October 18, 2010 2:04 am

Managing Game User Interface Add-ons with the Curse Client from Curse.com

By / Senior Program Manager, Windows Insider Program

I consider myself a casual gamer. I play a few PC games, mostly Games for Windows – LIVE titles, and of course Xbox. But this week I’ve been exposed to an interesting area of online gaming. Some of the more advanced gamers out there might find it sad that prior to this week, I had no idea there is such a big community of user interface add-on authors who create free plug-ins for online games like World of Warcraft. I had, of course, heard of and played World of Warcraft before, but didn’t know there were user interface add-ons for the game. User interface add-ons are plug-ins that change the user interface that a player utilizes in a game. This is where the folks from Curse.com come in. They have created a client for Windows – the Curse Client – that is designed specifically to deliver user interface add-ons that 3rd party authors publish through Curse.com.

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Through Curse.com, user interface add-on authors can publish their add-ons which will then appear in the Curse Client for gamers to download and install. Currently, Curse.com supports add-ons for 3 games: World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, and Runes of Magic. One example of a user interface add-on is a GPS-like tool for World of Warcraft called ‘Cartographer.’ This add-on places an arrow in the user interface which tells the player how far away they are from their target and directs them to their destination. Since the game world in World of Warcraft is so large and complex, user interface add-ons such as ‘Cartographer’ are essential to navigating your way around. There are thousands of user interface add-ons for games you can download and install that do a variety of different things. The Curse Client makes finding and installing these user interface add-ons easy.

I spoke to the folks at Curse about their service and client. Not only is the Curse Client designed to make it easy for gamers to grab add-ons for their games, but it is also an easy way for add-on authors to get updates to their add-ons pushed out to users. When games like World of Warcraft get updated – such as the recent World of Warcraft 4.0.1 patch – user interface add-on authors need to update their add-ons in order for players to continue using them in-game. Add-on authors create the update; publish it to Curse.com and then the update gets pushed out through the Curse Client.

The latest release of the Curse Client (v4) has been designed to take advantage of Windows 7’s taskbar enhancements and provides a Jump List.

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The Jump List gives gamers quick access to Curse.com and the client help section as well as the ability to quickly check for user interface add-on updates. A user’s recent add-ons are listed and when clicked, a Curse.com webpage detailing all the specs for that specific add-on opens.

The Curse Client is absolutely free to download and provides the ability to install new add-ons available for games – one add-on at a time. However, there is also a premium service for the Curse Client that gives you some pretty neat features. First off – with the premium service, you can download more than one add-on at a time and at a faster kb/sec rate than the free version. This significantly reduces the time it takes to get back in the game after an update is released. Another great premium feature is add-on sync. If you game on multiple PCs, you can use the Curse Client to sync all your add-ons between each of the PCs on which you play. Of course user interface add-ons also have settings which players often customize. . With the premium service, the Curse Client automatically backs-up all those settings too! The Curse Client can easily reinstall all your add-ons and their settings with the click of a button. The premium service pricing is tiered, costing $29.40 for the whole year ($2.45 a month), $10.35 per quarter ($2.59 a month), or simply $4.95 a month.

Those not paying for the premium service will, of course, receive ads within the Curse Client. Curse has done some impressive work with “dynamic advertising” in their app. Advertisements and skins update automatically – without the user having to exit and restart the app. This is possible courtesy of .NET which is the development platform on which the Curse Client is built.

If you’re a gamer and play any of the 3 games, like World of Warcraft, that Curse.com supports add-ons for – you’re going to want to download the Curse Client and start grabbing these game changing plug-ins.

Curse is a member of BizSpark One. And the Curse Client carries the Compatible with Windows 7 logo.