When I first started playing World of Warcraft I was unfamiliar with the use of game modifications. There were very few legal ones for Asheron's Call and I'd never delved into writing bots. For the first few months I didn't bother with modifying my game. Learning the way of the Warlock and managing my pets was plenty. As I progressed deeper into contested territory, and enemy encounters were frequent, I began to wonder if people who used mods had any type of advantage over me. At the very least, having all of there skills accessible, would allow them to attack faster. Knowing exactly when a cool-down had expired might allow them to coordinate their attacks better - not a big deal, but possibly a small advantage. Tying multiple actions to a single key, would allow them to focus more on the task at hand, versus fumbling with the mouse and keyboard. This train of thought eventually led me to investigate class specific game mods and macros.
During the course of my search I came across two web sites for game mods that remain to this day, my primary resource for locating WOW mods. My favorite is World of War. They have a large selection of mods and the site content is categorized nicely, which makes finding what you need simple. They also note if the modification has been updated since the most recent patch. I enjoy World of War so much that it's almost my exclusive resource. However, on occasion, I do use Curse Gaming. Curse has a nice compendium of down-loadable game mods but not as many as World of War. I know many people who swear by Curse, and I like it, but it's my second choice when looking for an add-on.
Some people love mods, while others hate them. I've been on both ends of the spectrum during my days playing WOW. At first I loaded up with anything and everything that looked interesting, and I liked them all. That was until a large patch update came and my game interface was so broken that I couldn't play for a week. I was very naive when I started using these mods. I assumed they would always be updated, and that is not the case. If you're like me, and you changed your playing style to a significant degree because of the availability of a mod, you're completely screwed when it stops working after a patch. Even after you get it out of your game so that your UI launches correctly, you may find that you've left a huge gap in your capabilities or preferences. It was 1.6 that brought my UI to its knees. It's not that it was a complete surprise, the nature of the changes were predicted to break mods. The problem was you didn't which mods would be broken or how quickly the developer would release an update. I swore off mods after getting things straightened out again. I was still leveling my warlock and time spent fixing a UI, was time not spent grinding. Back in those days, that was heracy to me.
When I was up and running again, I still needed someway of exposing more keys, executing automated sequences of allowable tasks, applying some automated logic for task selection, etc. Yet, I didn't want anyone's mod back on my computer. What to do - what to do? Ah, what is this macro stuff. I checked out forums and independant sites and decided to try out writing macros. I wrote and tested a few which worked very well. After reimplementing the bulk of what I needed via macros, I concluded that they were a much safer way to go. With no external dependencies, I would only be impacted if Blizzard actually nuked a class specific skill, which I deemed an unlikely event. Nerf sure. Nuke No.
Creating a macro is a very straightforward process. I'd written a simple guide to macros many months ago but can't find it for a re-post to this blog. The WOW forums are a good resource, as is Wow Viki. Blizzard has an official UI Customization forum and every class forum that I've visited has a Macros post stickied. If you want to give it a whirl, start by checking your class forum. For a few months, playing with a clean version of the game was perfect. I'd become the key-binding Lady, massively reconfiguring the key mappings for my warlock. Life was good. Who needed mods. Then one day I got a new computer, installed WOW and went raiding. MFG! I couldn't do anything. I think I caused my first raid wipe by attacking a target that I meant to banish. Note to self; don't try out new game setups for the first time while running Molten Core. I didn't know how to move, target, bandage myself, execute rarely used skills, etc. It was a hot mess. I wanted to leave the raid but as one of only two warlocks, that wasn't an option.
When the raid was over and I was done embarrassing myself, I logged off. I was pissed at myself for having customized my game to such a degree, and annoyed that key bindings and macros weren't stored on the server along with the other toon attributes. It was two days later, when still unable to correctly replicate my setup, that someone told me about the WTF folder. I'll never forget that it was Dreadlock, a guild officer, who told me what to try. He was a godsend. The WTF data was the answer I needed and is a plays a pivotal role in propagating custom setups to different PCs. If you write macros, re-bind keys and play on different computers, become very familiar with the WTF folder and its contents. Similar to your Interface | Add Ons directory, you should back-up it up frequently - especially before patches or downloading/installing new mods.
The What-The-F*ck folder (I'm sure that's what the acronym is for *smile*. One day a developer's custom setup got hosed or he needed some attribute that wasn't on the server and screamed, "WTF!") is located in the main World of Warcraft files directory. Inside of this folder you will find your Accounts folder, inside of which you'll have folders for accounts that have been played from that machine. The character folders within contain the local variables that store your toon specific macros and key bindings. If you've setup your toon on a particular PC and then need to play on another, just copy the appropriate character folder from WTF, on to the secondary PC and voila - life as it was, minus any mods. This is crucial in my household where we have 4 WOW accounts and only 3 PC capable of running WOW with reasonable performance. Everyone needs to be able to play their toon from whichever PC is available at any given time. The need to play roving toons is another reason that I strayed away from mods. Keeping 3 PCs updated with everyone's mods was just too insane.
So when did I start using some mods again? When CT Raid became required for the end-game instances. I wasn't happy about "having" to use a mod. Our games had been clean for months at that point and I loved not having to update anything after a patch. Then Whisper Cast became required and that pissed me off some more, for reasons other than maintaining a mod. I didn't want to be a robot and couldn't understand why doing it fast was more important than "doing" it. Why play a game if you just want to be a robot? I really dislike botting anything - legal or not, it removes the RPG and immersion from the game, so I'm not sure what the point of being there is when you do that. But that's a rant for a different day. Next Warlocks had to have CountDoom to track their banish timer. So while downloading that, I grabbed a couple of other mods and the flood gate to modding my game re-opened. Before I knew it, I had like 15 mods back to being a core part of my game. It was all good. I had a new PC too. One purchased specifically for playing MMOs and it screamed it's customized ass off. I was happy - until 1.9 broke everything again.
I think it was 1.9, also called the Mod Breaker Patch (masked mob events). Whatever it was, it was drama. Even CT Raid went down for the count. It wasn't a surprise however. We all knew it was coming. Other mods, some of them favorites, were rendered eternally useless and have since disappeared from development. I cursed myself. I cursed Blizzard, and went back to a clean version of WOW.
With the exception of CT Raid, WhisperCast and Titan, my only other mods are for crafting. Crafting mods can come, go, whatever - they don't impact how I play the game. I'm betting that many of the so-called required raiding mods will disappear over time, including and hopefully, Vent and TeamSpeak. In patch 1.11, some of the core features used from CT Raid were added to WOW. Regardless, I doubt modding will ever stop completely. It's fun to be able to customize your game. The wiz-bang nerds, geeks, game freaks, closet developers, etc., will always have a desire to modify games that support customization. And there will always be something the developers left out, that the players want in for convenience - kill some aspect of button mashing or monotony that an insane designer thought was going to be fun but isn't.
Even though mods are fun, I'm still staying away from them for the most part. I don't play enough anymore to be bothered chasing down mod updates after patches. Anyway, I've discovered a new way of having a little customization fun - UI skins. This is a much safer way of giving my game a new face and it's only aesthetic. If it breaks I can disable it and go my merry way. Here's the skin that I'm currently in (pic below). This is the one I want to have when I feel like downloading and configurint it.