There have been a lot of factors put forward for the success that World of Warcraft has seen over the years. The amount of polish Blizzard put into the game, the casual friendly nature of WoW, even good timing. To be sure, I think that all of those have played a part.
But I also reckon that one of the factors for WoW’s success is the ability of players to modify the user interface using the LUA scripting language.
The original World of Warcraft user interface was pretty ordinary. But over the years, players have added thousands of mods that make nearly every facet of the game easier to manage. Sure, some of the mods have made some activities too easy, so Blizzard has effectively nerfed them. The Decursive addon comes to mind here. But for the most part, lots of mundane activities have been made more manageable.
It looks like the folks over at Turbine think this too. Massively have posted about the recent announced that they are going to open up Lord of the Rings Online to allow players to create LUA based scripts. The only restrictions so far are no botting or macroing.
I reckon this is a great idea. User interfaces are not easy things to design and I think you can see this in a lot of games, not just MMOs. They can take a long time to get right, and aren’t always suitable for all players. A bad user interface can dramatically reduce the amount of time a player will put up with the game. By allowing players to mod the UI, not only does Turbine extend the life of their game for some players, they have access to thousands of amateur user interface developers and can do what Blizzard have done over the years — take the best ideas and incorporate them into the game.
I’ve always been at a bit of loss as to why other developers haven’t done the same. It’s certainly worked for Blizzard, and you’d expect with so much copying of Blizzards look, feel and gameplay elements going into other MMORPGs, that UI modding would be copied too.
If this initiative is successful for Turbine and Lord of the Rings Online, then perhaps we’ll see more in future games.