Changes to the API, Zenimax’s way to keeping to their promise

March 21, 2014 39 Comments » Share

the-elder-scrolls-online-achievemenets-listA change has happened, one that has part of the community in a fit of rage, claiming the change will be the down fall to ESO. It has sparked the “when will ESO go F2P” debate once again. The change I am talking about is the changes Zenimax has put on the API for mod developers.

For those unfamiliar with what the API does, basically it is what mod developers use to grab specific information directly from the game. Zenimax has now removed a lot of the features that mod developers were using, which has made several mods completely incompatible with ESO. Are these new restrictions really so bad that Zenimax deserves to have such rage directed at them? Not in any way possible.  The changes are nothing but Zenimax providing the community the game they’ve been promising.  An Elder Scrolls Game.

Now, some people are going to say, “But Zenimax has always said ESO is a game where you can play the way you want to play.” This is true, they did say that. But they were referring to the semi-classless design, the ability to explore, having a major role in the community as a crafter and being a PvP/PvE player. Nowhere did they say you’d have full access to game generated information or formulas without limitations or restrictions.

Of course there are those that claim being able to see numbers make for a more complex end game experience. Being able to see numbers doesn’t add anything to the complexity of end game. If anything, the lack of numbers makes it a more complex experience. Forcing the player to figure out why he is dying without having a mod tell him.  This forces the player to discuss with other players about how to do certain fights, build ideas, and even stat priority.

If you look at everything Zenimax has done with the game, it has all been to keep your attention on the screen, playing the game, not the UI. These changes are a direct reflection of that. They do not want their players having to worry about a mod. As I state in this article, everything that has been removed is still available within the game using Zenimax’s UI.

Numbers do not increase the quality of a game, nor the experience for the player. Dark Age of Camelot, a game a lot of people use as a reference point for ESO’s PvP system, had no damage meters. No access to a LUA scripting language. We were able to change the layout and visuals of the UI but that is about it. Yet, no one complained that they could not see their DPS. If you were alive at the end of the fight and the other person wasn’t, that’s all you needed.

DAoC did have a combat log, but that in no way provided a player with any information such as total DPS. Look at the very successful games that existed before the LUA Addon craze that came with World of Warcraft.

shockedThe MMO community is constantly requesting game developers to be more innovative with their features, get away from the “WoW Clone”. As soon as a company does something different, they are presented with nothing but rage. Zenimax makes a change to their API, removing access to certain features that have become common within the MMO genre. However, those same games that offer these common features have also be contested as “WoW Clones”.

Now let’s take a look at what exactly has been changed with the API and what all the rage is about. Keep in mind that these changes only effect the way Addons work with the game. Preventing authors from creating a mod that goes against what ESO has been designed around.

Locked down access to combat events so that only your own outgoing spells can be monitored with any level of detail. Incoming damage and healing from spells have been restricted to only showing the value and not the name of the spell, type of damage or healing, or who is casting it.

So we’re able to see how much we’re getting hit/healed for, but not who or what type of damage it is. Okay, so again Zenimax wants us to pay attention to the game not the UI. With this change we now have to watch the game to see what we’re being hit by. For example if you get hit by a giant fireball that is going to be FIRE damage, not frost or shock. You also have to watch your screen so you can see WHO is hitting you, and where it came from. Same with heals. If you’re in a dungeon party it would be pretty obvious that the healer in the group is the one healing you, all you need to know is for how much.

So is this a bad change? Sure for anyone who wants to stare at a mod, I completely agree it is a bad change. Does it affect the way the game plays, or how you will play? Not at all. We can still have a mod that displays your DPS both taken and given, as well as seeing heals you’ve received.

Screenshot_20140320_193644

Short term buff visual. Some visuals appear directly on/around the character

Restricted information that GetUnitBuffInfo has access to. It can now only be used to discover long term buffs about the local player. As such, the final return value “isLongTermBuff” has been removed since the API only returns long-term buffs.

This one is a big one, one that has a lot of people in a rage. Not being able to see your bonuses from your active abilities is a bit of a pain. Too bad ESO doesn’t have some form of visual effect on your character that displays when you get a short term buff. Wait a second, they do have that. When you receive a short term buff a visual cue is provided within the UI. Either your character has a visual effect or your status bars will appear differently. So the information is provided to you, just not in the visual way World of Warcraft does it, with pretty little boxes that take up valuable space on your screen.

Long Term effects can still be seen by quickly glancing at your character information window.

So is this a bad change? No. It doesn’t change the way we play the game. All the information that the mods would have provided by reading the API are already available within the game. You can either see the long term bonuses by opening your stats panel, or short term abilities by looking at your resource bar or your character itself. They will have different effects on them based on your bonus. The challenge is remembering which effect looks like what.

