by Chris Barylick
August 12th, 2005
They caught up with me south of Auberdine, a rescue/escort quest blown by a scripted attack after I'd found the non-player character I was looking for. Like professionals, they flanked us, healing their melee attackers when necessary and kept the pressure on. And, like rank amateurs, we died quickly, my Night Elf's bear form doing little to absorb the damage being dished out.
I began to find other games to play for the next few weeks.
Welcome to World of Warcraft, one of the most stunning, addictive and potentially discouraging games available provided things don't go your way. Like anything, there are moments of frustration and up until three weeks ago, I had completely hit a wall with my character. Log on and die or at least advance so minimally I wondered if it was worth my time in the first place.
With each new update, I began to wonder if the elements of the game that made leveling up or successfully completing a quest had been removed, as that might be the only thing that would improve the situation.
On a long enough time line, things do work out for the best. In my situation, the right girl and her perspective were able to completely change what could be considered a stagnant situation where World of Warcraft was concerned. Also vying for the title of Geekiest Human Being on the planet via a master's in computer science, affinity with the Hackers on Planet Earth conventions, heartfelt interest in running OS X on a PC laptop via VMWare and currently running a small server farm out of her basement, Laura knew the game inside and out. Currently running a level 56 character and having played since November, she began to take me under her wing and show me the potential of the game.
Chief among her ideas surrounding the game and her affinity for it was the concept that mods and workarounds should be at least experimented with, even if you're wary of the notion. Simply put, mods are small programs designed by avid World of Warcraft players that act as shortcuts, workarounds or a way of customizing the game's interface. These programs, often available for free and having been tested by their user base (which feeds bug reports back to the developers), serve a variety of purposes and allow for a finer customization of the game experience.
Oh, and interface mods are completely "legal," as far as Blizzard is concerned. The company has even gone so far as to make the interface APIs available for the mod community work with.
Leading the pack at the moment is CTMod, a mod pack that acts as a bundled collection of small fixes and extensions for the game. Despite its comparatively small download size (less than 200K), even after a week of play, I feel as if I've barely skimmed the surface of what this program can do.
Direct coordinates for objects can be easily found via the game map, notes can be written regarding locations, items, friends and tool bars can be customized as well as placed anywhere on the screen. Need to fire a quick note to a friend but don't have time to return to town, find a mail box, write the note and send it? Just pull up a menu, write the letter from the CTMod interface, send it along and get back to your quest. Other options such as auto-looting and full-looting (where a player is programmed to take every possible item from a fallen opponent) take away some of the chores of the game and party-based features help keep a group together and focused on their task.
To install CTMod, simply head to the download page, select the Core package, click "Download Selected" and let the file arrive. Unfortunately, the developers have encoded the file in a zip format Mac OS X's native decompression engine doesn't handle cleanly, which will cause the attempt to fail. Download Aladdin's StuffIt Expander utility via MacUpdate, install it, then be sure to drag CTMod's saved zip file to the StuffIt Expander icon to cleanly open the archive.
From here, drag the folders in the CT_Core Folder into your World of Warcraft/Interface/AddOns folder. Close the folders, start the game and you'll be able to cleanly access CTMod's options by clicking the "CT" icon located by your mini map.
Just play with what's there and see what you make of it. CTMod functions as a grab bag of small mods, some more useful than others to your individual needs that can be enabled or disabled at any time. See what's there, what you like and ask around on the World of Warcraft forums if you have any questions.
A Night Elf druid under
World of Warcraft's standard interface
CTMod's control panel after installation and launch
Frequently updated, responsive to both the needs of its user base as well as Blizzard's frequent changes and completely functional on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms without any changes to the installation process, CTMod deserves its place among the more popular World of Warcraft mods. True, it may not radically advance your character or make the game experience everything you wanted at all times, but with an extended set of tools, the game and the veritable universe within become that much more controllable.
Stay tuned to the Slacker's Guide for more Mac, gaming and mod news and if there's anything cool you've seen or found, please let me know. Finally, if you wish to ping me online, I can be found as PoingFerret on the Gilneas server. True, I may be only level 22 at the moment and lack the cool extras that my SO has significantly garnered for herself, but at this juncture it's more about enjoying the experience of creating the character. And if she lends me any of the jaw-dropping 90 gold pieces I need to obtain a mount if and when I reach level 40, she'll never lack for roses again.
Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.
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