Thursday, May 7, 2009

World of Warcraft Mod Review; Carbonite

World of Warcraft is the only MMO I know of that provides tools for overriding the entire user interface. This has lead to a profusion of "mods" that are unlike those for most games. Many games will let you write content such as levels. Of course, in an MMO that's not practical. In EverQuest, you could replace the user interface specification, but that only let you move elements around or re-skin them. In WoW, for example, there's a number of mods that help manage quests in a variety of ways. Some are simple. Some are rather gigantic. The most sweeping that I've seen to date is called Carbonite.

Originally a for-pay mod, recent changes in Blizzard's policies resulted in Carbonite becoming free to download in full. The mod provides most of the features that I used to get from QuestHelper, Cartographer and SimpleMinimap, but it does quite a lot more in some areas. The features I've been using include:

  • A re-vamped quest tracking UI
  • Guides to most quest locations
  • Auto-rescaling minimap that shows quest destination and current location
  • Waypoint arrow showing direction of next objective
  • A trailing line on the minimap that shows you where you've been
  • Google Maps-like world map (like Cartographer 3)
  • Integration with Atlas for instance mapping
  • Detached and freely movable minimap button bar

These are just some of the things it can do, and I'm still learning to use the mod. It's very slick, and really feels like something that's being done professionally. However, there are some problems.

For starters, the UI configuration is a mess. Learning how to lock any given window is an adventure, because it's different for each. The main configuration menu is a maze of options, and it's not always obvious what's being referred to. For example, "minimap" sometimes refers to their replacement minimap and sometimes refers to the classic minimap which can be optionally embedded in theirs or left as a stand-alone along side Carbonite.

Outside of configuration, gathering is difficult with Carbonite at first. You really have to get used to the rescaling of the minimap and learn to control it. I've also had some problems with importing my various gathering node maps into it, although the options are there. After a night of frustration, though, my miner was back to top form and mining away, though still populating some nodes in Icecrown that had gone away.

One really positive thing about Carbonite: footprint. I saved about 30MB of overhead going from Cartographer/SimpleMinimap/QuestHelper to Carbonite.

Overall, I'd say this mod is worth the pain of transition from something else, but it's a huge time sink to adapt. I'd suggest that you try it out at a time when you're not being asked to lead a raid or otherwise rely heavily on your UI for anything important.