Thursday, April 28, 2011

Switching off the Mob Indicators

Since I am lazy I will paraphrase one of my own comments.

A mob indicator is any gamey indicaton of the location of a mob. For example a box or red text. It floats above or below the mob. In the case of text its function is not so much to be read, but rather to give you a fast tactical overview.

The main information a player needs when entering any new area is how many mobs are where. With mob indicators active, you start to scan the screen for red text. It becomes very natural and most people don't even realize doing it. It also, however, is largely responsible for not watching the scenery. It makes 'natural stealth' impossible in PvE and PvP.

Have you ever noticed that you went through a dungeon, but couldn't remember what it looked like? Or, have you ever looked at the art in the dungeon on your 20th run and wondered, why you haven't seen that before? It was, because your brain scanned for red text. Switch it off and you suddenly start to look at the scenery.

It can also make the game a bit more annoying, of course. Especially the WAR/Rift engine is not very good at contrasts; so you will sometimes find that you have no idea how many mobs are attacking you. Whether that is more fun is really a matter of expectation. If you expect to see all mobs at one glance, switching the indicators off will not suite you. If you expect gaining a tactical overview to be part of the challenge and part of the simulation, you will enjoy playing MMORPGs without mob indicators a lot more.

Developers should know that if they plan to disallow mob indicators, the graphics need to support this. A bad example is a fire rift in Rift with fire creatures on top of the lava. They are generally impossible to localize without mob indicators. Also, a developer should know that although you can make indicators optional, players don't have a real choice if the content is too fast paced and challenging, like PvP typically is.

Last but not least, the indicators are necessary, because in modern MMORPGs players and creatures can move very rapidly. It is considered cool to jump and charge and blink through the battleground. In the case of such a furious gameplay, the human eye and brain were incapable of following the events without the gamey help of mob indicators.


  1. > Last but not least, the indicators
    > are necessary, because in modern
    > MMORPGs players and creatures can
    > move very rapidly.

    Nothing can move as fast and jump around as often as Blzzards default indicators...

  2. Ironically, I was having a conversation with a guild-mate in WoW just last night about a similar issue: the name indicators on friendly NPCs and on Players. The default setting is to have names on everything. I can't stand the clutter, nor the breaking of immersion, that a sea of names causes, so I've turned them off. I told my guild-mate how to do so, and he was amazed at how much better the capital city looked after turning the names off.

  3. I would often turn them off while exploring, to give a greater sense of immersion.

  4. Actually, I normally have them off. I found the constant nameplates to be obnoxious.

    That being said, I completely agree with the idea of turning them off for the sake of actually looking at the game.

  5. Back when I used to play LotRO, I would sometimes turn off the entire heads-up display when I was out exploring the world. It makes an unbelievable amount of difference: With the HUD off, it feels like being in Middle Earth. Once the HUD comes back on, the world disappears and the "video game" feeling comes back. I'd love to see MMOs come out with less obtrusive interfaces so players can keep their attention on the world.