Many MMO players desire an informative gaming experience, others enjoy a clutter free UI with hopes to become immersed in the game world. Elder Scrolls Online is bringing these two worlds together. In the game it has become a good experience, out of the game players push to make the game into what they want. Add-ons will allow a certain amount of customization, mostly UI and cosmetic changes, changes they promised would not effect game balance.
Long term testers have had a chance to get an early start developing add-ons for the game and last week Tamriel Foundry debuted their sought after add-on: Foundry Tactical Combat. As many gamers have taken issue with the mod as have fallen in love with it and I'll attempt to briefly explain why.
In combat ESO provides a player with a UI similar to what you have seen in Skyrim. I compass bar along the top that offers way-points and enemy targets, your own health, stamina and magicka levels, and a healthbar for the enemy you are fighting. What Foundry Tactical Combat does is pull information out of the games API to give player detailed numbers in combat. With it you'll not only get exact numbers and percentages on your health, stamina, and magicka bars, but exact numbers for damage output of various attacks, experience earned, buffs activated, and more. It gives a player more information to build the type of character they are most interested in, especially when it comes to combat effectiveness.
The problem many had with the add-on is that it reads and displays this same information on enemy players. So someone playing on the standard game would only see your level and health bar when engaging you for combat. Where someone with this add-on would not only see your health bar, but the exact amount of health points you have (this makes a big difference because a full bar for someone with 1000 points may look much the same as someone with 2000 as you approach them). It also can tell you their stamina and magicka, giving them a rundown on how you built your character and how much you have left in your tank to attack during combat. It also can tell them what buffs and de-buffs your character has, how long it will be until a spell cast goes off if you don't cast an instantaneous spell (which means they know when to cast interruptions), and more.
For all those that would love to have this information, many more cannot deny that it does offer an edge to those that use it. I mean, what football team would love to know exactly how much energy the team lining up against them had left in the tank, or exactly when the QB was going to snap the ball. It almost seemed as if it would require players to use the add-on just to be on even ground if they wish to participate in the Player vs. Player portion of the game. This isn't the fault of the add-on developers, as they are simply using the tools and information provided by Zenimax's game to build their mod. It will be up to Zenimax to decide if and how they limit what information can be pulled from the API once the game launches.
Earlier this week, I reached out to Zenimax for a comment and got a response today:
As we get closer to launch, our beta events have continued to grow in player-size, and that growth has resulted in even more and more of you taking the time to experiment with our UI modding tools. It’s exciting to see the amazing add-ons you have come up with and for us, as developers, it’s also a very important part of the beta process. Seeing what the community wants to add or change is helpful as we continue to tweak and balance the game – what are people looking for? what works? what doesn’t? Finding the right answers to these questions often means leaving the API very open during this beta phase. It helps us see where limits may or may not be and helps us determine what makes the best possible ESO experience for everyone.
We welcome creativity and have built ESO on player-choice, but as a game played with thousands of others, we also must be mindful of any mods that give clear mechanical advantages in competitive situations. Maintaining a level playing field will always be our first priority. Our intent with add-ons is to encourage you to modify your UI in a way that is more fitting for your personal play-style, but not ones that could allow you to make choices for others. We do not want those who aren’t interested in using an add-on to feel compelled to do so because they cannot remain competitive without them. As we continue beta testing, we’ll continue to evaluate add-ons and the implications they have on other players, but you can expect changes to the API before launch and will share that information as it becomes available. Thank you to all of you that have created add-ons during this time – we appreciate your help in making ESO the best it can be.
So it seems that Zenimax will be evaluating how the various add-ons will be working with the game and decide how they will modify their API to keep the game balanced before release. Though far from offering any decision at this time, at least they are keeping an eye on it and hopefully we'll find out more on what precisely these changes are before launch.