Locked down access to Unit information and ability cast functionality.  Removed API command GetUnitCastingInfo

So they removed the ability for authors to create a mod that tells you when someone is casting a spell. If you’re actively watching the screen you can clearly see the person performing an action. Along with this change it also removes the ability for an author to create a mod that will display in giant letters across your screen that says interrupt now, and in turn preventing people from creating an automated interrupt mod. This removal is just another way of Zenimax trying to keep its player base focused on the game, not having to rely on a mod to play the game.

Once again, I ask, is this a bad change? As with the previous ones, no. Everything that has been removed is easily visible within the game itself. Of course it takes a bit more of your attention to ensure you interrupt everything correctly.

They also removed the ability to see you target’s information. So if you’re fighting a player from another faction, you’ll now longer be able to see what buffs they have on, how much stamina, or magicka they have.

As before, this change isn’t anything major. In order to keep the game competitive you should not be able to view the other player’s resources. Having access to that information including their buffs will completely change the way you play the game and can provide an advantage over the other player if they do not have that optional addon. For example, if I had the addon and the other person didn’t, I would be able to anticipate that player’s next move based on his remaining resources.

Mods should not offer any form of additional advantage over someone who does not have them. That goes against everything Zenimax has worked so hard on.

ESO is an Elder Scrolls game, and as such, no Elder Scrolls game I’ve seen has floating numbers, detailed combat logs, and statistics. These changes are Zenimax standing by their promise to the community to provide a game that is more about the player skill than that of an automated mod.

39 Comments

  1. Val'anyr June 21, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I registered on this site, but this post and a handful of comments are making me log out and never return. Rename the site TESOPUB, because your members are anything but "elite"

  2. Toddrick April 4, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    But doesn't everyone enjoy playing their games like this:

    Seriously, though I enjoy playing this game and actually viewing the environment instead of viewing raid frames and action bars.

  3. Kiwi Karl April 1, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Good call, I'm really glad about the API Lock down I was for a period of time concerned that I'd end up playing a spreadsheet with some stuff moving in the background and fighting against players with supernatural abilities to detect my presence and chain cast all of their spells. These are the main reasons I came to hate playing WoW if I didn't play a specific build with the spreadsheet screen, then I couldn't be considered for any serious endgame. I couldn't play what I found fun and if I didn't use specific macros then I'd get aggro for shitty dps.

    bring the fun back to games.

  4. D3n.Mathews March 28, 2014 at 11:18 am

    @Garbrac, thanks for that update from Sage. I totally agree that API changes are for the better. UI is a huge part of my attraction to ESO. Anyone still remember this meme? [pic]http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/mmorpg-is-simple.jpg[/pic]

  5. Dyzer X March 28, 2014 at 3:31 am

    Finally a chance to see what people are truly made of, not what their mods can make them do.

  6. KrystynSunbright March 26, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    I've played every Elder Scrolls game, and am very much looking forward to TESO. I looked at some mods in the past week or two (while waiting for Early Access launch) and found no attraction to the "floating numbers" look at all. I also immediately thought – "but if everyone else in PvP has those, it might be very difficult to compete without them." So I personally am glad to see these changes. If you want to play a game in the ES tradition, it doesn't include floating numbers, seeing what buffs your opponent has, what spells or attacks do how much damage. Yes, it's a game, but I've always appreciated the more realistic approach that ES games have rather than one where you just watch the numbers scroll by.

    Seriously, if all you're interested in is numbers – you should just play dice.

  7. totemal March 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I both agree and disagree, I agree with most of it, a game without addons is a better and more fun game, based on player skill, not looking at an ui, but on the other hand, most people agree with this, that its silly, that you cant really see your short term buffs, or your debuffs on a target, Im talking about group gameplay here, solo play, yes you can see it, and keep track of your buffs anyway, I dont disagree with that fact, but, in a group, with the rest of the players, buffing the group with several buffs, you cant see what buffs you have, since it becomes a glowing mess, and you dont want to open your character panel during combat to see the buffs, and debuffs on target, sure, it works if you only have straight forward damage skills, but, if you have serveral skills that do ie DoT damage, same thing there, just a mess of glowing effects, not knowing if it is yours, or someone elses, and the decursing.. same thing, and I really dont think its asking too much, to simply see MY own buffs/debuffs above my hp bar, and MY dots etc on my target.
    thats the only change I want with the game atm.

