WildStar Burst: Modifications and Fairness
When it comes to client modifications I have an internal conflict with myself as to whether I agree with them. On one hand I can fully appreciate the positives that they bring to the player, the community and the game being modified. And yet on the other hand, as an MMOG player and as a pretty cynical sort of fellow, I have little faith in the fairness of modifications and the wider ramifications of them.
For the most part, modifications bring a swathe of positives to the genre and I consider games that removed them, such as Guild Wars 2, suffered because of a lack of player creativity and input. Seemingly simple problems that frustrate the community which aren’t on the top of a developers “to fix” list can be squashed in a matter of days by talented modders with developers then able to adopt said fix permanently (if it’s of a high standard).
With the launch of CurseForge there are already a swathe of modifications for WildStar available and while many of them build upon what we already have - much for the better - several have already caught my eye as going too far. Modifications such as Icon Loot which improves the visual acknowledgement of loot you collect or WildStar Instant Messenger that allows for a much more robust chat system (it really is great) are more than welcome and yet in contrast we have modifications such as TheZone, Biji Plates or Radar going beyond what I’d consider “fair play”.
To add some context, TheZone provides real-time information as to how many players are in your zone. Alongside this it allows you to track players and automatically flags them within a range of over 200 meters. Radar (though it’s not currently available on Curse) pretty much allows you to track all physical items in the game world such as datacubes and journals (even if hidden). Lastly, Biji Plates through no fault of its creator allows you to see opposing enemies and players through walls thanks to the lack of layering on the name plates.
I’m not suggesting any of these creators knowingly sought to exploit or go a step too far in their creations (all three mentioned work wonderfully well) and there are plenty of others that allow you see what cooldowns opposing players have or where to collect your weapon from if disarmed. What concerns me however with this trend is not only the ramifications for the player versus player environment but the inevitable necessity to have these modifications if you wish to remain equal. It’s a highly subjective for me to say that Biji Plates or TheZone is wrong - inevitably who am I to judge whether or not a modification has gone too far, but I’ve always judged modifications one principle: By using this mod, will I have an advantage (whether physical, visual or itemised) over someone without it?
The answer to all the above is unfortunately yes. TheZone allows an individual to track others with ease and removes any requirement by the player to physically look and to physically locate. Radar removes any need once more to look and explore while Biji Plates has huge ramifications in Battlegrounds or Arena’s where flanking, sneaking and generally attempting to play cat and mouse with Moodie Masks is removed entirely. I’m sure that many individuals reading this will say “Who can be arsed to look for everything?” or “If everyone has it, it isn’t an advantage” and yet responses such as that are neither helpful nor accurate. Perhaps if we all robbed banks no one would have to go to work.
If we’re to reduce our play to the point where we are entirely reliant on modifications to automate our skills, provide inhuman calculations on opposition, track players and items, predict when someone will use a skill and see through walls due to dubious name plates, what is the point of even playing? All we’re left with is aiming and dashing (there’s also a mod for those as well). Part of the reason why we play massively multiplayer games is to be challenged, to explore and to face competition against our enemies whether AI or human controlled. To see such modifications make an appearance before WildStar has even launched suggests several things:
- Players don’t generally care about what modifications are in the game.
- Carbine have done something wrong at a UI or game level, leaving players with little choice but to mod.
- Players want these types of Mods to make their play experience easier.
Personally I think it’s a collection of all three and while I expect the new user interface to replace the need for things such as Biji Plates, it still doesn’t prevent players going ahead and creating or utilising these mods. When I play Battlegrounds, Warplots or Arena’s I want to know that those I’m fighting against have no clear advantage over me, that mine and their success is based on skill and not what modifications contributed to their performance. When I participate in raids or dungeons I want my guild and I to overcome the content without needing to install a modification to alert me to when I’m about to be attacked or when the enemies cooldowns are about to end.
You might feel the need to argue “Well don’t install modifications then, if it’s such an issue” and to some degree you’d be absolutely right but where would the sensibility be in knowingly crippling myself against the advantage of others? I will begrudgingly use these mods because doing so, especially in PvP, puts me on an even playing field with those who choose to use them. The downside is that it puts me at a significant advantage over those who don’t.
If PvE and PvP content in WildStar is to be challenging, Carbine need to take a much stricter approach to modifications that allow users to bypass the need to look and learn, otherwise what are we left with? As a community we need to react to these modifications and reach a consensus together as to what is or isn’t acceptable. Seeing through walls as a result of a poor overlay or having all hidden objects automatically located is not what I expect to encounter in any game, nevermind one as current as WildStar.
If you've suggestions for how to improve modifications or how Carbine can limit their potential, drop me a line on lewisb[at]tentonhammer.com or @PersistentWorld