhaul

Blizzard recently changed the rules a little when it came to add-ons. I don't author add-ons, nor do I understand code or any of that stuff. Lots of people are talking about these changes, though, and I understand some of the basics of what has happened. I also understand that a few authors for some of the popular add-ons have more or less thrown in the towel (Outfitter, for example) while others say they will continue to update, but not to the extent they used to, due to the changes set forth by Blizzard. Some of the changes prohibit authors from asking for donations in the add-ons themselves or for charging for the add-on(*cough*Carbonite*cough*).

I'm honestly not sure how I feel about these changes. I'm able to see both sides. Add-on authors put in a ton of time and energy into their code. On the other hand, their product wouldn't exist at all without Blizzard and World of Warcraft. Can they honestly expect to make any kind of profit due to their "piggy-backing" of Blizzard's product? Or how can Blizzard so firmly and bluntly deny these authors any profit from their work? Work that improves Blizzard's game a great deal, even giving the developers ideas for new, integrated features (like the new Gear Manager which theoretically "replaces" Outfitter). It's a difficult situation.

It's also made me really look at the add-ons I use and which ones I could probably do without (Bejeweled, I'm kinda looking at you...) and which ones I can't live without. I've narrowed the list down to some categories:
  • Action Bars (Buttons): I absolutely must have some kind of action bar add-on. The default actionbars included in the Blizzard UI  are clunky and unorganized, showing up all over the place. Plus, I love being able to easily map keybinds. I'll be using Bartender till the day they shut it down, I think.
  • Extra Action Bars (Info): I enjoy having the little bars at the top (and/or bottom) to give me information all in one organized area, like my open bag space, my current gold, my durability percentage, my ammo count, etc. There are several out there, but Titan Panels is what I use.
  • Threat Meter: Even if I'm not always looking at it at all times, now that I'm getting into high-end content like heroics, I like knowing where my group is in terms of threat and how I'm holding it. Omen ftw.
  • Auction House help: I'm currently using the all-knowing, all-powerful Auctioneer. It does it's job really well, keeps all the info I could ever need... maybe too much info. I love Auctioneer, but I'm beginning to wonder if there is a lighter-weight mod out there as an option. I think I'll try AuctionLite for a bit and see if I like it as much. To be honest, I don't use Auctioneer to its fullest because I don't understand half of what it's doing. :/ StdDev? WTF?
  • Gear Management: I've been using Outfitter. No more, now, since the author has thrown in the towel, so I'll try Blizzard's default Gear Manager and see if I can live with it. Honestly, the fewer mods I have to update, the better. If it ends up being really bad, I'll search for a new one then. I just think that with the new dual spec option in 3.1, this is going to be an absolute necessity.
  • Raid Help: While I haven't started raiding yet, it's on the horizon, almost in reach, and I'll need all the help I can get. That's why I'll keep Deadly Boss Mods. As far as I know, there isn't anything better out there.
  • Cast Bars: I used the default casting bars forever and recently got Quartz and can't look back. These are awesome and make my life easier, as they show cooldowns in a bar format which makes more sense to me, as well as a swing timer. Perfect for me, so it stays.
  • Combat Text: I've mentioned how I love Mik's Scrolling Combat Text. I honestly don't know how I played this game before using this mod. It tells me when stuff procs and when my health is getting low (or mana, on my alts).
  • Inventory Mod: I've been searching for a good bag/inventory mod, and I think I'm settling for ArkInventory as long as I can get it organized the way I want. I tried Bagnon, but it just wasn't a good fit, although it worked as advertised.
  • Quest Help: I leveled my first toon to level 50 or so without any quest-related mod. It was slow-going. My first toon? A hunter. Beast Mastery spec no less. I'll never go without some kind of quest help again, even if it means I'm doing everything on ezmode. I don't care. I must have something, anything, to make it easier. Naturally I've been using QuestHelper for ages, but the author has posted that, while he will keep it updated for now, and possibly the future, he won't be adding any new features due to the change in asking for donations and such in the add-on. Due to this change, I'm going to search for a decent equivalent, just in case. I'm currently thinking of going with TomTom and Lightheaded as a start. Of course, Blizzard is implementing a quest tracker in the new 3.1 update that even allows you to use quest items without opening your bags or putting them on an action bar. That's an improvement for me. Maybe in the end, Blizzard finally fixed how you track quests. We'll see.
The other main reason I've begun thinking through all of this is because my current collection of mods use up a ton of memory when I play. At least, I think they do at over 100MB. I'm guessing that mods like QuestHelper and Auctioneer are big culprits here, as they have large libraries that are accessed often. As much as I'm making a "can't live without" list, I'm also thinking about how heavy these mods are, and how much I can trim off just by making a few choices, or going with Blizzard's default UI in certain places. I think the way I'll test all this is by finally getting my laptop dusted off again (MacBook Pro) and install all of the add-ons I think will be "lightweight" and see if it still runs okay. If so, and I like the add-ons, then maybe I'll use them on my iMac as well.

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