From the perspective of someone who’s first MMORPG was Star Wars The Old Republic, it has been interesting playing other MMO’s to see how they do things. One major thing that has stood out to me when trying other MMO’s is the general lack of built-in UI features (compared to SWTOR). However, in other MMO’s, the lack of in-game built UI elements is made up for with a decent selection of player made Addons to choose from. SWTOR, as everyone knows, does not allow for the use of Addons. Whether this is a good or bad thing, however, depends on your perspective.
Generally, I feel MMO’s should come with almost all the UI elements you need built-in. I honestly prefer to not have to deal with Addons at all. I do find it a little annoying to have to use another program to then download and use Addons in a game just so I can play it. But I can see the value of allowing players to make Addons to enhance their gaming experience and I’ve certainly come across some great Addons in other MMO’s that have enhanced my gameplay experience. But ultimately, for me, it depends on if the MMO I’m playing has the basic UI elements needed to get you by until you get to endgame or not.
WildStar’s UI, for example, is decent enough to get you started. All the UI elements you need to play the game are there and you can customise some elements to some degree. All that’s needed are a few extra Addons that are more for ‘quality of life’ and endgame oriented and you’re set. It is great to start a game and not have to worry about Addons straight away. My experience with Addons in WS has been the best of the MMO’s I’ve played.
World of Warcraft’s UI is also okay, but very basic. In my brief stint in WoW, the UI was really the least of my concerns so I never got far enough into the game to really need more UI elements. I did look into Addons for WoW nonetheless and from what I saw, the possibilities were endless.
Elder Scrolls Online, on the other hand, has a severely lacking UI. This is probably due to the game also being made for consoles and perhaps an oversight (deliberate or not) because the franchise was previously more single player RPG focused. Yet, this was no excuse for SWTOR. SWTOR was built off the back of the Knights of the Old Republic franchise yet had most of the UI elements needed for an MMO at launch. ESO is honestly a better example of a single player game being turned into an MMO than SWTOR will ever be. But this discussion is warranted for another post given SWTOR’s extensive content focus changes over the years.
Is it so bad that ESO is basically a console MMO? No, it isn’t. But there’s no denying that the experienced PC MMO Gamer will find their initial ESO experience to be very jarring. I feel that if you market your game as an MMO and it’s on PC then it should come with the majority of UI features reminiscent of other well-known MMO’s. ESO does have Addons to make up for the lack of its UI features. But in all honesty, players shouldn’t have to make Addons just to make a game playable. At least the lack of UI elements doesn’t completely detract from being able to enjoy the game at the start (if your focus is the story/single player anyway).
To be fair, SWTOR’s UI hasn’t always been as good as it is now. In vanilla, you couldn’t really customise your UI but almost all the essential elements were there. But over the years the Developers have continued to build upon and evolve the UI to the point where it now very highly customisable. You can move all UI elements on the screen to wherever you choose, you can hide (or show) almost all UI elements and you can change the size/scale of all UI elements. It really is a fantastic and undervalued feature of SWTOR.
Again, a poor UI doesn’t always detract from a game’s playability, initially. But as you progress through a game you kind of expect to be provided with all the information on the screen needed to get through the content. I can’t comment on if other MMO’s have changed their UI’s over time as I simply don’t have enough experience with them to know. But playing other MMO’s has made me appreciate and miss SWTOR’s UI. It is also nice to not have to worry about Addons. Not that SWTOR shouldn’t have Addons. I believe that there are a few types Addons that could be useful for SWTOR but really, they’re not exactly a priority right now. What’s important is that you can play the game (well, grind what’s left of it) and have all the information right there on the screen.
Perhaps another time, I will explore this subject further. I’m particularly interested in Developer perspectives about UI’s and Addons and how they feel they add or detract from the gameplay experience. I do believe an essential part of game design is having a good UI (what defines a good UI though is a different subject entirely). But when it comes to most MMO’s, UI’s don’t seem to get that much attention. I guess part of the reason the SWTOR developers put time into SWTOR’s UI is because they don’t allow for Addons. So they felt they needed to add to and make the UI very customisable to appease the player base which certainly worked.
While I feel SWTOR has by far the best UI of all the MMO’s I’ve played, other MMO’s greatly benefit from having player made Addons despite their lacking UI’s. Five years into an MMO’s life is probably a little too late to be allowing Addons, especially without the content to back it up.
How do you feel about Addons in MMO’s? What’s your favourite MMO Addon? Do you like SWTOR’s UI? Do you wish SWTOR had Addons?