Why Addons?

I’m sure you’ve all already noticed, but I’m a bit of an addon nut.  When friends are wondering if there’s a simple solution to their problem with the standard user interface, I usually get a /tell asking if I’d heard of anything that will fix their problem — although not a pro by any means, I keep up to date with what’s available even if I don’t use it myself.

On the other hand, I’ve gotten a bit of flak from plenty of people who like the standard user interface just fine, thank you.  These individuals seem to view addons with distrust — I’ve seen attitudes from wary to downright hostile when it comes to talking about addons.  From healers especially, there seems to be a “I play without addons, because I’m better than you,” attitude that is downright appalling in my opinion.  Honestly, I use addons for firefox too — do I fail at web browsing?

So let’s take a look at addons why don’t we.  Why do people use them, and what exactly do they do anyway?

Myths & Pathos

Let’s just take care of some misconceptions about addons right from the start.

  • Addons are not a hack — World of Warcraft sanctions the use of addons that meet certain requirements that they’ve set forth (you can’t have an executable for example).
  • Addons do not allow you to “cheat” — At one time, some addons allowed for automation in tasks.  For example, Healbot, a popular raid frame substitute, at one time chose the best healing spell to cast on an ally when you clicked on their frame; however, since addons are required to work off the World of Warcraft API, WoW can effectively block any actions it deems cheating.  Healbot used to provide the above mentioned function, but no longer, because it was deemed a cheat by Blizzard and is now effectively neutered.
  • Addons do not make you awesome/suxxorz at the game — Again, this is generally a healer arena for debate due to the utter lack of any useful information on the original, vanilla raid frames.  Being a healer on small raids was a nightmare, but times have changed, and the default raid frames aren’t all that bad anymore.  Addons aren’t going to make a bad player suddenly awesome, and playing sans addons does not make you in some way a god above mortals.

Little personal ancedote — I keybind all of my healing spells, every single one.  I had gotten a group with my priest on Vek — everything was dandy, and my mouse died… on Sapph… with only 5 healers.  I was a bit panicked, but I activated my on board finger mouse (laptop btw) and healed the fight with my spellbook and no one died.  This was no an addon failure — it could have happened to anyone who chooses to keybind abilities to their mouse.  However, to me, it makes the point that the player makes the characters, not how we utilize the tools at our disposal.

What Do Addons Do?

Addons provide a myriad of functions.  Each one is different, and took an author some work in coding a function to rework information that already available or to provide a missing element.  Focus frames, so common now, were available in Blizzard’s API long before the default UI allowed you to actually use one.  Only persons using a unit frame addon were able to tap into this great feature, and it definitely helped me when I was responsible for crowd controlling targets with my succi.

Common Functions

Unit Frames

These come in two “styles” if you will, unit frame replacements and unit frame improvements.  The former replaces the standard circle avatar/health/mana with a different type of frame, while the latter often adds missing features, such as printing the min/max health over the frame.  To me, HUD’s or heads up displays also fall in this category, providing you the same information you would expect to see on a player or target frame in a () around the character.

Bar Replacement

For those who want to be able to move where their action bars are currently.  Also great for providing different shapes (square anyone) and providing some nifty features such as hide on demand.  I generally keybind my abilities and don’t like to see my bars on the screen, but I can view them on mouseover — same for my pots/bandage bar.

Cast Bars

Generally able to provide additional information not provided on the standard bars.  Total cast time, remaining time left on cast, and delayed cast (i.e. you have lag — your cast will actually end at this point).


Raiding required addons fall here — these addons provide information that is hard to garner from the standard user interface such as threat/dps meters, boss timers, and main tank assignments.  Other utility mods would be buff/debuff assignments and cleansing.


Most everything else falls into aesthetics.  Being able to move your minimap, add a texture to your character’s frame, or listing all your stats along the bottom of your screen are very personal choices.  These addons look to simplify making your UI pleasing to your eye or more functional for the way your process information.

