So far only 8% of respondents have stepped up to man the barricades with :
"Third-party mods should not be allowed at all by SOE".
It's an answer that tempted me at first but in the end I went for :
"I want to have customization options in the SOE UI, but I don’t usually use third party creations."
It's a less confrontational option, for sure, but it's one that might almost be considered antisocial. You could read it as a plea for fairness and an even playing field, but equally it might be taken as "You lot do what you want; just stay out of my way and don't ask me to join in". Well, there was a bit of that in my thinking as I voted, I won't deny it, but a healthy skepticism towards allowing user-made modifications in a shared, communal environment also seems like a socially-conscious attitude to take.
Whether approaching the metaspace of MMORPGs from the perspective of game design or virtual world building a certain consistency of experience would seem to be essential if the enterprise is to succeed. There's already a very wide range of unavoidable variations in what players see, hear and are able to react to as dictated by their choice of hardware and the quality of their internet connections. To allow a plethora of modifications to unsettle the foundations of the shared environment still further seems to risk knocking down the whole precarious house of cards.
|How about a mod that tells people what you're really thinking?|
The obvious riposte would be that the world's most successful MMO seems to manage so it can't be impossible. I played WoW for about four months. It's a good MMO and I enjoyed it. As far as I recall, I downloaded two mods. One blocked all duel messages and I forget what the other did but it was something similar. While I was playing I read about plenty of supposedly essential mods, the ones that run your healing for you or track nodes for harvesting or monitor the auction house and buy and sell at peak. I decided I could probably manage without them, carried on doing all those things for myself and it seemed to go alright.
Of course, I was mostly soloing or duoing with Mrs Bhagpuss, who wasn't using any mods either, and even back then four or five years ago, while leveling up might not have been the complete cakewalk it supposedly is now, the kind of content we were doing couldn't be described as particularly challenging. It would have been a lot different even had we attempted to play extensively in pick-up groups as we once did in Everquest I'm sure. When the Dungeon Finder came in, just as I was leaving, I healed a few low-level dungeons and got away with it but I don't imagine that would have remained a tenable position for long. Had we wanted to progress further and be accepted as group players I imagine we'd have had to get at least a few of the most expected mods.
|Okay, so maybe that's not such a great idea...|
So on balance I'm wary of mods. They represent a potential arms-race both between player and developer in the eternal struggle to either trivialize or balance content and between player and player in the equally endless conflict of interest between the dedicated and the dilettante. Being wary, however, does not mean being completely close-minded.
Long before WoW set the agenda I used a few mods on and off back in Everquest. Some of them I'm using still, like Mapfiend (and its successor EQ2Map come to that). I also still prefer the modded xp bar in EQ that lets you see your xp in detail. For a long time I used a mod that allowed you to set set off an audio alarm triggered by a given phrase. Among other things I had it set to ring a bell when invisibility began to fade. Saved my life so many times.
|A mod that would allow screenshots with speech-bubbles but no other UI elements, now that I'd use.|
The Round Table polls are aimed mainly at EQNext, which is, we suppose at least, primarily a gameplay-oriented experience. Whatever the result of the poll, for the game to work as a game, SOE will have to exercise a considerable degree of quality control over the mods they choose to allow. Landmark, on the other hand, is supposedly a utility or a tool-kit designed to appeal to the creativity and imagination of its users, which would seem to make it the ideal testbed and home for would-be modders.
Perhaps that will be the through-route for approved mods to arrive in EQNext. If so, why wouldn't their creators be rewarded in the same way, financially, as the creators and designers of buildings and items, through Player Studio?
And there's another giant can of worms just waiting to be opened right there. I wonder, when they were searching around for a final name for the project codenamed EQNext, d'you think anyone suggested Everquest: The Box of Pandora?