  8. totemal March 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    yeah, thats the reason for my concern, since Im a healer, and dispelling is really expensive, and not something you do if not 100% sure its needed, and all those glowing effects at the same time, Im sure its something you get more used to and a learning curve, but still, cant get rid of the feeling that it will be a bit of a guessing game, what ppl have on them

  9. totemal March 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I agree, I dont want the screen filled with addons, flying numbers etc, my only concern is buffs/debuffs like I wrote in my post below, and if its really possible to see what is what, in groupplay with all the glow effects, and since some of them look the same, besides from that, I love the game, and Im hoping someone will be able to set my concerns to rest:)

  10. totemal March 26, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Im an mmo player, but I avoid addons if I can, dont like clutter on my screen, however, this is my concern: during solo play, Im sure the buff/debuff system works, you can see your debuffs on the target etc, and your buffs, but.. what about group gameplay, several ppl, having debuffs, dots etc on the taget, and buffs they give you, 3-4 buffs/glow effects on you, and lots of debuffs on the target, is it really possible to see what is what then? or does it just get a blurr of glow effects? asking since I havent tested much group gameplay..

  11. Tooninki March 25, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    For me this is good news as i dont use addons, too much trouble.
    And its annouying to watch tubevids of a new game and then notice that the person playing has like 10-15 addons running.
    I just like to see game introduction with the normal UI without any addons.

  12. Leo March 22, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I am positively surprised, companies usually try to please the average gamer. Let's see if they have a bigger plan.
    I was a little concerned that many addons might be game breakers since I think the pvp is very special in this game.

    However let's not rage or celebrate, just play the game and we see how it turns out. If they realize the addons are needed afterall they will encourage them themselves.

  13. blakeavon March 21, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    I was with you right up to "Self buff" part. Personally I love seeing numbers flying around or at the very least seeing a live combat log. The first time I played the beta combat felt unremarkable because it felt like there was no reaction to what I was doing. I dont need flashy achievements and effects, I just want to see and understand how my attacks are working.what has hit what hasnt hit etc.

    I dont care about min and max and all that lameness so understand why Tamierl Foundry Combat went too far showing what others are doing, however, all you said about self buffs I cant agree with. I want to see from my screen what buff is affecting me and why, no a flashing bar DOESNT do that. It shows me something but not what how is that even helpful? Further more I hate without a doubt the way our own self buffs are hidden. (like in Skyrim too) If I have used a potion, I want to see it, on my screen, not buried away in a menu somewhere but on my screen, in front of me. I remember the days when UI were HUDS and when games gave us options. The devs have gone for a minimalist UI, which is nice if you like that but instead of giving us choices they give us blandness and call it immersion. I am a roleplayer who loves immersion, having nothing on the UI does not equal immersion. Nor does removing name tags.

  14. DrGerm March 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    "stop insulting people for your own ignorance."

    If any of this is insulting, then those who are insulted have thin skin.

    I'm hardly ignorant of this subject. I've played MMOs and othe RPGs for 20 years. I've used hundreds of different addons in numerous games. AND I've written my own addons which have been downloaded thousands of times by other users.

    "why is it ruining your experience when i want to know what kind of magic hits me?"

    That's not what ruins the experience. People complaining in general about a video game. And more specifically complaining about the decisions of a game maker as if that person was somehow entitled to something; as if it were THEIR game and ONLY their game to play… that's what ruins the experience.

    I think it's quite obvious what hits you when you see a big fireball heading your way lol

  15. DrGerm March 21, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I disagree on one point. "add-ons show stuff that the game developers wanted you to see"

    If the game developers wanted you to see something, then it SHOULD be put into the stock UI and game experience.

    I think a more useful distinction is between mods/addons which are used in a single player game (i.e. Skyrim) which can allow a modder to change a dragon into Thomas the Train or anything they can imagine and can literally change the game. There are no consequences here because you are playing BY YOURSELF. Go willy nilly and let modders do whatever the heck they want in this situation!

    Whereas in the typical WOW style MMO, addons are created by a community to cover up a poorly designed game interface, like crowd-sourcing the game interface design. The problem arises when different people have different experiences, advantages, etc because we're talking about a MULTI-PLAYER game. The bigger problem is when these addons become essentially required to accomplish certain tasks or participate in certain experiences within the game (the game which did not put these addons into the game in the first place!). I can't remember how many times I had to walk some computer illiterate newb through installing the appropriate addons in WOW because they were "Necessary" for a raiding team to successfully complete an encounter. When…. the game should be as simple as "get out of the friggin fire that you can clearly see at your feet!"

  16. DrGerm March 21, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Like with a lot of these things; my comment is:

    If you want to play a game with X (in this case unnecessary, game distracting, push a button to win, mods) then go play Y game (i.e. WOW) that supports X.

