Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What Shall it Profit You?

After looking at a friends screenshot, I downloaded and tried ProfitUI last night. Actually, it was Profit Reborn, the evolution of Profit after a revision of the EQ2 client seriously impaired the original ProfitUI.

Incidentally, Profit is a big departure from the EQ1 custom UI's I used in that many of them featured fairly elaborate artwork, often themed to a particular class or idea. There are artwork addons, but out of the box it is very clearly focused on conserving pixels.

Profit has a wealth of UI shortcuts. For example, in the group window, each member of your group has icons for each type of impairment they have, e.g., arcane, noxious, trauma, or elemental. Clicking on this icon when it is active will result in curing that character with your appropriate skill (or potion if it will work!) without change of targeting.

This significantly enhances one's ability to cope with stuff. So much so that sometimes it feels like cheating. It isn't cheating, not by SOE's standards, nor is the EQ2 MapInterface, which they wholly endorse. On the other hand, using a tracker hack is definitely illegal, as is a "bot" program.

But this is getting blurry. When is it just a UI and when is it a bot program. Let's look at an example: I'm an illusionist, we have very fast-casting spells, and we have AA's we can get that make us cast faster. There's Perpetuity, the bottom of the AGI line. Every time I cast, I get a buff that stays up for a couple of seconds that increases cast speed. If I cast while its up, I get another version of it that my cast speed further. Up to five levels of fast. And I have a debuff/buff from the same line that slows the mob and speeds me up. Add this to the troubador speed casting buffs and it can get really crazy. It's sometimes hard to move your mouse fast enought to hit all the buttons maximally.

Ok, so it would be cool to have a UI enhancement that would do two or three spells at once. You can sort of do this, but it doesn't work the way you'd like it to. Let's say that I want to cast Ultraviolet Beam, my fast casting DD, followed by Abolish Hope, a dot. If I put these two on a macro in that order, all will be fine if I click the macro while doing nothing else in particular. Beam will begin to cast, and Abolish Hope will be queued. Ok, so far so good.

But what if you click the macro while you have another spell in flight? First, Beam will be queued, then Abolish Hope will be queued, rudely bumping Beam out of the queue into the bit bucket. That wasn't what you meant to do.

Clicking ahead is the key to keeping all that fast casting going, and the key to getting the best DPS from an illusionist, and to a coercer, too. So macros aren't going to work here. But it's entirely possible to make a macro system that implements its own queue, and thus produces the desired behavior. Would this be cheating? Would it constitute botting?

I don't really know what SOE would think, so what do I think?

I would have thought that the retarget, cast, retarget implied by the "cure impairment" button would have disqualified it under the Everquest 2 terms of use, I would have thought. The relevant passage is "You shall not ....

(ix) use any third party hardware, devices or software or modify any game client, software, or Content (such as through macros, hacks and cheats) to modify or unfairly impact the Service, allow for unattended game play or use of the Service or to decrypt, modify, parse, scrape, interrupt or intercept any data or information relating to the Service or transmitted between client and server; in addition, you may not create, facilitate, host, transmit, re-transmit, mirror, link to or provide any other means through which the Service may be accessed or viewed by others, such as through server emulators or mirrored websites;"

Ok, allowing unattended gameplay is double-plus bad, as is mucking about with the packets sent back and forth on the internet. It says we aren't to use macros, though. But the game provides them. So I don't know what this means. Perhaps it means that if you do something like Profit does, keep a low profile and make it look pretty? At the nub is the phrase "unfairly modify the service." What constitutes unfair? And how can we figure out if a GM will decide if something is unfair.

Well, the thing is, Profit isn't doing something that you couldn't do on your own using the current macro system. In theory. Let's say that you are grouped with Alice as your main tank, and Bob as the healer. You can make a macro that says "/target Bob; /useability Cure Arcane; /target Alice" Assuming you are using the implied target, this will have the same effect as the "cure arcane" icon next to Bob's name in the Profit group window. So Profit isn't really adding any new capability.

If you were targeting the mob directly, things get trickier, but you could, in theory, write a macro that replaced "Alice" with the name of the mob you were about to attack. No one would do this except maybe on a raid named, because it's too time consuming. But it could be done. This puts you on a pretty solid footing. By the way, the tactic of making special targeting macros for nameds is pretty widely used in raiding these days.

As a practical matter, it is very difficult for SOE to determine if you are botting from the server side. Not impossible, but very difficult unless you do it for a long period of time, such as crafting. I would guess that most bans on this score are due to players voicing their suspicions of other characters to the GM's. Then there's the odd case of players posting screenshots of themselves using banned enhancements on forums. (I'm looking at you, Jinxeyes!).


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