3rdpartyfeat

Scoping Out 3rd Party Applications

The use of 3rd party applications in Guild Wars 2 has been a topic that is constantly discussed. Using such applications can greatly enhance your gaming experience by improving your quality of life or simplifying things which can be complicated. Some of the most used addons and applications such as damage meters, changes to the user interface, and overlays have been a part of many other MMOs and often integrated into the community. When it comes to content such as raiding, PvP and general min-maxing, end-game players often want to have any further available tools in order to perform their best. If you’re using or are interested in any 3rd party applications, hopefully I can cover them here and discover what is defined as “legal” and what isn’t, according to ArenaNet, and inspire you with further addon ideas.

There are a handful of 3rd party applications for Guild Wars 2, that I’m aware of, that can enhance your gameplay. These are:

arcdps

arcdps is a tool that is used to track damage per second (DPS) and other combat metrics of players within a group. How does it work? As stated on their website: “arcdps hooks several gw2 engine routines to read temporal client data. What that means is that it modifies the engine to provide me my own mod framework.” People use arcdps to ensure that the players in their group are performing up to par in order to efficiently deal with end-game content, such as raids.

GW2Navi

Have you ever wanted to use a browser in-game without having to go through the hassle of constantly tabbing out? Well now you can, with GW2Navi! This program allows you to embed the Chromium browser into your game and provides easy access to the features provided by GW2timer.com, including world boss timers, an interactive world map, personal map checklists and more. Although this all sounds great, you must run GW2Navi as a separate executable file in order for it to work alongside Guild Wars 2, which can be a bit of a bother.

GW2 Personal Assistant Overlay

GW2 Personal Assistant Overlay (or GW2 PAO for short) is pretty similar to GW2Navi in terms of features. It has its own web browser, Trading Post tracking, dungeon timers and tracking, and WvW trackers and notifications. This overlay works similarly in the fact that it must be downloaded and run as a separate executable file from the game.

Guild Wars 2 Tactical Overlay

Alongside doing everything that the previous overlays have done, Gw2TacO introduces warnings for some boss mechanics in the raid wings. Furthermore, this overlay adds markers to the map to help you find treasure, jumping puzzles, or routes to follow for Guild Mission bounties. Again, unfortunately this overlay must be downloaded and run as a separate executable file from the game.

GW2BGDM

Bhagawan created another DPS meter overlay, similar to arcdps. Unfortunately, you cannot see other players’ DPS without them having the overlay installed too, since it requires everyone to be connected to the BGDM server outside of the game application. However, in addition to the standard dps meter and buff uptime monitoring, this overlay also introduced health bars above units’ heads and a “gear check” feature to inspect players’ equipment.

These two features sparked up quite a controversial topic when ArenaNet deemed them as illegal; it made quite a lot of the user base uncertain about which tools are and are not allowed, and curious as to where ArenaNet draws the line. Needless to say, many players wanted to use these addons in order to maximise their quality of life while playing, and have the competitive edge during raids. Other than what is stated in the Guild Wars 2 User Agreement, Chris Cleary, Online Game Security Lead at ArenaNet, has responded to multiple users’ enquiries on Reddit. Bhagawan himself has handily created a summary of all the most important stances that Chris could outline for the main features of 3rd party applications.

Starting the discussion with DPS meters, Redditor Petrillss asked for a clear stance on 3rd party tools that read the game’s memory:

So damage meters are completely legal given that they only visualise the combat data that the game records itself.

Redditor spawberries then went on to ask about gear checking functions:

Unfortunately, this feature is not allowed. In my opinion, this should be a core feature of the game and has been in every other MMO that I’ve played to date. Although I know that gear does not equal skill, sometimes when PuGing, having a certain gear requirement can help fix those DPS requirements. Being able to check people’s gear fixes this problem, and in all of my experience, inspect features very rarely create toxic players. You’ll come across the odd elitist group every now and then, but would you want to be join them if you don’t have the best gear available?

Petrillss, back with another question, asked why players using tools that read game data haven’t been banned:

Although providing a fairly lengthy answer, Chris seems pretty vague on what is a bannable offense. The main passage to look at here is: “We were not absolutely clear on our stance in relation to DPS meters because the ways they would be used (or potentially abused) was still evolving. In such a case, where we have not made a definitive statement yet are continuing to discuss internally, we did not want to take action against players until we have made our stance clear.” Obviously anything that doesn’t fall under the ArenaNet User Agreement is punishable, but why not clarify further to give a definitive, short-term answer? In fairness, Chris has edited the post suggesting that creators message him personally for any uncertainties.

Finally, Bhagawan has posted his personal conversation with Chris, including topics that users of GW2 BGDM have asked for clarity on:

To which, Chris responded:

So after all it does seem pretty strict on what is/isn’t allowed, even if people are willing to give their information to other users on a mutual basis. As Chris put it, “combat data is combat data”, which pretty much answers all of the above questions. It seems that as long as you restrict the functionality of your overlay based solely upon combat data, you’re safe.

However, after reading through all of these questions and answers, I have to ask myself: why does it have to be this way? Some features of 3rd party applications don’t even give players an unfair advantage, yet they’re disallowed? As well, in terms of the user interface, is anything considered an unfair advantage if it deviates from the bog standard UI? Are GW2 players not as interested in innovating QoL addons like players of other MMOs? Could this potentially holds back the min-maxers and cutting-edge players? Imagine what creators could do if there were no boundaries as to what’s illegal (of course, assuming it doesn’t break the User Agreement and doesn’t give unfair advantage) and how users could customise their game.

