Massively Overthinking: Why and how we mod our MMORPGs


Last week, the MOP team was sitting around in our virtual offices, talking about modding Elder Scrolls Online, all because some of our readers were encouraging Chris to pick up some mods for his playthrough for Choose My Adventure. Justin and I started musing on how we approach modding very differently – he doesn’t mod much, but I always do – and yet we are united in absolutely hating when mods break or returning to an MMO and needing to spend hours fixing the mods before we can actually play.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I want to talk about modding your MMOs – specifically adding (legal!) plugins to enhance your MMORPG play. Do you bother doing it, or do you find most modern MMORPGs are good enough without? Do you change your philosophy and mod outlay based on the game or your playstyle or character? Are there specific types of mods you find you always hunt for when going to a new game? And do you hate updating mods as much as Justin and I do? Tell me about why and how you mod your MMORPGs!

Andy McAdams: I think I’m closer to Bree on the Bree-Justin Modding Continuum. If a game gives me the option, I’m going to mod it. I’ve yet to find a game that didn’t some annoyance I wanted to nuke into oblivion, or some quality of life thing. In World of Warcraft, the game is virtually unplayable for me without mods.

But I won’t mod if mods are illegal or if I think the mod will kill the spirit of the game. So I don’t mod Final Fantasy XIV at all because its against the TOS, even though so much of its UX is absolutely, abysmally atrocious. Same thing with Guild Wars 2, though generally, I find fewer annoyances with that game than most others.

We almost always mod the crap out of multiplayer survival builders because who the hell has the stupid amounts of time those games sometimes require in their quest to be hardcore enough? Valheim was fun. Valheim with a lot of the stupid design decisions modded out was even more fun.

Single player games depends. Any Bethesda game is a must-mod or I can’t bring myself to stumble through the mess of bad UX and bugginess. Stardew Valley I have never modded, but supposedly it smooths out a lot of wrinkles. RimWorld I mod the ever-loving crap out of for all the different dimensions of gameplay modding enables. I guess most often I will mod.

Definitely more a Bree than Justin.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’ve literally been modding MMOs (and everything else) since I first paid cash money for UO Assist way back in the day (yes, it was legal, shockingly – the MMO genre was very different back then). I’m obsessed with tailoring UIs to my exact preferences. World of Warcraft was probably the worst of my vices, as there were months when I spent more time testing mods and perfecting my HUD down to the last pixel than I did playing the game, and I think I had more fun too. Nowadays, while I’m not quite that intense anymore, I still mod everything from SWG Legends and Elder Scrolls Online to Lord of the Rings Online and City of Heroes (I even wrote a guide on modding CoH!).

However, I’ve definitely pulled back from the days of running 100 mods in an MMO. I tend to save that for singleplayer titles where I can control updates. I don’t even mod The Sims the way I used to because of the way updates are delivered. I get enormously annoyed coming back to an MMO to big red warnings about my broken mods, and that definitely limits what I’ll install. I also try to go through what I have every once in a while and be honest about what I really use.

For example, in LOTRO right now, the most important thing I’ve got is the mega JRR skins collection, but I also have a notepad, festival app, the zone guide, hunter ports mod, token tracker, buff bars, lost lore plugin, tasks helper, and a couple of others I should get rid of (a deed tracking mod and a bunch of class mods for alts I never play). But even with those, that’s a supremely limited mod loadout. I’m almost proud.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I, too, find myself falling into the Bree side of things when it comes to modding MMORPGs, but only when I enjoy the title enough to go through the bother. And sometimes it can indeed be a bother. However, if a game is delightful enough, I’ll leap through the burning hoops.

As for the kinds of mods I go for, it’s pretty variable. Oftentimes it’s UI stuff that are job or task-specific, ease-of-use things, or ways to clean up functions or add new features that aren’t available any other way (ESO minimap FTW). There are some visual ones I’ve used as well, but that’s about as far as I go. The last thing I want to do is mod a game to gain some unfair advantage over others.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): Like most people, I suppose, it depends on the game. In ESO, I got into modding simply because there is no minimap, and I can’t function without a minimap. Now I have a whole slew of mods that make the game more convenient to play. In LOTRO, the only addon I have is a buff/debuff tracker because those teeny-tiny icons under your character portrait just don’t cut it.

I know Guild Wars 2 has a few popular mods, like BlishHUD, radial menu, and DPS parsers, that make gameplay a little easier, but I have never used any of them. For one, I’ve never felt a particular need to go through the hassle of installing mods into a game that wasn’t designed to accept them. For another, they are technically against the TOS, even though ArenaNet has given its tacit approval that it probably won’t ban people for using them responsibly. That kind of thing drives me crazy. Either enforce your rules across the board, or amend the rules to spell out what’s OK and what isn’t.

I am glad we live in an age when modding is much less a hassle than it used to be. Back in the day, even in games that supported mods, I remember having to download mod files manually, dig around for the right folder, which wasn’t always created by default, and unzip the files in there just so or they wouldn’t get picked up. Mod managers like Minion, Nexus, and LOTRO Plugin Compendium make installing and updating mods as easy as clicking a button.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): As I’ve said on the podcast, I have no bias against mods. If it makes your gaming experience more fun without worsening mine, go for it! I simply don’t do a lot of modding because (a) it’s a hassle, (b) most default MMO UIs are perfectly fine, (c) decision paralysis when I look at giant mod lists, and (d) having to deal with patches that break mods and mods that break themselves due to devs dropping support. That said, I do sparingly install some that I find essential for gaming, such as Questie for WoW Classic or a minimap for Elder Scrolls Online.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I am a big mod user when it comes to single player games. I generally have RimWorld and Skyrim modded to an unrecognizable state. With MMOs, though, I usually don’t bother unless the default UI is absolutely awful. Unfortunately, a lot of games have absolutely dreadful default UIs. My first reaction is to tweak it within the game, which usually yields something passable, but some games are so ugly, UI mods are almost necessary.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I don’t believe I’ve ever installed a mod for any online games. It just seems like a lot of work for something the developers aren’t supporting directly. I got very close to setting up one of those shader improvement mods for Guild War 2, but ultimately it sounded like too much work, so I backed off of it.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I mostly don’t bother. I never felt the need. I used a DPS meter back during the pre Raid Finder days when I actually took my performance in WoW seriously, but that’s about it.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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