    And by extension, I don't care if you don't like ESO because it lacks X and therefore I don't want you playing the game and ruining everyone else's experience and could care less about your complaints.

    And I say this as someone who used to rock 100+ mods at a time back in the WOW days. This is not that game (I hope). Get over it. This isn't YOUR game. It belongs to someone else (Zenimax & Bethesda). Go play Y.

    As an aside, NOBODY should be surprised if they severely limit mods. Think about it. How can you have PC players with a bunch of mods and then none of the console peeps? It would only make an awkward situation worse. It's logical.

  17. Shelleg3s March 21, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Nobody is calling anyone a no brainer add-on user, you have the same brain as every player (if not bigger). All I want from Zenimax is fairness between add-on users and non add-on users. In no way add-ons should give advantage over players preferring to go with no add-ons.
    I'll give you an example in which beta test add-ons gave an enormous advantage:

    Say you are being attacked by two players in Cyrodiil, you are low on magicka, stamina and health. The first enemy (who you have been fighting) has his last magicka resort and casts a 60% slow spell on you. Enemy #1 is also low on health and stamina, he can be nuked down. Enemy #2 approaches with full health, magicka and stamina.

    Your point of view:
    Add-on user: The spell is on your screen, it takes 0.3 seconds to see what it is and another 0.5 seconds to remember what it does (assuming you have all spells memorized). A total of 0.8 seconds to realize whats happening.
    Non add-on user: The spell shows a visual effect, it takes 0.3 seconds to see what it is, another 1 second to remember what spell does the visual effect stand for and another 0.5 seconds to remember what the spell does. A total of 1.8 seconds to realize what is happening.

    Enemy #2 point of view:
    Add-on user: He can see that you are low on magicka but you have enough to use bolt escape. The first reaction would be: cast the quickest stun spell to prevent you from using bolt escape.
    Non add-on user: Sees nothing but the fact you are low on health and slowed for 60%. Sees that you are trying to run away very slowly (first assumption would be that you are out of magicka). He will probably power attack/nuke you down with anything that comes to mind. (chances of him dropping a quick stun just decreased from 1/1 to a range of 1/2 to 1/6 (1/2 = only useful things in this situation for him are quick stun / power attack, 1/6 = all abilities on his bar are good nukes or he can use the power attack)).

    Enemy #1 point of view:
    He is low on health, magicka and stamina. He knows he has backup to finish you off and so he runs away before someone catches him low.

    Your point of view:
    Add-on user: After 0.8 seconds of realizing that you are slowed for 60%, you decide its best to use your precious magicka (let someone else finish off enemy #1) on bolt escape right away before enemy #2 catches up to you, escaping in just 1 second.
    Non add-on user: After 1.8 seconds of realizing that you are slowed for 60%, you decide its best to use your precious magicka (let someone else finish off enemy #1) on bolt escape right away before enemy #2 catches up to you, escaping in 2 seconds.

    This 1 second difference of you making the escape may seem like not that much, but in some situations it may be the difference between living (regenerating and helping in a minute to capture that keep!) or dying (and having to run alll the way back, if its even worth it). I didnt bother factoring in any other possibilities that could occur because there are hundreds of them.

    Again all I want is fairness among players and no hate whatsoever towards any add-on users. They do a great job at creating from what is available to them. The ones who truly balance the game are the game developers and it is for them to decide what features to allow in the add-ons and what not to allow.

  18. Seikei March 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Well written article. I'm against the WoW-ish mods that plagued a lot of MMOs nowadays. It becomes a battle of spreadsheets and macros. Not a battle of skill, wits, luck, tactics, teamwork…

    With TESO, i feel its about time PvP became authentic, realistic…

  19. Ridor March 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I'm not familiar in any way with the mods that have so far been available, so for someone like me, nothing has been changed. Though, it did occur to me during the pub beta that the interface was so minimal that I expected ZenMax to be leaving open the door, even expecting, mod developers to make their mark, giving gamers a choice via 3rd party mods. While this may still be true, it seems that to some large part it will be different than what had been so far expected.

    As far as how gamers are supposed to adjust, or learn how to interpret on-screen events, you make a great argument. If there are visual cues to what we need to know, then great. And, frankly, I'll be perfectly happy not to have damage and healing meters pushed in my face all the time, Even though I was an end-game priest in WoW, the dmg/healing stats were really too distracting and took away from the joy of the game. All anyone could do was work so hard to hope that they made the leader board… What fun is that? Competition is great, but enjoying the visual experience of an dungeon and huge boss take down is way better. Anything that gets us to focus on the content instead of the stats is a good thing.

    It'll be different. But I think once adjusted it'll be better.

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