Being an MMO player myself, I’ve become accustomed to using addons and extra applications in every MMO I’ve come across. As unpopular as the game may be in the Guild Wars 2 community, World of Warcraft has some really amazing addons that I honestly don’t feel I could play without at this point. Perhaps after outlining some of these, creators of the Guild Wars 2 community might get inspired and find a way around the vague and restricting User Agreement that ArenaNet have in place.

To give you an idea of how much addons affect the UI of World of Warcraft, here is the original UI compared to my customised UI:

Original UI

My UI

As you can see, the difference is huge and heavily modified with multiple addons. Without further ado, here are my favourite addons and why I think they’re great:

Skada

As shown in my UI in the bottom right corner, Skada is my DPS and healing addon. There are others such as Recount and Details, but this is the one that works for me.

It tracks dps, healing done, buff uptime, deaths, enemy damage taken and much more. If you’re looking for something similar to Skada in Guild Wars 2, then I’d suggest using arcdps.

DBM / BigWigs Boss Mods

I use Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) to help me when raiding. It displays timers for when boss mechanics are imminent, alerts me when I’m in danger, and displays other information about mechanics/timers that are boss specific.

DBM also automatically marks players when they are given debuffs to look out for, and records my fastest kill on every relevant boss fight in the game.

Bartender

Bartender is an addon that has (in my opinion) neater action bars, which are moveable and customisable. You can change the opacity, size, and position of all action bars to save space on your interface. You can also hide bars that still function, to save even more space!

Shadowed Unit Frames

SUF is the addon that changes my unit frames, to a crisper and cleaner finish. They’re moveable, customisable and generally more fitting with the rest of my UI.

This addon affects player, target, raid, party, and arena frames.

Quartz

Quartz replaces the default casting bar and offers a lot of customisation. You can move it around, change the style and font size for it, and display channelled spells tick rates.

Tidy Plates

This addon replaces the default nameplates and provides huge customisation. As shown in the image, you can track dots per enemy, change the way they’re displayed on/off the screen and change the style of them.

WeakAuras2

Good old WeakAuras. This addon really is a game changer. Allowing users to write custom code to display elements on your screen is amazing. It has a fairly intuitive options menu (excluding custom coding) and has great functionality. I use it to track my buffs, DoT uptime, resources, cooldowns, procs and some mechanics for boss fights in raids. This is a must have addon, in my opinion.

Not just this, but users can upload their own sets of WeakAuras to this website. The above set of WeakAuras were originally created by Cyous and slightly edited to suit me.

MogIt

MogIt is great for all those that love having different transmutations. For those who don’t know, the equivalent in WoW is called transmogrification, or transmog for short (or mog, for even shorter), which is where the addon got its name. This addon allows you to preview gear just by hovering over individual pieces, which displays a rotating 3d model of your character.

You can view a catalogue of items and check whether you have unlocked the appearance or not, and if not, where to obtain it. Additionally, you can make a wishlist so you can track what items you desire so you don’t have to constantly try and find them in the list.

WoW Armory Page

Although this wouldn’t necessarily class as an addon or application, the official WoW armory feature allows users to look up other characters and display information about them. Including information such as the gear they have equipped, the stats that the character currently has, and the current raid progression, it’s a pretty fundamental tool when researching new recruits for your raid team. The main difference between the WoW armory and Guild Wars 2 armory is that the WoW armory is an official feature ran and updated by Blizzard, whilst the GW2 one is fan-made. Apart from this, you have to sign up and join the GW2 armory, whereas every character is findable on the WoW armory by default.

Warcraft Logs

Warcraft Logs is a website that is essentially an in-depth DPS meter. Blizzard has allowed users to activate “combat logging” in-game, which creates a .txt file within the World of Warcraft folder. This .txt file is then visualised by uploading the log to the Warcraft Logs website. The logs uploader can be run as a separate application from the game, similar to most Guild Wars 2 overlays, in order to “live log” the fights to the website. This allows users to explore in great detail raid members’ performance and identify problems with ease. The log records all kinds of combat metrics: damage done, damage taken, healing, threat, buffs, debuffs, deaths, interrupts, dispels, resources etc.

One of the main features of this website that most raiders use is the ranking system. Warcraft Logs compares your damage done based on every other person of the same class and talent specialisation who has been logged on the fight, and gives each player a performance percentile and an item level percentile accordingly. The performance percentile is compared to everyone of a similar class and talent specialisation, whereas the item level percentile is based on similar players who are ± 1 item level. The higher the percentile, the better you’re performing.

Although some of these addons may not be needed in Guild Wars 2, I believe that they’d make a great addition to the game. Being able to customise my user interface has always been a huge deal to me in MMOs and I’m sure it is to a lot of other people as well. Being able to move elements around, quickly see dps/healing done, and be told what boss mechanics are coming up next really improves my quality of life when playing.

If anyone has any more applications/addons for Guild Wars 2 that have not been listed and you’d like to recommend, we’d love to know about them. If any 3rd party application creators like any of the features listed above that the WoW addons include, I would urge you to try your best to implement them into Guild Wars 2 (if possible with the restricting boundaries).