Playing Naked vs. Fully Decked

I’m an oddity among my circle of friends for the sheer number of addons I’m willing to try, and the ungodly amount of time I spend playing around with various addons.  Most people I know play with the standard UI, or with “required raiding addons” only such as Omen.  My husband didn’t even use deadly boss mods until about a month ago (breaking the required addon rule set by every guild we’ve ever been in, but hey, he didn’t like all that flashy stuff).

There is a certain appeal to playing naked.  Sometimes I get a bug, and go retro, deleting my addon folder in its entirety and looking the world through Blizzard’s eyes again.  It’s the same game either way, and there are some advantages to the default user interface.

Playing Naked

  • It never breaks

If you have errors when playing with the standard UI, you’ve got bigger problems than tracking down an errant addon that needs to be updated — your game is most likely boinked.  No patch day stress for you!

  • WoW on any station

Unless you pack around a storage device with your addons (and their saved variables) playing on another person’s computer can be disorienting.  Ditto for playing on the PTR.

  • Save Time

This isn’t a plus to me, because I enjoy spending time tweaking my layouts, but for many I can see this being a huge pro.  Very few addons are simple load and go, and frankly, when they aren’t, they don’t always meet the desire of the end user.  If you don’t have addons, you don’t spend time configuring them, and you can merely log in and immerse yourself directly in the gameplay.

Fully Decked

  • Control

Fully decked addon users are often closet perfectionists, seeking to conform the game world to our best advantage at every opportunity.  When you can’t get something “just right” in the standard interface, often someone else has had the same niggling problem, and they have packaged an addon to share with their fellow sufferers.  True perfectionists (and those with some coding skill) take this step further and write up what they need for themselves, and occassionally take pity and share with other players 🙂

  • Information

Blizzard provides information about a myriad of functions from money to damage.  However, it is not always easy to interpret, or requires you to look in multiple locations.  Many addons are aimed at providing information in an easy to interpret or find way.  Omen, for example, parses the combat log in order to tell you how much threat you have BEFORE the big bad wolf starts eyeing you as their next snack.  LBD’s allow you take information from multiple tabs — raid tab, money tab, honor tab, and place it in a location of your choosing.

  • Aesthetics

I was thrilled the first time I logged into my character and those side gryphons were standing at attention, protecting my action bars and bags from some unseen foe.  After five years, the novelty has worn off, and I wanted to be able to minimize the amount of space my needed functions (player frame, target frame, minimap) were blocking my view of the game world — it’s pretty, and I wanted to see more of it!  Many addons are devoted simply to allowing a user to provide a different look for the same functions that Blizzard provides — no more, no less.  It’s not necessary, in fact, it’s total fluff, but it brings satisfaction to many a player, me included.

Wait, what are you saying?

Bottom line: addons are just that — an addition to the game that you can choose to use or not.  Some players have found addons to be so beneficial to their raid’s performance that they require that you use them.  Generally, these fall into the category of “sharing the same information raid-wide in a consistent manner.”  I’m sure they’ve saved many a team some wipes — not because they are absolutely necessary, but because they act as a filter for the massive amounts of raw data you would have to decipher to make critical decisions.

I often encourage players to use addons when they are complaining about a problem, or seeking a solution for some little annoying something that they just can’t get to work like they want; however, I understand that addons are not for everyone.  That said, for me, and I’m sure many others, addons provide a great addition to their gameplay — either through information or looks.  I can play without my addons — I don’t need them to be a good caster, or dps, or tank, but I feel more comfortable and less frantic knowing that my frames and needed information is just where I want it, and not where it made sense to the guy who designed the game.



2 thoughts on “Why Addons?

  1. Sounds like you don't delete your addons folder to expereince the 'bug' of healing naked, but rather because you enjoy the inevitable re-setting up of addons after you get bored of being naked 😉

    I love addon's too. I try and minimise the number, but many are just too useful to ignore. 🙂

    Gobble gobbl.

    • Heh. True enough, I haven't even been tempted with either my priest or my shaman 😛 Although I did have a "back to the roots" party with my tank, and I was more than happy to go back — every addition was a "wow, this is really great, why did I ever dump this one?"

      Some days (especially after patch and burn days) it just seems like the right thing to do.

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